Inbound Ambassador

Sustainable Stock-up Shop

Here’s a sustainable shop list to have a good stock of essentials at home to ride out COVID19.

Everyone around the world is worried about the spread of the latest coronavirus COVID19. In Japan, there is a lack of testing kits and although events have been cancelled and schoolkids kept at home, many are still uneasy about what will happen in the days and weeks ahead. What we do know is that there is a good chance a majority of us will catch the disease and if we do, we should stay home. So, here is my advice for the best stock of sustainable essentials easily available in Japan.

Good Manners

Times of emergency and panic are a good time to remind ourselves to maintain good manners. All-for-one and one-for-all, we need each other and common courtesy can go a long way to making things more tolerable.

Staying home if you are sick, sneeze or cough into a tissue (or at least into your arm), washing hands frequently, and not hoarding toilet paper, masks or other items that we need to share- these are all good things to keep in mind.

It’s also important to be mindful that this is a stressful time for many people trying to manage our new out-of-the-ordinary routines while worried about possible impending illness, uncertainly about jobs, food security, and the economy. But one thing that is still in our control is how we treat those around us. I hope some of this advice is useful as you are trying to cope with the isolation of quarantine and uncertainty in dealing with COVID19.

Great time to try plant-based recipes

You’ll notice this sustainable stock-up shopping list features vegan items that have a long shelf-life. Stocking up on dairy, meat, and fish doesn’t last as long and requires a lot of freezer and refrigerator space that many of us in Japan don’t have.

These ingredients are easy to store, reasonably cheap and very versatile ingredients. I suggest stocking up on baking powder, chia seeds, raisins, nuts, quinoa, beans, oats, flour, vegetable oil, coconut oil, olive oil, dry pasta, and rice as basic essentials.

Creating a morning habit of making easy breakfast muffins + daily rolls for bread:

  • Muffins: Fruit 1 cup of either bananas/raisins/ginger/berries/sweet potato or similar, 1 cup of 1tblsp chia seeds in water (egg replacer), 1 tblsp baking powder, 2tblsp oil, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, a dash of salt, 1 cup flour.
  • Bread: 1 cup water, 1/2 cup oil, dash salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp yeast, 2 cups flour.

Local Organic Farm Seasonal Vegetable Box Subscription

In Japan, we are lucky enough to have many organic farms that send boxes full of seasonal fruits and vegetables fresh from their fields to your homes. Setting up a regular subscription is an easy way to make sure you have a healthy boost of vitamins and minerals to supplement canned staples.

Organic rice is now available at Costco and can be delivered from farms such as Mayukobe in Shikoku. Some organic farms that deliver organic vegetable and fruit via delivery services include Pitchfork farms in Mukaishima, Nagaoka farms in Miyajima, Honobono organic farm in Fukuoka, and BioMarche in Tokyo to name a few. If you contact these farms and set up a regular order, it provides not only beautiful, farm-fresh foods, but also peace of mind.

Organic Canned (tinned) Tomatoes

A versatile staple that can be used for everything from soups to sauces to juices. If you get the organic variety, it is better for the local areas it’s grown, helps keep populations of bees and other pollinators healthy. Organic tomatoes are a safe and environmentally friendly option for you and your family.


Other tinned fruits (tomato is a fruit, right?) can be fun to have around as desserts, but they are usually crazy expensive in Japan. Instead, stocking up on a few jars of jams is a good idea. Citrus jams can be used with hot water for throat soothers. Jams can be used in desserts, yogurts and a variety of dishes and drinks in addition to on toast or in our house for the staple peanut-butter & jelly.

Canned Beans

Beans are healthy & convenient protein in a can for filling meals or dips. Blend a can of garbanzo beans up with oil, carrot, spinach, nuts, and spices for a healthy spread or dip. Bean stew, bean burritos, bean burgers, etc- they are so versatile. If you can find bags of dried beans, they are also long-lasting and great to have on hand, but you have to plan ahead as they will need soaking overnight before use.

Flour, Sugar, Salt

Make your own bread, pizza crust, pancakes, muffins, and cookies without the plastic packaging when you make it yourself. It’s a fun daily activity to do with the house-bound kids too. Since I have started making our own vegan bread every day (oil, water, salt, sugar, flour) from the giant bags of flour available at Costco, we have saved time, money as well as significantly reduced our amount of plastic bread packaging. Large bags of sugar and salt also good to have around in times like these.

Dried Noodles

Spaghetti, macaroni, linguini, soba, udon, ramen- whatever noodles you and your family enjoy are a great addition to your food stocks at home. Ready-made meal packets of sauce and noodles together seem like good ideas, but have more plastic packaging as well as unwanted preservatives- they are also less value whereas packs of dried noodles can be used for multiple meals by boiling tap water and adding a little seasoning.

Oil, Sugar, Salt, Shoyu

The staple ingredients of vegetable oil, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, and Shoyu are essentials you should have on hand to make a wide range of dishes.

Tea, Coffee, Herbal tea

For many of us, running out of caffeine while quarantined would be the worst thing imaginable! The bigger bags of coffee and tea available at Costco are good value, have less wasteful plastic packaging, and are still of very high quality. Canned drinks, alcohol and sodas are nice too, but drinks that can be made with tap water have less impact on the environment and last longer.

Soap + Baking Soda

Washing your hands regularly with soap is reportedly the best way to protect yourself and those around you from spreading the virus. There are so many great soaps to choose from. It’s also a good idea to carry a small bar of soap or a container of liquid soap with you in your bag if you have to go out. Sometimes you go somewhere they don’t have any soap available at the sink. According to the CDC, hand sanitizer is less effective than good old soap and water.

Baking soda is one of the most useful items you can have in the house for cleaning as well as personal hygiene. Washing dishes and washing clothes is an important part of being stuck at home, especially if caring for someone feeling ill. Many people seeking sustainable lifestyles have replaced commercial detergents, cleaners, deodorants (and even toothpaste) with baking soda. It actually works really well and eliminates a lot of unnecessary plastic packaging in the process. Healthline cites 23 uses of baking soda.

Things you don’t need

  • Bottles of water- it is very unlikely the tap water systems are going to be turned off and tap water in Japan is often better, safer and tastier than the wasteful plastic bottle varieties that have a hefty carbon footprint.
  • Stockpiles of masks- only people who have a cough and have to go out to the doctor or to get essentials should be wearing a mask. Experts agree that masks are ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus and mask use should be reserved for those at greatest risk (elderly and those with compromised immune systems) and medical professionals. Washing hands with soap for more than 20 seconds is more effective than wearing masks and the best way to avoid catching or spreading the virus.

Toilet Paper

Stores are now restocking toilet paper after the panic-buying frenzy swept Japan (and the rest of the world). If you have a choice and can find TP that is made from recycled milk cartons or is of the coreless variety, these are the most sustainable as well as being the best value. Recycled paper products are better for the environment, reducing the need to cut down trees, so it’s always a more sustainable choice. Coreless toilet paper is another good choice as it reduces paper needed to make the TP core, lasts longer and provides more bang for your buck. Please be considerate of others and only buy up to a 1 month supply per family- we all thank you!

Pet food

Don’t forget your pets- stocking up on pet food and other essentials is easy to forget, but maybe in short supply, or harder to get if specialty stores close.

Take Care of Yourself

So, that’s my list- how’d I do? Drop me a line or tag me in a post you do about your sustainable shop list- I’d love to hear (and share) your ideas too!

Most importantly, please take care of yourself! This is a stressful, overwhelming time for all of us- I hope we can take a breath to look at social distancing and home quarantine as a chance to slow down, read a lot of books, play games, relax and support one another as best we can.

It’s easiest to interact on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Stay safe folks!