One of the things I got overwhelmed about in the beginning of this stay-at-home period was how much thought I needed to put into our meals.
When we were living relatively normal lives before everything changed, my main focus was making sure everyone had a solid breakfast and dinner plan. Since my son went to daycare while we both worked outside of the home, snacks and lunches were handled by the caretakers.
Now that all of that has fallen on our shoulders to figure out, I quickly got stressed about how to limit grocery shopping trips; avoid standing in front of the stove for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and make meals that my son would enjoy so that we didn’t waste a lot of food.
Here are a few steps that may help you if you find yourself in a similar boat.
1. Stick to repeat favorites
Even as an adult, I often rotate through 2-3 favorite meals for a few weeks. Sometimes my favorite green smoothie is on rotation for breakfasts, I’ll have a deli sandwich for lunch a few times a week, and dinners are usually a taco, pasta, salad, or burger variation.
At first, I wanted to give my son as much variety as possible, but I quickly let that go and leaned on more of his favorite foods while adding in small varieties here and there. For example, he loves his morning oatmeal for breakfast, so I stick with that and rotate through different fruit options to switch it up. Pasta is an easy lunch option for us because you can make a bunch at the beginning of the week and switch out the sauces, veggies, or meat options 1-2 times throughout the week.
2. Frozen veggies are a lifesaver
If I can, I will always prefer fresh veggies, but these days I have less time to meal prep and chop fresh veggies for meals. Frozen veggies often have similar nutrition levels as fresh veggies, and they can save you a lot of time in the kitchen too. I try to bulk cook as much as possible, so I will buy a few bags of frozen veggies and make one or two packages at once at the beginning of the week. I’ll toss them with olive oil and a bunch of seasoning and store it in the fridge to add to meals whenever I need to.
3. Don’t be afraid to use a little help
While you can absolutely choose to make food from scratch, there is no shame in getting a little help from the grocery to store to cut down on extra time and energy in the kitchen. In addition to the frozen veggies mentioned above, some of my other favorite quick go-tos are rotisserie chicken, pre-made burgers from the meat counter, jarred sauce (marinara, alfredo, or pesto), frozen meatballs, pre-packaged and seasoned meats, and fresh pre-sliced veggie medleys (like peppers, onion, celery, and mushrooms).
4. Skip the kid meals when ordering take-out
Each family has to make the best choice for them, but we have enjoyed getting takeout 1-2 times a week to help lessen the load of cooking every night. While my son is eating mostly everything that we are, we take advantage of that and order him his own adult-sized takeout meal. Sure, it’s a few more dollars than the kid’s meal, but this way you can split it in half and use it for either two dinners or use it for dinner and lunch. It doesn’t matter if it’s burrito bowls from Chipotle or chicken tenders from Chick-fil-A—do yourself a favor and get an adult meal for the kiddo and save yourself time later in the week.
Mama, no matter the circumstances you’re personally going through right now, let yourself off the hook a bit when it comes to mealtime. It’s OK if mac and cheese is on the menu twice in one day or if you lean heavier on takeout some weeks than others. We are all doing our best during this really difficult time. Pat yourself on the back because you’re doing a great job!