Whether you’ve attempted to brave the grocery store or you’ve turned to online delivery outlets for your grocery needs, you’ve likely been frustrated by the lack of availability of some of your favorite foods. While availability differs drastically by both region and the store itself, there appears to be several constants: many stores are out, or quickly run out, of staples like bread, milk, eggs, pasta, beans, and canned goods; and delivery or pick-up dates from online delivery options are in high demand and delayed by, at minimum, several days. Here are some of our top tips for navigating the grocery store or online delivery scene and for keeping your fridges and pantries stocked.
Don’t Ignore Produce
First things first: don’t ignore the produce section. Sure, fruits and vegetables might not last as long as canned goods and pasta, but you should still buy a normal amount of produce; it’ll be fresh for at least a fews days (if not more). Plan your meals and snacks around which fruits and vegetables will spoil the fastest: on days 1 and 2, start with berries, cherries, leafy greens, mushrooms, avocados, and tomatoes; on days 3 and 4, move on to kiwis, bananas, melons, stone fruit, asparagus, cucumbers, bell peppers, and squash; and in the beginning of the second week, start on citrus fruits, grapes, artichokes, beets, cabbage, celery, and leeks. Apples and onions will last in the fridge for weeks, and potatoes will last in a cool, dry place for months.
With the understanding that you might not go to the grocery store for another week or two, consider freezing produce for later. Here are two expert recommendations for freezing and storing fruits and vegetables:
- Blanch vegetables before sticking them in the freezer. Blanching them helps minimize degradation and increases freezer shelf-life; plus, it cleans produce. Wondering how to blanch? Dunk vegetables in boiling water for about two minutes, and then put them in an ice bath. Let them cool and dry, and then transfer to the freezer in plastic bags.
- For stone fruit, berries, and cherries, wash them, dry them thoroughly (this prevents ice crystals from forming), and then slice them (if needed). Line them up on a baking sheet and freeze for a few hours; once they’re frozen, you can condense them into a plastic bag or container.
BYOB (Bake Your Own Bread)
If there was ever a time to learn how to bake bread, it’s now. And it’s not as hard as you think! Start with King Arthur Flour’s Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake or, for a seemingly impossibly easier loaf, their No-Knead Crusty White Bread–all you need is flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and warm water. If yeast is sold out, try Zipongo’s Whole-Wheat Irish Soda Bread Rolls–they rely on baking soda for their leavening.
If you enjoy the bread-baking process, you can eventually make your own sourdough starter, which opens up a world of opportunities in baking: you can use discarded sourdough starter (each time you feed your starter, you have to discard some of it) to add flavor to pancakes, waffles, biscuits, muffins, pizza crust, cakes, and more. Plus, baking is a fantastic quarantine activity: in addition to the rewarding payoff, the process and its necessary rules and steps offer a sense of order in these uncertain times.
Visit Your Local Corner Store
Everyone has a favorite grocery store–but unfortunately, your favorite grocery store is probably beloved by many, which means longer lines, fewer options, and more exposure. Consider buying your groceries from smaller grocery stores, corner stores, and markets. They’re often better stocked because most people have been stocking up at bigger box chain stores and warehouse clubs. From an exposure perspective, smaller stores have personnel who come into contact with fewer people every day. And as a bonus, your shopping may help keep small businesses afloat.
Plan Ahead When You’re Scheduling a Delivery
The number of shoppers who have turned to online grocery delivery has exploded in the past few weeks–but that also means that it’s been increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to nab a delivery slot. Before you begin adding items to your cart, if possible, enter your address and see what delivery availability looks like first–otherwise you’ll waste time shopping only to find that there are zero delivery slots. Once you do nab a delivery spot, remember that with some options, like Instacart, you can continue adding items to your cart up until your shopper starts shopping; this is especially helpful if your delivery date is a few days out and your needs change. Note that not all grocery delivery outlets offer this as an option, so be sure to head to your computer with a list once you begin shopping.
If you’re willing and able to leave your house, curbside pick-up is also an option with some services; availability, at this moment, tends to be a little more open. In most cases, your groceries will be delivered straight to your car. If you opt for home delivery, choose the “Leave At My Door” option to minimize interaction and exposure.
Lastly, if Instacart and Amazon Prime deliveries are booked solid or they’re out of the items you’re looking for, consider smaller or niche companies. Thrive Market offers high quality, organic and sustainable products from businesses who focus on social impact and the environment; while it’s membership-based, you get wholesale pricing for many products. Peapod is a great option for bulk orders; in addition to regular grocery store offerings, you can also buy local specialty brands along with household products, pet care, and health and beauty supplies.
Beyond groceries, Plantable offers ready-to-eat meals that are nutrient-rich, plant-based, and balanced with whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats; this is a great option for those who are short on time. As part of our COVID-19 response, Plantable meals are 10% off all orders until June 30th. Meal kits through Sun Basket are another time-saving option for those who still want a hand in the cooking process; the meals can be tailored to your eating style (vegetarian, gluten-free, Mediterranean, and carb-conscious are a few options). We’ve also discounted Sun Basket meal kits: until June 30th, you can get 20% off your first order and 15% off all subsequent orders.