Medically reviewed by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
During the coronavirus scare, there are so many unknowns. Use this canned food storage and freezer checklist shopping list to pack a stocked pantry and a whole bunch of freezer essentials.
Why add more to the covid anxiety by not knowing what you're going to eat in the coming days and not having a plan for quarantine cooking?
Let this food survival kit list help you be a little calmer while so many of us are under a coronavirus quarantine and await a coronavirus vaccine!
I've been full of nervous energy these last few days—nervous energy about what's going to happen to the world (we already have a head's up from looking at the coronavirus in Italy) with this current coronavirus scare, plus nervous energy about what to do with myself and take care of my loved ones now that everything in the world seems to be shut down while we're heading toward being under quarantine.
When I don't know what to do, I write. So I decided to put together this list of how to have a stocked pantry and freezer, plus what to do with these staples.
This list of kitchen items will be especially helpful in the days and weeks to come, as more and more of us are quarantined at home.
I asked my registered dietitian nutritionist colleagues for their must-have kitchen items. They're pretty incredible and must be filled with covid anxiety and nervous energy, too: I asked for their tips last night, and I had this whole long list of canned food storage and pantry essentials (aka cantry) by the time I woke up this morning!
My advice for the days and weeks to come: Stock up on whatever you can get your hands on so that you'll be set with healthy, balanced meals if you do go under quarantine.
Eating healthy will help you feel good and will help boost your immunity, too. Plus, cooking up these foods will give you something to pass the time.
By the way, I know getting groceries during this coronavirus scare is likely different in every part of the country. Where I live, in northern New Jersey, getting essentials like bottled water is hit and miss.
However, most local grocery stores that I've been to have had a decent amount of shelf-stable and frozen food products available. If you're ordering from a grocery delivery service, that's also hit and miss.
I just secured a delivery date for next weekend (the soonest I could get) from FreshDirect, and I've had no luck getting an order through on Amazon Fresh.
I'd love to hear about your experiences getting groceries during this coronavirus pandemic, in the comments at the end of this article. And if you need some anxiety relief after getting those groceries, turn to these self care activities and self care strategies.
Of course, when get your groceries during the coronavirus outbreak, make sure to practice good hand washing before and after you put away your food.
The public health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Know anyone who's tested positive? These are scary times, especially with health care in the United States.
Without further ado, here's a basic grocery checklist of 40 items for your canned food storage and freezer essentials checklist. What else would you add to this coronavirus cantry list for your emergency food supply? Let me know in the comments below.
Pantry Items: Canned Goods
1. Canned Beans
“I keep a variety in my pantry at all times because they're so versatile for recipes from tacos and quesadillas, to chili, dips, and even bean brownies,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Champagne Nutrition. “They're also full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and protein.”
2. Canned Legumes
“I’m Latina and live in Puerto Rico, where legumes are a huge part of the culinary culture,” says Melissa Nieves, RD, MPH, a nutrition blogger at Fad Free Nutrition. “I love that they’re an inexpensive, tasty, and versatile way to get plant-based protein—plus fiber, iron, and other phytonutrients. I like to prepare them stewed, in soups, with rice, or pureed as dips and sandwich fillings.” You can also use 'em to make healthy roasted chickpeas in the oven.
Buy it: Goya Foods Chickpeas
3. Canned Salmon
“This is a great source of protein and omega 3s,” says Leah Swanson, MHSc, RDN, a dietitian at Got Nourishment? “It has a long shelf life and is very versatile. It can be added to eggs for breakfast; made into a sandwich, wrap, or salad for lunch; made into salmon burgers; or even heated up with dried herbs and a lemon slice for dinner.” Look for the Marine Stewardship Council seal to know that you're buying sustainable seafood.
4. Canned Sardines
“This is a fabulous source of protein,” says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, founder of MIJA, a superfood supplement company, and author of 25 Anti-Aging Smoothies for Revitalizing, Glowing Skin. “I add them to pasta dishes, casseroles, stir-fries, and salads. They are very versatile and can be used in so many recipes. Sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids for brain and heart health.”
Buy it: Wild Planet Sardines in Water
5. Canned Albacore Tuna in Oil
“I recommend tuna salad—canned albacore tuna in oil, dried tart cherries, pumpkin seeds or walnuts, and a dollop of mayo," says Kristina LaRue, RD, co-author of Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies. "It’s a simple, satisfying lunch.” Get more recipe ideas for cooking with tuna.
Buy it: Wild Planet Tuna Albacore
6. Italian Tuna in Olive Oil
7. Canned Tomatoes
“I love canned tomatoes,” says Bri Bell, RD, a nutrition blogger at Frugal Minimalist Kitchen. “They're hands down the most versatile canned vegetable and can be added to so many different recipes like soups, stews, chili, and pasta sauce. I choose no-salt-added versions and add seasonings to taste.” Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition, is also a fan. “I can whip up soup or tacos in no time with canned tomatoes and black beans,” she says. “You get lycopene and potassium from the tomatoes—plus vitamin C to help make iron from the beans more bioavailable.”
8. Canned Coconut Milk
“This is a dairy alternative in a crunch,” says Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, a dietitian at Peace and Nutrition. “It’s great in soups and sauces—and is packed with nutrients.” See more ideas to add to your pantry staples list.
9. Canned Fruit in 100% Juice
“This is for my baby,” says Jackie Durand, RD, owner of JD Nutrition. “She prefers fresh—but in a pinch, this is nice to have on hand.” You can also use canned fruit to make a fruit crumble or as a topping for oatmeal. Plus, it's wonderful in a glass of pineapple sangria.
Pantry Items: Other Essentials
10. Dry Lentils
“I use these with the Instant Pot,” says Cristina Svec, MA, RDN, a dietitian in San Francisco. “They’re versatile and as close to a perfect food as possible. They’re rich in nutrients—including protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and folate. They’re very cheap, too!” Lentils are also wonderful in a vegetarian lentils with eggs recipe.
“These are packed with nutrients that are great for brain health,” says EA Stewart, RD, a gluten-free blogger at The Spicy RD. “For the best prices, I stock up on nuts when I'm at Costco or Trader Joe's. I use them in smoothies, on yogurt, or to top off overnight oats.” You can also use 'em to make almond butter protein balls.
12. Nut Butters
“I keep nut butters on hand for good fats, vitamin E, and protein,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. Use peanut butter to whip up a batch of no-egg cookies. Then see why eating peanut butter is good for your health.
“I use tahini regularly in salad dressings, marinades, and even homemade energy bites,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City. “I recommend tahini to people with a nut allergy because it’s a paste similar to nut butter, but it’s made with sesame seeds. Two Tablespoons of tahini has about 5 grams of plant-based protein and plenty of healthy fats to keep you full. I use tahini as the glue that holds these Oatmeal Protein Balls together.”
14. Fruit Jelly
“For lunch, I jazz up what I make for my kids—peanut butter and jelly," says Hope Paul, MS, RD, CDE, certified diabetes educator coach for WW. "I toast whole-wheat bread before spreading peanut butter and raspberry jelly on it, and have sides of baby carrots and apple. My kids get a good example of a nutritious meal, and I get a childhood favorite!”
Having dried fruit on hand is super convenient. You can eat it as is, or you can use it to make healthy energy bars or even your own prune jam or avocado chocolate brownies. And eating prunes can help your health. Per research, eating five to six prunes daily may help prevent bone loss!
Buy it: Sunsweet Amaz!n Prunes
“I know it sounds basic, but when you’re stuck at home and have to do a lot of scratch cooking and baking, flour is the one staple you don’t want to run low on,” says Sarah Pflugradt, RD, a dietitian at Salubrious RD and author of Favorite Family Meals. “I make my own bread, and I also want to make sure I have enough for morale foods like cookies, muffins, and brownies. I’m stocked with all-purpose, whole wheat, and bread flour to cook at home and to not have to worry about leaving the house.” Faith Martian, RD, a dietitian at Sustainable Nourishment for Life, says she also relaxes by baking cookies, pizza, and bread.
17. Brown Rice
“My favorite meal is a simple whole-grain bowl: a half cup whole-grain such as brown rice, plus half a can no-salt-added beans, and a half cup vegetable like broccoli or steamed spinach," says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition & Wellness. "Toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt, pepper, and spices to taste." Brown rice is also great in a vegetarian rice bowl.
Buy it: Diamond G Brown Rice
“For dinner, I will have salmon, some kind of whole grain like quinoa, and a pile of cooked veggies like snap peas or asparagus," says Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, author of Pregnancy Cooking and Nutrition for Dummies. "I love to put sliced almonds, walnuts or pine nuts with my veggies to add a little more healthy fat, protein and fiber.” Dietitian Chris Ruzicka Edge is also a fan. "The nutty flavor, high protein content, fiber, and gluten-free properties make it a versatile grain," she says. "I tend to make a big pot of it since it take about 20 minutes to cook, and I freeze smaller portions that can be pulled out and defrosted quickly. When I'm hungry, sometimes I can't wait 20 minutes to cook and eat!"
Keep things fun by having several different varieties on hand. Think regular pasta, whole-wheat flour, and pasta made from beans. You can also go for different shapes, such as penne, macaroni elbows, and spaghetti.
“I use oats to make a filling, fiber-packed breakfast,” says Kyla Kurczewski, RDN, LD, NASM-CP, owner of KYLA Nutrition & Wellness and author of Mastering the Art of Grocery Shopping. “I also grind them into flour to make pancakes, cookies, and other baked treats—or to make energy bites for a quick snack.” Other dietitians are a fan, too. “My favorite breakfast is hot oatmeal topped with chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar and a big dollop of Greek yogurt. It is warm, filling and quick to make.” says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and author of Nutrition & You.
21. Boxed Plant-Based Milk
Shelf-stable milk is fantastic to have on hand. You can use it in cereal, in a healthy coffee smoothie, and more. The good news is that even though soybeans are one of the top eight major food allergens, soybean allergies are actually less common than you might think. A recent study in Nutrition Today found that the prevalence of soybean allergies to be lower than the prevalence of the other top seven allergens that include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and wheat.
22. Boxed Vegetable Broth
“I use this to add to tomatoes and beans to make chili, soup, or a vegetarian cassoulet,” says Denise Barratt, MS, RD, a dietitian at Vine Ripe Nutrition and author of Farm Fresh Nutrition. Use vegetable broth to whip up a creamy cauliflower soup.
“I keep a variety of whole and ground spices, dried herbs, seeds, and dried mushrooms on hand,” says Sheth. “They amp up the flavor of any dish.” Gauri Junnarka, MS, RD, CDE, co-author of A Primer on Ayurveda and founder of Ayurnutritition, says that her staples include turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, bayleaf, star anise, black pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds. For easy spicing, dietitian Michelle Dudash, RD, sells meal spice kits at Dash Dinners. If you do happen to have extra fresh herbs on hand, you can freeze them in ice cube trays.
Buy it: FGO Organic Turmeric Root Powder
24. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
You can use this heart-healthy fat to cook up almost anything with. "I use this to make easy dips," says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, author of My Indian Table. Learn how to make a healthy salad dressing with olive oil. By the way, lazy Susans make great displays for oils!
Don't forget about cereal when you're stuck at home! Cereal is the No. 1 source of whole grain and fiber for all Americans at breakfast, and it's also the top source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin E, and vitamin A for all Americans at breakfast. That's a lot of nutrients.
Buy it: Cheerios Cereal Cups
26. English Muffins
Yes, you can include bread products in a healthy eating plan! “I have people ask me about filling breakfasts all the time," says Wendie Schneider, MBA, RDN, co-author of Healthy Gut Diet. "One of my favorites is mashed avocado on an English muffin, with sea salt. It’s simple and delish!”
When it comes to bread, have a loaf on hand that's full of satiating fiber. If you're a slow bread eater, freeze any extras. In addition to sandwiches, bread is great for making hummus toast.
Freezer Essentials: Produce
28. Frozen Broccoli
“I love the convenience and versatility of frozen vegetables,” says Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, the host of Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and co-author of The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers. “Broccoli contains fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. I love to use frozen broccoli in my Creamy Broccoli Soup Makeover recipe. It’s easy, hearty, comforting, and nourishing—and has 9 grams of fiber per serving!”
29. Frozen Peas
30. Frozen Corn
"Frozen corn makes an easy addition to black beans and it tastes better than canned," says Tessa Comstock, RD. It also tastes great in a honey lime corn salad. Or a corn bread will help decrease the anxiety you might be feeling from social distancing!
31. Frozen Green Beans
"A lot of healthy eaters skip the frozen veggies, but I always have them on hand," says Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, co-author of Sugar Shock. "When I start to run out of fresh produce mid-week, I can always turn to something in the freezer. Not only are they just as nutritious as fresh veggies, they don’t require any prep. And they can be easily seasoned with pesto or coconut aminos or jazzed up with chopped walnuts or slivered almonds."
Buy it: Birds Eye Cut Green Beans
32. Frozen Mixed Vegetables
“I always have frozen mixed vegetables in my freezer,” says Moushumi Mukherjee, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Okemos, MI. “I add them to my soups, I steam them with salt and pepper, and I stir-fry them with olive oil and garlic.” Looking for a plant-based grocery list?
33. Frozen Wild Blueberries
“My family and I snack on frozen blueberries or add them to yogurt and smoothies for a treat,” says Hall. Wild blueberries are fantastic for your health.Regularly eating them can help boost cognitive ability and lower risk of cognitive decline throughout the life cycle. The brain benefits are linked with the flavonoid content of wild blueberries—and wild blueberries contain two times more health-helping antioxidants than conventional blueberries.
34. Frozen Cherries
“This is a super easy and convenient way to add flavor and nutrients to yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies,” says Josten Fish, RD, a dietitian at Muscle and Manna. Add frozen cherries to a cherry oatmeal bowl.
Buy it: Cascadian Farm Organic Cherries
35. Frozen Peaches
"My favorite is warming fresh ginger in butter, adding frozen peaches and almond milk, and
then adding oats once it's boiling with a bit of pumpkin pie spice," says Hall.
Freezer Essentials: Other Items
36. Frozen Edamame
“I like having shelled edamame as a freezer staple,” says Karla Moreno-Bryce, MDA, RD, a vegan registered dietitian at Nutritious Vida. “It makes for the perfect addition to salads and soups—or can even be a quick snack. Edamame is a great plant-protein. And for anyone wanting to eat more plant-forward meals, this makes a convenient item to have on hand.”
37. Veggie Burgers
Sarah Marjoram, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Atlanta, is a fan of Gardein’s Chipotle Black Bean Burger. “It is a delicious plant based meat alternative,” she says. “It’s an easy swap for a traditional beef burger, and the chipotle seasoning is delicious. They even pack 7 grams of fiber into each serving."
38. Ground Turkey
“I like to have ground turkey in my freezer,” says Anthony DiMarino, RD, a dietitian at Eat Move Improve. “Lean ground meat is easy to cook up quickly. It’s high in protein and low in fat. Last of all, lean ground meat is quite versatile in the kitchen. You can make it into meatballs, meat sauce, or even throw it onto tacos.”
Buy it: Perdue Fresh Lean Ground Turkey
39. Lean Ground Beef
“I keep a pound or two of 95% lean ground beef in the freezer,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, author of Expect the Best. “It's versatile, and you can make meals quickly with it. It's also an excellent source of protein, iron, and zinc—and relatively low in fat. I make Easy Beef and Bean Chili with ground beef as my go-to meal because it takes less than 30 minutes and it's also packed with vegetables.”
Buy it: Pre 92% Lean Ground Beef
40. Frozen Fish
There are many benefits to eating seafood. And Having frozen fish on hand will help you whip up a quick meal. Dr. Praeger's is a brand that bears the Marine Stewardship seal, signifying that you're buying sustainable seafood.
A version of this article originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Champagne Nutrition
- Melissa Nieves, RD, MPH, a nutrition blogger at Fad Free Nutrition
- Leah Swanson, MHSc, RDN, a dietitian at Got Nourishment?
- Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, founder of MIJA, a superfood supplement company, and author of 25 Anti-Aging Smoothies for Revitalizing, Glowing Skin
- Kristina LaRue, RD, co-author of Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies
- Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, owner of Active Eating Advice and author of Active Calorie Diet
- Bri Bell, RD, a nutrition blogger at Frugal Minimalist Kitchen
- Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, a dietitian at Peace and Nutrition
- Jackie Durand, RD, owner of JD Nutrition
- Cristina Svec, MA, RDN, a dietitian in San Francisco.
- EA Stewart, RD, a gluten-free blogger at The Spicy RD
- Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim
- Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a dietitian in New York City
- Hope Paul, MS, RD, CDE, certified diabetes educator coach for WW
- Sarah Pflugradt, RD, a dietitian at Salubrious RD and author of Favorite Family Meals
- Faith Martian, RD, a dietitian at Sustainable Nourishment for Life
- Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition & Wellness
- Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, author of Pregnancy Cooking and Nutrition for Dummies
- Chris Ruzicka Edge, RD
- Kyla Kurczewski, RDN, LD, NASM-CP, owner of KYLA Nutrition & Wellness and author of Mastering the Art of Grocery Shopping
- Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, clinical associate professor at Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and author of Nutrition & You
- Recent Surveys on Food Allergy Prevalence, Nutrition Today
- Denise Barratt, MS, RD, a dietitian at Vine Ripe Nutrition and author of Farm Fresh Nutrition
- Gauri Junnarka, MS, RD, CDE, co-author of A Primer on Ayurveda and founder of Ayurnutrititio
- Michelle Dudash, RD
- Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, author of My Indian Table
- Wendie Schneider, MBA, RDN, co-author of Healthy Gut Diet
- Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, the host of Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and co-author of The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers
- Heather Hall, RDN, LD, CLT, a dietitian at Food Medicine 101
- Tessa Comstock, RD
- Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, co-author of Sugar Shock
- Moushumi Mukherjee, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Okemos, MI
- Josten Fish, RD, a dietitian at Muscle and Manna
- Karla Moreno-Bryce, MDA, RD, a vegan registered dietitian at Nutritious Vida
- Sarah Marjoram, MS, RDN, a dietitian in Atlanta
- Anthony DiMarino, RD, a dietitian at Eat Move Improve
- Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, author of Expect the Best
Disclosure: While the Marine Stewardship Council, Wild Blueberries of North America , and Sunsweet are current clients of mine, this is not a sponsored post.
Find this post helpful? At no additional cost to you, support the maintenance of running this site by using my Amazon affiliate links to shop. Thank you!
I'd love to hear from you! What else would you add to this list of canned food storage and freezer essentials? How are you feeling during this coronavirus scare and covid quarantine?
Ready to get started on your pantry organization?