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Stocking an Emergency Food Pantry During Coronavirus

During the coronavirus pandemic, you and your family's safety comes first. While many of us are still able to get to the grocery store to restock on fresh produce, it's not a bad idea to stock up on nonperishable items as a precautionary measure, especially as more of us are spending lots of time indoors.

The following is a list of food items with long shelf-lives that are go-tos for keeping your pantry stocked. You can also mix and match fresh items with these ingredients. Remember, you can always store some of your fresh items in the freezer, too, which will make it convenient to use those items in the future.

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Cans

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Peaches, pears, berries, and applesauce are good sources of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals. You can stock up on canned fruits when they're on sale, or preserve fresh fruits at home. Look for varieties with no added sugar or syrups.

Vegetables, such as beans, peas, and carrots, provide plenty of vitamin A, potassium, fiber, and more. Canned legumes, such as black beans, navy beans, and white beans are also good to have on hand.

Jerky and Dehydrated Meat

Beef Jerky

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Beef jerky or beef sticks are good sources of protein that don't need any special storage conditions as long as they're packaged correctly. Other types of meats are available as well, including ham and turkey jerky.

You can find dehydrated meats in grocery stores and convenience stores. They're an excellent source of protein and low in fat, but they're also high in sodium. You can find fancier jerky, such as Krave brand, in health food stores, specialty shops, and online. These sometimes healthier types take extra steps to eliminate the gluten, MSG, and added nitrites often found in jerky.

Canned Soups, Stews and Meals

Soup

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Canned soups and stews can be quite nutritious, and they're easy to store. Buy soups that are ready to heat as they are and don't require additional milk or water, especially if you don't have access to much clean water. 

Canned pasta meals can be stored for a long time, but remember they are often high in fat and calories. Try looking for brands made with whole grains in the natural foods section of the grocery store or at a health food store, such as Annie's brand.

Dehydrated Fruits

Dried prunes

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Dried fruits, such as raisins, craisins, and apricots are another good way to get the goodness of fruit into your emergency food pantry. Opt for no-added sugar dried fruits when possible. They lose a lot of the vitamin C, but they retain all the other nutrients. And they last for a long time as long as you keep the containers sealed.

You can dehydrate almost any kind of fruit at home if you have a dehydrator (or even in your oven). You can also make your own fruit leather.

Whole Grain Crackers

Crackers

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Packaged whole-grain crackers, pretzels, and snack chips last longer than bread, so they're good for an emergency food stash. Look for crackers that are packed in smaller amounts and don't open the packages until you need them. As long as the packaging stays intact, crackers should be good for at least six months.

Canned Fish and Meat

Tuna

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Canned tuna and salmon are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. They're available in cans or foil pouches. Buy some single servings so you don't waste any fish. And stock up on sardines, which are also rich in essential omega-3s. Canned clams, oysters, and crab meat are all rich in protein and zinc and can be stored for a long time.

Other meats are available in cans, so you can take a break from all the fish. Canned ham, chicken, SPAM, and canned sandwich spreads can be eaten with crackers as a quick meal. Choose low sodium options when possible.

Nuts and Seeds

Walnuts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Nuts and seeds should also be included in your emergency food pantry. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans have protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Nuts and seeds that are still in the shell last the longest.

Packaged nuts and seeds are fine; just keep an eye on the expiration dates and keep the containers sealed. Another option is to store some peanut butter or other nut butter in your emergency stash to serve with crackers or dried fruit.

Granola Bars and Cereal

Cereal crop

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Granola bars and breakfast bars can make for tasty sweet treats, and are often more nutritious than candy bars. Prepackaged protein bars are similar, with some extra grams of protein. These bars are usually individually wrapped, so they stay fresh after the box is opened.

Dry breakfast cereals are also good to have on hand because they're usually fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. They can be eaten dry, as a snack, or with milk (if you have shelf-stable milk on hand).

Shelf-Stable Milk and Juice

fruit juice

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Shelf-stable milk has been packaged so it doesn't need to be refrigerated until it's opened. Canned or boxed milk may not have the flavor you're used to, so it may be better to choose plant milk, such as rice, almond, or soy milk.

Look for single-serving containers, especially if you have less room in your refrigerator for larger packages. Bottles of electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade can be added to your emergency food pantry as well.

Multivitamins

Supplements in bottles are good for emergency food pantries.
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Daily multivitamins are always a useful item to stock up on. They can help supply any nutrients missing from your day-to-day diet.

Can Openers and Kitchen Tools

Can openers are good for emergency food pantries.
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A can opener or church key opener that stays in your emergency food pantry is important. You'll need some containers, too. Keep resealable bags or other containers handy.

A Word From Verywell

It may seem scary when people are flocking to grocery stores and clearing out aisles full of frozen foods and nonperishable items. Remember that it's a common reaction to begin to panic when something like the coronavirus is spreading. But by practicing your best hygiene (handwashing), and making sure to follow the CDC guidelines, you can do your best to limit exposure.

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