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Here’s how to keep everyone healthy and satisfied even when food options are limited.

Do you have a full house with lots of hungry mouths to feed? Even as you limit trips to the supermarket, face shortages of some foods and have to nix meals out due to the coronavirus pandemic, you can still cook delicious, healthy food the whole family will enjoy.

Preparing and sharing meals can provide reassuring comfort in anxious times. And sitting down as a family night after night can be one of the silver linings you get to savor as busy schedules give way to a focus on family togetherness. With a little planning and some smart shopping, you can also fuel everyone’s immune system along the way while sticking to a budget.

Here are a few tips to help you cook smart and keep your family well-fed while you ride out the storm:

  1. Stock up on staples. Fill your pantry with essentials that will give you a healthy start to many meals. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, canned beans, chickpeas, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, canned tomatoes, dried lentils, and reduced-sodium broths are fundamental basics that can be stored for several weeks.
  2. Freeze fresh produce. If you are on a budget or trying to limit your trips to the grocery store, buy extra fresh produce and freeze it for later. It’s often cheaper than frozen vegetables and more flavorful. Chopped carrots, onions, celery, sliced zucchini, green beans, corn, and berries all freeze well.
  3. Let meat take a back seat. With meat and chicken sometimes difficult to find on store shelves, now is a good time to make vegetables the star of the show. Add additional veggies to soups, stews, pasta, grain bowls, salads, and stir-fries. Eating smaller protein portions and adding more produce will help you stretch your meat supply, cut your food bill and provide important nutrients.
  4. Change things up. Eating home every night can get boring. Get creative and make recipes you never had time to experiment with before. Play with new ingredients. Don’t feel pressure to cook elaborate meals, but try something fun like make-your-own personal pizzas or noodle bowls.
  5. Be flexible. If you’re missing an ingredient—don’t panic! There are often good alternatives you can use. Substitute lemon juice for vinegar, swap chicken broth for white wine (only in a recipe, not in a glass!) or use crushed red pepper flakes instead of fresh jalapeno.
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Date Last Reviewed: April 7, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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