What are you cooking during quarantine?
I’ve been more consistent now about meal planning than I’ve been in a few years! I’m really motivated not to go to the store (it just made me uncomfortable, not germs, but bare shelves and people in masks), so I’m determined to use what I have wisely, keep up with variety, not waste a morsel, and no cheat days eating out!
If the stress of the pandemic is getting to you, read about how to deal with pandemic stress.
You asked last week on Facebook if I’d share what we have been eating thus far, and check it out — my daughter made this lovely meal plan calendar the first day they had school cancelled, so I know exactly what our quarantine meal plans have looked like the whole time!
I think I’ve only shopped twice since this whole “stay at home” thing began (plus a few trips right at the start) and haven’t ordered food, no curbside pickup, no Instacart or Shipt.
How are we doing it?
Smart planning, buying long-lasting vegetables, and creative substitutes when necessary.
We eat far fewer eggs for breakfast than usual and sub “flax eggs” in most pancakes and muffins, we’re making our meat stretch by using more legumes, and I’m adding side breads more than usual because (1) we have lots of whole grains in the basement and a grain grinder and (2) that will help us have more leftovers.
Big thanks to my daughter for making the cute charts 👇 for the wall!
The charts really help the whole family with lunch, because I always tell them, “We’ll eat whatever the oldest leftovers are…” and now they can look back and not just rely on Mom’s brain!
To be fair, because we have a herd share for raw milk, we’ve gotten milk once a week, but that’s it.
The pic below is my fridge 2 weeks and 2 days after a shopping trip, still plenty full and with fresh produce to boot! (There are 4 cabbages, cauliflower, turnips, carrots and more in there, fresh, plus sprouts and lots of leftovers!)
Coronavirus Quarantine Breakfast Plans
I won’t bore you with daily plans, but we generally have:
- Instant Pot oatmeal 2x/week (successive days; the leftovers stay in the Instant Pot in the garage for day 2)
- cereal once a week (but I didn’t stock up on this, sorry kids, you have to make granola when we run out, which we already have and gone through a 4x batch of granola!)
- eggs 1-2x/week (far less than non quarantine time, but eggs are scarce)
- a smattering of pancakes and muffins the other days.
Breakfast is so much easier with proper planning!
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What we Eat for Lunch When All the Kids are at Home
95% of the time, we have leftovers from dinner with a bowl of plain homemade yogurt and frozen fruit, and a few times we’ve had tuna salad on crackers, egg salad (after Easter of course!), or a “pick ’em” meal with cheese and crackers, ants on a log, apple and PB etc.
After a month the kids are finally getting the idea that every time they ask me what’s for lunch, I say, “Whatever the oldest leftovers are.” Lesson in good stewardship! 😉
For dinner I’ve been trying to make sure I include beans and rice often, 2-5x/week, so that our meat lasts a long time and so that at the end of our 4 weeks without grocery shopping we’re not stuck with *only* beans and rice!
It also offers 30 bean recipes, for the bean lovers of the world and the bean haters.
Inexpensive, Pantry-Based Dinner Meal Plan
Quarantine dinners have not felt like a sacrifice at ALL! We love all these foods, and the only time you’ll see duplicates is if:
- We really enjoy the meal
- It’s easy to make (bonus for mom)
- It includes beans 😉
Here’s going all the way back to the day after school was cancelled!
- Refried beans and homemade tortillas, Mexican rice
- Chicken turmeric soup and GF flatbread (this bread is SO interesting because you don’t even need flour!)
- RELATED: Whole Grain Baking Recipes Without Any Flour because I know it’s hard to find right now!
- BBQ beef and cabbage salad
- Kids cooking night: Grain-free pizza
- Chili and cornbread
- Pan-fried Salmon (frozen from Aldi), bacon-sauteed Brussels sprouts, parsnip fries
- Dad cooking night (an Instant Pot ground turkey/sweet potato/rice dish he found)
- Mexican cauliflower soup with added turnips, homemade biscuits
- Kids cooking night: margherita pizza from Chef Junior, my son’s cookbook with 4 of his friends that’s coming out May 19!
- Hamburger soup and homemade rolls
- Salmon patties without eggs, chicken rice-a-roni, steamed frozen veggies
- Cream of potato soup and einkorn biscuits (I nailed a dairy-free cream of potato for the first time for my daughter; now if I could only remember what I did! The biscuits were a disaster because I was excited to use lard for them, made a double batch, and then realized this wasn’t light-tasting leaf lard rendered, but normal, pork-y tasting lard. No one really likes the biscuits so I’m going to have to eat them all myself! #nowaste)
- Chicken and rice soup and leftover biscuits (sorry kids, you may say, “No, thank you,” if you don’t want a pork-y biscuit, sigh)
- Kids cooking night: Cheesy beef and potato casserole, one of my son’s own recipes from Chef Junior, green beans sauteed in bacon grease
- Taco night, ground beef cut with black beans to use 1 lb. less (we really just make taco beef and serve over salad or chips with lots of toppings…taco night almost never involves actual “tacos”!)
- Pinto gallo in the Instant Pot
- Egg roll in a bowl from Don’t Waste the Crumbs, parsnip fries, GF flatbread
- Dad cooks dinner (somewhere right around here I went shopping)
- Black bean burritos over rice
- Chickpea wraps, chicken rice-a-roni, kale chips
- Kids cooking night: They took the #betterwithrealsalt challenge and had to use chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, and yogurt, so they made honey-mustard chicken from Chef Junior, sweet potato fries, and a yogurt aioli dipping sauce that we all really enjoyed! See their photo submission for the challenge!
- Refried beans and cheese meatless burritos with homemade tortillas leftover from the quad batch made for chickpea wraps
- Hearty lentil stew
- Chili and flatbread, double batch, enough to share a few jars with a friend down on her luck
- Easter dinner: Instant Pot pork tenderloin, roasted cubed sweet potatoes, black beans dip and tortilla chip appetizer, cabbage salad, kale chips
- Nitrate-free Hot dogs and leftovers for family movie night (a “planned cheat meal” to be easy)
- Grain-free pizza
- Kids cooking night: another #betterwithrealsalt challenge. This week the ingredients were ground beef, avocado, and maple syrup. They made X-large avocado stuffed Italian meatballs with a maple-balsamic reduction over pasta and steam broccoli. Yum! Isn’t it pretty?
- Taco night, cut with half sprouted, cooked lentils, and the last of last week’s double batch homemade refried beans, asparagus sauteed in bacon grease
- RELATED: How to sprout lentils
- Instant Pot lasagna — tried this without any chicken and it was still delish!
- Baked spaghetti squash with homemade pork sausage and jarred sauce, scalloped rutabaga, the last of the asparagus – gotta use it up! I made 2 pounds of ground pork into sausage and pulled out 1/2 pound to freeze, 1/2 pound for soup in 2 days, and 1/4 pound for pizza breakfast hash tomorrow.
- Dad’s dinner: Balsamic grilled chicken tenderloins from ButcherBox (free bacon and $10 off with the code ks10), parsnip fries, steamed mixed veggies
- Sausage lentil soup (huge double batch!) and spelt muffins
- Chicken thighs and cauliflower sauce over pasta and leftover spaghetti squash, blended green soup (made with frozen zucchini), shaved Brussels sprouts in bacon grease
- Kids cooking night: TBD
- Taco night with half lentils and homemade refried beans (using only one pound ground beef for a family of 6 who looooooves taco night is pretty exemplary! These boys go back for fourths and fifths!) They look weird but taste completely normal, and I’m saving about $5!
- Salmon, roasted cubed sweet potatoes, steamed frozen vegs
- Beef roast, smashed red potatoes, sauteed cabbage “noodles”
My Cheat Meal
Somewhere in there really was a “cheat” meal, the day my daughter could see I was really stressed out about starting dinner too late and said, “You know Mom, there’s a Costco package of polish sausage in there, and it expires in 2 weeks. Why not just cook up some of those and do the meal you planned to today tomorrow instead?”
She’s brilliant! We opened a bag of healthier chips, added a side veg and some sauteed peppers and onions, and everyone was happier.
I’m planning to continue this sort of meal plans until going to the grocery store doesn’t feel as uncomfortable, and who knows, maybe further! I’m saving a ton of money!
More Meal Planning Resources
- Basic tips and benefits of meal planning
- Ultimate Meal Planning Guide – 10 steps to making it stick!
- Meal Planning Doesn’t Have to be Invisible Labor (with Jess Dang of Cooksmarts)
- Cook Smarts Meal Planning Review (best planner if you don’t know what you want to cook – they’re doing a lot helping people cook from home right now!)
- Real Plans (best planner if you sometimes want to include your own recipes in your meal plan – they’re doing a ton to make things flexible right now!)
- Elimination Diet Meal Planner
A New Twist on Batch Cooking
Have you tried batch cooking? It’s one of my favorite kitchen hacks to save time while cooking real food, but my take may be slightly different than the ones you’ve seen before.
Instead of making large batches of food and saving them for later, I batch together kitchen tasks and link one night’s dinner to the next. Think of it as getting a head start on your next meal. The net result is time savings AND fresh dinners every night.
The current trend in meal prep seems to be focused on taking several hours on a weekend day to chop and prep veggies, cook meats, and then assemble the leftovers into a multitude of containers.
This is great if it works for you, but my family gets sick of eating leftovers all the time and I get tired of keeping track of all the containers in the fridge! Plus, spending 3-4 hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is usually the last thing I want to do.
My Real Food Head Start 7 Day Dinner Plan provides a framework for incorporating my technique each day to save time on future meals and even start stocking your freezer if you want, while still making and serving a fresh dinner. The best part is, you use the time you are already in the kitchen – no extra prep day needed!