With so much change, uncertainty and anxiety swirling around the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all become more aware of the value of shelf-stable foods. Canned, jarred or boxed items, such as grains, lentils, pasta, rice, beans and soups, are well preserved and provide great nutrition. They’re ideal for a few reasons: Long shelf lives mean you can buy in larger quantities without worrying about spoilage, and they’re versatile enough to be prepared and served in many forms. They also help sustain us as we do our best to stay #safeathome.

Last, but not least – they don’t have to be boring!

Add Zip to Your Shelf-Stable Foods

It’s easier than you think to go from ho-hum to yum yum! Take your next sandwich, for example. Start with turkey or ham (or a portobello mushroom for veggie lovers), add a slice of cheese, then layer on some zing in the form of pickled asparagus, sauerkraut, green beans or thinly sliced cucumber. What a difference! You can also give your sandwich a real kick with sliced jalapeños.Need some instant comfort food? Start with rice, lentils, canned tomatoes, coconut milk and any variety of spices, such as Indian-inspired cinnamon, cumin, red chili powder, turmeric and smoky spicy cardamom seeds. Combine the spices with a chopped onion and the rest of the ingredients, let it simmer a while and you have instant curry! It’s a great way to throw together a quick, satisfying meal.

Sauces and culinary accents can add wonderful flavors and textures to ordinary foods. On your next essential trip to the grocery store, don’t leave without adding things like sesame seeds, olives, soy sauce, vinegars, Thai curry pastes or oyster sauce to your cart.

Shop Shelf-Stable

One thing we can all gain from this crisis a long-term “shelf-stable” mindset. As a chef, I’ve always planned my grocery lists carefully, purchasing ingredients and spices that allow me to experiment across different styles of food and recipes. This is also an effective means of using all your ingredients, which can reduce food waste. If we come out of this crisis being mindful about consuming food more efficiently, using it completely and appreciating it more, that won’t be a bad thing at all. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Chef Cinthia Worsey is Executive Chef at Open Gate International.