I think we can all agree that we find ourselves in unprecedented times. While fear and anxiety are heightened among many, my goal here is to give you strategies to help you eat well and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 while gathering supplies. My intention is to leave you feeling empowered to support your health and that of your loved ones. One of the best things we can do right now, aside from physical distancing, is to take care of ourselves well. Eating nutrient-dense food, daily movement, good quality sleep, laughter and social interaction is paramount in helping to keep our immune systems in peak condition. Currently, being physically social with those outside of our homes is risky and not recommended, however, social interaction is still incredibly important. Make good use of technology – the old fashioned phone call & video chatting go a long way to helping us feel more connected. Having said all that, let’s talk shopping, shall we?

Menu Planning & Detailed Grocery List

  • try to create a menu & list that can last you for 2 weeks – menu plan with the idea of eating your most perishable items first
  • purchase longer lasting perishables such as onions, garlic, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, oranges, lemons, lime
  • make use of frozen produce to get you through the second week
  • add a few extra staple items like canned beans, stewed tomatoes, whole grain pasta & pasta sauce, canned tuna & salmon, dried beans & lentils & canned coconut milk. Not sure what to do with lentils? Click here to try Dynamite Dahl or Lentil Tacos.

Tips for Extending Groceries

  • Add beans or lentils to anything made with ground meats to increase the number of servings. I use this strategy often in a home with 2 teenagers!
  • Down to your last chicken breast? Slice a chicken breast thinly and use in pad Thai, curries, stews, pasta & stir fry.
  • If your produce starts to go a little limp, you can often still save it. Simply cut the ends off of celery stalks and place in water. It will crisp up again in a few hours.
  • Place fresh herbs in a glass of water and cover with the plastic produce bag it came in. The herb is still living and will continue to drink water for a few days. This will help avoid the slimy produce bag you find in the back of your produce drawer. If you know you aren’t going to use all of the herb bunch simply wash, chop and place into ice cube trays with a little water or olive oil. The frozen cubes can be used in dishes like stews, curries & soup.
  • Extend berries by swirling in a vinegar & water solution – 1 c vinegar:3 cup water; the vinegar helps eliminate bacteria & mould. Click here to read more.
  • Have little bits and pieces of things leftover from other meals? Get creative and turn it into a soup, stew or curry. Waste not, want not.

Grocery Shopping

  • Use online ordering if possible. Currently, Zehrs is offering this service, however, in rural areas the smaller grocery stores are providing this service with a good old fashioned phone call or email.
  • If you do head into the grocery store, choose less busy times to shop (often evening hours are less busy than day time hours). Try ‘googling,’ the store that you like to shop in and find out when is the least busy time to go.
  • Offer to pick up groceries for elderly or immune-compromised family & neighbours.
  • Be efficient – remember that detailed list?  
  • Go alone – this is not a social outing.
  • Use hand sanitizer before you go into the store as a courtesy to others.
  • Wipe grocery cart handle with a disinfecting wipe.
  • Touch what you take. Forget foraging for the perfect apple. If you discover it has a blemish on it, you’ll survive. Cut it out of the apple when you eat it & move on.
  • While I typically try to avoid extra plastic while shopping, during this pandemic I am choosing to purchase my greens in plastic packages or clamshells. I purchase my apples prepackaged as well. This just provides an extra layer of protection on the food while in the grocery store.
  • Keep your distance in the store and under no circumstances make any jokes about being sick. I think it is safe to say that we are all a little on edge these days & this kind of humour is not helpful or appreciated in public spaces.
  • Pay with a debit or credit card that has a tap function if possible.
  • Be kind, be patient and be gracious to one another.
  • Once you’ve left the store, use your hand sanitizer again.
  • Drive home & enjoy the scenery. Open your car windows and shout hello at everyone you know – maybe even people you don’t. Listen to the birds and notice the signs of Spring all around you.
  • Welcome home – carry in the groceries and wash your hands.

Taking Your Groceries Home

COVID-19 transmission through food

Please note this information is correct at the time of writing on March 30, 2020. Please refer to up to date references for more accurate information.

“Scientists and food safety authorities across the world are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19. There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.”

source: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/covid-19/questions-and-answers/eng/1584648921808/1584648922156#q1b

however…

“According to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, here is how long the virus can last on different surfaces.

  • Plastic or stainless steel for two to three days.
  • Cardboard for 24 hours.
  • Copper for four hours.

source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/coronavirus-surface-study-1.5501296

“As for packaged items from the grocery store, epidemiologist Dr. Rama Nair suggests rinsing them with soap and water if possible, or at least a disinfectant wipe approved for use against coronavirus. Nair adds that fresh fruits and vegetables should be rinsed as soon as they are brought into your home.

“We don’t have enough data to know how long it can stay on the food; it will depend on many factors. Therefore, as a precaution, it is better to wash … since we know washing with soap and water destroys the virus,” he said. If you choose to disinfect your deliveries, use soap and water, and wash your hands after unpacking your items.”

source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/are-your-groceries-and-food-deliveries-safe-your-daily-covid-19-questions-answered-1.5514106

Tips For Unpacking Your Groceries:

  • Unpack your things. Remove any extra packaging that isn’t necessary. (i.e. cereal or cracker boxes and just keep the inner layer.) For jars, cans and other packages consider wiping them down with a disinfecting wipe. Wash your fruits and veggies with water before putting them into your fridge if possible. See note above about purchasing greens. Pre-washing & storing certain produce like berries, herbs & greens may actually lead them to spoil quicker. Do what you can and where it makes sense to do so.
  • And wrap it all up with handwashing. Look how good you are getting at this! Although with all this handwashing, maybe you should add hand lotion to your next grocery list though!

Remember, we are all in this together and we want to help flatten the curve of infection. I realize that much of what I have suggested may seem a little over the top. I would like to gently remind you that living in a pandemic also seems a little over the top. Be kind to one another and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

Do you have any grocery tips to share? Please leave your comment below…