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As the coronavirus spreads, people across the world are preparing for the possibility of forced quarantines, and shutdowns of businesses and services. Keeping fruits, vegies and meats stocked in your refrigerator is not a practical idea if you are going to be in a mandatory lockdown or just want to limit your trips to the store for your own personal safety.
Freezing can extend the shelf-life of a huge variety of foods. You can stock up on frozen items right from the store, but if supplies are running low, it’s just as good to pop your own perishables in the freezer.
Berries, mango, peaches, cherries freeze well, as do bananas. They can all make for a convenient smoothie or, slightly thawed, a sweet treat. For veggies: corn, peas, and green beans, spinach, peppers, and onions are all good options. Avocados can also be frozen in chunks when they’re ready to eat. The key is to freeze things before they start to get overly ripe.
A lot of prepared foods are perfect for freezing, such as sliced bread, soups, lasagna, grilled chicken breast, sandwich meat and cooked rice — so consider cooking big dishes that can be portioned into single servings to freeze, then eat on the go. Not just cooked meat, but any raw meat, including chicken pieces, ground beef, steak, bacon and pork can all be thrown into the freezer and thawed to cook at a later date. Many people don’t think to freeze items like milk, cream, or yogurt, because the consistency of these items can change dramatically when frozen. However, they’ll keep longer, and can be used in sauces, soups and other recipes where the texture won’t matter.
Avoid freezer burn
Always freeze food once it has cooled down, not while it’s still hot. Make sure you get as much air out of your storage container as possible and seal tightly to prevent air from getting in and causing freezer burn.
If you are freezing leftovers, wrap them in foil first for extra protection before putting them into a zip-top plastic bag. A vacuum sealer to suck all the air out helps food last just a little bit longer.
Organize your freezer space
You should have a variety of foods in your freezer. Label foods and date them so that you can use the first in, first out system of consumption.
Freeze in appropriate portions. Consider what one serving would be like and freeze in portions that make sense for your use. If you are cooking for a family or a friend’s family, adjust sizes accordingly.
Make an extra batch of whatever you cook for a freezer meal. If you are making meatballs or lasagna, it’s much easier to double the recipe than to have to make it again just to freeze. Eat one now and freeze one for later.
Soups and chilis freeze very well and heat up quickly. Freeze a portion or two each time you make soup and you’ll have a great variety later on.
Don’t discount breakfast. Muffins, breakfast burritos, even banana bread (just slice before freezing) make great additions to the freezer.
A little treat. Cookie dough can often be frozen, and you’ll be able to throw a fresh batch of cookies into the oven quickly.
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Emergency Supplies that you can buy now and be prepared for any emergency in the next few months. COVID-19 cases are increasing and there may be a need for you to self-quarantine for a period of weeks. We are also in the summer months frequently occurring natural disasters—a flood, hurricane, tornado, fires, and more—and they often come with little or no warning. There are already known shortages of items in the stores and with the onset of a hurricane warming the shelves will soon be bare. Stocking up now on the right non-perishable food items will help you weather the storm (or global pandemic) with less stress knowing that you have these emergency supplies on hand for now or later.
What to Always Keep in Your Pantry
These non-perishable food items (or close to it) have lengthy expiration dates, so you can stash them away for long periods of time, even if it’s not hurricane season or tornado season. Make a list of everything in your stockpile and check expiration dates every 6 to 12 months to keep things fresh. And don’t forget to have a MANUAL can opener on hand at all times—all that food won’t be of any use if you can’t open it.
Peanut butter: A great source of energy, peanut butter is chock-full of healthful fats and protein. Unless the jar indicates otherwise, you don’t have to refrigerate after opening.
Whole-wheat crackers: Crackers are a good replacement for bread and make a fine substitute when making sandwiches.
Nuts and trail mixes; Stock up on these high-energy foods—they’re healthful and convenient for snacking during a hurricane, tornado, or other emergency.
Cereal;Choose multigrain cereals that are individually packaged so they don’t become stale after opening.
Granola bars and power bars;Healthy and filling, these portable snacks usually stay fresh for at least six months.
Dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins;In the absence of fresh fruit, these healthy snacks offer potassium and dietary fiber.
Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or turkey;Generally lasting at least two years in the pantry, canned meats provide essential protein. Vacuum-packed pouches have a shorter shelf life but will last at least six months.
Canned vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, and peas;When the real deal isn’t an option, canned varieties can provide you with essential nutrients, making these a great hurricane food or natural disaster
Canned soups and chili; Soups and chili can be eaten straight out of the can and provide a variety of nutrients. Look for low-sodium options.
Dry pasta and pasta sauces; It might be a carb-heavy, gluten-full food, but pasta is filling, and dry pasta and jarred sauce can last on pantry shelves for months
Bottled water; You need at least one gallon per person per day. “A normally active person should drink at least a half gallon of water each day,” Andress says. “The other half gallon is for adding to food and washing.”
Sports drinks;The electrolytes and carbohydrates in these drinks will help you rehydrate and replenish fluid when water is scarce. Just make sure your sports drink of choice doesn’t come with too many additives, such as sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Powdered milk or Boxed milk; Almost all dairy products require refrigeration, so stock this substitute for an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D when fresh milk isn’t an option.
Sugar, salt, and pepper;If you have access to a propane or charcoal stove, you may be doing some cooking. A basic supply of seasonings and sweeteners will improve the flavor of your food, both fresh and packaged.
Multivitamins;Supplements will help replace the nutrients you would have consumed on a normal diet.
What to Buy Right Before an Emergency
If you’ve been given ample warning that a storm is coming, there’s still time to run to the market and pick up more hurricane food: fresh produce and other items that have shorter shelf lives. Most of these foods will last at least a week after they’ve been purchased and will give you a fresh alternative to all that packaged food..
Apples;Apples last up to three months when stored in a cool, dry area away from more perishable fruits (like bananas), which could cause them to ripen more quickly.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits;Because of their high acid content and sturdy skins, citrus fruits can last for up to two weeks without refrigeration
Avocados;If you buy an unripe, firm avocado, it will last outside the refrigerator for at least a week.
Tomatoes;If you buy them unripe, tomatoes will last several days at room temperature.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams;If you have access to a working stove, these root vegetables are good keepers and make tasty side dishes. Stored in a cool, dark area, potatoes will last about a month.
Cucumbers and summer squash;These vegetables will last a few days outside of refrigeration and can be eaten raw.
Winter squash:While most are inedible uncooked, winter squashes, such as acorn squash, will keep for a few months. If you’ll be able to cook during the emergency, stockpile a bunch.
Hard, packaged sausages, such as sopressata and pepperoni; You can’t eat canned tuna and chicken forever. Try stocking up on a few packages of dry-cured salamis such as sopressata, a southern Italian specialty available at most grocery stores. Unopened, they will keep for up to six weeks in the pantry.
Within the two-week limit, make sure you have enough toothpaste, floss, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. It’s also good to have extra laundry detergent and hand soap at home. Stock up on face masks, hand sanitizers, toilet paper
More Food Advice for an Emergency:
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For many people, staying safe from the new coronavirus means staying home. But infectious germs can live in your house, too.
Although the CDC has not found evidence of surface-to-person transmission to date (which is good news!), the virus may live on surfaces for hours to days, making regular cleaning and disinfecting a wise practice during this time.
To minimize the risk of getting sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend taking action to disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as countertops, doorknobs, cellphones and toilet flush handles, since some pathogens can live on surfaces for several hours.
Here are some other tips for staying safe at home:
The CDC recommends washing hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a list of approved disinfectants to kill coronavirus. For surface cleaning, look for products such as wipes, sprays and concentrates that say “disinfectant” on the label and include an EPA registration number. These are required to meet government specifications for safety and effectiveness. For a homemade disinfectant, the CDC recommends mixing a quarter-cup of household chlorine bleach with one gallon of cool water.
After disinfecting food-prep surfaces such as cutting boards and countertops, rinse them with water before use.
For laundry, use detergent and bleach (for white loads) or peroxide or color-safe bleach (for colors) to kill germs. (Be sure to read clothing labels to avoid damaging garments.) To boost the effect, some washing machines have sanitize or steam settings that kill germs. Drying laundry on the dryer’s hot cycle for 45 minutes also is effective.
If possible, operate dishwashers on the sanitizing cycle. Machines certified by NSF International, formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation, must reach a final rinse temperature of 150 degrees and achieve a minimum 99.999% reduction of bacteria when operated on that cycle.
Household air purifiers and filters that advertise the ability to kill or capture viruses can be useful but shouldn’t be a substitute for cleaning. Some purifiers use ultraviolet light, which has been shown to have germicidal effects, but their overall effectiveness can vary depending on their design, according to a 2018 technical summary of residential air cleaners by the EPA. While some filters advertise the ability to capture things like viruses, smoke and common allergens, they don’t necessarily kill microorganisms
Upgrade Hand-Washing Stations
Stock up every sink in the house to make hand-washing easier and more sanitary with:
Use the Right Products — and Follow Instructions
When it comes to cleaning, regular soap and water is all you need. But for the second step of disinfecting, it’s important to be sure you’re using the right product. Already have rubbing alcohol or bleach in your cupboards? Either one will fight the COVID-19 virus. (A word of caution on using bleach to clean surfaces: It can discolor laminate and may damage the seal on granite and other stone countertops over time.)
Focus on High-Touch Surfaces
Cleaning and sanitizing the entire house would be overwhelming — and probably excessive. Instead, focus on the surfaces that get lots of contact throughout the day. These areas include doorknobs, light switches, tables, remote controls, handles, desks, toilets and sinks. And if you have kids or housemates who play video games, include those video game controllers.
Start a Just-Got-Home Routine
Put your belongings down in one spot, paying attention to what you carried with you throughout the day — likely suspects include your phone, key ring and sunglasses. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, then wipe personal items with an EPA-registered disinfecting wipe and leave to dry. When cleaning electronics, keep liquids away from openings, never submerge devices, and be especially gentle with touchscreens.
Help Kids Follow the Recommendations
If you have kids at home — especially if they’re not so keen on frequent hand-washing — consider one or more of these to make the ritual more fun:
Do the Laundry, Wash Your Hands
If you have a cloth laundry hamper liner, toss it in the wash when you do the laundry. Wash laundry on the warmest setting your clothes and linens can handle, and avoid shaking dirty laundry, which can spread virus through the air. And when you’re done handling dirty clothes and towels, be sure to wash your hands.
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