BHS Pandemic Food Shopping Guide

I know a lot of Hungries out there are overwhelmed right now. And you know what, COVID-19 is overwhelming. Whatever your emotions are during this odd time in our lives – bored, weepy, anxious, sleepless, sleepy, lazy, angry, or nonplussed – they are valid, and you should let them flow through you.
I also know many of us are home baking and cooking furiously, which helps us chill out, but even that’s complicated, as store shelves are bare and you don’t want to go to the grocery store too often right now. I thought I’d lend whatever help I can with a foodie’s guide to food shopping during this, the pandemic of our discontent.

Bread aisle

The bread aisle has been cleared out both times I’ve been to the market in the last week. Understandable, as kids are home and sandwiches are easy. Plus, toast is one of the most comforting foods ever, amiright? So get creative with frozen pizza dough, biscuits, and dinner rolls, rolls and biscuits in tube form, or a handy dandy old school box of baking mix. How long has it been since you made garlic cheddar biscuits a la a certain chain seafood restaurant that shall remain nameless? Well, they take about six minutes to smash together if you have said baking mix, and I bet your kids would love a turkey sandwich on one of those little flavor bombs!

Another tip: the Thomas’ English muffins are likely all gone, but check near the place they usually stock the eggs – I was able to buy Bay’s brand the other day, and I think I might like them better than good old Thomas. You can make toaster oven pizzas, killer PB&J sandwiches, or even serve burgers on a good English muffin!
You obviously could also make bread from scratch. I have no advice there. I’m anything but an exceptional baker, but may the odds be ever in your favor. I have successfully made these five-ingredient bagels in my air fryer before, and if you can get your hands on some yogurt, they’re great for sandwiches!

Produce aisle
I’m sure the heavy hitters in this section of the store will vary by region, but in my store over the weekend, there was nary a potato, banana, or onion to be found. The basil was gone in small clamshells, but available in plant form. Romaine and iceberg, gone; collards and frisee in heavy supply. Bell peppers all snatched up; chiles in abundance.

So my first advice is to hit up the frozen veg aisle and see what you can score there. Frozen vegetables aren’t as versatile as fresh, but they ARE just as nutritious, and you’d be surprised what you can do with a baggie of fire roasted mushrooms or mixed onions and green peppers. There’s a brand called Dorot that sells garlic and ginger pre-minced and in tiny little portions, frozen. I also found frozen spinach fully stocked, and will be using that in soups and stir fries in the coming days.
Sometimes you can find lemons and limes in other areas of the store, like the seafood dept. Check there before you despair.

Now circle back to those leftover items in the produce area, and trust that you have the ability to turn these neglected flora into delicious food! Grab those greens you’ve never made yourself and cook them up with the ham hock or smoked turkey leg I promise will still be available in the ransacked meat aisle! If you have older kids, use this chance to start to introduce spice into their diets with a little diced chile in their chili. Roast some of those lonely beets still on the shelf and toss them with local goat cheese, which I guarantee will still be there in the gourmet cheese section waiting for you, dressed in olive oil and a little vinegar with lots of black pepper.

I know you’re missing fresh herbs and aromatics, but scour the international aisle for jarred and bottled sauces like pesto, Goya recaito and sofrito, salsas, chutneys, and marinades. You’d be surprised how high quality some of these products are, and how they can enhance your recipes when fresh ingredients aren’t available.
Meat aisle

Most folks stocking up and panic-buying groceries right now are going for the easiest/cheapest meat cuts first, so boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ground beef and turkey, pork chops, and steaks are likely to be sold out at your store.
I spy chicken livers, second row from the bottom!
But we’re Hungries, aren’t we? We can buy pork neck bones and turn them into a rich Sunday-gravy style tomato sauce. We can scoop up that plastic jar of chicken livers and make New Orleans style dirty rice! You’re home all day, every day, so don’t be afraid to buy a tough cut and chuck that sucker into your crockpot, InstantPot, or just let it braise in the oven all afternoon. This is the time to perfect your carnitas game, your brisket bounty, or your Singaporean chicken rice masterpiece!
Don’t forget that there are also overlooked spots in the store that may still have meat. Frozen seafood and whole turkeys, canned tuna in olive oil from the Italian aisle, and vegetarian alternative products like Impossible burger or Field Roast sausages are all likely in stock. I saw that lots of specialty sausages were still available in my market on Monday – like kielbasa, chorizo, and andouille. You might not normally consider those your main meat for dinner, but as a skillet or sheet-pan dinner, these become a delicious, complete meal. And don’t forget my pancetta pasta with spinach, which is an easy dinner that’s Shawn-certified delicious, and uses these still-available items!

All the carbs
The fresh potatoes are sold out, and my pasta aisle was decimated earlier this week, as was a lot of the rice. Again, look for the items that might be slightly pricier or more niche, but still get you to the same place. All our Barilla and Ronzoni were gone, but the “fancy” Delallo and DeCecco were still in stock (same for the canned tomatoes; Redpack, store brand, and DelMonte: gone; Muir Glen, my favorite anyway, was still fully stocked in the natural foods section). Look high and low and you can find options. And back to the international aisle, how about some German spaetzle instead of egg noodles? Or Thai rice stick noodles instead of white rice for your stir fry?
If you can’t buy plain white or brown rice, check that international aisle again for Latino or Asian brands, or try the Zatarans or Near East mixes instead of Uncle Ben’s. And there’s always grits/polenta! I bet cornmeal is available, and it makes a terrific starch with a lot of the braised and long-cooked meats you might be making right now. Don’t forget that frozen section for carbs as well; I found some raviolis, noodles, and potato products still stocked there this week. If you’ve never tried a frozen egg noodle, this is a fabulous time for a little experimentation at home!

I know it’s a tough time all around, my Hungries, but the ritual of cooking and eating with your family can be a source of fellowship and grace even in times when you’re all crammed into the house together and fraying at the edges. If you have any questions about shopping or cooking with the crazy grocery state of the union, let me know and I’ll help you troubleshoot! Big Hungry Shelby – always hungry; never thirsty!