What’s for Dinner During a Pandemic?

Do you have anxiety knowing you need to get out to get groceries?  What about the big question of what’s for dinner?  What if you haven’t been cooking in your home much before the Covid19 Pandemic started?  A lot of us do not even like cooking and what about the chores surrounding the cooking? Eek!!  First, there is the planning about what to cook, then the shopping, then putting away the food (which I know is challenging for some). Then making sure there is a space to cook (my pet peeve), cooking the food (even though you don’t  really feel like it), eating it which usually takes about 10 – 15 minutes, then cleaning up. UGH!! Its just never ending.  And then what is the plan for the next meal???

What would make it all easier and what has changed for you during this time?  Okay, I am going to be honest here.  Personally, I do not love cooking all the time but I do love to eat and want to be as healthy as possible so I have taken on this task. It’s fun to try new things and I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen.  Thankfully, I have a partner who will clean up and do dishes.  I am so blessed with that.  If I am ready to cook up a meal, I really love to have clean counters and not a lot of dishes.  We do have ‘small kitchen syndrome” so it’s important to keep it as clean and clear as possible. My partner also likes to treat us with take out every once in awhile just to give me a break in the kitchen.

What have I learned over this time of Covid19?

I plan the meals so I am the one who gets groceries and I have been working on a plan to go once a week and sometimes I can even stretch it out a bit longer. It can be challenging especially when it comes to having fresh fruits and vegetables. I solved that problem by hooking up with a weekly or bi-weekly Food Basket which has been a great way to support local farms and I get some nice fresh fruit and veg. Win/Win!

This is what I got this weekend in my box

How are you doing with planning out your food for the week?  If you are home full time, do you plan for leftovers?  I love leftovers because it makes for an easy meal for the next day and I am not spending as much time in the kitchen. It’s great to get a break and an opportunity to catch up on other things.

My sister has been trying to get me to purchase one of those meal plans like Chef’s Plate. The ads keeps popping up on Facebook and they do look interesting but I haven’t tried it yet.  So, the food comes with cold packs, all prepped with the recipes and you just cook it up and voila……dinner on the table.  There is a cost but if you are not eating out as much or you just want to save yourself some time and the bonus of convenience, they sound like a fun way to try something new.  You might also learn some new recipes. I am planning to try them soon.

Some ideas to help during the pandemic

  • Use up the fresh fruit and veg first. Buy fruit and veg with a longer shelf life like apples, oranges, potatoes. If they have seen better days you can freeze them for smoothies or muffins.  Have frozen fruit and veg in your freezer for when you run out of fresh.  Depending on the size of your freezer, stock up on fries, frozen fish, chicken or other favourites that are easy to go from freezer to stove and to the table.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with canned meat like tuna and salmon, canned beans are great (one of my favourites is bean quesadilla’s yummy), lots of tomato sauces to make up a quick spaghetti dish, some soups to go with grilled cheese – think about what you love that is easiest to make and with less cleanup too.
  • Make sure you have an ongoing shopping list so that you do not find yourself aimlessly walking around the grocery store. I do an inventory of what is in the freezer and the cupboards before I head out to the store. It’s a good idea to bring food from the back to the front in order to avoid expiry dates or freezer burn. Yuk!!
  • Instant Pots have become really popular and are great for when it is really too hot to cook. You can get a small size one too which is great for one or two people. The biggest chore with an instant pot is getting everything prepped beforehand but once thats done it all goes in the pot and before you know it dinner is ready. It also doubles as an crockpot. Seriously, just donate the old one.

This is a really great time to look at how you have been doing things and perhaps trying some new things. Moving forward we would hope that we can save time and money, live more simply and be healthier than ever.

Would love to hear your tips and how you are managing with all things shopping, cooking, cleaning up and your favourite and easiest things to cook up?

If you would like to get started on decluttering your life please join my FREE 5 Day Declutter Your Life and Mind Challenge (link is on this page) to get started and stay tuned for a Free Webinar coming up soon on getting motivated called Get Motivated to Declutter

About Kim

Kim Tremblay is a Master Organizer and a Clutter Coach. She has worked with individuals helping them clear the physical and emotional clutter from their lives since 2008. Kim founded and co-facilitated a Clearing Clutter Support Group which has helped hundreds of individuals to make positive changes in their lives. Kim is currently working virtually with clients helping them to clear the emotional and/or physical clutter from their lives. Kim is available to speak to your group about all things organizing.
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21 Responses to What’s for Dinner During a Pandemic?

  1. My son and his wife use one of those prepped meal services – Hello Fresh. They like it very much as it cuts down on the shopping and planning the meals. I usually plan my meals out a week at a time. But, I like to cook and have a decent size kitchen with plenty of counter space. I like your suggestion to do an inventory of your kitchen before heading to the grocery store – shop from your home first!

    • Kim says:

      Lucky you to have a nice size kitchen – I can only dream of one someday. We had a young male come through our kitchen one day and he saw our little cat and said “what a small kitten”. We both thought he had said “what a small kitchen” lol.

    • Kim says:

      HI Diane,
      I would love to try a meal program at some point I just always seem to have a lot of food to deal with and I really hate wasting. I love the expression “shop from your home first”. I remember someone in my group saying “shop in your own closet” Makes perfect sense to me.

  2. Amy says:

    I’m a meal planner. I shop my pantry, fridge, and freezer first. During COVID, we have limited our shopping to every 3 weeks by rotating recipes that complement each other and use similar ingredients. Like you said, keeping a standard grocery list helps. I like the Wegmans app even when I’m shopping in a different store. But their app has aisle numbers which is so helpful. Quesadillas are on the menu for lunch and dinner. Filled with whatever we have. Same with homemade pizza. (pizza Friday) Several cans of San Marzano tomatoes live in my pantry always to make homemade sauce. I love the NY Times recipes. Great article!!!

    • Kim says:

      Hi Amy
      Great ideas to really be in the flow when cooking. I need to check out the NY Times. It has been tempting during this time to get a freezer as we just have the one in the fridge. It is always full after shopping day. I don’t think I could go for three weeks but good for you. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Seana Turner says:

    This has been a crazy time of cooking! First, my husband, who is usually traveling all week, has been home. Suddenly I’m cooking every night, and he is hunting the fridge for leftovers every afternoon:) Then, I was blessed to have my daughters and my son-in-law come for a three week visit. Talk about busy in the kitchen! Since we mostly stayed at home, I was either cooking or shopping all the time. I completely agree with keeping a running list. Sometimes I even think of things as I’m driving home from the store. I immediately start a new list each time. Also, I find it helps me to have lists for different stores (e.g. Costco and the regular grocery store), so I remember what I want to get at each one.

    • Kim says:

      Hi Seana
      Yes, big changes with everyone in the family being home. Lots of togetherness for sure. Grocery shopping takes up a lot of energy which can be stressful. Lots a lot of cooking even just for the two of us. It helps so much to be organized which of course is not always easy. A work in process for most.

  4. I’ve been shopping every two weeks to minimize outings. Yes, it’s a lot to fit in the cart and my trunk, but I’ve managed, even though twice I had to make two trips up the elevator to get it all upstairs!

    I’ve looked at those meal plans as well, but so many of their recipes are too exotic for my husband’s simple tastes.The options at the supermarket are somewhat limited when it comes to local produce, so thanks for the reminder to look into what’s available here for weekly or bi-weekly delivery.

    • Kim says:

      Thank you Janet
      It’s so different shopping for one or two weeks at a time. So true that it can be hard to find space for it all too. Not to mention the costs associated with all this shopping. Yes, I have enjoyed the Food Box, especially because it is so fresh and lasts a lot longer. Cheers!

  5. We did the same thing! I do cook most of the time. But, going to the store every week for veggies and fruit has become an anxious affair. Recently, we signed up for a farm share and milk delivery service and have been getting fresh veggies and fruit. It is wonderful. It is sparking my interest in cooking.

    I found that meal planning was OK and the dishes were good, but I felt that I would rather create my own dishes in the kitchen without a recipe (like my mother used to do). So, I stopped doing those services.

    • Kim says:

      Thanks Sabrina,
      Thats great that you signed up for a food basket/farm share. It helps support the farmers for sure. Yeah I haven’t tried a meal plan yet either and I find that I do well with my own planning. I would like to try though, just for a change and maybe to learn some new recipes. Thank you for commenting.

  6. I have never been a good meal planner. But I am good at assembling a meal if I have the ingredients. During the pandemic, we have been making ALL meals, and it’s been enjoyable. We eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, salads. I pair those with a protein that my husband makes on the BBQ (salmon, chicken, beef, tofu…) I pre-cut all the veggies so that assembling a salad is quick. And we have a variety of proteins to chose from. There is an occasional sandwich or pizza too. Breakfast is simple- yogurt, berries, and granola. And don’t get me started on dessert. I LOVE Yasso pops, which are frozen yogurt bars. My favorite flavor is chocolate peanut butter chip with chocolate brownie fudge as a close second.

    We tried Blue Apron a bunch of years back and really enjoyed it. But after a while, we got tired of it.

    I love the photo of your box of local fruits and veggies. They look delicious!

    • Kim says:

      Hi Linda,
      Sounds like you are doing very well on the planning and cooking. I love your choices for deserts. Yummy!! Great skills, I really believe it takes some practice to get good at it. Certainly can be challenging for a lot of our clients.

  7. Lucy Kelly says:

    Meal planning and the associated food prep has been my nemesis for many a decade. I don’t enjoy cooking but I like eating, so I’ve currently got it down to a system much like Linda’s. I keep cooked proteins and chopped vegetables in the fridge and my rice cooker sees daily use. Since I eat five small meals a day for health issues, I’ve found that putting together five meals the night before so I can just pull one out when it’s time to eat has been a game changer. It took a while to get it into my routine but the work of putting together a meal is so less daunting when you’re not standing at the fridge feeling hangry. I guess I’m making my home-made meal service and I like that I know what’s in my food and know that I’ll like it.

  8. OLIVE WAGAR says:

    I also have made a master list divided up by the stores where I purchase those particular items–Aldi, Dollar General, Kroger. I don’t visit every store every week, just when I have several items to purchase. This keeps me from buying random extras because I am not looking for everything. I usually have the same breakfast and lunch and add in variety for my dinners. Less decisions to make!

    • Kim says:

      Hi Olive,
      Good for you to have a plan that works for you. Less decisions is a great strategy 🙂 Thank you for commenting.

  9. I love these suggestions. I was doing really well at the beginning of covid so that we could avoid going to the store as often. I wrote down everything we had in the house and made a calendar of dinners. But I have been slacking off and coming to dinner time unprepared!

    • Kim says:

      Hi Meaghan,
      It can be such a huge task. I know how frustrating it is when it is time to make dinner and its just not working. ugh! Maybe, it’s just time for a break. Thank you for your comment 🙂

  10. I’m still not much of a cook. I do make a few things — chili, for example — which I divide into single-serving portions to freeze. When it’s gone I make more chili. LOL! And Instacart is my best friend. I haven’t set foot in a grocery store since March. I also feel it’s my personal job to support local restaurants and delivery folks. It used to be that the only food I could get delivered to my house was pizza. Now there’s nothing I can’t get delivered, so it’s up to me to choose wisely. I did try Hello Fresh a few years ago. It was fun, and the food was delicious. But it was still a lot of work and a lot of clean-up.

    • Kim says:

      Hi Hazel,
      Thanks for commenting. Instacart is such a great idea. It definitely has become popular since Covid and I can see it would be a real time saver.I love your system for getting food delivered.

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