For most of us now sequestered at home, and with Bon Appetit’s food city of the year dramatically scaling down its restaurant scene, the coronavirus pandemic has re-introduced us to the kitchen.

Now that we have to be our own chefs, there are staples we should all have on hand to cook healthy meals that we’ll still want to eat.

Food and Wine magazine spoke with emergency preparedness expert Joshua Piven, who wrote the “Worst-Case Scenario” series of books; and Lori Uscher-Pines, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and author of “Citizen Preparedness for Disasters: Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness” for their recommendations on shopping and preparing your kitchen for cooking during a pandemic.

Plan for a two-week supply of food. Since avoiding crowds is the point of social distancing – and key to helping stop the spread of the virus – you want to minimize the number of times you’ll need to run out to the store for ingredients.

“Supermarkets are places where you will come into contact with lots of people and surfaces touched by lots more people, so it’s best to stay away from big stores if coronavirus comes to your community,” says Piven.

Pick non-perishable staples you’ll actually eat. Now is not the optimal time to get experimental with exotic ingredients that you may try and dislike. At the same time, you still need to opt for foods that will give you energy and as much nutrition for the buck as possible. Uscher-Pines suggests protein bars, peanut butter, dry cereal or granola, canned goods and comfort foods like boxed mac and cheese.


Stock up on foods that will last forever, like dry grains (rice, quinoa, lentils, for instance), bagged beans (better than canned, because they’re cheaper and it’s not like you don’t have time to soak them, right?), dried pasta in different shapes and sizes and canned tomatoes to make into sauces.

Eat a good breakfast. It’ll give you energy and set you up for the day. Try steel-cut oats or cold cereal (not too sugary). Stock up on dried fruits and nuts to give some variety.

Keep plenty of protein on hand, like nuts and nut butters or eggs.

Aged cheeses keep well, add good flavor and can be frozen. They’re also good for snacking.

“Several dozen eggs for a good source of protein; you can use them for baking, stir fries, hard boiled, and frozen veggies taste good on them,” Piven says. Get protein bars if you like them, or jerky. If you have a stand-alone freezer, stock up on meat “if you get to the point where you cannot eat one more bean,” Piven says. He also recommends tofu and canned fish, which also keeps well on the shelf.

Choose your fruits and vegetables carefully. Apples stay good in the fridge for a while, and you can always freeze bananas. Frozen veggies are a perfect substitute for fresh, and things like potatoes and sweet potatoes also keep well. If you buy fresh vegetables or fruit, be prepared to freeze or can them since they won’t last very long.


Keep onions, garlic, salt, pepper, spices, herbs, vinegars and cooking wine on hand. If you’re eating your own food, you still want it to taste good.

Likewise, make sure you have cooking fats. “You can’t cook without oil or fat. That’s what you use to heat food and sear animal protein,” David Tamarkin, director of the cooking website Epicurious, tells MarketWatch. Make sure you have olive, grape seed or canola oil on hand, as well as butter.

If you have a baby at home but aren’t nursing, keep plenty of formula on hand (and don’t forget to stock up on diapers and children’s medication so you can treat their routine illnesses). Non-perishable pasteurized milk is a substitute for the refrigerated kind for kids.

Don’t overlook snacks. Eating at home doesn’t mean you can’t still find small ways to treat yourself. Try granola bars or popcorn – and since you’re likely not getting as much exercise as you were before, try to keep your snacks on the healthy side. It’s easy to load up on snacks when the cupboard is merely steps away, the news is stressful and the food is comforting, so try not to buy too many cookies, chips or other highly processed foods.

Remember sick-day foods. If you catch a cold or flu, keep broth on hand because it will keep you hydrated. Bread freezes well and makes good sick-day toast. Keep some bottles of Pedialyte if you have children or older adults at home.

Don’t forget the other necessities: toilet paper, detergent, dishwashing liquid, pet food, soap, toiletries, pain relievers or cold medicine, feminine hygiene products.

Have more questions about how to protect yourself or your loved ones from coronavirus? Send them to and we’ll try to answer them.

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