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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting many areas of our lives – from work and school to grocery shopping and cooking. Empty shelves and freezers at the grocery store can be challenging for families who manage food allergies.

With food allergies, being flexible and open to the limited products available may not be easy or practical. Having a plan will help!

Kitchen Rules


With more family members at home, that means more traffic in your kitchen than usual. Make sure everyone knows the rules for avoiding cross-contact of allergen.

Take Precautions When Cooking

Take steps to avoid cross-contact with allergens during the cooking or serving process:

  • If you are preparing both “safe” and “unsafe” food for the same meal, prepare the safe foods first.
  • Do not use the same utensils to prepare allergenic and non-allergenic dishes.
  • Place utensils, plates and cutting boards directly into the sink or the dishwasher immediately after use. Teach your family that soiled items in the sink or dishwasher are not safe to use until they have been properly washed.
  • If you use a grill, be sure to fully clean it before cooking for your child. Consider using foil or a clean grill pan to prepare foods for your child. 

Take Care to Wash Dishes

Wash pans, utensils and dishes in hot, sudsy water before using them to prepare food for someone with food allergies. It is best to rinse off dirty dishes and utensils before loading them into your dishwasher. This prevents stray bits of dried allergens from sticking to your clean dishes.

Dealing With Empty Grocery Store Shelves

Many families with food allergies rely on trusted brands and products. This means often going to several different stores to get all the products you need. With empty shelves and orders to limit even necessary activities like grocery shopping, this can feel overwhelming.

Shop Your Pantry

This is a great time to clean out and organize your pantry and freezer.

  • Check expiration dates and toss anything that has expired.
  • Plan meals around items you already have. Think of different options in case all the ingredients you need for a dish are not available. Don't have all the ingredients you need for a recipe? Think about how you can swap one ingredient for another or what you can add or remove.

Shop Strategically

  • Order online and pick up at the store. Check the substitution policy to make sure an item won't be substituted with another brand that might not be safe. Stick to trusted items, and be sure to read the label before putting it in the pantry or serving the food.
  • Shop online for delivery. Check the estimated delivery date before hitting that final purchase button. Items may be back-ordered or have a long shipping lead time due to limited staffing.
  • Look for a local shopping and delivery service that may get your items to you quicker.
  • Limit your trips to the store if possible. Which of your usual stores is likely to have the most items that you need? Go to the store that usually has the most items you need first. If you can, wait on other items to avoid going to more than one store. 

Make a Plan to Make Your Food Last

  • Get a handle on snacking! We tend to eat more when we are stressed or bored. Portion out snacks for the day for each person. This will make your snacks last longer and everyone will still be hungry enough to eat dinner.
  • Cook extra for planned leftovers. Then put that portion away before serving the meal. Leftovers can become lunch or transformed into another dinner. Get creative!

Manage Your Expectations

Good nutrition is important to stay healthy, but try not to stress too much about every meal. Our bodies store many nutrients.

It's OK if meals don't quite turn out the way you are used to.

Find Recipes That Use Ingredients You Have

If your options look like an ingredient basket on the TV show Chopped, get creative! You bought that ingredient hiding in the back of the pantry for a reason. Dig up the recipe you were going to use and see if you can make it work. Look for allergy-friendly options in our Safe Eats® recipe collection. This is a great place to find recipes that use limited ingredients or are already free of an item you do not have on hand.

This is also a great challenge for older kids who are learning to cook. Let them create a salad, side dish or dessert with what you have available. Have them make a small amount to test out their recipe. They just might create a new family favorite!

Need more help getting creative? Ask on our Food & Cooking support forum. Our staff and members are here to help.

These are strange and difficult times. The food allergy community is strong, and we will support each other through this challenge. If you need support or just someone to talk to, our online support forums are open 24/7.

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Comments (2)

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Also try using a vendors Facebook chat on their page to see if they can increase quantities on their distributors route to the store you shop from.  Including reaching out to the store to ensure your items are added to their online shopping options selections.  Thanks for the great tips in this article.  Hope others will complement with more too.  Be well!

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