Meal Planning for the Pandemic
March 15, 2020 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I’m looking for ideas of both what to eat, and how to structure my meal plan for the pandemic, given that the end date is basically unknown.

Specific recipes that rely heavily on pantry staples are also appreciated. Or any advice on how to strike a balance between not hoarding but being prepared.

Don’t worry, my therapist is available for Skype sessions and we’re already addressing my food-scarcity related anxiety.
posted by unstrungharp to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
We are trying to keep 2-3 weeks of food in the house. So not hording, but not living week-to-week like we normally do with groceries. We are cooking the same things we normally cook, although the emergency reserves are mostly pasta, rice, and canned soup.
posted by COD at 5:19 PM on March 15, 2020

The MeFi Wiki Disaster Planning & Recovery page has a Food section that includes links to similar AskMes, e.g. It's not hoarding, it's planning: possible pandemic pantry edition.
posted by katra at 5:29 PM on March 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

We have three weeks of meals planned and if we have to extend, we’ll either repeat the same three weeks or if we have been inside forever, we’ll have time to plan more. Mostly, it’s similar to my regular menu planning except with frozen vegetables in place of fresh and stuck all the meat and fish in the freezer.

We stocked some bouillon in case one of us gets sick and doesn’t want full meals.

Try to keep meals easy and not requiring too much thought. Things like:
-rice, beans, and a simmer sauce
-quinoa, frozen sausage, and frozen veggies
-pasta with fancy sauce and frozen spinach
-frozen hash brown scramble with frozen veggies and eggs
-rice with frozen fish, ginger, nori, and soy sauce
-yogurt with granola and frozen fruit
-frozen pizza or chicken nuggets or other frozen store made entree
-frozen bagels with peanut butter and jelly
posted by donut_princess at 5:29 PM on March 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have long been a big fan of this book by Arthur Schwarts: What to Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat.

It's full of great recipes like: Lentil soup, black bean soup, pasta aglio e olio, polenta, curried chickpeas, fried rice, omelette/frittata, etc. I haven't found any of them online, but there are certainly other peoples' versions of all of these you can Google up.

Also, baked potatoes or sweet potatoes with some veggies, cheese, meats on top; quesadillas; peanut noodles; green salad + protein on top; roasted veggies on a sheet pan with chicken (or veggie) sausage.
posted by Miko at 5:32 PM on March 15, 2020 [8 favorites]

My plan right now is to focus on delicate veggies and greens, and over time work through the hardy veggies and the shelf-stable stuff - pasta, rice, beans, frozen fish, canned fish, grains, cabbage, potatoes, celery.

NPR's All Things Considered had a segment on Corona Virus Meal Planning yesterday, re Michael Martin's article called How to Stock Your Kitchen for the Coronavirus Era (and Other Emergencies)

posted by bunderful at 5:40 PM on March 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

You might want to have some meals planned that you'd want if you actually did get the virus. We bought a few big cans of chicken noodle soup so that in case the whole family came down with it we could at least have that to microwave.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:32 PM on March 15, 2020 [7 favorites]

Our pantry staples lean heavily on Tex-Mex, and are also fairly good for "I don't want to do a whole lot of cooking right now." Take a look at this comment I made a while back about how to get several different meals out of the same basic ingredients: canned refried beans, ground meat, cheese, canned tomatoes, your preferred forms of carbs (chips, tostadas, taco shells, etc.)

I'd now add (to get away from fresh stuff but still keep some sort of vegetables happening) frozen corn, frozen mixed vegetables, and canned beans, which can all be heated up and mixed in or put on top of things. Or, if you get your hands on some bell peppers, stuffed. We made these peppers for lunch yesterday and froze 4 of them. If we'd added a can of tomatoes and a full can of beans, we'd have had enough left over after stuffing the peppers to put in tacos, top nachos, or put on top of salad and have a taco salad.
posted by telophase at 8:09 AM on March 16, 2020

My natural instinct is to buy in bulk and cook in bulk (and I live alone, so not cooking in bulk would be very inefficient). So I have ramped up the kinds of things I usually do, also taking into account that I may at some point get sick and want access to a supply of frozen prepared food which requires little additional work.

Stews are easy to make in bulk and freeze well, and also use up and preserve fresh vegetables. Homemade meat and vegetable stock is also a good thing to freeze, and if you make it in a slow cooker (which keeps the meat and vegetables in an intact and appetising state because there's so little churn) you can additionally use the solids as a pie / lazy lasagna / dumpling / whatever filling.

General bulk cooking advice: portion everything into small containers. Leave one in the fridge to eat soon and freeze the rest. There are few meals so delicious that you won't be really sick of them if you have to eat them for days on end. Portioning and defrosting small amounts helps you to rotate them. So aim to make at least two or three different things on consecutive days (freezer space allowing).

Dry starch doesn't take up freezer space, so it's better to prepare and freeze something that you can quickly combine with rice / pasta / grains later than to make something with the starch already in. So e.g. freeze bolognese sauce rather than a whole lasagna.

Invest in some frozen vegetables so that you can have fresh vegetables several weeks into the isolation period. In my country there are green plastic bags you can get which (I believe) deactivate the enzymes that accelerate vegetable spoilage, so vegetables last much longer in the fridge when wrapped in them. See if something like that is available in your supermarket.

Pickles are designed to last a long time, and can be used in stews.

Eggs last for ages and ages in the fridge. I have literally never encountered a bad egg in my entire life, even after keeping eggs for so long that they really dried out and almost floated in the water. Caveat: this advice may not be universally applicable in all countries.

Instant noodles can become a reasonably balanced meal when combined with some subset of: vegetables, homemade stock, milk/yoghurt, prepared meat.

Some cheeses last a pretty long time in the fridge. I buy blocks of yellow cheese (cheddar and gouda are the most common in my country) in bulk. Sometimes they start growing mould once they're unwrapped from their original packaging, even if I clingwrap the exposed areas as tightly as possible. As long as the mould is recognisably a blue cheese mould (by smell and visual inspection), I just scrape it off with the edge of a knife and eat the cheese. Some people cut the sides off, but I consider this both wasteful and overkill. YMMV.

Long-life milk is a thing! You can use it to make lasagna out of some of your frozen bolognese and deteriorating cheese.

I have a bunch of very long-term canned supplies, but apart from the tomato I don't intend to use them up unless I have to.
posted by confluency at 1:26 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

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