Written by Brett Singer MS,RD,CSSD,LD – Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute
- Life has changed dramatically the past few weeks which includes alterations to normal exercise and dietary patterns
- Based on current local recommendations, it’s important for people to stay home and minimize trips to the grocery
- This blog will provide a few tips on shopping efficiently, improving food storage and safety strategies, and minimizing food waste.
With most of the community now being asked to stay home, many people have had their daily routine flipped upside down. Among many of the challenges people are encountering, includes how to maintain a consistent diet despite the change in daily routine. People are rightfully attempting to adhere to physical distancing recommendations by limiting trips to the grocery and purchasing enough food to last for a week or so. It’s important to be considerate of others and their needs, while also avoiding needless spending and food waste during this time. To do so, people need to be smart shoppers as well as utilize safe food handling and storage practices while at home.
Here are 10 tips on how to shop smart, stay safe, have fun, and minimize food waste:
- Look through your pantry and fridge first: Be sure to review what you already have at home prior to heading to the grocery. Make a list, and if you can, try to keep the list in order relative to how you typically walk through your local grocery. This should hopefully allow your trip to be as efficient as possible, and reduce the likelihood of missing key items.
- Get creative! With a bit more time at home than usual, now is a chance to try out new recipes you’ve been wanting to make. Dust off the cook books or look through your favorite blogs and websites. Remember that recipes do not have to be followed perfectly. Ingredients can be substituted or left out entirely if needed.
- Be patient and be kind: This is a stressful time for everyone. Grocery stores are doing all they can to ensure everything is stocked and available. It’s easy to be frustrated when something is missing, but try to take a deep breath and be patient.
- Fresh, frozen, and canned produce can all work: Consider what you need, what’s available, and how you plan to utilize the food. Canned or frozen, does not mean the food isn’t healthy, it’s simply another form of packaging. When choosing canned options, look for foods that are low sodium or no added salt. When searching for fruits, choose options which have been canned in juice or water rather than syrup. Remember that dried fruit can make a great addition to cereals oats or as a snack for kids. If purchasing fresh produce, take a close look to ensure there is no significant bruising or mold.
- Use smart storage practices to keep produce safe: With fresh produce, much of it can be stored away in the fridge drawers for longer shelf life. If it looks like you may not use the produce quick enough, it can be frozen and utilized for baking or smoothies at a later date. Washing and cutting produce can make it easier to grab for kids while also cutting down on food prep time when cooking. Once produce has been cut, it should be stored in the fridge promptly. Be sure to also wash your hands with soap and water prior to handling produce.
- Meat can be frozen as well: If you have more meat than necessary, you can store extra in the freezer safely for longer periods of time. Ground meat can be stored safely in the freezer for three to four months. Beef, pork and poultry can typically be stored for up to 12 months in the freezer. In comparison, fresh meat such as this should only be stored in the fridge for several days. Here is a helpful resource you can look through on fridge and freezer storage life of various foods.
- Grains are a great option: Rice, pasta, couscous or many other grains have longer shelf lives and are a staple in any meal. Extra bread, bagels, tortillas and other options can be frozen to help lengthen shelf life. If physical activity levels have declined during this period of time, it’s likely best to reduce portions of starches and grains slightly, though they still remain a key part of any meal.
- Get the whole family involved in food preparation: Whether kids are in Elementary, Middle School, or High School, all can benefit from life lessons in the kitchen. Younger children love the opportunity to measure and pour different ingredients. Turn this into an opportunity for using their math skills. For older kids, these are life skills they will soon need, and can benefit them tremendously once school begins again. Having the ability to prepare snacks and meals on their own is a great tool to have.
- Clean your cooking surfaces: Cleaning surfaces and utensils after each use is helpful for minimizing the risk of foodborne illness and getting sick. You can utilize hot soapy water to clean surfaces. Use separate plates and utensils for raw meat vs cooked meats. Keep raw meat away from fresh produce as well.
- Utilize leftovers! Once a meal is complete, store the leftovers back in the fridge preferably in shallow containers to help food cool off quicker. Do not leave food out for more than 2 hours. Left overs can be consumed safely within 3-4 days after the meal was made. Find ways to repurpose leftovers. Add it into a soup, omelet, stir-fry, or breakfast tacos.
Have questions or want to set up a virtual nutrition consultation? Please contact Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute Sports Dietitian Brett Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on twitter @bsinger10 or on Instagram @bsinger_sportsrd.