Food Prep During Extended Stays at Home - Nemours Blog


Food Prep During Extended Stays at Home

Food Prep During Extended Stays at Home

As the country tries to re-open amidst this global pandemic, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still encouraging people to stay home to help minimize the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Are you struggling to keep your pantry and fridge stocked? It’s easy to make the most of your grocery store orders, whether shopping at the store or ordering online, it just takes a bit of planning and meal preparation in some form. This may mean simply stocking up on food essentials on taking the time to plan family meals.

Stock Your Shelves, But Do Not Hoard

No matter what works best for your family, what is important is that you do what you can to have about two weeks’ worth of food at home (per U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommendation). Below are some tips for food shopping during this unusual time.

  • Check what you already have. Chances are you already have food in your pantry, freezer or refrigerator that you can use. Take those foods off your list. This is not a time for hoarding or overstocking, this is a time to be adequately stocked.
  • Plan on purchasing food you and your family like and feel comfortable preparing.
  • Use fresh food first to avoid wasting.

QUICK TIP: Check the nutrition label and choose products with more “dietary fiber” and “protein.” This means the product has more whole grain.

Fresh foods are encouraged if you think your family will enjoy them and eat them before they go bad. It is important to also have canned, jarred, frozen, and other longer-lasting foods, such as those listed below, in case you are unable to replenish your fresh food supply.


  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown or white rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Whole wheat cereal
  • Whole wheat bread *can be frozen and thawed as needed
  • Natural popcorn *can purchase popcorn kernels and make at home

QUICK TIP: Add beans to salads, soups, rice, or stir fry for extra protein and fiber to help your family feel full and satisfied.


  • Eggs
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned salmon
  • Sardines *good source of protein and calcium
  • Frozen shrimp
  • Frozen individual slices of salmon, tilapia or other fish
  • Frozen chicken, beef, pork, turkey or other meat
  • Dry or canned black beans, chickpeas, lentils, or other bean
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butter:
    • Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios or other nuts *choose plain unsalted when able
    • Shelled sunflower or pumpkin seeds *choose plain unsalted when able
    • Peanut butter or other nut butter *choose no sugar added when able
    • Trail mix *make your own at home with nuts, sunflower seeds, popcorn, dark chocolate chips, and dried fruit

QUICK TIP: For a quick meal, prepare egg, chicken or tuna salad using mayo or greek yogurt. Eat in lettuce wraps, with crackers or on a sandwich or wrap.


  • Purchase longer-lasting fresh fruits:
    • Apples
    • Oranges
    • Grapes
    • Pineapple
    • Lemons/limes
  • Freeze fresh fruit before it goes bad *almost all fruits can be frozen
  • Purchase frozen fruits and thaw as needed
  • Canned fruit in water
  • Apple sauce and other fruit purees
  • Dried fruit

QUICK TIP: Use ripe fruits for baking. Turn over-ripe bananas into banana bread or wilting blueberries into blueberry bread, pancakes or waffles.


  • Purchase whole fresh vegetables, such as whole bell peppers and mushrooms. They will last longer than pre-sliced.
  • Purchase longer-lasting fresh vegetables:
    • Potatoes *can boil and add to soups, make mashed potatoes, bake homemade french fries, or sauté and add to stir fry
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Carrots
    • Mushrooms
    • Parsnips
    • Onions
    • Garlic
  • Freeze fresh vegetables before they go bad. Avoid freezing vegetables that are mostly water, such as lettuce, celery and cucumbers as these will not thaw well.
  • Use wilting vegetables for baking, such as wilting zucchini to make zuchini bread, cupcakes or muffins
  • Canned veggies:
    • Choose “no added salt” when able *add your own flavor with spices
    • Green beans
    • Diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, or salsa *for pasta sauce
    • Peas *add to a sauce or prepare as a meal side
  • Purchase frozen vegetables and thaw as needed. Choose plain ones with no added salt or sauces when able.


  • Milk: consider purchasing shelf-stable milk (Ultra-high temperature processing or UHT) or milk powder, which do not have to be refrigerated
  • Cheese: harder cheeses, such as parmesan or pecorino, will last longer
  • Butter *can be frozen
  • Yogurt *can be frozen
  • Ice cream

Other Items

  • Soups *look for low sodium varieties
  • Jelly
  • Olive oil or other oils
  • Low sodium vegetable, chicken or beef broth *use for soups, preparing rice or other grains, or flavoring dishes
  • Spices, such as salt, pepper, and other preferred spices
  • Sugar and flour for baking
  • Granola bars


  • Bottled water, if you do not have access to a safe or reliable water source
  • Coffee
  • Tea

Make-and-Freeze Meals

The following meals can be prepared ahead of time and thrown in the oven for an easy meal:

  • Lasagna
  • Mac and cheese
  • Baked ziti
  • Tuna casserole
  • Ground beef and macaroni casserole
  • Buffalo chicken casserole
  • Chicken pot pie

If you have a baby, toddler or household member who requires specialty foods (e.g. baby food, baby formula, nutritional supplements), be sure to add these to your shopping list.

Do not forget about your furry loved ones! Purchase extra pet food, treats, and any other item they may need during this time.

Sofia Gomez-Rubio, RD, LDN

Sofia Gomez-Rubio, RD, LDN is a clinical pediatric dietitian at Nemours Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Del.