Topics » In The Kitchen » How to Stock Your Plant-Based Kitchen for a Pandemic
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
How to Stock Your Kitchen for a Pandemic

When faced with a global outbreak of disease such as COVID-19, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend staying home and practicing physical distancing. Many restaurants close, forcing people to either order takeout or to prepare home-cooked meals. Health authorities suggest stocking up with a two-week reserve of groceries to minimize exposure by going out to shop. Cooking at home is more affordable than eating out, and as an added benefit, you can focus on preparing healthy, immune-boosting recipes.

Being in quarantine does not mean you have to ditch healthy eating and live on canned goods and crackers alone. Many of us have experience preparing our kitchen for storms and other emergency situations; getting ready for a pandemic is just a bit different. Shopping for a hurricane or a snow storm might have us focusing mainly on non-perishables and non-refrigerated items due to the fear of losing power or access to water. Stocking your kitchen for a pandemic, on the other hand, can and should include a variety of refrigerated and frozen items in addition to other convenience products.

Especially during this stressful time, stay away from highly processed snacks and other prepared foods, such as chips, crackers, cookies, and ice cream. Make sure you have basic whole foods at home, and take inventory as you and your family consume them over the course of two weeks. You should always arrive at the grocery store with a shopping list and a game plan in case some items are not available. It is important to minimize your time at the store, so arriving prepared is key!

Convenient go-to meals during this time include soups, chilis, stir fries, power bowls, tacos, and sandwiches. If you are working or studying from home, doing some batch cooking on the weekends or free days can make your day flow better and prevent you from relying on processed foods during your busy day. Chili and soup can be stored in the freezer for later use.

A well stocked COVID-19 pandemic kitchen should include the following.

Pantry Items

Legumes — Dry and/or cooked beans and lentils
Legumes can be used to make soups, chilis, plant-based burgers, salads, and sprouts.

Canned/Cooked Tomatoes
Cooked tomatoes and tomato sauce are the base for many sauces, soups, chilis, and stews.

Dried Foods

Dried vegetables can be used to make soups and casseroles. Freeze-dried veggie chips make great snacks. Dried fruits such as dates, figs, and raisins can be used to naturally sweeten your dishes or to top a salad.

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Dried fruit
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Beet chips
  • Kale chips


Whole grain ramen noodles can be used to prepare a quick meal. Pasta can be tossed with veggies and marinara or pesto, or it can be used in a stir fry.

Whole Grains

Make a batch of brown rice and quinoa, freeze and save it for later use. Millet and oats can be used to make pancakes and baked goods. Oil-free granola can be prepared at home and enjoyed throughout the week.

  • Brown rice
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Oats

Nuts and Seeds

  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds

Shelf-Stable Non-Dairy Milk

This comes in handy during the second week!

Vegetable Broth

Choose a good-quality low-sodium broth for times you don’t have time to make your own.

Cooked Whole Food, Plant-Based Meals

  • Soups
  • Dehydrated meals: just add water!


You can prepare a variety of dishes with just a handful of spices:

  • Garlic powder
  • Onion granules
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Curry powder
  • Turmeric
  • Dried herbs

Non-Refrigerated Fruits and Vegetables


Focus on local and seasonal whenever possible:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Mango
  • Watermelon

Starchy Vegetables

Batch cook your starchy vegetables and have them available for power bowls, soups, home fries, hash browns, or mashed. Adding mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes is a great way to thicken a soup or a pot of beans.

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash

Other Vegetables

  • Onions
  • Garlic

Refrigerated Fruits and Vegetables

Focus on local and seasonal whenever possible. These are antioxidant-rich foods that are best enjoyed the first of the two-week supply.


  • Berries
  • Kiwi
  • Citrus fruits: oranges, limes, and lemons


  • Leafy greens: arugula, kale, lettuce, and spinach
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Farmers’ markets and local farms offer you seasonal vegetables with maximum nutrition benefits. These vegetables are harvested when they are fresh and aren’t traveling long distances to get to you, meaning they are at their peak in terms of nutrients. During a pandemic, many farmers are left with an overabundance of produce and no markets in which to sell them. Check to see if your local farmers are doing delivery or have organized stands where you can pick up their produce. This may not be possible year round based on seasonality and other factors. In such a case, frozen fruits and vegetables are a good option. Frozen produce is harvested at a time when its freshness and nutritional value are optimal. Frozen produce is particularly useful during the second week of your two-week supply, when fresh vegetables have been consumed or are starting to spoil.


  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Pineapple
  • Mango


  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus

Whole Grain Bread, Tortillas, and Pizza Crust

Keep bread and tortillas in the freezer to ensure they stay fresh and free of mold.

Keep in mind there are several foods that don’t freeze well. These include vegetables and fruits that have a high water content, such as salad greens, celery, cucumbers, melon, herbs, raw tomatoes, raw potatoes, creamy sauces, and sauces thickened with cornstarch.

Having a well-stocked kitchen can provide a sense of safety and control when we face challenging and uncertain times. In moments like these, it is important to stay informed but not alarmed. There is no need to keep unnecessary amounts of food that may spoil before you can consume it. Also, be considerate of others. It is important to buy enough food and provisions for your family, but hoarding unnecessary items can deplete the supplies for everyone.

Copyright 2024 Center for Nutrition Studies. All rights reserved.

Program Overview

  • 23,000+ students
  • 100% online, learn at your own pace
  • No prerequisites
  • Continuing education credits