How to prepare meals with non-perishable items

Melissa Murray with non-perishable meal items

Melissa Murray with non-perishable meal items

(May 20, 2020) – Many people’s eating habits and food choices have understandably changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. You might be doing groceries less often than normal or find some items on your list just aren’t available at your local store. If this sounds familiar, we’re here to help – we asked Melissa Murray, a dietitian at Unity Health, how you can make the most of what you likely already have in your pantry and freezer to prepare delicious and nutritious meals.

Balance your plate

Murray’s first piece of advice is to always keep Canada’s Food Guide’s “plate model” in mind and aim for a balance of protein, grains, fruits and vegetables. This approach will help keep you satisfied and energized, in addition to supporting your immune system. If you’re looking to stock up on non-perishable foods, here are some from each food group that Murray recommends always having on hand.

Protein Grains Fruit/vegetables
  • Canned or dried beans/legumes
  • Nuts, seeds, nut butters
  • Canned fish
  • Powdered milk
  • Hemp hearts
  • Rice
  • Quinoa, couscous
  • Oats, barley
  • Pasta


  • Canned and/or frozen fruits or vegetables
  • Dried fruits (i.e. raisins)
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Tomato sauce

Some helpful tips:

  • When purchasing canned goods, look for those with no added sodium/salt.
  • If buying canned fruits, opt for those packed in water, not syrup, to reduce added sugars.
  • If you have space in your freezer, frozen fruits and vegetables are also great options and are just as nutritious as they are when fresh.
  • Fresh foods such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and apples tend to have a longer shelf-life than other fresh produce, and can be stored in a cool, dry place.

Building your food day

When planning and preparing meals, try to include a food from each of the groups above. Here’s an example of a day’s meals:

  • Breakfast: Oats with nut butter, hemp hearts and raisins
  • Snack: A quarter cup of nuts and dried fruit
  • Lunch: Soup with barley, two legumes of your choice, canned tomato and either canned or fresh carrots
  • Snack: Peanut butter energy bites (recipe below)
  • Dinner: Canned tuna with pasta, low sodium tomato sauce and canned peas

Try this!

Ready to give it a shot? Murray recommends these recipes because they feature mostly non-perishable food and include a healthy balance of the food groups.