How to Nourish your Body when you Have Limited Access to Grocery Stores

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Many people have significantly less access to grocery stores right now. Even when you do get to make a trip to the store, it can feel stressful and, in many places, certain foods are out of stock. Read this article to learn more about taking great care of your body during this time of limited access to food.

The most important thing to remember

Don’t add any extra stress. You probably aren’t able to feed yourself the way you did before lockdown happened, and that’s okay! This is a big change for all of us. Trying to hang on to the exact way you were eating before is likely going to add extra stress during this stressful time. Be kind to yourself, don’t cast judgment on your food choices, and set an intention to nourish yourself as best as you can given the current circumstances.

Your immune system is likely a primary concern right now. While food of course plays an important role in supporting optimal immune function, stress management is equally important. Aim to balance your focus on nutrition and your focus on stress reduction for a strong immune system.

When you have access to fresh food

If you have access to fresh food right now, it’s likely less frequent than before. Most people are going longer stretches without shopping for food. When you do go shopping for food, aim to support local growers and retailers as much as possible. Many local farms and health food stores are offering curb-side pickup and/or delivery. Be careful not to buy more fresh produce than you can eat in about a week or so, unless it’s freezable. Try to pick extra-hardy produce like root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, onions, etc), apples, cabbages, celery, and squashes.

Pantry essentials

A well-stocked pantry is crucial when you have limited access to fresh food! When you have the basics, you can make a variety of nourishing meals. Here are some of my favourite pantry staples to give you an idea of what items to focus on:

  • canned coconut milk
  • dried beans (especially chickpeas and black beans)
  • flour of all kinds (I like to bake bread and homemade baked goods, sometimes I use gluten-free flours and sometimes I use organic wheat flour)
  • yeast (for bread baking)
  • seed crackers
  • almond butter
  • coconut sugar
  • himalayan pink salt (coarse and fine grind)
  • dark chocolate bars
  • chocolate chips
  • cocoa powder
  • baking powder + baking soda
  • coconut oil
  • avocado oil
  • olive oil
  • sparkling water
  • shelf-stable oat milk, coconut milk, and/or almond milk
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • espresso
  • matcha
  • nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts– can also be refrigerated to keep longer)
  • seeds (hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax– can also be refrigerated to keep longer)
  • quinoa pasta (or other kinds of pastas)
  • rice noodles
  • quinoa
  • rice (short grain for homemade sushi, long grain for other dishes)
  • nori (dried seaweed, for snacking and homemade sushi)
  • gluten-free pizza crust mix
  • jars of pizza sauce
  • diced tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • tomato paste
  • rice vinegar
  • tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • sesame oil
  • spices and herbs (dried)
    • cinnamon
    • ginger
    • curry powder
    • garlic powder
    • onion powder
    • oregano
    • black pepper
    • nutmeg
    • cumin
    • paprika
    • smoked paprika
    • rosemary
    • dill
    • cayenne pepper
    • chili powder

When you have a decently stocked pantry, you can easily create a balanced meal using a starchy base like rice, quinoa, pasta, or rice noodles. Add a sauce and some spices. Use canned or dried chickpeas or beans for protein. Then add whatever vegetables you have handy (including canned or frozen if that’s what is available to you). Ideas for meals made from pantry staples include stir-fry, chili, soups, stews, pasta dishes, and curries. Don’t forget to keep some high-quality baking ingredients on hand since they keep well in the pantry. Baking homemade cookies or brownies with nourishing ingredients is a great activity when you’re stuck at home.

Your freezer is your friend

Your freezer is one of the best things to focus on stocking up right now! When you store food in your freezer, it lasts for 3 months up to a year, depending on the item. Sure, fresh food is always the most ideal when it comes to nourishing your body, but frozen food is perfect right now. You’ll still get those necessary nutrients, and you won’t have to worry about it going bad before your next trip to the grocery store. Frozen food is giving me peace of mind, knowing that a nourishing meal is always available even on the most stressful days (and it’s just as quick as ordering takeout!). I actually have two freezers stocked up right now. I have one full of frozen vegetables and local meat, and the other one has ready-made meals. Here are a few of my favourite things to stock my freezer with:

  • vegetable blends for stir-fries, soups, stews, and side dishes
  • chopped spinach and kale (I love having this on hand so I can add some greens to any meal I’m making when I don’t have a lot of fresh vegetables left. Add to pasta sauce, soups, stews, eggs, curries, etc)
  • cauliflower “rice”
  • broccoli florets (another easy frozen veggie to add to pretty much any dish)
  • local meat (I use a pick-up service from my local farmer and purchase for 2-3 weeks at a time)
  • bone broth (I make my own from local chicken or beef bones, you can also buy it at health food stores)
  • salmon and other fish
  • homemade baked goods
  • guacamole
  • crockpot meals (Look up “healthy crockpot freezer meals” and you’ll find tons of recipes! I prepped 29 meals in one day right after a grocery shop and local meat pick-up. It’s super helpful to have these meals available for those long days where the last thing I want to do is spend an hour in the kitchen, but I also want a nutritious meal)

Get growing

There has never been a better time to try your hand at growing your own vegetables, berries, and sprouts. We grow our own produce in a tiny patch of land in our front yard. We don’t have great green thumbs in my family but we still manage to grow the following things really well:

  • Zucchini
  • Berries (blackberries and blueberries)
  • Kale
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Rhubarb
  • Brussel’s sprouts
  • Lettuce
  • Sprouts (I buy sprouting seeds like alfalfa, broccoli, radish, and clover and grow them indoors in a glass jar. In just a few days you have a super nutrient-dense addition to your meals)

I hope these suggestions make this stressful time a little easier for you. You don’t have to try to get everything on my lists, just use them to give you some ideas. Most of all, use the experience of feeding yourself and your family as a calming, loving way to show your bodies kindness and care. Enjoy the process of experimenting in the kitchen with new flavours and dishes that you might not have thought of before this time, and savour the food you create.

Contributed by Melanie Maxwell, R.H.N.