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Quarantine No Waste, No Cheat Meal Plan

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.

quarantine meal plan

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!

chart of quarantine no waste meal plans

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!)

interior of refrigerator when quarantine grocery shopping

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.
quarantine meal plan breakfast

We just had grain-free crepes from The Healthy Breakfast Book with fried sweet potatoes to mix it up a bit.

Breakfast is so much easier with proper planning!

Make every breakfast nourishing

The Healthy Breakfast Book

Is breakfast monotonous at your house? Uninspiring? Or worse…processed?

Get a little inspiration from The Healthy Breakfast Book, over 60 real food recipes plus efficiency tips and sample meal plans to make every breakfast nourishing.

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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.

quarantine meal plan lunch

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!

The Everything Beans Book eBook

The Everything Beans Book has twenty pages of beany information, including all you could possibly want to know about legume nutrition, how to cook dry beans, and lots of time-saving tips for managing this frugal source of protein and fiber more often in your kitchen.

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:

  1. We really enjoy the meal
  2. It’s easy to make (bonus for mom)
  3. It includes beans 😉

Here’s going all the way back to the day after school was cancelled!

quarantine meal plan dinner, gluten free pizza
Quarantine meal plan dinner, Cheeseburger Soup Recipe
  • 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
quarantine meal plan sides, parsnip fries
quarantine meal plan, cabbage salad
  • 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!
Kitchen and Breakfast
  • 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
Quarantine meal plan dinner, green soup

Wish You Knew All the Answers to Keep Your Family Healthy?

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Looking forward to connecting to help you learn EXACTLY what you need to know to stock your natural remedies “medicine cabinet,” deal with normal childhood ailments, and even the dreaded, “What’s that on my skin?” issue! 🙂

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!

What’s on your quarantine meal plan?

More Meal Planning Resources

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!

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

5 thoughts on “Quarantine No Waste, No Cheat Meal Plan”

  1. Wow, all sounds so good!! 🙂 Just a thought… could you use your porky biscuits with sausage gravy? Or make stuffing out of them, which you could also douse in gravy? 🙂 Might cover up the taste… and still be no waste!

  2. We have always eaten a lot of leftovers. We like to bulk cook on weekends to save time during the week. But our kiddos are younger too. ?
    I’ve finally started experimenting more with gluten free flours and having decent results. I’m also experimenting with sourdough starters. I really enjoy the baking process of it all and the little I’ve eaten of what I’ve baked, hasn’t seemed to bother me the way regular bread (gluten items) usually does. Have you tried baking with sourdough starters? What are your thoughts on the science behind it (how it breaks down more of the carbs and gluten than regular yeast)? I’ve researched it quite a bit, but I like to hear from others who also research things and if they have similar conclusions. 🙂

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Pam, you can read about Katie’s experience with sourdough in this post:

  3. Schuyler Kent

    So this is inspiring IF your family members ALL eat meat and/or are not super picky.
    I don’t eat meat but I eat fish. Happy to eat vegetarian version of something and add meat on top for others.
    My younger son is really picky and won’t eat certain veg or beans. Or fish except shrimp.
    My husband thinks he’s on a keto diet (that he made up), but basically, it means he doesn’t eat a lot of bread/whole grains.
    My older son will eat anything but there better be a ton of it.

    Half the time they say they all want different things and I’m like, if you think I’m cooking four different meals, you’re nuts.
    I just can’t see this working for us.
    So far it’s been a mishmosh of me making two meals (one for me, one for them), or one meal with two proteins.
    Or ordering delivery, which scares the crap out of me, and I have to sanitize everything.

    1. Hi! This is what worked for us, but there are lots of ways to adjust. Much of the time I wasn’t using a big hunk of meat, so for example in the tacos, just have lentils only for some and meat-only (or meat-lentils) for others. Sausage Lentil Soup is still delish w/o the meat, and with something like spaghetti squash, you can double the meat for some and omit it for others. Even the Instant Pot lasagna can have meat or no meat. 🙂

      🙂 Katie

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