Menu Planning When Going to the Store Is a Bad Idea

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As I write this, many people are under shelter in place orders. While we are allowed to go to work for an essential job, to exercise (walk the dog), to go to the doctor/pharmacy, or to the store, our primary role in this pandemic is to stay home.

Yes, it sucks.

It could be so much worse, and if we don’t follow these orders, it will go in that direction.

So even though we are allowed to go to the store, limit your trips, please.

If you need strategies, most of them are in this post on maximizing your grocery budget, but I’ll TL;DR it here.

Use what you have on hand. There’s likely more than you think. It’s time to inventory your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Then, make a list of meals you can make without leaving the house. Here’s a printable if you find one of those helpful.

Prioritize what will go bad first as you set up your menu plan. (If you have never menu planned before, I’ve got a whole series on it.) Remember that skillets, soups, stews, quesadillas, and casseroles are great ways to use up food that will soon be unusable. Don’t be afraid to use google to find possibilities. Search for what you have that you want to use up, and the word recipe. Someone, at some point, has shared something that may inspire you.

Additionally, don’t be ashamed to ask for inspiration in your social groups. I know right about now that I have zero creative sparks for my menu, but if someone else gives me a list of what they have on hand, I’m suddenly the Pantry Iron Chef. It is what it is, use your resources.

Don’t make a new meal until all of the leftovers from the last meal have been eaten or are safely stored in the freezer for a quick meal in the future.

Getting in and out of the store quickly is for your protection and everyone else’s since you may be an asymptomatic carrier.

When you do need to go to the store, plan your list carefully so you can spend as little time around other people as possible. Remember that not everything you want may be there (looking at you, TP), have some alternatives in mind. With chicken, you can pretty much take what they have and adapt your recipe.

Also, if you have kids (or need some easy kitchen wins) and you see baking mix available, go ahead and grab a box or two. In the past, I have been all about as natural as possible. With a pandemic, four teenagers, a toddler, and an infant in the house, I say take the easy wins where you can. Help your kids learn to make pancakes, biscuits, etc. Not only will you be adding to your menu, but you’ll also be giving them a sense of independence and control, which is in very short supply right now.

If you are not in a financial crisis and you have a choice between an item marked with WIC and one that isn’t, please choose the one that isn’t. This simple action can help more than you’ll ever know.

Communicate with your neighbors to see if it’s possible to coordinate and consolidate trips. Venmo, Paypal, the Cash app etc, are all great ways to transfer money for these situations. If paper money needs to exchange hands, try not to have contact during the process. (May be placed in an envelope under the mat just before arrival. I’m not saying store your grocery funds there full-time.)

And finally, don’t turn the food delivery into a social visit, either. Put the food on the porch, ring the doorbell, and go on your merry way.

We’re all in this together, even if we’re six feet apart. Hang in there and be kind, please.

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2 thoughts on “Menu Planning When Going to the Store Is a Bad Idea”

  1. Another tip I’ll add is: Before you go shopping, do a declutter of your food storage areas, especially the fridge and freezer. Get rid of condiments way past their use-by date. You need to make the most of the space. Who knew I had so many freezer packs? Why? I’m not going on any picnics, so out they go.

    Getting in and out of the store quickly while shopping solo and trying to get more than a week’s worth of food is tough. Like a friend of mine said #bigfamilyproblems. I posted this on my FB feed:

    “Huge solo grocery-shopping trip pro tip: let them bag your stuff in plastic since they aren’t allowed to help you bag in your own. Of course, those bags will not then fit in your cart any more. So get a second cart and just ask someone to watch it for you while you load the first cart into your car.

    Wish I had thought of this in time today. I feel so sorry for the people waiting in line behind me today. I did my best, I swear, but it took me forever to clear the conveyor.”


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