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5 Steps to Creating a Healthy Pandemic-Ready Pantry

April 24, 2020

Most people didn’t plan on having to prep their pantries for a global pandemic this year. With the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent stay-at-home orders, keeping enough food on hand to feed your family is vital. Fortunately, there’s no reason to panic while putting together a grocery list. By stocking up on essentials with a long shelf-life, you can turn pantry prepping into a tool for revamping your family’s sensible eating habits. 

Ready to create a healthy pandemic-ready pantry? Let’s get started: 

1. Empty Out the Pantry

Before readying yourself for a trip to the grocery store, first pull everything out of your pantry. Most people are amazed by what goodies they already have hiding in the back. This is also a great time to do a little spring cleaning by wiping down and sanitizing the shelves! 

2. Purge Expired Foods 

While excavating your pantry, don’t be surprised if you find a five-year-old can of baked beans or a long-forgotten box of cereal. Take this opportunity to check expiration dates, read labels for shelf life, sniff and toss out anything that has outlived its usefulness.

3. Run Inventory 

After purging any unwanted or expired foods, take stock of what you have. Jotting down a list of all your current pantry items can help you gauge what you need to buy in the future. Just make sure to categorize the items by type, such as canned soups, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or otherwise.

4. Make a Plan

Next, refer to your list to see what foods you can use together for meals. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the internet has an abundance of recipe ideas for pantry staples. You may be able to plan dinners for several days based on what you already have!

5. Create a Shopping List

Finally, it’s time to make a list of pantry staples you need. The key is to purchase foods that are healthy, have a long shelf-life and can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some key items to get you started: 

Oils, Vinegars and Condiments

  • Oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil and walnut oil

  • Vinegars, such as distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and rice vinegar

  • Lemon juice

  • Dijon mustard

  • Ketchup

  • Reduced-fat mayonnaise

  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce

  • Salsa

  • Hot sauce

  • Sea salt/Kosher salt

  • Black pepper

  • Vanilla extract

  • Honey

  • Low-sugar jam or jelly

  • Cocoa powder

  • White and brown sugar 

  • Sugar substitute, such as Stevia 

  • Salt-free seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash

  • Assorted dried herbs and spices, such as parsley, dill, rosemary, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, crushed red pepper, thyme, oregano, Italian seasoning blend, tarragon leaves, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, bay leaves, dill and curry powder

Grains and Legumes 

  • Whole wheat flour

  • All-purpose flour

  • Whole wheat pasta

  • Brown rice 

  • Wild rice

  • Pearl barley

  • Rolled oats

  • Bulgur

  • Dried lentils

  • Yellow cornmeal

  • Plain, dry breadcrumbs

  • Quinoa

  • Couscous

  • Whole grain cereals

  • Whole wheat tortillas

  • Corn tortillas

  • Dried beans, such as black, red and pinto beans

Nuts, Seeds & Fruits 

  • Pine nuts

  • Sesame seeds

  • Walnuts

  • Pecans

  • Almonds

  • Dried fruit, such as apricots, dates, cranberries and raisins

  • Natural peanut butter  

Canned Goods 

  • Canned tomatoes

  • Tomato paste 

  • Reduced-sodium broths, such as chicken broth, beef broth and vegetable broth

  • Canned beans, such as cannellini beans, chickpeas, black beans and red kidney beans

  • Chunk light tuna and salmon

  • Low-sodium canned vegetables

  • Canned fruit packed in natural juice or water 

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