How to Fully Utilize Your Pantry Supplies

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), some grocery stores have been overwhelmed by people looking to stock up on supplies. Individuals are also increasingly encouraged to practice social distancing and self-quarantine. As a result, accessing fresh and healthy ingredients can be more challenging than usual.

Stephanie Meyers, MS, RD, a nutritionist at the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, encourages patients and their caregivers to remain flexible during this time.

“We are in an unprecedented times and cancer patients may feel worried about their nutritional status,” Meyers says. “It’s important to remember that long-term habits matter more than short-term circumstances, and right now, it’s about doing the best you can with the ingredients you have access to.”

Here are some tips to keep in mind for your next trip to the grocery store. Remember: The coronavirus outbreak may pose special risks for some cancer patients, so try to enlist a caregiver or friend to go to the grocery store for you if you are a patient.

There’s no wrong way to buy fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy eating plan because they contain nutrients and vitamins that are unique to them. Even supplements like multivitamins aren’t a replacement for the real thing.

The good news is fruits and vegetables are packaged in a variety of ways, and no matter how you choose to buy them, all are effective at delivering the nutrients you need.

For example, frozen fruits and vegetables have the same nutrient density as their fresh counterparts, and if both are unavailable, canned versions are also an effective substitute.

If you buy canned fruits or vegetables, rinse them before using. Washing canned items will eliminate the preservatives and sodium they were stored in.

Unleash the spice rack

Utilizing your spice rack is a great way to add variety and flavor to your meals. Sauteing food (especially frozen vegetables) with items such as oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, or garlic can help to provide a unique twist to otherwise ordinary dishes.

One spice Meyers encourages people to explore using is turmeric, a plant related to ginger. In addition to adding flavor, turmeric is believed to provide a number of positive health benefits.

Remain consistent

It’s important to be mindful of what you’re eating, but also when you’re eating. Sticking to a consistent eating schedule helps to maintain a rhythm and can prevent you from falling into a pattern of constantly snacking.

If possible, make eating meals their own activity, and be sure to eat them where you would on a “normal” workday (such as the dinner table). Doing so can help create a sense of normalcy for the entire household.

Practice food safety

It’s important to maintain proper food safety habits. Make sure to wash your hands often, including before, during, and after you’ve prepared a meal.

In addition, be sure to not cross contaminate your ingredients. For example, raw chicken should be prepared using a separate cutting board. If you use the same surface for all ingredients, thoroughly wash the cutting board before using it to prepare anything else.

Three recipes to try

For Meyers, the key to the following three recipes is adaptability. She encourages patients and their loved ones to adjust each recipe based on the ingredients they have on hand. Don’t have broccoli? Add a cup of whatever vegetable you do have, like carrots or sweet potatoes.

White Beans on Toast: This simple recipe utilizes two ingredients you’ll likely find in your pantry: bread and beans. If you don’t have beans, feel free to swap them out for avocado, frozen peas or spinach; If you’re using canned versions be sure to wash the “goo” (sodium and preservatives) off the beans or vegetables.

Asian Rice Bowl with Egg: Again, adapt this recipe so you’re using ingredients available to you. While the recipe calls for broccoli and Napa cabbage, you can simply use one cooked and one uncooked vegetable (of any variety)

Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta and Beans): Tired of pasta in a marinara sauce? Try this recipe as an alternative.  

Turmeric Vinaigrette Salad Dressing: This dressing can be applied to all dishes to add a touch of flavor.