Shelter-in-Place Grocery Shopping Tips and Recipe

Shelter-in-Place Grocery Shopping Tips and Recipe

A gentle check-in from your friends at Coop to make sure everyone’s doing A-OK. Apologies for yet another COVID-19 related article, but rest assured this one’s all about food and hopefully won’t induce any major panicking.

As the coronavirus has been elevated to pandemic status, many states have now implemented a shelter-in-place order, recommending people to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. Fortunately, essential sectors, such as grocery stores, have remained open, but it’s best to keep enough supplies so you don’t have to make too many unnecessary trips. That doesn’t mean hoarding a hundred rolls of toilet paper or crates of dried beans—instead, focus on shopping smart and buying enough non-perishables that will last for an extended period of time.

On the bright side, the CDC, FDA and USDA have reported that “there is no indication that food packaging material has served in significant connection to virus transmission.” That means it’s unlikely for someone to catch COVID-19 from a cooked dish. So, if you’re debating on treating yourself to that bulgogi-sweet potato pizza from your favorite local spot, go for it!

With the many apps and online services, food and grocery delivery is a viable and smart choice for those who prefer staying inside. And, if you’re concerned about human-to-human contact or just don’t feel like putting on a pair of pants, you can opt for curbside, front door, or contactless drop offs. If you want to be extra careful, transfer the food onto your own plates and carefully recycle or toss the original packaging.

Getting groceries is an unavoidable necessity, and it just might be the most essential time to practice social distancing.

Tips for shopping smart during the COVID-19 pandemic

1. Have a game plan

Before you even set foot in the store, it’s good to have a list to streamline your experience. Rather than focusing on individual meals, research meal prep ideas that can last for the span of a few days, such as grain bowls (check out our Japanese-inspired recipe listed below) or freezable soups. Be sure to include additional options in case you might have to improvise due to shortages.

2. Protect yourself

If possible, wear a mask to protect yourself and others from potential respiratory droplets (a.k.a spit). Carry sanitizing wipes to disinfect shopping carts or baskets before using them. If you’re wearing gloves, be sure to remove them after you finish making your purchases.

3. Maintain social distance

Try to go in during slower times to avoid crowds! If you see a snaking line outside your typical big box store, consider shopping in slightly out-of-the-way less-crowded stores.

As much as we’re starved for social interaction, unfortunately now’s not the time to make new friends. Avoid congregating in groups, and try your best to stay six feet away from other shoppers.

4. You touch it, you buy it

As tough as it sounds, this kind of mentality ensures the least amount of skin-to-product contact and protects fellow shoppers. So, instead of scouring through mountains of tomatoes to find the most unblemished love apple, try to grab only what you’re sure you want.

5. Seek fresh produce (and consider going to a farmer’s market!)

Stores might be out of canned and packaged goods, but it might actually be easier (and healthier!) to find fresh produce, especially greens and tomatoes. Since farmer’s markets remain open as an essential service, consider venturing out there for your monthly shopping instead! As a preventive measure, be sure to wash and scrub your fruits and produce carefully, and transfer goods into your own containers when storing them in your fridge and cupboards.

With proper storage, produce such as kale or collard greens can last seven to ten days, or they can be frozen for an even longer period of time. Root vegetables, such as onions or potatoes, can last for months when properly stored in a low-light, room temperature environment.

6. Select nutritious foods as much as possible.

Even though we’re probably not going to be hitting up the town for awhile, it’s important to stay mentally and physically healthy by maintaining a proper diet.

For everyone who has been shelter-snacking a little more than before, we recommend keeping a varied diet. Be sure to buy food that you wouldn’t mind eating (no canned cheeseburger for me), and try to select whole foods that’ll keep your diet full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and other nourishing minerals.

The easy recipe you’ve been waiting for

A great way to utilize leftover bits and bobs is by throwing together an easy-peasy grain bowl, a one-pot balanced meal. Below, Kara Vorabutr, founder of the Los Angeles-based culinary pop-up and delivery service Le Pollen, shares her recipe for a wonderfully comforting Japanese-style grain bowl.

Nourishing Grains + Greens Soup

Makes 2 to 3 servings
Ready in 20 minutes

This recipe takes full advantage of that leftover pot of rice or beans you’ve cooked up a few days ago. Dark, leafy greens are a good choice to provide texture and calcium, but feel free to sub in that can of veggie in your cupboard instead.

Grain bowls are a great and quick way to source protein, and the additional inclusion of mushrooms and greens are wonderfully rich in calcium and magnesium. Garlic and ginger are both high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help jumpstart your immune system!


  • 2 cups day old grains (rice, lentils, beans, polenta)
  • 2 cups bitter greens (kale, beet tops, collards, chard) torn into pieces
  • 1 cup sliced leeks (sub green onions or thinly sliced regular onions)
  • 1 cup mushrooms (shiitakes are best, if using dried rehydrate beforehand)
  • 1 pint broth (or 2 cubes broth cube + 4 cups water)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1-inch ginger knob, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt + pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon miso or fermented soybean paste (doenjang)
  • Garnish: a squeeze of citrus, hot sauce, chopped fresh herbs, fried egg, pickles
  1. In a small pot, add your broth or water on medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve miso or broth cube if you are using it.
  2. While the water heats up, add olive oil into another pan. Sauté ginger and garlic until fragrant and golden—around one minute. Toss in the mushrooms. When the liquid has evaporated, add in the washed greens. Adjust the heat if necessary, and be sure that the garlic and greens aren’t burning. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, around 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Put your grains into the now boiling broth, then add your leeks or onions. Add your sautéed veggies and boil for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, or let the broth gently simmer while you fry an egg.
  4. Season the pot with salt and pepper before serving. Enjoy with a squeeze of lemon or your favorite hot sauce and pickles on the side.

Inspired by the French seaside and childhood summers in Thailand, Le Pollen combines comforting rustic cooking techniques with umami-rich Asian staples. Follow Le Pollen on Instagram

What has been your favorite dish to cook during this time? Share with us below!