Living Vegan In Charlotte, NC

How To Prep For Eating Your Pantry In The Time Of Corona

A shopper in gloves and mask.

So, how do you prep for Eating Your Pantry (Originally, the Eat The Pantry Challenge?)

This started out as a money-saving challenge, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eating from our pantry is something most of us are going to be doing.

The CDC has recommended those over 60 and those with health conditions (such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and cancer) stay home and avoid going out into public as much as possible – which includes grocery shopping.

Many younger, “healthier” people, less likely to contract a severe version, are also planning to “hunker down” and practice “social distancing.”

Additionally, many areas in America are now under some sort of “lockdown.” Many American workers have been ordered to “work from home.” This means no longer grabbing a quick coffee and breakfast sandwich from the downstairs deli, no more lunchtime food truck visits, no more grabbing a quick bite or some takeout on the way home.

Which means, whether planned or not, a lot of us will be doing some form of the “Eat Your Pantry” challenge, whether we wanted to or not.

VegCharlotte Tip: Find out exactly what your order means from the government. For example, the entire of North Carolina is going into “stay at home” at 5:00 PM Monday. This does NOT mean that you cannot stick your nose out the front door, or that you will have a curfew. You will still be able to visit grocery stores, pharmacies, medical providers, veterinarians … visit family and friends if you are helping them with provisions or care … even get takeout food from the restaurants still open. It does mean you are asked to stay at home as much as possible, practice “social distancing,” and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. Check out FAQs for NC here.

Good news, especially if you have been vegan for awhile, you probably have plenty of food already stocked in your fridge, freezer, and pantry to easily get you through several weeks and maybe a month! You just have to know how to put it all together, be aware of what you should be eating first, and have some plans in place for when your “fresh” food runs out and you feel uncomfortable going to the store.

Organize Your Pantry, Freezer, and Fridge

I’ve written about this before – check out this post on Organizing Your Vegan Pantry and this one on Organizing Your Fridge & Freezer. Cleaning and organizing your pantry – and getting rid of anything that’s gone bad or buggy – will make this challenging time much easier.

Some people say you should write down everything in your pantry. I say, that’s way too much work! Jot down a list of perishables you need to eat first and stick it on your fridge. If you find anything in your pantry that sparks a random meal idea, jot that down as well. Put fruits (like apples, oranges, bananas) in bowls on your counter top so you’ll be reminded to eat them.

Deep Clean Your Kitchen

That is, if you can find cleaning supplies!


A haggard but still smiling manager at Harris Teeter told me trucks are still coming daily and many items are restocked after the store closes. He also told me they were restocking certain items at intervals during the day because the aisles were so extremely crowded.

So, if you are having trouble finding what you need, go to the store first thing in the morning! I’m also told by workers at Harris Teeter and Publix the coming week should be better due to:

  • Hoarders having already hoarded.
  • Workers not eligible to telecommute returning to their 9-5ish jobs. (These are the weekend and evening shoppers.)
  • More people actually following social distancing due to the new order.
  • Possible rationing on a store-decided basis (not government). Nothing crazy – for example, Harris Teeter was limiting 24-packs of water to two per person, per day. They have since increased the limit to three, but now also include limits of three on toilet tissue, canned meat (not a concern to us vegans!), pasta noodles, cleaning supplies, and cold, flu, and allergy medications.

VegCharlotte Tip: Be sure to check the store hours before going, because they do keep changing. For example, my local HT was formerly a 24-hour store, then closed at midnight, then ten, then nine, now eight. While official hours are 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM, they have added hours for SENIORS on Mondays and Thursdays from 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM. Express Lane pickup purchases are reserved solely for seniors on Thursdays between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM. While this is great for seniors (and I encourage those over 60 to take advantage); this does mean those of us who are not seniors will also need to watch the shopping times.

Getting back to cleaning, you don’t NEED the extra heavy duty, disinfecting cleaners. Old-fashioned products like bleach (gasp!) will work just as well. If nothing else, just tidy your kitchen and wash the cabinets down with dish soap.

The point is not to 100% sanitize your kitchen so you can perform emergency surgeries.

The point is to make your kitchen as pleasant as possible. Doing this will make time spent in the kitchen much more enjoyable. The longer you eat from your pantry, the more you will alternate between feeling really creative and really frustrated. A clean, organized kitchen will help.

The Cleaning Aisle

Consider Stocking Up On Non-Food Items (Besides Toilet Paper)

Feminine Hygiene

I really do not understand the toilet paper obsession – especially for a upper respiratory virus. Do people mishear “corona virus” as “colon virus”?

It becomes even weirder when I walk past the empty toilet paper aisle and then down the next aisle of “feminine hygiene” products – which is fully stocked. Non-senior women should strongly consider it’s much more likely they will have a “monthly visitor” in a month long order than a month long bout of non-stop diarrhea.

The Pet Aisle

The pet aisle is the same – fully stocked. It’s a bit disturbing people are thinking so much about their own bathroom habits and not even bothering to pick up some cat litter for Fluffy. Of course, since they don’t seem to be picking up pet food either, maybe they are assuming Fluffy won’t be needing to pee or poop.

And how about such things as laundry detergent? Are you planning to just wipe down your clothes each evening with those little wipes? How about deodorant? Shampoo? Toothpaste? This pandemic is not an excuse to be disgusting (although, I suppose that could be a good way to practice social distancing).

Consider Storage Space

The Frozen Pizza Aisle

When hoarding stockpiling, consider how much storage space you actually have.

Granted, you can always store beans, rice, grains, canned foods in a spare bedroom or closet.

But frozen food? Only as much as you can fit in your freezer.

I’ve walked by people with twenty frozen pizzas in their cart. Thirty or forty frozen dinners. Bags and bags of frozen veggies.

Of course, for all I know they have huge empty freezers, or maybe multiple freezers. But I’m guessing quite a few people returned home and went, “Oh, sh*t!”

Sure, you can return things to the store. But you know what happens? The store has to trash the items – they can’t resell them. So the store potentially loses money and you’re potentially hiking up prices and people who could have used that food – who actually have space in their freezer – can’t buy it. Just because you hoarded stocked up on toilet paper, doesn’t give you the right to be an ass.

VegCharlotte Tip: Find out the store’s return policy. Because of panic buying and people trying to return goods, many stores have suspended refunds.

Also Consider Spoilage Time

C’mon, WHAT are you doing with ten cartons of milk and fifteen loaves of bread? Are you really planning to drink and eat all of that before it spoils? You can freeze bread – but, realistically, do you have room in your freezer? Leave it on the shelf for someone else, please.

Consider “Ingredients”

I’m amazed at what I see in people’s carts.

Fifty cans of tuna. (But no pickles to make tuna salad, no pasta or condensed soup to make tuna casserole, not even any vinegar.) I picture this person sitting in her toilet paper fort, eating tuna straight from the can.

Fifteen jars of peanut butter. But no bread, no jelly, no crackers, no apples.

Before you hoard stock up on a colossal amount of something, ask yourself how you plan to use it. Stocking up on beans to make lots of chili? Better buy some cans of tomatoes. Planning to make your own hummus? Make sure you have tahini as well as chickpeas. When you grab pasta sauce, grab some pasta noodles as well.

To Recap:

  • Organize your pantry, freezer, and fridge.
  • Take stock of how much storage space you have.
  • Clean and tidy your kitchen.
  • Keep track of your local government restrictions.
  • Keep track of store hours – not just “opening and closing,” but when the store might be opened and closed to/for certain ages.
  • Check the store’s website or notices posted on the doors, so you aren’t holding up the line if products are rationed. (And preventing other people from buying those products as they will need to be restocked.)
  • Consider items you might need BESIDES toilet paper and cleaning products, such as personal care and pet goods.
  • Think storage space.
  • Think spoilage time.
  • Panic shop with a plan. Think ingredients.

I know most of us want to be responsible, practice social distancing, and make things safer for everyone – which means fewer shopping trips! I will try to get a post out about items that make it easier to eat from your pantry ASAP!


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10 Responses »

  1. That first picture is the worst. She looks like she works at a hospital and she’s wearing her scrubs out in public!

    worked at a hospital for over 15 years and I hated it when people did that on a regular basis, but, now, with the coronavirus, it just seems so stupid to me.

    They must be true morons.

    It’s just common sense – change your hospital work clothes that have been in contact with all kinds of viruses before you leave for work. And definitely don’t go to a grocery store!

  2. Good Blog post, I have a well stocked pantry but I need new ideas for making things.

    • Thanks! I will get around to posting some cookbook recommendations (Amazon has a lot of vegan cookbooks free from Kindle Unlimited right now) and the recipes I am using. Basically, when I first went veg years ago I was broke (in my defense I was in my early 20s). There’s actually a ton of things you can do with a few simple ingredients like canned beans and veggies, dried spices, and a grain of some type. May not be as ooh la la as using all fresh things, but you can definitely pull together a lot of meals with just a few pantry staples.

  3. Thank you for the article!!!

  4. I haven’t been by in awhile. Good article! Now off to find that mushroom soup recipe of yours that I love and have to print out every time I want to make it because I keep misplacing it. 🙂

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