Tag Archives: meal planning

More tips for healthy eating during a pandemic

Line for toilet paper at my local Wal-Mart recently

I like to keep posts fairly short and sweet around here. Especially right now, I often don’t have the world’s greatest attention span. Small steps help me. I hope you enjoyed my tips last week and found them helpful. Here are a few more tips for eating healthy while staying safe during this pandemic.

1. Keep to your pre-pandemic routines. If you had a good routine for meal prepping or making a lunch to take to work, I would recommend keeping that up. While it may seem silly since you are home, it will have at least two good effects. First, it will make life feel a bit more normal in this crazy time. Second, when life does go back to normal, you won’t have to start your good habits up again. Plus, if you make lunch in the morning, you can use your “lunch break” time to eat and go for a walk or read a book or something else fun.

2. Celebrate food holidays. There are tons of food holidays. Use your time at home to celebrate them if you can. We need any reason to celebrate. A friend or relative having a birthday? Make their favorite foods for yourself. Next week is Cinco de Mayo. This Saturday was supposed to be the Kentucky Derby. It is beef, barbecue, egg, salad, salsa, and strawberry month in May. Have fun with it!

3. In a similar vein, try new things. Always wanted to learn how to cook a certain dish? Maybe now is the time to try. Perfect your Grandma’s pierogi recipe (see Some Good News for a cute segment on that). Have fun!

4. On the opposite end of the spectrum, remember not every meal needs to be a made from scratch homemade gourmet wonder. If you have kids, they very likely could make their own lunches. Many school districts around the country are offering school lunch pick up. We do this a couple days a week. They also pack breakfast for the next day – we usually use these as the rest of the day’s snacks. Check with your local school district to see what options they have. Just because you are home does not mean you need to spend inordinate amounts of time in the kitchen. I am personally veering toward quick and easy dinners as I’m usually out of patience by the time dinner time rolls around.

5. Get creative in your grocery shopping. Most of us are trying to go to the store less. There are often CSA’s or other produce services out there that will deliver produce to you. You can also choose produce that lasts longer. Carrots, potatoes, onions, brussels sprouts, garlic, apples, and oranges are a few items that keep particularly well. Frozen veggies are also a good option. Not storing your produce wet will often help it last longer. Placing asparagus bottoms in a glass of water in the fridge helps it last longer.

On a side note, many sites have some great offerings to help in this time. America’s Test Kitchen has some great recipes, substitution tips, free videos for kids, and more. There are many others as well, but that is one of my favorites.

I hope you find these tips helpful. I’ll hopefully be back later this week with a pantry friendly recipe for Cinco de Mayo. Happy staying at home!

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Eating healthy and reducing stress during a pandemic

Pandemic life shouldn’t be THAT different than my regular life. I’m generally home with 3 of my 4 kids everyday anyway. But trying to get a good schedule and routine where I have time for posting here is harder than I anticipated. Also, I want to make sure things I am posting right now are applicable to today’s situations. I have lots of recipes and pictures ready that use a lot of ingredients that maybe are harder to find. Still working on that.

Today, I wanted to share a few tips for trying to eat healthy during this crazy time while also not increasing your stress level. Hope any of these help!

The in and out of stock board at my local Costco recently

1. Menu planning is your friend. If you are trying to go to the grocery store less frequently, plan out LOTS of meals and buy the ingredients. I generally plan about a week of menus. Right now, I’m trying to go about a week and a half to two weeks out. Do I have to know exactly what day we will eat everything? No. But knowing what meals I have food for reduces my stress.

2. Strict menu planning is your enemy. Try to pick recipes that have somewhat flexible ingredients. Be flexible about what types of beans, pasta, vegetables, cheese, meat, you need for a recipe. These things can often substitute with ease. For example, my daughter had a birthday in the midst of this pandemic. She requested lasagna for her birthday dinner. I warned her ahead of time I would make her some sort of pasta casserole, but it would depend on what noodles I could find at the store. Luckily, lasagna noodles were about the only pasta stocked that day.

3. Keep fruits and vegetables in the mix – in any form you can get. At least at the stores I have been to, fresh produce has been fairly well stocked. One or two things might be wiped out, but they generally have things. Frozen has been pretty obliterated. Canned is hit or miss. Just remember a couple things if you are having to get canned fruits and vegetables. First, that is 100% ok! Second, look for no salt added vegetables or canned in water or juice fruits. But just doing your best is all you can do. So give yourself grace!

4. Watch your sodium intake. A lot of us are switching to more canned products than normal or using more shelf stable products to avoid frequent shopping. That is great. Just know that shelf stable products often, but not always, have sodium added. So check your labels. And check yourself on adding more salt.

5. Teach your kids or yourself how to cook. I’ll have a post soon about tips for teaching your kids to cook. But with yourself and your children stuck at home, it is a great time to add in some cooking lessons. Or if you don’t have kids, teach yourself a new cooking skill!

Learning to make pretzels with my daughters

6. Give yourself grace! If you need a treat now and then, it is ok. If you can’t handle a long drawn out meal but really on freezer food, that is ok. This is not going to be normal life forever. Try to keep things as healthy nutritionally as you can while still maintaining good mental health. (And if that involves a lot of diet soda like it does at our house, go for it!)

Got soda?

Hope these tips help! If you have any questions I could help with your nutrition or cooking in this pandemic, please email me at kimberlykmarsh at gmail dot com.

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Meal Planning Tips

A common complaint I hear from many people is that meal planning is hard/time consuming/frustrating/boring, etc. I told someone I didn’t love meal planning either, and she seemed shocked. “Isn’t that what you do for a living?” It’s true that I did learn a lot about meal planning in school. In ways, that only makes it harder for me, since I can think of more “rules”.

While I don’t always love meal planning, I don’t hate it. Usually my problem is having the right ideas to fit my schedule and budget at the time. Here are some tips I try to follow to make meal planning easier.

1) Don’t try to plan too much at one time. For me, a week is plenty. I plan to grocery shop once a week. Produce doesn’t last much longer that anyway. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have more ideas than one week worth. I often have more ideas than days (or ideas that won’t fit my schedule for the week). File those away in your brain for the next time.

2) Have a set time you meal plan. Find a consistent day and time of day that works. I like to meal plan during breakfast or lunch. I’m a little hungry so I can think of foods that sound good. And I can multi-task doing it while I eat. This makes it feel like less of a time drain. Also, if you have a set time, it doesn’t feel like it is taking over your life.

3) Have a few “set” days. We have a leftover night every Tuesday. Breakfast for dinner is every Wednesday. I don’t have to think about two out of the seven days. Win! Maybe you do Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays. Just having some parameters will speed things up.

4) Know your categories of foods. I like to have soup generally once a week. Then I know we’ll probably want Mexican and or Asian food. Fridays and Saturdays I like to have “weekend food” – pizza, sandwiches, burgers, faster foods to cook. Having those categories helps me know which types of foods I’m thinking about.

5) At the end, double check for repeats. This is a key step. I skipped it a couple weeks ago and ended up with 4 nights of chicken in a row. Whoops! This isn’t to say I might not repeat chicken in a week, but I try to space it out.

6) Look at food magazines and blogs in your free time. I know, I know. We don’t have free time. But instead of scrolling Facebook for the third time today, go check a couple food blogs you trust. Subscribe to a good food magazine for your lifestyle. I really like Cooking Light, but there are plenty of other great options. Just browsing these will file dinner ideas away in your brain. Seriously. Years later, I will suddenly remember a blog post I saw and wanted to try. If you use pinterest, actually USE it to help you plan your meals.

7) One idea to try, which may or may not work for you. Pick one blog or one cookbook or one magazine. Find all your meals from there. It is tricky, but it can save time flipping around endless places for ideas. When I’ve done this, I usually get about three recipes from the same place. My other two ideas are recipes I know and love.

8) Don’t try all new things. Keep some tried and true recipes in your line up each week. It is mentally exhausting to figure out a new recipe every night. Keep it real. Keep it simple.

Do you meal plan? I’d love to hear what you use to help in the comments!

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