Thanks to the spread of the novel coronavirus, schools are closing one by one, and people are heeding advice to practice social distancing. As we learn more about COVID-19 each day, this is a vastly new and scary experience for all of us, especially as this story continues to unfold before our anxious eyes.
As parents, many of us are wondering: What are we going to do if — when?? — schools are shut and we’re home with our kids for a week, or more? And what happens if we are exposed to the virus and need to stay quarantined for a two-week period? And most of all, if we can’t go out and about, what the hell are we going to eat??
Luckily for you, I have been immersed in dystopian fiction for most of my life. I am also a dedicated planner and a cookbook author — and the editor of Kveller’s sister site, the Nosher — and I am prepared with an easy-to-follow meal plan.
Over the past few weeks, I have been buying extras of our staples — nothing crazy, just an additional jar or two of things we use frequently — and trying to take inventory of our pantry, fridge, and freezer. This week, I sat down and planned out what 14 nights of dinners could look like based on what I currently have.
The kinds of things I have stocked up on include:
- Canned beans
- Coconut milk
- Frozen vegetables
- Frozen fruit
- Cookies and snacks
- Non-dairy milks
- Meat and chicken
- Cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- Onions, garlic, and ginger
- Pizza dough
- Chicken nuggets
- Baking supplies
- Vegetables that will keep like sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash
I realize I share all this from the position of extreme privilege: I have a house, not a small apartment, and I have an extra fridge and freezer in my basement which, yes, is the most Jewish and suburban thing ever. I recognize not everyone has this ability and I wouldn’t want to brush off this fact.
Still, given the uncertainty of the situation, it’s important to be prepared to the best of our abilities. I’m not suggesting that anyone freak out — and lets’ stop hoarding toilet paper, OK people? — but if you haven’t yet stocked up on pantry staples, now is the time to do that. And since waste sucks — that’s true whether or not there’s a pandemic — it’s an optimal time to assess what you’ve got in the back of your freezer so you can finally use it, should the need arise. This was a deeply gratifying process for me, personally.
Based upon what’s in stock at my house, here are some easy, crowd-pleasing (read: kid-friendly) dinners, along with links to recipes. I leaned heavily on some frozen staples or things that would keep well.
1. Baked Asian chicken wings + steamed rice + edamame (frozen)
2. Homemade pizza (or frozen pizza!) + fruit smoothies
4. Falafel (frozen)+ pita bread + hummus + pickles + olives. (Yes, that’s a link for homemade pita, but the store-bought stuff is also tasty and keeps in the freezer just fine.)
5. Mac & cheese (hey, buy the box!) + roasted carrots with butter.
6. Cheese, pumpkin & corn enchiladas. (Also delicious? Trader Joe’s frozen enchiladas or burritos.)
7. Cornflake drumsticks + peas + corn. (I use margarine or oil instead of butter for the chicken.)
8. Pancakes + fruit smoothies
9. Lentil soup + garlic bread
10. Chicken soup with matzah balls (Whether or not you’re sick, we could all use some “Jewish penicillin” right about now!)
11. Roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots (or other root vegetables).
12. Chickpea curry with spinach (frozen) + rice
13. Crispy sesame beef + broccoli (frozen)
14. Spaghetti Bolognese + string beans. (An extra comforting alternative? Baked spaghetti — you can leave out the meat.)
Image by Shannon Sarna