The Stock Up Hunker-Down Shopping List

Did I ever in my wildest dreams think I would be typing a title like this?  No.  The answer is no.  But here we are.  And my job is to help you feel more confident, more capable in the kitchen, and so my job has just changed from writing recipes and posts about colorful spring salads to something a lot more hard-nosed and urgent. 

None of us have any idea how long this will last, or what this crisis will look like in the coming weeks and months.  I promise to do my best to keep giving you useful information that will help us navigate the cooking and eating situation in this awful, frightening time.

So this is the current Stock Up Hunker-Down Shopping List. Please note: when I mention a particular food will last for years, I am not suggesting we will be in this situation for years, just noting a shelf life.  

Final note: Don’t hoard.  Buy what you need to be ready for a possible 2-week quarantine, plus a bit extra just in case.  But remember that everyone else needs to do the same. Channel the feeling you get when you see all of the chicken broth is gone, and then you see someone with 20 cartons in their cart.  

Here is what I have been buying:


  • Butter
  • Oils (olive, vegetable, and whatever else you cook with frequently)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Coffee

Check your spice cabinet to see if you are running low on anything.  Dried herbs and spices are a great way to avoid palate fatigue if you are cooking a repeating  


We have to start with beans.  Beans last for years, and they are nutritious and cheap and packages with plant-based protein and fiber.  Both dried beans and canned beans have a super long shelf life.  Canned beans are more convenient, but take up more space in the pantry, while dried beans are even cheaper, and can be cooked up as you need them, commanding less pantry real estate.

Think of black beans, cannellini, navy, pinto, kidney, chickpeas, backeye peas, lentils.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are nutritious, have fiber, some have nice doses of protein and they will last for 3 or 4 years unopened, around 2 years once opened.  They are also very affordable.

Some grains to consider: Farro, quinoa, spelt, wheat berries, bulgur wheat, freekeh, brown rice.

How to Cook Perfect Farro on the Stove


Get a bunch of different shapes to keep meals varied.  Also think about whole wheat or whole grain pasta for more nutritional bang, or even bean-based pastas, and make sure to stock up on gluten free pasta if that’s a need in your house.

Some pasta shapes to choose from: Macaroni, shells, orecchiette, ziti, penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, rotini, radiatori, orzo, couscous. Also Asian noodles like ramen or udon.

Also: Rice!  Lots of rice: white, wild rice, jasmine, basmati, brown, arborio, whatever you like.  Get a few kinds.


And maybe a few boxed of packaged macaroni and cheese, especially if you have little ones (there was never any judgement here, but now there surely cannot be).

Frozen Foods

Frozen vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, corn, peas, edamame, butternut squash, green beans, vegetable mixes, and so on.  Also check out frozen riced cauliflower.

Frozen fruit: melon, berries of all sorts, pineapple, mangos, peaches – great for smoothies.

Prepared Frozen Foods: Give yourself a break, especially if you can’t go out or pick up takeout or order in for a while.  Stock up on a few favorites, whether it be frozen pizzas, or chicken pot pies, or meatballs, or fried chicken strips.

Canned Food

This is the biggest category, because it lasts for a long time, has a lot of variety, and won’t take up precious space in the fridge and freezer.

  • Canned vegetables: Peas, corn, green beans, beets, artichoke hearts, spinach, pumpkin, and lots and lots of canned tomatoes (crushed, whole, pureed, plus tomato paste).  
  • Soups: All sorts of varieties from split pea to chicken and vegetable (keep your eye on the sodium levels, and get low-sodium if you can).
  • Canned fruit: Not something I usually have on hand I’ll admit, but good in a pinch.  Look for pears, pineapple, peaches, and make sure they are tinned in 100% fruit juice, not sugar-laden syrup.  Also: applesauce.
  • Canned fish: Tuna, salmon, sardines.
  • Mics: Coconut milk, diced green chilis, chilis in adobo sauce.

And again beans (see above), plus chili.

The World’s Best Tuna Melt

Fresh Produce

You’ll absolutely want to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables – guesstimate to know how much to buy so that you can eat them before they go bad.

Some longer lasting fruits: apples (lots of varieties out there), bananas, grapefruit, clementines and all kinds of oranges, also lemon and limes for cooking.

Some longer lasting vegetables: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, winter squashes (like butternut), carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, potatoes (sweet, Yukon gold, russet), onions, shallots, garlic.  Also of note: refrigerated cooked jackfruit and prepared guacamole.

How to Cook Parsnips

Dried and Freeze-Dried Fruit and Vegetables

  • Sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms.
  • Apricots, prunes, raisins, cranberries, strawberries, mangos, papaya, dtes figs.  Make sure there is no added sugar, as dried fruit is plenty sweet enough.

Nuts and Seeds

  • Whatever your favorite nut is (cashews, peanuts, almonds, pistachios) 
  • Nut butters (peanut, almond, hazelnut, or if no nuts, sunflower butter)
  • Chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds

Cheese and Dairy

Hard cheeses:  Cheddar, Manchego, Parmesan, Grana Padano, Pecorino. Also note you can freeze shredded cheese. 

Dairy: Lactose free milk tends to last longer than milk with lactose.  Cream and half and half last for at least a couple of weeks, longer if unopened.  Buttermilk also lasts a long time, unopened at least a month.

Eggs: should last for at least 3 weeks.

Parmesan Cheese

Meat and Seafood

In the spirit of economy you’ll want to purchase more budget-friendly cuts of meat.  I have already made and frozen barbacoa beef chili (eye of round), two kinds of meat sauce (ground beef and turkey), and pulled pork (pork shoulder).  You can freeze the meat itself or make things with the meat as I did and freeze those (or some of the recipe) in quart containers.


Ground beef, ground turkey, ground pork, pork butt or shoulder (try to get boneless so you are not storing an extra-large piece of meat), brisket, corned beef, London Broil, chicken breasts and thighs (again to save space, go for boneless), pork chops (boneless), pork loin.


All fish and seafood items can be frozen and many can be purchased already frozen: Salmon, tilapia, cod, halibut, shrimp.

Sausage and Cured Meats

Some precooked sausages, whether smoked or cured, such as smoked “rope” sausages will last for weeks if unopened.  Check the date on the package before buying.  They are great sliced and added to casseroles and pastas and soups.  Look for sausages with reduced sodium. Think about things like Turkey Kielbasa or Polish Kielbasa.


Broth adds flavor to so many things from soups to sauces to grains, so add that to the list.  You can buy canned or boxed broth, which is bulky burt convenient (go for the reduced sodium version), or find a product like Better Than Bouillon, which is a stock concentrate, which you mix with water to make broth.  It takes up much less room, and 1 teaspoon of the paste translates to 1 cup of broth. 

Buy whatever variety suits your cooking needs: chicken, beef, vegetable, or beyond.


Stock up on your favorite brands, leaning towards cereals that have good nutritional value, fiber, and not too much sugar.  Bran cereals and oatmeal are perfect. 

Bread and Starches

Popcorn (buy the kernels and pop it yourself: cheap and kind of fun and takes up less space), crackers for nibbling or with cheese, bread (English muffins last a nice while, and all packaged sliced breads last longer in the fridge, and even longer in the freezer). Dehydrated mashed potatoes are smart.

Baking Items

Flour (all-purpose, whose wheat, gluten-free if you need it), sugar (white, brown), baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, chocolate (chips, unsweetened), cornmeal. Yeast if you want to try your hand at baking bread, a good quarantine project.

My New Favorite Oatmeal Cookies


You have to get some treats.  Individually wrapped treats are a bit pricier, but not a bad idea, if you are going to lay in a stash and you or your family is a little challenged in the portion size or self-control department.

Our treat list includes:

If you’ve been to a grocery store since March 11th, you probably have seen a lot of people, and some very empty shelves.  But we all have to keep calm, keep breathing, and keep our sense of kindness and decency.  And then one day, we will come out the other end.  And if we are lucky, be wondering what to do with all of those extra beans. 

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