COVID-19 (coronavirus) Featured

Before you stock up on food, it’s important to do an inventory

Food on a pantry.
Written by Sunnybrook

Grocery stores have been busy with shoppers looking to stock up on food and household items in light of COVID-19 developments. Jill Zweig, a registered dietitian with the Sunnybrook Academic Family Health Team, says the first step is to take stock. Make a list of the items you already have at home to ensure you don’t overbuy, and that nothing goes to waste. Once you’ve done an inventory, keep these points in mind:

Cover off your food groups

Canada’s food guide recommends we eat a variety of different foods everyday, including fruits and vegetables, proteins and whole grains. Specifically, it recommends choosing proteins from foods that come from plants more often, limited processed foods and making water your drink of choice.

Create a checklist

Generally, here is a basic list of pantry and kitchen staples that are helpful to always have on hand:


  • whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa)
  • whole grain bread/pasta
  • high fiber cereal
  • dried beans/lentils
  • nuts/seeds

Canned/jarred items

  • beans/legumes
  • canned tomatoes
  • low-sodium broth
  • tuna/salmon
  • olives
  • nut butter


  • frozen vegetables
  • frozen fruit
  • lean meat
  • fish


  • leafy greens
  • other vegetables
  • garlic and onion
  • fruit
  • yogurt
  • milk/milk alternatives
  • eggs


  • olive/canola/nut/seed oils
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs and spices
  • ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise
  • soy, Worcheshire sauce
  • vinegars

Buy only what you will eat

It might sound obvious, but in a time when many people are stockpiling whatever is available, fill your cart with only the foods you know you’ll be able to use. It’s a good time to think about buying nutritious foods that can be used in a variety of meals. For example, canned beans can be sprinkled on salads, cooked in chilis or added to pasta dishes as an excellent source of protein.

Use fresh foods first

To avoid food waste, prepare meals with fresh and perishable foods first. Try to keep a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand, but if needed, know that the frozen varieties contain the same nutritional value as fresh. Frozen fruits and vegetables can also be more convenient in that they often require less prep time. And while canned foods can be tasty and convenient, keep in mind they may be packed with much higher levels of sodium.

Buy foods that keep

Certain fruits and vegetables have a longer shelf life, including apples, potatoes, cabbage, onions and many citrus fruits. When purchasing perishable foods, try to pick those that have longer expiry dates.

Cook and freeze in bulk

If you are cooking anyway, make a larger portion and freeze half for future use. Be sure to label all items with dates before putting them in the freezer.

Other tips

If you need to stay home for an extended period of time, it’s important to have regular balanced meals and snacks throughout the day and try to avoid mindless snacking. If feeling ill, many comfort foods can also pack a nutritional punch, like chicken soup, fresh smoothies, yogurt, honey, herbal teas and oatmeal.

Be inspired

There are endless books and online resources to find recipes for tasty and nutritious meals. One specific resource is Cookspiration, a site created by the Dietitians of Canada. You’ll find a handy menu planner, as well as ideas for every meal and taste.