Meal Planning Tips During The Pandemic

What’s for supper?! It’s the question in the back of my mind all day. I want my family to eat healthy, but as a busy mom of three, I also need quick and easy. It’s getting even more difficult during the Coronavirus pandemic because we are trying to make less trips to the grocery store while also making sure all of the homework gets done at night. I know drive-thru or convenience foods would be quicker and much easier, but as a Registered Dietitian, I also know the importance of a good healthy meal! Here are a few of my grocery shopping tips and tricks to help plan healthy family friendly dinners during this pandemic.

Keep a Well-Stocked PantryHappy family talking while having dinner in dining room.

Take time to make a grocery list — go through your cupboards and pantry and try to keep a two-week supply on hand. Here are my MUST have pantry items that are nutritional and can be used in a variety of ways:

Shelf Stable Items

  • Canned beans — I rinse them off in a colander before adding to soups, casseroles, taco meat or even on top of a salad for more protein. Try black, garbanzo, kidney or white beans.
  • Canned vegetables with no added salt. Tomatoes can be added to soups, casseroles, spaghetti and sloppy joes.
  • Canned fruit in 100 percent juice or water. NEVER buy canned fruit in syrup because it is just added sugar.
  • Whole grains — Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, wild rice and whole wheat wraps are great options.
  • Peanut butter – Look for a natural option which can be identified by a brown lid.
  • Healthy oils to cook with or make homemade dressing. Olive, canola and vegetable are a few to consider.
  • Dried herbs and spices – These help in making tasty meals for the whole family!

Frozen Foods

Yep, the freezer is for more than just ice cream and frozen pizza!

  • Vegetables — With less trips to the grocery store, I stock up on frozen vegetables so we can always have one with dinner. The quality is great and there is a wide variety. Be sure to avoid the frozen vegetables that have sauce on them.
  • Fruit – There are many great options of frozen fruit to make smoothies or add to healthy yogurt for a parfait.
  • Lean meats – Stock up on chicken, seafood, pork loin or lean ground beef.A meal plan for a pandemic week on a white table among products for cooking - pastas, basil, vegetables, lime, seeds, nuts and spices.

Remember: Out of sight, out of mind! Don’t keep your pantry stocked with chips, candy, soda or other junk food. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it!

Plan Meals Based on the Foods You Already Have

  • To reduce your trips to the store, get creative with what you have on hand. Pinterest is a great tool for ideas.
  • For example, if you have leftover steak and vegetables, you could turn that into quesadillas using whole wheat tortillas or make an egg dish by chopping up the meat and vegetables and cooking it all together.

When You Have to Go to the Store

  • Create a detailed grocery list that is organized in the order you will walk through the store. This will not only save you time, but also reduce the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus.
  • Wear a face mask.
  • Disinfect your hands and cart when you get to the store.
  • Practice social distancing (6 feet) from other shoppers.
  • Practice safe shopping by making it a solo trip. Do not bring children or other family members with you. This also reduces exposure!
  • Remember to wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER putting your groceries away when you get home!

Can the Coronavirus live on fresh fruits and vegetables or food packaging?

  • According to the USDA, FDA and CDC there is currently no evidence to suggest that the Coronavirus can be transmitted through food or food packaging. However, it is possible for the virus to survive on surfaces and objects, so practice good hand hygiene and food safety.
  • Wash ALL fruits and vegetables before eating, even if they have a skin or peel that you will not eat (melon, bananas, cucumbers).
  • Produce with a firm skin should be washed with a produce brush.
  • Do not use soap, bleach, or other household products to clean your produce.

When I need inspiration for healthy recipes I go to:

Shelby Hunke family of five About the Author: Shelby Hunke is a Registered Dietitian working at Tri-County Health Care in the hospital and clinic. She has a degree in exercise science and a passion for helping patients live a healthy lifestyle. She lives in Wadena with her husband, Paul, and three kids, Madison, Jackson and Conor. In her spare time, she enjoys family time, running and the outdoors!

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