Is it just me, or did you also turn into a culinary idiot when socially distancing kicked in? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that I’m not the only one this has happened to since you’re reading this. In the past week or so, though, I’ve come up with a bit of a formula that has helped ease some of my stress, so I’m here to share it with you today. Let’s head into the weekend a little more confident in our pantry provisions and our menu planning in this crazy time of pandemic. And if you read all the way through, I’ll share with you a recipe I made up on the fly last night. Are you in? Let’s do this.
The Problems as I See Them
We are all supposed to be observing social distancing, if not outright shelter-in-place or quarantine. Because of that and because we are collectively trying to #flattenthecurve and keep our families and friends well, there has been great upheaval in how we feed our families.
First, everybody is at home all the time. At my house, this means that my husband, who usually eats out every day for lunch, is now eating here. It also means that my four children are where for every meal? That’s right, here. Of course, when I say four children, I really mean three adult appetites and one child. And they aren’t taking sandwiches and chips to school anymore, either! Rather, they’re eating my leftovers for lunch!
Second, we aren’t eating out. Sure, we’ll try to order takeout once in a while just to keep our favorite restaurants in business. But our regular routine is now good and busted and our butts are gathered around the kitchen table.
Third, we aren’t supposed to be shopping as much. So there go the random trips through Publix or Target when oops! we forget a crucial ingredient or two. Gone are the weeks of one big shopping trip supplemented with another little one for fresh produce. And when we do go to the store, the shelves are practically bare thanks to a bunch of weirdo hoarders!
So, what exactly are we supposed to do when a) everybody is at home, b) we can’t go out to eat, and c) we are completely out of our shopping routine?
Well, I can’t tell you what you should do, but I’ll tell you how I’m handling the crazy.
Download your Provisions List here -> Freezer Fridge and Pantry
I made this handy dandy list the other day and, honestly, it’s been a lifesaver. Here’s how I’m working things.
- Take inventory. Write down on the list everything you’ve already got in your house. How many loaves of bread and pounds of ground beef do you have in your freezer? How many cans of vegetables and soup do you have that your family will actually eat? Write them all down.
- Cull out anything you won’t eat and donate it. If your family won’t eat it, there are plenty of people who will. Donate nonperishables to your local food bank!
- Menu Plan, round 1. Once you have your list of everything you’ve got, see how many meals you can make without having to go to the store. I worked a week at a time.
- Use the fresh stuff first. What do you have that will go bad soon? Produce? Dairy? Breads and cereals that are already open? What needs to be used now versus being saved for later? Make notes of those things, then…
- Menu Plan, round 2. Fill out the rest of your week using up all of those perishable things and concentrating on what you still have left in your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
- Plan from what you HAVE and not from what you WANT. This is a time to really think about needs versus wants, friends. Let’s not be greedy or gluttonous and let’s model good habits for our kids.
- Make a list and go shopping! Now that you’ve got your menu planned for an entire week, make a list of things that you still need to procure. Armed with that list, head to the store. Now – and this is important! – don’t go to the store and just buy a bunch of crap or hoard all kinds of food you don’t need and won’t use. That helps absolutely no one.
Menu Planning, for the win!
This beast, though, this menu planning in a time of global pandemic, is a whole different thing. Yes, it will still save you time. And yes, it will still save you money. But it will also give the stores more time to restock their shelves and simultaneously keep you out of the store where, let’s face it, none of us really want to be right now anyway.
This kind of menu planning serves a greater purpose, too. It provides a very important perspective shift. See, what I’ve found is that by menu planning this way, I am planning from a perspective of abundance rather than one of scarcity. I am concentrating on what I already have rather than what I don’t. How many of us can’t benefit from that way of thinking? How many of our kids maybe need to learn the lesson of being grateful for the food that is put in front of them?
Meal planning like this reminds us that we have more than enough. We have plenty. We just have to be creative enough to use what we’ve got.
Cooking & Menu Planning from the Pantry and Freezer
Here are a few pantry and freezer recipes that might help you in your planning.
Mom’s Fruit Salad — Made with a whole bunch of canned and frozen fruit with a bonus of fresh bananas.
Slow Cooker Applesauce — Make this and freeze it!
Spaghetti Sauce — This makes a ton and is pretty adaptable.
And here’s a new one for you that was a real hit with my family last night.
Side note: My husband suggested I call this “Publix Soup.” Why would that be, I wonder?! LOL!