The below was written by contributor Kristen Smaldone MS, RD, CSP, CD-N. Kristen is a pediatric dietitian who specializes in early childhood nutrition. She has been a registered dietitian for over 5 years and has worked with more than 5,000 children and their families. She holds a masters degree in human nutrition from the University of New Haven and completed her dietetic internship at Yale New Haven Hospital. Kristen lives in Newtown with her husband, energetic toddler, dog, and is expecting baby number two this summer.
First and foremost, I hope everyone is staying well and safe!
This is definitely a very difficult time, but I hope this resource can help you.
I went from buying extra food one week, thinking I would be good for two weeks to panicking 5 days later that I in fact did not have enough food, so I went shopping again. Furthermore, 3 days after that I still felt like I had a few additional items I still needed so ordered them for pick up (thank you target drive up!).
Now that I feel more prepared with food… I thought what am I going to do with all of this? What do I even have? How can I feed my family on all this food and make sure it lasts while still trying to keep it nutritious.
I decided I needed to get organized to stay sane and keep my stress down. I made an inventory of my pantry items and everything in my freezer. This was beneficial for multiple reasons! I don’t know about you but I was just putting food in my cabinet and in the freezer and there was no order and things were a mess! By doing inventory it not only allowed me to get a clear picture of what I had but also allowed me to organize it for easy access. Following taking inventory I sat down and came up with a meal plan to best utilize all the food.
Here’s what my inventory looks like:
Now for the meal plan! My original intention was for 2 weeks but I thought I bet I could make this a 3 week plan to be extra prepared. This is a 21 day dinner meal plan. When planning I wanted to do some meat meals (because we have it on hand and are a meat eating family), vegetarian options to spread out the meat as well as ensure I am including a veggie with dinner nightly. I kept in mind my son’s preferences and made sure there was at least one food item from each meal that he liked so that I was offering an appropriate meal for everyone.
I am using up any fresh produce I have on hand to start then working towards freezer/pantry veggies. For any recipe that calls for fresh onion or garlic, I likely will replace with powder as I only have a few garlic cloves left and 1 onion. Feel free to adapt recipes/meal however best suites your family!
Here are the recipes I used::
- Pad Thai Sauce
- Veggie/Bean Chili: I used spices recommended per recipe but modified meat/veggies
- InstaPot Cheeseburger Mac: You will need to extend time in the InstaPot if using larger noodles than recommended
- Creamy White Bean/ Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta
- Lentil Soup
In terms of breakfast, I have plenty of options for my son.
- French toast + fruit x 1
- 2 Lentil banana muffins + fruit (x 3)
- 2 waffles + PB + fruit (x 2)
- Cereal + fruit (x 3+)
- 2 Eggs (he loves eggs right now) + cheese + fruit + toast (? X 6)
- Will be making my apple/carrot pancakes + fruit (will be good for 6 portions of 2 pancakes (2 eggs, 2 fresh carrots, 2 raw apples, 1 cup milk used))
- Will be making my green Sunday morning pancakes (will be good for 6 portions of 2 pancakes (2 eggs, 1 cup milk used, 2.5 oz. spinach))
My husband and I will be having some eggs, oatmeal, smoothies and cereal or can make more pancakes, French toast depending on how much milk and eggs we have left.
We may run out of eggs sooner than milk so for pancakes I can use a flax egg: 1 tbsp. flaxseed meal + 2.5 tbsp. water, let sit for 5 minutes (good for 1 egg, may use to replace up to 2 eggs in recipe). Click here for the recipe.
For lunch for my son, here are some options
- PB+chia jam sandwich or PB+honey + fruit/veggie (saved some fresh veggies peppers/cucumber/tomato to offer this week with lunches or snack)
- Chicken nuggets (5) + leftover veggies
- Can use 1 can black beans/1 can white beans for lunches + fruit/veggie/cheese
- Pizza toast (bread, sauce, cheese) + fruit
- Bean/cheese quesadilla + fruit
- Mac n cheese + veggie
For my husband and me, I used up our fresh produce and made 8 salads + hard boiled eggs (12 eggs) + 1 can of chick peas. After this I assume we will have decent leftovers from dinner for lunches.
Here’s the summary of our pantry after the meal plan & breakfast/lunch options:
At some point we may need to order some more groceries for a few items such as eggs and coffee (can’t go without coffee) and anything else that comes up but I feel really prepared to take on these next three weeks with a plan!
I hope this serves as resource to help you navigate your own freezers and pantries. Please share with your friends and family! If you share or make any of these meals please feel free to take a pic and tag me! I would love to share your successes and provide inspiration to others during this very difficult time!