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During times like these, many of us have similar thoughts: stock up on pantry staples like pasta and canned goods, bread, frozen foods and so on – and rightfully so when preparing to hunker down for a while. What you might not be thinking about is stocking up on fresh produce, which is a great way to stay nourished and keep meals interesting in the days ahead. An added bonus: fruits and veggies provide an abundant source of vitamins and minerals to support immune health, too.

Know Basic Food Safety – One important thing to acknowledge is that our food supply is safe. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.” Additionally, there is no need to wash fresh produce with soap or sprays. Simply follow everyday recommendations: wash hands for 20 seconds and then hold produce under cool, running water while rubbing until thoroughly rinsed.

This holds true even when you don’t plan on eating the outer layer – such as with a banana or an avocado. When rinsing firm produce, such as potatoes or melons, scrub with a clean vegetable brush instead of using your hands. After this process, dry produce with a clean paper towel and you’re ready to go.

Stretch Your Imagination (and Ingredients) – Produce can be a great tool when trying to stretch the animal-based protein foods you have on hand. Making The Blend by mixing finely diced mushrooms with ground beef adds bulk to the mixture while increasing nutrition, too. If preparing chicken, cut into cubes and sauté alongside onions and peppers for a delicious stir fry. A popular option in our house is having breakfast for dinner, so opt for an easy frittata and load it up with favorite vegetables – broccoli, kale, red peppers, potatoes – the options are endless. Or go completely plant-based by making eggplant parmesan the center of your plate instead.

Reduce Trips to the Store – We’re all aware of social distancing by now, so planning ahead can mean fewer trips to the store later on. As you’re making fresh produce selections, first focus on fruits and vegetables that tend to last longer in storage. Options like potatoes, apples, onions, carrots and cabbage are all great options. For favorite fruits and veggies that don’t tend to last as long, purchase extra so you can enjoy some right away and freeze a portion to have in the coming days. When freezing items such as strawberries or broccoli, rinse, dry and chop (if necessary). Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze. Once they are completely frozen, transfer into freezer bags and use as needed.

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