We all have seen life do a complete 180 in the last few weeks. The spread of COVID-19 has left many of us uncertain about health, job security, finances and the future of our nation. Many of us are now faced with the task of being caretaker and school teacher to our kids whose new classroom has become the dining table for remote learning. Is it just me or does it seem like your kids are doing more eating than learning? I feel like Lexington and Jaydon both have a tapeworm that feeds every ten minutes. Lol. Our two week food supply has become a 2 day supply. Well I have had to think about ways to preserve my fridge and bank account by implementing some new strategies to follow. Although many of our probing questions cannot be answered at this time, hopefully some of these tips can at least help with planning your family nutritious and budget friendly meals.
Eat Your Fresh Fruits and Vegetable First
The pictures and videos of barren supermarket shelves show depleted supply of canned goods and non- perishable items. Yes we should have a supply of these items, but eating fresh fruits and veggies in abundance will help your immune system and save those items for when you really need them. Fresh produce also goes bad so be sure to utilize these items first when cooking meals to help save your wallet. If you feel like some of your veggies may only have limited time before it goes bad, try these ideas. Throw some in an omelet for breakfast. Random veggies are also good for stirfrys; (see recipe below) just add your favorite protein. Lots of vegetables can also be frozen, just blanch them to preserve the nutrients and freeze for later. Blanching preserves the flavor, texture and nutritional value that could be lost from freezing.
- Leafy greens (spinach,kale)
- Bell peppers
- 1 package Turkey Keilbasa (substitute with chicken, shrimp or your favorite protein
- 1 tb canola oil
- broccoli florets
- cauliflower florets
- 3 whole carrots sliced (1 inch rounds)
- 1 sweet onion roughly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper roughly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper roughly sliced (use yellow or orange if you like)
- 1/2 bag sugar snap peas
- salt and pepper to taste
- onion and garlic powder to taste
- grated parmesan to top
Steam carrots and broccoli separately just until tender crisp; set aside. Cut keilbasa into 1/2 inch round pieces. Saute over medium heat along with diced onions and peppers. Add minced garlic and continue to saute about 1 minute. Add in snap peas and saute 1 minute longer. Add steamed broccoli and carrots and mix through. Add in your seasonings to taste and turn off heat so the veggies will not be mushy. The residual heat will continue to cook the carrots and broccoli . Serve over or alongside rice and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese on top.
My four year old has been asking for snacks literally every ten minutes. One thing I’ve done to combat this is give her snack times just like in preschool. This also helps with keeping her on schedule. I also created smaller portions of snacks. If you buy those large family bag size snacks, they can go very quickly with the temptation to keep digging your hand into the bag. Breaking it down into sandwich bags will stop the urge to keep snacking and also allows for optimal freshness; as most of those bags go stale quicker once opened.
Make a Weekly Food Schedule
This is something that I did before this pandemic hit, but works so well. And it can be something to continue once we get through this crisis. Go through your pantry, preferably starting with your fresh produce and perishable items. I write all proteins I have on one side of a blank sheet of paper, veggies on the other and starches in the middle. I then match them up to each other by drawing connecting lines to create meals. Then I write these meals under which day of the week I plan to cook them. Again, I start with the foods that will spoil quickest. For example, I have green beans, asparagus, brussel sprouts and fresh carrots right now. I will make the meals containing asparagus and green beans first, since they tend to spoil rather quickly. Carrots usually can last a few weeks in the fridge so I plan to make them last. Here are some fruits and veggies that have a good shelf life.
Cook Meals that Stretch
So if you had a mom like me growing up, than you know how to make food stretch. My mom had 5 kids, so she often made large meals that could stretch for a few meals. She also had mastered the art of feeding a large family on a budget. This is the time to try out your favorite soup recipes, stews and pasta dishes. They are inexpensive and really go a long way. Here is one of my favorite recipes for for my favorite loaded baked potato soup.
Beans are also a great, inexpensive staple to have. Beans can seem boring, but one tip I picked up from my mom is to use seasoning meats. Throw a turkey tail or hamhock in while cooking black eyed peas, Lima beans or your favorite bean or lentils. Serve over rice and you have a tasty meal. You can serve as a side, make a bean soup ( I am going to try this recipe) or add them to your favorite meals for added fiber and nutrition. They also are very filling, so your family should give your fridge a rest for a few hours.
You can also cook proteins that you can freeze or keep in the fridge for the week. This way you free up your time and sanity, and your family can use as needed. Grill chicken breasts; they can be used sliced on a sandwich, on top of salad, or atop your favorite pasta. Another time saver is mixing up ground turkey or hamburger into meatballs and burger patties to freeze. That way you can take out for pasta, meatball sandwiches or use to make meatloaf. Check out my recipe below that triples for meatballs, patties and meatloaf. You can take a bulk pack and divide up for meals later using this tip.
- 1 lb ground turkey or ground hamburger
- 2 tbs ketchup
- 1 tb water
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1/3 diced red and bell pepper
Mix all ingredients together, CAREFUL OT TO OVERMIX. Roll or scoop with ice cream scoop into golf ball sized meatballs. Line up on baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour. Now transport into freezable tupperware and use as needed. Makes about 8 meatballs. If using for patties, simply mold into flat patties. Line wax paper in between and freeze to use as needed.
These may be small tips, but they really make a big difference. Here are a few other items that you can freeze besides produce, and meats.
I hope some of these tips and recipes save you both time and money during this time. Please comment if they help in your household or if you have tips you want to share. Stay healthy and stay safe!