How to strategize your grocery supply during coronavirus mitigation

Table with parsley, onion, and potato

Prevent food waste and make the most of the food you have

The refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are packed to the gills. You are prepared to hunker down for a few weeks, determined to keep everyone fed and your outings limited. The risk of food waste is at an all-time high at this moment, and the depths of the produce bins are begging for some attention as you default to easy ready-to-eat foods. But now is the time to deal with the perishables, either by eating them or preparing them to be frozen for later.

Professional kitchens use what is known as FIFO (first in first out) — an inventory method as simple as its name suggests. Use up older things first, but also items that are most perishable. Avoid pantry and freezer meals until your fresh food has been consumed. This doesn’t have to mean salads for the first few days, but rather that you should get creative about prioritizing items with the shortest life in your refrigerator. With the world avoiding time spent in public, minimizing food waste is a simple way to make your stock last longer.

Here are some tips to make the most out of your food with little to no waste.

First, make an inventory list of what you have. Draw a t-grid (4 quadrants) on a piece of paper and fill in the sections with produce, fridge, freezer, and pantry items. This is optional but very helpful.

Inventory list categorized by produce, freezer, fridge, and pantry items

Using the information below, take stock of what is most perishable. Some items have shorter windows of use than others. Based on a typical American household, here are some common perishables and suggestions for what to do with them.

Highly perishable (lasts 3–5 days):
  • Asparagus — Wash, trim ends, boil 2-minutes, transfer to an ice bath. Drain completely. Freeze.
  • Avocados — Eat these right away!
  • Bananas — Eat as is, put in smoothies, or peel and freeze for banana bread later.
  • Bell peppers — Remove stem and seeds, slice or dice, and freeze.*
  • Berries — Eat these first, put in smoothies, or freeze.*
  • Cooked grains — Add to soups, make bowls, or freeze.
  • Cooked meat — Add to soups, make bowls, or freeze.
  • Cooked vegetables — Eat this first. Add to soups or make bowls.
  • Cucumber — These don’t freeze well or keep long, so eat or pickle!
  • Freshly baked bread — Wrap individual slices and freeze for easy portioning. Instant toast!*
  • Fresh herbs — Use these first! Keep them fresh longer by wrapping in a damp cloth in the fridge.
  • Grapes — Roast with chicken or squash for a treat, or freeze. No need to thaw, frozen grapes are nature’s sorbet.
  • Mushrooms — Use first. Roast or saute and add to bowls, soups, or eggs.
  • Raw meat and fish — Use first, or freeze individual portions.*
  • Salad greens — Eat right away!
  • Tomatoes — Eat first, or cook into a sauce, soup, or salsa.
More hearty, less perishable (lasts 1–2 weeks):
  • Broccoli — Cut and freeze florets.
  • Brussels sprouts — Remove stems, halve, freeze.
  • Cabbage — Use when all other fresh produce is gone to make a fresh slaw.
  • Cauliflower — Cut and freeze florets.
  • Dairy — Use up before expiration for baking, rice pudding, or inevitable cookie binges.
  • Deli meat — Freezes well in packaging.
  • Garlic/Onions/Potatoes — These last a while. Remove the bitter green sprout if one pops out. Store in a cool pantry. Store potatoes away from onions.
  • Hummus — Eat or freeze in its original container.
  • Soft cheeses — Cheese tends to get consumed first, but if it’s nearing expiration, portion, wrap and freeze.
  • Tortillas — Tortillas freeze very well!
A bunch of ripe bananas
*Freezing tips:
  • Freeze small pieces (like berries, bell pepper strips, sliced banana) first in a single layer, and then transfer frozen pieces to a freezer-safe bag.
  • For bigger items, like loaves of bread or big pieces of meat, slice first and individually wrap and freeze for easier portioning later.
  • Always label freezer items with a name and date (year included!). Extra credit if you keep an inventory of the freezer’s contents.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator 1–2 days before using. Never thaw in the sink or on the countertop to prevent foodborne illness.
Two labeled containers of frozen chicken broth

Being smart and strategic will save time, money, and trips to the store. Find personalized and specific recipes with what you have on hand at, which conveniently links to a local grocery delivery service. If you have questions about how to shop and cook smarter and more efficiently, email us at Be safe and eat well.

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