Eating in looks a lot more appealing this week in light of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic declared March 12 by the World Health Organization and the national emergency declared March 13 by President Trump.
Local restaurants - limited to takeout and delivery - will continue to work diligently to safely serve food during the crisis. But for many people, social distancing by staying at home may be the most effective way to avoid contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
That inevitably means many people will cook more meals at home, either for financial reasons or because it makes them feel safer.
Here are a few tips if you decide you want to eat in more often:
Try to limit the number of trips to the store. If you aren’t already down to one market visit a week, think about doing that now. And those of us who already shop just once a week can look at ways to lengthen time between market visits even more.
Consider visiting stores during nonpeak hours. Some supermarkets have already curtailed hours for the sake of their employees, so check store websites before you go. The idea is to avoid situations where you can keep, for the most part, a safe distance from other people. The Centers for Disease Control has said to avoid close contact within 6 feet.
Wash your hands thoroughly before you go to the store and as soon as you return home.
Take advantage of the disinfectant wipes that almost every store offers at the entrance and throughout the store.
Consider wearing gloves in the store. Put on a clean pair of disposable plastic gloves just before entering the store and remove them after exiting the store — and be sure to dispose of them properly.
If you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, you should stay home, according to the CDC. Either have a healthy friend or relative shop for you or take advantage of supermarket pickup or delivery options.
Almost every supermarket offers pickup or delivery in some form. Check store websites for details. Some have their own in-house services. For example, there’s Walmart Delivery Unlimited and Harris Teeter Express Lane pickup or delivery. And such independent companies as Instacart and Shipt work not only with many of our major supermarket chains, but also with such stores as CVS, Petco, Target and Total Wine & More. You can even get deliveries of local food through such services as The Produce Box.
Note that the city’s closing of the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds means that the farmers market there is closed.
Fortunately, there is no evidence that the coronavirus is spread through food. And if we can take Italy as an example, even during a lockdown, supermarkets will likely remain open and food supplies will be plentiful.
In other words, we don’t need to hoard food. But it would be wise to prepare to survive without grocery shopping for 14 days — the current recommendation for isolation to avoid spreading the virus.
Preparing to have meals at home for 14 days is certainly doable, but it will require some planning and probably some changes in what you eat.
Before you consider stocking up, take a few minutes to examine what you have. It’s about time for spring cleaning anyway, and it never hurts to do a thorough check of what’s lurking in the far recesses of the fridge or cabinets. You may find a horde of pasta or beans you forgot you had.
Below are some recommendations for stocking a pantry or fridge, with a 14-day quarantine in mind.
Pasta: I like to have at least one long, such as spaghetti, and one short, such as elbow macaroni, to keep things from getting boring. Consider adding some rice noodles to the mix, especially for Asian dishes.
Rice: The store is full of options. As with pasta, it’s nice to have a couple types around, including basmati for Indian food or Arborio for risotto, but if all you have is the store-bought long-grain, that works just fine for most recipes.
Stocks and Tomatoes: With some broth and tomatoes, you can create a zillion sauces, soups, stews or braised dishes. I like to have both chicken and vegetable broth on hand, and both diced and crushed tomatoes, but if you have just one type of each, the possibilities still are nearly endless.
Beans: Dried or canned, beans are both nutritious and a good value. Eaten together with rice, they form a complete protein. And they are great way to stretch any meat.
Meats: Just about any meat you buy out of the fresh meat case can be successfully frozen. It might need a rewrap to remove oxygen and prevent freezer burn, but it will keep just fine in your freezer. Check the package dates, but in most cases fresh meats will keep in your fridge for three days. Also note that such cured meats as ham, salami and bacon keep well in the fridge. That’s also true of many other lunch meats — but check the labels, because some of them are loaded with preservatives.
Seafood: Fresh fish also can be frozen. Shrimp freezes especially well. There also are some decent pre-frozen choices, but be wary if the price of frozen seafood seems unusually low. You often get what you pay for. Fresh fish is best eaten within 48 hours. Don’t forget canned seafood. Clams for pasta and marinara, tuna for sandwiches or salmon for sautéed patties or burgers all are great pantry items to have on hand.
Eggs: Eggs are among the best values in protein, and they keep exceedingly well — as long they are in uncracked shells. Eggs keep four to five weeks past the pack date, or usually three weeks after purchase. Check the date on the package, but feel free to stock up. Personally, I love breakfast for dinner, and eggs are so versatile I can eat them every day of the week.
Nut butters: Shelf-stable, ready-to-eat items like peanut butter can be a godsend in a crisis.
Other items to consider
Frozen fruits and vegetables: With a few exceptions, most fruits and vegetables are going to deteriorate or rot after a week. When shopping for two weeks, buy a week’s worth of fresh and a week’s worth of frozen. Frozen fruit is great in smoothies. Frozen vegetables often are almost as good as fresh in soups, stews and stir-fries.
Shelf-stable milk: Powdered milk may not be your first choice for your morning coffee, but it’s fine for hot chocolate and other uses.
Hard cheeses: In general, the harder the cheese, the longer it lasts. Check package labels, but feel free to stock up on such types as Parmesan. Most cheddar keeps pretty well, too.
Root vegetables: Most of these, including potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes, will last two weeks.
Check your kitchen for butter (which can be frozen), oil, vinegar, sugar, flour and spices.
By the way, last weekend when I went to the grocery store, the emptiest shelves, besides those for toilet paper and cleaning supplies, were for sugar, bread and Gatorade.