I don’t think anyone reading this needs me to recap how the world has changed in the first few months of 2020. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of reactions to the world’s new social distancing measures, it’s impossible to refute that the world has been flipped on its head. I can’t speak with any authority about epidemiological curves, death toll projections or purported treatments, but what I can do is offer some helpful tips on what to buy and cook in a time where a trip to the grocery stores has become decidedly less desirable.
It’s easy to treat quarantine like a green light for all of our worst eating habits (I know I’ve posted more sweets than usual), but the extra home time is also a great opportunity to prepare complete, nourishing meals and start cementing habits that help preserve your body along with your sanity.
With that said, this grocery and meal list keeps two things in mind:
- This list generally follows the “Daily Dozen” laid out by Dr. Michael Greger in his 2016 book, “How Not to Die.” To that end, this list aims to achieve a minimum number of servings of a diverse group of foods every day, as follows:
- Legumes: 3 servings per day
- Berries: 1 serving per day
- Other Fruits: 3 servings per day
- Cruciferous Vegetables: 1 serving per day
- Other Vegetables: 2 servings per day
- Leafy Greens: 2 servings per day
- Flax seeds: 1 tbsp. per day
- Nuts/Seeds: 1 serving per day
- Turmeric: ¼ tsp. per day
- Whole Grains: 3 servings per day
Notably, this list above omits his drinks/exercise component – but that’s easy – move around with a normal exercise routine and drink plenty of water. Additionally, the “other” section is from yours truly, not Dr. Greger.
- This list also takes into account my experience with recent grocery store shortages and favors certain foods that store well for long periods of time, since nobody wants to be at the grocery store with normal frequency right now.
With that said, let’s dive in!
Legumes: Whether canned or dried, legumes are a great source of fiber and protein that store for long periods of time – in my recent experience, canned goods have been a little more picked over, so I’d opt for dried beans.
- Black beans and chickpeas – both high in protein and fiber (plus you can use the chickpea water to make aquafaba recipes)
- Lentils – technically pulses, but nutritionally similar the legumes above
- Tofu/Tempeh – yes this counts as a legume, since it’s made from soybeans and is minimally processed; it also stores well in the fridge for months if unopened
Berries: excellent source of vitamin C, fiber and other anti-inflammatory nutrients depending on the type of berry. Additionally, as long as they are not dried, these have a high water content and are relatively filling for lower calories. Given the desire to avoid frequent trips to the grocery store, I recommend frozen berries over fresh, as they’ll store for much longer.
- Blueberries – delicious, easy to put into smoothies and widely considered an anti-inflammatory food
- Raspberries – high water content, high fiber
- Goji berries – also high in fiber and protein, and a great inflammation fighter; these are fine to eat dried, as the calories don’t rack up as easily
Other Fruits: always bringing micronutrients to the table, aim to “eat the rainbow,” i.e., shoot for different colors. The trick here is finding fruits that keep for a long time.
- Dates – believe it or not, dates pack more potassium by weight than bananas; they’re also called nature’s candy for a good reason
- Bananas – you probably already know that bananas rarely even make it home from the grocery store unscathed, much less a week from the date of purchase; that said, if you slice bananas up while they’re ripe and then freeze them for smoothies, you’ll get a much longer lifespan out of them
- Clementine Oranges – ~40 calories per clementine, tons of vitamin C and they last a couple of weeks in the fridge
- Tomatoes – for this list, they count as a fruit. Lycopene abounding, these are a great addition to any dish, and if you buy them canned, you’ll have them for eternity
- Avocado – believe it or not, it’s a fruit and as long as you buy them in varying levels of ripeness you can time them out for a meal tonight, a meal a few nights from now and one a week and a half out
Cruciferous Vegetables: when you see dark green, you’re seeing an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Because these aren’t eaten raw often, everything below I recommend frozen so you can forget about it rotting in the fridge before your next trip.
- Broccoli (frozen) – make sure you grab florets instead of the bags that say “chopped.” In my experience, chopped = mainly stems, florets = trees. I always keep a few bags of broccoli for stir fries, hashes and veggie tacos
- Brussel Sprouts (frozen) – easy to flavor and easy to eat
- Cauliflower (frozen) – just like broccoli above but with higher vitamin C; great to throw into just about any dish
Other vegetables: just about anything goes here, and thankfully some non-frozen ones will hang on to their integrity for some time.
- Carrots – high in vitamin A, easy to add to anything and great with hummus; even if you’re not buying frozen, these should be good for over a week in the fridge – I recommend buying whole carrots and not baby carrots or matchsticks
- Eggplant – high water content means this is filling without being too caloric, great for casseroles and doesn’t wilt in the first few days
- Bell Peppers – high in vitamin C and great for cooking or eating raw; while these should be good for over a week in the fridge, some stores have a fajita blend of peppers in the frozen section that work just as well if you’re cooking them
- Squash – if you grab a whole butternut squash, that thing will last for a few weeks on the countertop; when you cut it up and cook it, you’re looking at a great source of beta-carotene and a delicious addition to any hash or stew
- Sweet Potatoes – the ultimate vitamin A badass; keep on the counter for a week or two or buy them frozen
Leafy Greens: here’s where it gets tough. Any salad mix from the produce section will serve your needs, but they also go bad pretty quickly and recommend use within 1-2 days of opening. I’m not saying you should give them up (fresh greens are a salad essential), but at the same time, try incorporating some of the frozen options below in addition to fresh greens.
- Frozen Spinach – when frozen, it’s an easy addition to any hash, great in smoothies, or even just cooked up and seasoned with some olive oil and spices. A great source of iron and protein
- Frozen Collard Greens – similar to spinach above, this is an easy one to dress up and serve on its own or toss into soups and stews
- Kale – in my experience, kale has always fared better in the fridge than its leafy counterparts; additionally, it’s easy to blend into smoothies or throw into a salad
Flax Seeds: ground or whole, flaxseeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. I prefer to add mine to smoothies (ground), but you can just as easily add them to yogurt, cereal or even any baked good that calls for egg. If you can’t find them at your store, the next best go-to would be chia seeds.
Nuts/Seeds: hard to go wrong here, since all nuts and seeds are going to last quite a while in a dry environment. The goal here is to aim for some that offer a more complete range of nutrients than just plain old peanut butter:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts – ok, I know this is nobody’s favorite nut, but these are an impressive source of selenium, which helps regulate thyroid health; I recommend eating two brazil nuts per day in addition to your other serving of nuts/seeds
Turmeric: you already know that this is a great anti-inflammatory agent, but if you’re not using it in cooking, how to you make sure you’re eating it daily? I recommend adding turmeric tea to your diet or seeing if you can incorporate turmeric roasted almonds as a daily snack (kills two birds with one stone).
Whole Grains: similar to dried legumes, pretty much any option will last just shy of a lifetime if kept in a dry, cool area. I recommend trying to stay away from processed grains like white bread and pasta and instead opting for lesser processed whole grains.
- Quinoa – not technically a grain (surprise!), but for the purposes of this list, it’ll do just fine
- Brown Rice – I think it was the Simpsons that joked “if the rice isn’t brown, don’t chow down.” Thankfully brown rice is cheap as hell, still on store shelves (in TX at least) and isn’t stripped of nutrients like its white counterpart
- Barley – high in protein and magnesium and easy to bake in which other grains and legumes
- Ezekiel / Silver Hills Bread – if you’re going to grab some bread, I recommend these brands for two reasons: (1) it’s nutritionally complete and is in fact made from whole grain, and (2) it’s kept frozen, which means it won’t get moldy in a week
- Oats – you know them, you’ve had them, and they store forever
Other: you know your own supplementation better than anyone else, but here are a few other helpful items.
- B12 Supplement / Nutritional Yeast / Ripple Pea Milk – you can stick with a normal B12 supplement, but if you’re looking for an alternative, I recommend cooking with nutritional yeast or Ripple Pea Milk – both contain B12 and are less expensive than a supplement
- Omega-3 Supplement / dried seaweed / spirulina – you can eat as much flaxseed as you want, but in order to get your full spectrum of Omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll have to incorporate one of the above
- Vitamin D supplement – we’re all getting less sunlight, so this is recommended
Now that you have an idea of what to buy, I’ll flex my organizational skills and provide a couple of different meal plans using some of my previous recipes. As you’ll see, some of these provide even more than the daily minimum requirement of certain groups recommended by the daily dozen.
(Note that for the recipes below, you’ll need to look at the actual recipe to determine what ingredients to buy – the list above is just an example of what’s included in the daily dozen and while it contains many of the ingredients for the below recipes, it isn’t a complete list for everything below.)
Breakfast: Kale Nuske Smoothie* (1 serving legumes, 1 serving other fruits, 1 serving leafy greens, 1 serving nuts/seeds; 450 calories**)
Lunch: Stir-Fry Salad Grind* (1 serving legumes, 2 servings other fruits, 1 serving cruciferous vegetables, 2 servings other vegetables, 1 serving leafy greens, 1 serving B12; 450 calories)
Dinner: Black Bean Tempeh Bowl (2 servings legumes, 1 serving cruciferous vegetables, 1 serving other vegetables)
Snack 1: 2 slices of whole grain toast (2 servings whole grain; 200 calories)
Snack 2: Oatmeal + berries and flaxseed (1 serving berries, 1 serving flax seeds, 1 serving whole grains; 240 calories)
Drink: Turmeric Ginger Tea (1 serving turmeric)
Breakfast: Caswell (Blue)Berry Smoothie (made with Ripple; 1 serving berries, 2 servings other fruits, 1 serving nuts/seeds, 1 serving turmeric, 1 serving B12; 480 calories)
Lunch: Avocado Lentil Salad w/ side of steamed broccoli (1 serving legumes, 1 serving leafy greens, 1 serving other fruit, 1 serving cruciferous vegetables; 425 calories)
Dinner: Donny’s Burly Barley on Sauteed Spinach (1 serving legumes, 1 serving other fruits, 1 serving other vegetables, 1 serving whole grains, 1 serving leafy greens; 425 calories)
Snack 1: Hummus with 2 large carrots (2 servings other vegetables, 1 serving legumes; 150 calories)
Snack 2: Oatmeal w/ flax seed and toast (2 servings whole grains, 1 serving flax seed; 280 calories)
Drink: Herbal tea
* No kale on hand? just cook the stir fry part and then add frozen spinach to the tempeh black bean bowl – frozen spinach blends well into that dish and will count toward your leafy green portion; similarly – if you don’t have kale, this smoothie also works well with frozen spinach, just let it thaw in the fridge for half an hour before blending.
** Calories are estimated.
As you can see, there’s plenty of room to play around here and these are only a sample of recipes I’ve created (and indeed, only a drop in the universe of recipes out there). We’ve all got a little time to kill in the kitchen nowadays, so get in there and start having some fun.