Joni Sare, cooking instructor

How to: Holiday Food Shopping During COVID


Stock your pantry, fridge and freezer

Avoid multiple trips and long lines.

Go once. Get in. Get out.

Holiday food shopping during COVID can seem unbearable and it can be a daunting task to endure long lines in the cold and search for what you need.

With this guide, I’ll help you reduce the stress by enabling you to be a shop-and-stock warrior.

Learn how to shop once to stock your pantry, fridge, and freezer for the three next three weeks.

Whether your “market” is a grocery store, farmer’s market, warehouse, or specialty shop, I’ll get you prepared to shop with confidence and conquer your holiday cooking in one strong swoop.

Is your strategy similar to mine? Share your tips in the comments below.

Here's your guide for
Holiday Food Shopping During COVID

Before you go food shopping

Tip #1
Make a plan and take inventory

Less decisions at the market = quicker in and out.

Minimize the decision making at the market by selecting your meats, seafood and produce before you go. Meal planning is so underrated! Do your homework. Browse your cabinets using your checklist to see what you already have. It will pay off.

Tip #2
Know the sales before you go

If you’re a bargain hunter, then those items will affect your meal plan. You won’t be distracted at the market so you can complete your mission. Get in and get out having spent less. Save time, money and the stress of on-the-spot decision making. Take a look at this post on meal planning to help create your custom menus.

Tip #3
Write it all down

Make a list. I like to use columns and in each column is a section of the store. For instance, if I need to go to the meat or fish department then those items will be in the first column. The second column will be all dry goods. The third column will be perishables. And the last will be frozen foods. Like any good holiday, you make a list and check it twice. No need to start from scratch — use one of these shopping templates.

A stocked pantry, fridge and freezer is better than having money saved for a rainy day. Here are some of the best items to have on hand for robust and delicious meals.



  • Squash (any type)
  • Root vegetables (any type)

Cans and jars

  • Beans
  • Sauces (pesto)
  • Olives
  • Meat/fish (canned tuna)

Boxes, misc

  • Meal kits (Pad Thai, Chicken Masala)
  • Pasta
  • Beans, rice

When thinking of fridge items, you’ll want to know which foods lasts the longest and how that list correlates to your preferences.  Epicurious has a comprehensive guide for long-lasting foods for the fridge.

  • Root vegetables
  • Cabbage
  • Apples, citrus
  • Hard cheeses
  • Vegetables
  • Meats
  • Sauces/dips (hummus, pesto)
  • Pizzas

Going to the store

Tip #4
Go to a familiar store/market

Now is the time for familiarity. Re-inventing the wheel can wait until after the holidays. You’ll know the best place to park and where to get a grocery cart. The time saved will be all the difference.

Tip #5
Shop early in the morning

Avoid the lines, avoid crowds. Go at opening time. The early bird gets the…

Tip #6
Capitalize on waiting in outdoor lines

Use this time to double check the list, and visualize your route through the store. It’s like driving to work. You know the shortcuts, bottlenecks, tight turns and quirky things to watch out for.

When you're in the store

Tip #7
First, go to the meat & seafood department

If you shop at a grocery store, go directly to your meat/fish department and ask for customized cuts. Place your order for fish that needs to be scaled, beef chuck to be cubed, or a sirloin steak ground with the #1 setting only. (Note: most ground beef is passed through the grinder twice and I think it’s too dense for an enjoyable burger.) While they are managing your order, you will do your shopping. Don’t forget it though! Circle it on your shopping list to indicate that you still need to pick it up.

Tip #8
Second, get the dry goods — the inner aisles

Walk through the inner aisles to get your dry goods. Hopefully this category will be few items because these are pantry items and should only be shopped for ONE TIME PER MONTH. Seriously.

Tip #9
Third, select the perishables — the perimeter

Dairy and produce are in this category. Generally shop for these items just once a week, but here’s a list of long-lasting produce to make that three weeks.

Tip #10
Fourth, the frozen foods

To avoid the frozen foods thawing, they should be your final finds. One caveat — if you are purchasing a whole frozen chicken or other large frozen item.
 Then grab it first to win your game of shopping cart tetris.

Back at home

Tip #11
Store the items, properly

Food in the fridge and freezer will last longer when it is stored properly. To ensure your food lasts beyond the holidays, check out this post on food storage tips.

Armed with this guide, you are prepared to navigate the markets for the last days of 2020.

9 thoughts on “How to: Holiday Food Shopping During COVID”

  1. Full spectrum guidance for avoiding covid and holiday anxiety while staying healthy with safe shopping, a little pantry longevity and a nutritional diet prepared to gourmet excellence.

  2. Brilliant. I bought 6 $2 sale boxes of gluten-free crackers at New Leaf last night. The goal is to have snacks that prevent impulse purchase trips when we’re out and about. Evening is the best time for no lines at stores around me. Not sure why.

    1. Oooh, right – snacks. How did I miss that category?! Well, actually, I’m not much of a snacker. And when I do, it’s salty/savory things (especially tortilla chips). Snacks are perfect items to buy on sale.

      Here’s a tip for storing open (unfinished) chips and crackers: seal the bag (I use rubberbands or those large twist ties from produce) and store them in the fridge. That’s right – in the FRIDGE. It keeps’m crisp. Time in the fridge will bring back the snap to stale crackers. Cook’s Illustrated magazine had a little tidbit about this that I read ions ago — and I’ve had crispy chips ever since.

    1. Curious – do you do your “perimeter shopping” at the farmer’s market? I know many who do, and find everything they need!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Scroll to Top