As the panic of being quarantined and working from home during a now declared pandemic of the coronavirus surrounds us, many people have started to stock up not only on toilet paper and hand sanitizers, but also on food. People are running to their local Costco and grocery stores trying to stockpile on food, but really, should you? And if so, what do you need to get versus what just doesn’t make sense? In an effort to spread food safety, awareness, and hopefully, help those who are confused as to what to store and how to store for your quarantine period, I’m going to outline a few basics in this article.
Honestly, there is no difference between keeping food safe now and how we should have been keeping it clean and safe before. The CDC outlines 4 basic rules to ensure we eat healthy; you just need to continue following them for a healthy kitchen!
Always make sure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after prepping or cooking food. Also make sure that you thoroughly wash your food before eating or cooking it. Make sure to scrub down counters before and after food prep.
Raw meats, including poultry, eggs, seafood, lamb and beef can all spread germs. The key is to keep them separated; this means from each other if you are using multiple meats in a dish, from fruits and vegetables, and especially from other foods in the fridge.
Make sure you wash thoroughly with hot water and soap any surfaces the raw meats may have touched, including the sink, chopping boards, knives and utensils, counters, and stove.
- Cook to the Right Temperature
When you are cooking meats or seafood, make sure you have a food thermometer on hand to check it has reached the correct temperature to kill bacteria in the food. Insert the thermometer to the thickest part of the meat to get an accurate reading.
If you are done with a meal, have just brought home the groceries, or had takeout delivered and never got to it – immediately put it in the refrigerator. Check to make sure your refrigerator setting is at 40 degrees F or below.
Many people are stocking up on food as the quarantine period sets in, especially in some of the major cities. For those who have already bought enough groceries to last a few weeks, if not at least a month, here’s the proper way to store them so that they last without too much food waste.
- Cycle through your foods. When you stock up your fridge and pantry, put the newest bought items in the back. One rule that has been drilled into me is “First In, First Out”. This will keep your stocks fresh and elongate your inventory’s timeline.
- Make sure your pantry is protected against mold, pests, and rodents.
In the event that you have been self-quarantined or the region you live in is currently on a lock down, you will need to stock up on nutritious foods that can last you for a minimum of 14 days. A good portion of your foods need to be nutrient dense as you will likely have a significantly lower amount of physical activity compared to a normal day, therefore your body will need less calories.
- Canned goods: Items such as soups, applesauce, beans, and canned tomatoes are great to have on hand. Make sure you try to look for the low sodium options as you will always be able to add more salt if needed. Be mindful to stock up on canned goods you actually would want to eat and would be easy to swallow should you fall sick.
- Frozen foods: Frozen fruits and vegetables last longer and are easier and healthier to incorporate when you are not able to make numerous trips to the grocery store. It’s easy to roast some veggies and add them to your meals, put in a little frozen fruit to your smoothie to start your day. If you are looking for frozen meals, focus on bean burritos for the protein they pack, or freeze some chicken/turkey to add to a soup or roast in the oven later in the week. Just be mindful not to overcrowd your freezer as even frozen food does go bad.
- Pantry Staples: Foods such as pasta, quinoa, dried fruit, Nuts/Seeds and their butter, and shelf stable milk are good to add to your pantry. These foods have longer shelf life, are easy to cook and are usually family favorites.
- Make sure to stock up on baby formula if you have a baby in the house, pet food, and any routine medications for all residents in the house.
We are in the midst of some very trying times so please be mindful to not overstock as others may need what you do not yet, may perceive you might. We are all attempting to do our best so a final reminder to constantly wash your hands and keep a social distance.
Be Safe, Be Healthy