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Meal Planning Tips During the COVID19 Quarantine

A global pandemic has drastically changed many aspects of our life, including the way we plan meals. Here are my personal meal planning tips for a pandemic.

Planning meals and grocery shopping have drastically changed since the pandemic was declared. I used to go through my recipes, decide what we wanted to have for meals in the coming week, and make a grocery list based on that. 

Now, though, it seems to be backward. Grocery stores have been wiped out of staple foods, changing what we have in the pantry. The foods that are hard to come by seem to be regional. While I am having a hard time finding eggs, my mom says that’s not a problem by her. 

Since we’ve also extremely limited how much we leave the house, it has changed my grocery shopping habits. Typically, I don’t like doing grocery pickups or delivery. I like to look at the options and make my own choices. But choosing the health of myself and my family is more important to me right now. 

For this reason, I haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store since mid-March (at least 6 weeks as of writing this). While it isn’t always easy to do grocery orders online, it helps tremendously right now. You aren’t exposing yourself to others. You aren’t bringing it home to your family. And you aren’t exposing the grocery store workers who don’t have a choice but to be there. 

In the last few weeks, I’ve tried a few methods of meal planning and grocery shopping. Since my usual method doesn’t work, we’ve made some adjustments. 

I have a few staple foods that we always purchase. Bread, milk, eggs, cereal, and cheese are just a few of them. When I am placing a grocery order, those are the first things I look for. As I mentioned, some are hard to find. I’ve had to get different brands or flavors, but I’ve still gotten the food. Even if the only eggs available were the free-range organic eggs that were twice as much money as my normal brown eggs. 

Egg shells in a bowl next to a blue napkin on a grey surface

Originally Published On: September 19, 2018

Last Updated On: December 17, 2019

My Method

Scour your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and make a list of everything you have in there that can be used in recipes. All of the canned foods, all of the cheeses, all of the frozen veggies, all of the pasta. Write everything down. 

Go through the list and make a note of what foods will go bad first. Do you have some heavy whipping cream that expires in a week? What about an opened can of pizza sauce that’s been in the refrigerator for a while? Try to find meals that can use these ingredients first. 

Scan through the list and see what you can put together to make a meal from this. My most recent kitchen list had a lot of pasta noodles, pasta sauce, and fresh parmesan cheese. So we made some spaghetti for dinner. I like meatballs with it, but we didn’t have any. Instead of adding to our grocery bill, we ate it without. 

Write down your meal plan. Make those that have the most fresh ingredients first. Or those that have ingredients that will expire soon. 

Determine if you need any other ingredients for those meals and order those groceries. 

Grocery Shopping During a Pandemic

As I mentioned, it’s best to keep your shopping trips to a minimum. While I don’t like to pay a delivery fee, it’s worth it to pay that extra bit so you can stay home. 

If you must physically go to the grocery store, make sure you have a list. Separate it by sections so you can be as quick as possible. Many grocery stores are also going to one-way aisles which means it’s not easy to go back if you missed something. 

Be flexible. It’s very likely there will be a few things you won’t be able to purchase. Or you may not be able to get your preferred brand. Unless you have to be specific, for example with allergies in the house, try to be flexible. 

Keep calm. Please. We are all stressed right now. Everyone is feeling anxiety whether consciously or not. And, everyone deals with it in different ways. Even though we are supposed to stay apart, it doesn’t mean we can’t still be kind to one another. 

Follow the guidelines. The recommendations and guidelines are different in each area and for each store. Some are only allowing a certain number of people at a time. Many stores have changed their hours. Try to find this information out ahead of time so you are prepared. 

If you are sick, please stay home. Pay for delivery. Use the store pickup/curbside service. Ask for help if you need it. 

External Sources about Safe Grocery Shopping:

Person's hand using a blue pen to write in a notebook

Get Creative with your Meals

Just because a store was out of something, doesn’t mean a meal is ruined. Try to get creative. Yes, sometimes it may fail, but it’s better than getting frustrated about the lack of groceries available. 

If a meal calls for ground beef and you can’t get any, try it with ground pork or shredded chicken. If you need whole milk and can’t find any, try almond milk. Trust me, I make this swap all the time as we only buy almond milk and it hasn’t ruined anything yet!

Find some new recipes to try. There are a lot of websites with so many recipes that I’m sure you can find something to make. 

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16 thoughts on “Meal Planning Tips During the COVID19 Quarantine”

  1. Meal Planning NEVER happens here because my husband never knows what he wants to eat UNTIL THAT MOMENT that he’s hungry. Drives me batty sometimes, but whatever. I always “plan” my own meals… Which ALWAYS involve salmon, hahaahah! When my son is older and we have sit down dinners with him, we will definitely have to plan a little bit more but for now, we just wing it and honestly, my husband and I don’t always eat together or at the same time.

  2. Within the constraints that Dear Hubby does half the cooking and WHO will cook that night = often a that-morning decision, I definitely have been following these tips. DH has been doing our shopping, every 10 days or so, mostly for fresh things – otherwise, I am reorganizing/tidying cupboards and pantry spaces, rediscovering lost ingredients, and using those up as much as I can, depending on which fresh ingredients we have for which recipes using things-from-the-cupboard.

    1. We have been doing grocery pickups and haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store in weeks (I hate not picking my own food!). I’ve also taken stock of the entire kitchen and we have been making up a few meals to use up ingredients while planning out others.

  3. I’ve been cooking every day since the start of the quarantine butI am clueless when it comes to planning! Great insights, thanks a lot.

    1. The more people you are cooking for, the more planning really helps. It prevents you from having missing ingredients when you’re ready to make a meal.

  4. Neely Moldovan

    Usually for our meal planning we do it on our google calendar. We do mostly meals we already know then add one new meal a week! Often I get those from you!!!

    1. We use our google calendar, too, so we know what meal we are having each week. I also set reminders two days ahead of a meal so I know to take the meat out of the freezer.

  5. I’m a huge meal planner. I love to plan out everything and schedule groceries for pick up. That’s been the hardest part for me with the shortages and limitations…groceries are so inconsistent. I can’t always find what I want and the wait for pickup is like a week here.

    1. I have had such a hard time with grocery availability, too. It definitely makes it harder, which is why I’ve switched to cooking based on what I have, not purchasing based on what we want to make.

  6. I haven’t changed the way I cook during these times. I still make meals that last for about 2-3 days. Stores still have everything here in stock, so I don’t have to worry.

  7. This is some great advice! It’s also a great opportunity to use up those foods at the back of the freezer or the corner of the cupboard, and make the most of not wasting anything!

  8. Melanie williams

    There is some really good advice here. I think you are so right to meal plan at this time, as the shops are not as stocked as usual

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