We are getting down to the wire here with groceries, which means a trip to the grocery store is on the horizon. In fact, it will have to happen tomorrow because I only have enough cream for one more cup of coffee, and if it is a choice between COVID-19 and black coffee, I’ll take the COVID. Just kidding! But, we do need to go to the store, which means it is time to plan out the next two weeks worth of meals.
I used to go to 4 different markets on average to do my shopping. Costco for the big stuff and non perishables every 4-6 weeks, then Safeway or Target for smaller snack items and cleaning products, Trader Joes, and one of my two favorite local markets for meat, dairy, and most produce. I’m not saying I would go to all these markets every week, but I did make that circuit over the course of the month. And I have been known to run to Petaluma Market in the middle of making dinner because we did not have a ripe avocado. Obviously I am no longer running to the store for one item and going to multiple markets is out. I am also shopping for my mom and my in-laws now, so if I am going to be efficient and limit my time out in the world I need to be super organized.
Which is wear meal planning comes in! Even if we were not Sheltering in Place we would be aiming for this. It saves time and money, and who doesn’t like that? So today I sat down and wrote out 12 different dinners, several of which will slip easily into the freezer as leftovers a few weeks down the line. We will round out the list with everyday breakfast and lunch items, and there are a couple take-out nights built in to give our favorite restaurants some business as well.
Trust me when I say if I can do this, you can do this, because it does not come easily to me. Give yourself the freedom to move the meals around, you do not need to lock yourself in to setting what day of the week you will be having spaghetti and salad, just know that at some point during the next two weeks you will be having spaghetti and salad. You only need to make up your mind with enough time that anything you need that is frozen can thaw. I often make the decision about what we will have by looking into the veggie bin to see what absolutely needs to be eaten today.
The hardest part about shopping for a two week time period is the fresh produce. I actually get to fudge on that just a little since I am also grocery shopping for our parents. I will do our two week big shop, including *most* of the veggies, and when I go out to get their food I will fill in with some fresh lettuce and bananas for us. (I did try to do all our shopping at once last time and that was too hard to keep track of in the cart, so I’ve decided shopping for three households is best done in two trips.)
One benefit to having let our fresh food dwindle is that it is much easier to clean out the fridge when it’s pretty empty. And since I will be wiping down all our cartons and packaging before putting it away it is nice to have a clean fridge to put it all into. I also now wash ALL of our produce before putting it away, even the lemons and oranges. I think I will keep doing this long after the Coronavirus is behind us. It is nice to know that all of your fruits and veggies can be pulled out and you can start chopping up what you need to make dinner. We like to have a small container of green onions chopped and ready to go for salads and frittatas.
It is always satisfying to stock up your fridge and pantry, but these days it is a necessity. Take heart that the lessons we are all learning right now, not just about meal planning, but about the importance of health, family, and friends will serve us well for a long time to come.