Stocking Up on Food

In unforeseen circumstances, you might find yourself needing to stock up on food. Whether it is due to health, environmental issues, or other reasons, having a plan for food stock can reduce stress in cases of emergency.

If you are quarantined or home bound without access to lots of fresh food or delivery services, it is helpful to have on hand non-perishable food items: foods that last a long time without going bad. All foods have an expiration date or “best by” date printed on them, and the freshest foods such as raw meat typically expire the fastest.

While many refrigerated foods are “fresh” and expire quickly, there are some with longer shelf-life (later expiration dates) such as cheese, yogurt, eggs, tofu, and sauces such as tomato sauce and salsa. As a general rule of food safety, leftover home-cooked foods should be kept in the fridge no longer than 4 days, depending on the type of food made. If you are concerned about running out of milk you can purchase cartons of “shelf-stable” milk that does not need to be refrigerated until it has been opened.

Some produce such as leafy greens last longer in the fridge and might go bad somewhat quickly, but a lot of produce does not need to be refrigerated and may last longer, such as potatoes, squash, apples, and oranges.

Canned foods are very shelf stable – they can even be eaten years later when stored correctly. You can find canned fruits, vegetables, soups, and proteins in the canned aisle of the grocery store, and having some stocked ensures you can still eat important vitamins and minerals even if you are homebound. Canned beans, tuna, salmon, and anchovies are great sources of protein that can be added to many types of foods. When purchasing canned foods, look for varieties that are low-sodium or do not have salt or sugar added, if possible.

The freezer can be your best friend. Have frozen fruits and vegetables on hand in your freezer. Frozen produce are frozen at the peak of freshness, and are just as nutritious as fresh versions. You can make bulk recipes and then freeze half of them to ensure you have nutritious, home-made meals ready in your freezer. There are also many frozen meals you can buy in the freezer section of the store to ensure you have adequate meals in your home.

You may want to stock up on items such as:

Dry goods Rice, cereal/granola, dry beans and lentils, dry pasta, tortillas, nuts and nut butters, jelly, applesauce, dried fruit/raisins, snack foods
Canned goods Beans, fish (tuna, salmon), soup/chili, fruit, vegetables, tomato sauce, coconut milk
Produce Potatoes, squash, apples, oranges, onion, garlic
Refrigerated foods Cheese, yogurt, milk, eggs, tofu, tomato sauce, salsa
Frozen foods Fruits/vegetables, frozen meals (pre-made or store bought), bread


What does two weeks of food stock look like?

It may be more than you think! If cooking for one, that’s 21 meals plus snacks. If cooking for four, that number becomes 84 meals total. Having a few go-to, easy recipes can be extremely helpful. This may include meals such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, eggs, or meals you can reheat in the microwave. When planning, try to have a source of protein, carbohydrate, dairy, and fruits/vegetables at each meal.

What can I make out of shelf-stable foods?

Try the following recipe ideas:


  • Egg muffins made with frozen vegetables (i.e. mushrooms, spinach, peas, peppers), potatoes, and meat
  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit, yogurt, peanut butter with cereal/granola on top
  • Toasted bagel with peanut butter, a glass of milk and canned fruit on the side
  • Cereal with milk topped with raisins


  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on bread, a glass of milk and apple on the side
  • Tuna melt made with tortilla, cheese, and canned tuna, with fruit on the side
  • Canned chili and cooked quinoa topped with shredded cheese


  • Pizza made with frozen pizza dough, tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings of choice
  • Stuffed baked potatoes with cheese, beans, and canned vegetables
  • Soup made with rice, dried beans, vegetable or chicken broth, and frozen or canned vegetables of choice
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and canned peas with a glass of milk on the side


  • Apple and peanut butter
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Chips and salsa
  • Yogurt with fruit

Remember, staying healthy and safe is the goal of any quarantine, and eating enough nutritious food is an important part of your health!

-Dietitian Elsey