Before I became a co-owner of Spiral Circle, I was co-founder and co-owner of Dandelion Communitea Cafe (an organic, vegetarian cafe) until my exit in 2015. I was an early advocate for organic food and supporting local farms and my focus in menu planning was on fresh, whole foods that leaned vegan and gluten-free. While I am not a trained nutritionist, I have extensive experience in meal planning and selecting pantry & whole foods items that are nutrient-dense as well as zeroing in on brands that are trustworthy & reliable and can be ordered from directly, circumventing grocery stores. It's surprisingly affordable, below I explain how to source farm-fresh food delivered to your door for $1.33/person/meal.
I am also a trained herbalist with a deep faith in Western Herbalism, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine - you may have noticed our apothecary section has grown to embrace these modalities. A two-year bout with a debilitating case of leaky gut stemming from a perfect storm of antibiotics, extreme stress and a period of poverty made me a self-proclaimed, self-taught, semi-expert on inflammation issues, histamine reactions and my experience in healing through an Ayurvedic lifestyle approach has made me even more effective at using food as medicine.
Given all that, I want to share with you how I have adapted our household pantry and food supply to pivot away from grocery stores while steering towards health-giving whole foods, on a budget, and with different eaters in mind. My pandemic household is located in St Cloud, Florida and consists of two adults and three kids aged 2 to 10. While I am going to give optimal scenarios, we are in a pandemic and some of our less-good-for-us comfort foods may be just what we need emotionally (in moderation) and, also, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to options available to us. (One blog post like this could set off a ripple effect that sells out a brand.)
I begin with the premise that we should prioritize lung health and plan a portion of our pantry for the days that someone in our family may be sick. Later in this post, I give specific recommendations for sourcing food that can be delivered right to your doorstep.
What Foods Are Optimal for Building Healthy Lungs?
The easy answer here is foods that do not build mucus and are anti-inflammatory in nature. I did not let my family eat dairy until we had been isolated for 14 days and I knew we were basically in the clear for contracting coronavirus, for now. I still keep dairy to a minimum, substituting vegan alternatives to milk in recipes, and we ration hard cheese to just a few meals per week to avoid mucus overflow. It's been a nasty pollen season in my region, so this makes sense for that reason as well.
Western doctors are not required to take even one nutrition class in college and American nutritional standards and understanding food-as-medicine is sorely lacking. That's why I turn to systems that are thousands of years old and based on diet and lifestyle to create a body that is so healthy that a virus can't take hold.
According to this article on Traditional Chinese Medicine:
- ON PROTEIN + DAIRY: It’s best to absorb protein from legumes and white meat (such as turkey). For dairy, focus on non-processed dairy (such as goat and sheep products) and pungent foods (such as fermented foods).
- SUPPORTIVE FOODS: Fermented radishes specifically are great—they help your gut, so it helps your lungs. Additional foods recommended: clean white foods (cauliflower and potatoes), turnips, parsnips, almonds, daikon, apples, pears, rice, oats, sesame seeds, onion, garlic and white peppercorns.
- ABOVE GROUND PLANTS: Foods that grow through oxygen—think leafy greens, fresh organic vegetables with sprouted seeds and grains—help most.
- WARMING DRINKS: Also, keep drinks and foods warm, and try to avoid foods that are too raw or on ice. Cover your chest in areas of wind or too much air conditioning and continuously drink warm/hot tea.
- Avoid heavy, dense foods such as meat and cheese.
- Avoid fatty, fried foods.
- Eliminate dairy.
- Sip hot water with lemon and honey with meals and throughout the day.
- Include warm digestive spices in your diet such as ginger, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper.
- Do not overeat or drink in excess.
- Have your mid-day meal be the largest, eating a lighter breakfast and dinner.
Please note that WARM foods and drinks are recommended. COLD items will help coronavirus progress by creating a fertile environment. When my daughter had an Upper Respiratory Infection I gave her popsicles to help her sore throat - please don't do that. She ended up with pneumonia! Raw foods should also be minimized.
In this awesome article, Pantry medicine for when the plague is upon us, the advice is geared towards what you might have available in your pantry or front yard. For dryness: chia, flax, oatmeal, hibiscus and pricky pear cactus. For immunity: garlic, ginger, citrus & cayenne. For lungs: an old-fashioned steam with aromaic herbs such as mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage (also great in teas or cooking) and cooked onions - to be eaten or applied as a poultice. There's lots more, the entire article is a refreshing read.
A good breakfast might include stewed apples, oats and cloves with chia mixed in as opposed to a dry, sugary cereal in milk. Lunch might be lightly sauteed onions, garlic, & kale with roasted potatoes tossed with thyme and maybe some chicken with fresh lemon squeezed over it. Dinner could look like white rice topped with steamed broccoli, sauteed garlic and onions with white beans in a tahini sauce topped with almonds.
Where to shop in a quarantine?
That's all fine and good, but how can you access foods that are whole, fresh and delicious without breaking quarantine? Thankfully, there has been a rise in community-supported agriculture (CSA) and many farms or aggregators are legally allowed to remain open or offer delivery or shipment.
In Central Florida, there are a number of resources that are local but where I am staying in Osceola County, delivery is not available so I have opted for a few national aggregators instead. LocalHarvest.org is an INVALUABLE resource that lists farms, CSA's and other resources that might connect you to a delivery service in your community. I've linked to the 32803 area code for my local peeps.
Locally we can recommend:
- Orlando Organics - I used this organic doorstep delivery before opening Dandelion. They have been in the vegetable game for a long time and I remember it being great quality with a variety of sizes.
- Lake Meadows Natural Farms - They ship and accept SNAP food stamps, which is huge. We have been using them for whipping cream, cheese, and eggs but they have a wide variety of items. The online store is kinda hard to find so I'm linking to it here but the farmstand is open and they are practicing social distancing!
- Keely Farms - a good source for dairy and meat items. I haven't used them myself but Summer Rodman, our other owner, is a fan.
- Noble Roots - a biodynamic family farm that I love. They are more in Volusia County and a regular at the Deland Farmer's Market - my usual home base. They deliver and have vegetables and meat.
There are national services, which I've had to use since, apparently, Osceola County is out of bounds for most farm delivery services in Central Florida. I've been delighted with what I've received from:
- Misfits Market: Organic Produce, family of five box for $35 feeds a lot more than my five people so we give our surplus to my boyfriend's parents. They also have a few extra pantry items (like oats which are so good for you and chocolate, which is, you know...a fifth food group) that you can add to your box. This week I got to request avocados...I can't wait to add those to our Taco Tuesday night! (Yo, use code: COOKWME-FB0QWH to get 25% off). [Photo above is from my misfits haul - strawberries, avocados and herbs were add-on's, all the rest was a mix which changes weekly.]
- ButcherBox is where we've been getting our meat. I chose the Custom Classic Box which has four whole hens, 3 lbs of chicken breast and 2 packs of bacon for $174. Enough chicken for two meals a week. I also added two pounds of salmon for $25 because I practically melt without fresh omegas which I will hoard from the children - they can eat the canned tuna because they are more resilient! I'd give you a discount code, but there is currently a waitlist to join. There are plenty of delivery companies like this out there, look locally first, then get to googling or join this waitlist.
- Berlin Natural Bakery - I found this company in the midst of my leaky gut. I was reactive to yeast and they make a yeast-free sourdough bread that was my online lifeline in the bread department. They have lots of different sprouted grain bread which are easiest on your digestive system and typically you won't get all the gluten inflammation with these doughs. I buy enough frozen bread to last a month (their farmstand sourdough will be most appealing to everyone in the family) and added some cookies and angel food cake for a pandemic pick-me-up for the fam.
- Flour: For those of you that prefer to purchase flour yourself, you can't get any better than this Sonora Heirloom Stoneground Wheat, it's organic, biodynamic and the grower, Sally Fox, is a national treasure.
For $18 a day for the household ($1.2 per person per meal) we have organic fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and bread with some extra little snacks thrown in. With our other pantry goods like rice, condiments, sauces, etc I imagine the budget is $20 a day or $1.33 per person per meal. With the amount of money I'm saving on my commute alone I'm actually spending less per person than before the pandemic because I'm able to devote more time to making my own meals.
As far as staples go, we were on it early buying beans, chicken & vegetable stock and rice in bulk. Here is a list of brands I trust for other stuff and would shop when my pantry runs low:
- Frontier Co-op: spices, teas, baked goods ingredients, dried vegetables and mushrooms.
- Eden Foods: beans, vinegar, oils, grains, tahini, milk alternatives and much more.
- Lotus Foods: Rice & rice noodles. I actually met one of the owners of this brand a few years back at a conference. She's an awesome person and the work she's done with her supply chain is incredible. Their ramen is the healthiest on the market.
I trust you to make the best choices you can for your family and your budget. Many of these services require bulk purchasing, so bringing a few households to go in on a purchase (leaving them on the porch for pickup after separating shares) can make it more feasible. We call this a mutual care network in circles that have names for such things.
Also, pro tip: if you have the means, please reach out to a single parent and ask them if you can sponsor one of these services for them. I've been a single mom for a decade and if I wasn't currently co-parenting with stable income I would be totally losing it, but far too proud to publicly ask for help. Be a helper, let Christmas come early!
The key takeaway here is to use whole, fresh foods as much as possible. That means you have to cook - which I trust you have plenty of time to look up recipes and cooking shows on YouTube. When I see headlines about young people in American who are "perfectly healthy" coming down with coronavirus I tend to side-eye that description. If you eat processed food as a staple and still think fast food is an acceptable meal, I guarantee you are not healthy. Other cultures are far healthier than us in America because their food traditions were not broken by mass migration or colonization and many countries do not have factory farms or mega-agriculture grown with toxic chemicals. The handling of the pandemic may be criminally negligent, but the way conventional food is grown and processed in America is literal crimes against humanity and the root cause of why so many more people are vulnerable to coronavirus in America. But that's a discussion for another time.
Here's a few more resources for you to peruse while sheltering in place:
- The World's Healthiest Foods: I have this book but all the data is free online. For instance, certain vitamins are being widely recommended right now and this book outlines which foods are great sources of Zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin B12 from his index of essential nutrients.
- Food Supply Anxiety Brings Back Victory Gardens - Great Read! We ordered seeds from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont, a magical place I've visited with a super forward-thinking and grounded owner.
- The Local Food Revolution Goes Online Now by Civil Eats
In my next article, I will discuss a Coronavirus Cabinet - what I have in my medicine cabinet should someone fall ill. Stay Tuned!