Groceries useful to have on hand during Omicron outbreak

For people wanting to prepare in case they need to self-isolate, NZ Nutrition CEO Sarah Hanrahan suggests buying frozen and canned veggies, and topping them up with fresh ones.
For people wanting to prepare in case they need to self-isolate, NZ Nutrition CEO Sarah Hanrahan suggests buying frozen and canned veggies, and topping them up with fresh ones. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Frozen veggies are among the top grocery items people could buy during the Omicron outbreak to help get them through a period of self-isolation, a nutrition expert says.

It comes as New Zealand enters day one of the 'red' setting under the 'traffic light system', after nine cases were confirmed as the COVID-19 Omicron variant over the weekend. People who test positive, including their close contacts, are required to self-isolate for 14 days. Those who are feeling unwell can nominate someone else to do their shopping, or shop online using contactless delivery.

To help people plan how they would get through to their next shopping day, Newshub asked NZ Nutrition CEO Sarah Hanrahan for cost-effective ideas on what to buy.

Hanrahan's top tip is to keep a couple of bags of frozen veggies in the freezer, as they're a cost-effective way to increase daily vegetable intake.

"Don't be afraid to use frozen vegetables…they're often a really affordable way to up the number of veggies you can get," Hanrahan says.

Frozen veggies can be used as a base, along with longer-lasting, seasonal veggies, (e.g. potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions).

She suggests topping them up with fresh veggies from the supermarket (or fruit and veggie shop).

"You can be confident that by using the longer-lasting vegetables [and] frozen vegetables as a base, you're still getting some vegetables while you're waiting for your shopping day," Hanrahan adds.

Canned vegetables, such as corn and beetroot, are another option.  Along with eggs, they can be used in a frittata (or to make veggie fritters), and to bulk out meals. 

As fresh milk has a limited shelf life, having a bag of milk powder is also useful. Meat eaters could buy meat on special and freeze it, defrosting it overnight in the fridge.

And people could also include a few treats on the shopping list, to help them get through if they find themselves stuck at home.

"Something that's within your budget and you really enjoy," Hanrahan adds.

Rather than ready-to-eat meals and those with a shorter shelf life, members of the Cheaper Ways Facebook group suggest buying staples like rice, noodles, pasta, oats, UHT long-life milk, beans and other tinned foods, and freezing some left over meals now.

Although there are global supply chain issues during COVID-19, Countdown director of corporate affairs, safety and sustainability, Kiri Hannifin told Newshub on Monday stores don't currently have any limits in place.

"We absolutely appreciate that Kiwis are keen to make sure they have what they need, especially if they have to isolate at home for several days," Hannifin said.

"Provided people are not stockpiling and only picking up a couple of extras in their shop, there will continue to be plenty available for everyone."

Foodstuffs NZ corporate affairs manager Emma Wooster reminds people to shop normally.  Depending on demand, stores "may place limits on certain items".

"All specials, if they are available, will continue to stay in place," Wooster said.

It's also useful to check other household supplies, such as tissues, hand sanitiser, rubbish bags, cleaning products and medicines. To help people be prepared to self-isolate, the Ministry of Health has put together a 'COVID-19 Readiness Checklist'.