Okay, we all know what is going on in the world right now and I’m not going to talk about it specifically because we have heard enough of it from all angels. If you’re not hearing it from the news, you’re seeing Facebook friends share anything and everything they find (thoroughly vetted for accuracy, I’m sure…), or you’re scrolling through Instagram seeing meme after meme, caption after caption about it.
At this point, I just want some normalcy.
That being said, it seems we won’t be getting much of that for a while now.
So, without dwelling on the current situation much I wanted to come on here and talk about something we are pretty much all dealing with— cooking with limited options and less fresh ingredients.
But first, I hope you all are safe, healthy and getting through this with minimal breaks in sanity. This is a tough time. It’s unprecedented. We will adapt and figure it out and get through it. This might be a reminder to myself too….
Today I’m going to start with some specific ingredient suggestions. Then I’ll move into meal ideas that are typically more readily available and include ingredients with a longer shelf life. So, let’s dive in
Can you still get your hands on meat? If you can, do it. Freeze it. Already in the store (if you’re allowed/able)? Ask your meat department or butcher when the shipment comes in. It might be different from when the other stock comes in. Not encouraging hoarding. Take what you need and leave plenty for others.
I know a lot of us on fitness journeys are very focused on getting plenty of protein but to save money and food, this might be an area we can stretch a little. Are you over estimating how much you really need? A lot of people in the U.S. eat more meat than we actually need to. If you haven’t, calculate your macros and find how much you’re really consuming vs. need to consume on a daily basis. We can also find protein in plenty of other foods than actual meat.
One non-meat source I like is, of course, canned beans. We like black beans and kidney beans the most in our house. Dry beans are great too, especially lentils. I could make lentils every week and not get sick of them.
Cans and packets of tuna or even chicken are awesome and easy sources of protein too if your stores haven’t run out. Don’t forget to check out your frozen food section for frozen protein that you might normally buy fresh. Also, don’t be afraid to pick up those odd cuts of meat that seem to be the only ones left in the meat section. In this day and age, there is not a recipe you cannot find simply by googling an ingredient.
I’d also suggest getting a container of protein more than ever if you can right about now…..
This is easy. Just make sure you replenish your stock of your favorites… mine are rice, couscous and quinoa but if you like pasta (I love it, just eat too much of it when I do) or potatoes, grab those too. Potatoes can store nicely for at least a few months in a cool, dark place. Basements work great.
Fruits & Veggies:
This is not as easy as starches, in my opinion. Produce seems to be more readily available in my area than other food groups (or paper products, ahem) but they don’t last as long. When it comes to fruit, try canned fruit, but check that they are not canned in syrup. We like canned mandarin oranges, pineapples, pears and peaches. Frozen are great too, especially if you like smoothies. If going with fresh, get longer lasting, hearty fruit like apples or root vegetables such as beets. Winter squashes last a long time too. We can’t afford to be veggie snobs right now. Frozen are JUST as good as fresh nutritionally and canned are great budget options that come close nutritionally. My personal favorite frozen veggies are broccoli, mixed peas/carrots/corn, corn, peas (probably our most used), and mixed stir fry vegetables.
Are your eggs gone from the grocery too? If you’re lucky enough to have them, guess what! They last a lot longer than people think! About 4-5 weeks, so don’t worry about perishability.
I can’t seem to get them so I was forced to get egg substitute. That will do just fine OR I am switching over to oatmeal. A container of rolled oats is cheap and lasts for a long time. It is a great whole grain carb source full of fiber, those ever important vitamins and minerals AND it’s a pretty decent source of protein for a carb. Add a scoop of protein or, be like me and don’t ruin your oatmeal with protein (haha) and have a side of breakfast meat with it (frozen sausage is perfectly fine!). Mix in some fruit with your oatmeal or eat it separately and you have a good meal.
You’re going to be going nuts inside and in the same space for a long time. Get stuff you will crave. Don’t be a dummy. This isn’t the time to pretend you’re going to suddenly be perfect haha. Trust me, I know. Get your favorite lower calorie salty snack. My favorite is pirates booty and pop chips. Then, get your favorite sweet treat. I go for mini Reese’s and often have two or three in the evening after dinner (accounting for this in my macros of course). Cover your salty and sweet cravings so you don’t go off the rails and make poor decisions. But wait, there’s more. I swear I have healthier suggestions too. Frozen edamame is my personal go to as a salty snack lover, along with cheese (if you can find it in stores!), rice cakes (topped with hummus and veg or pb and fruit), and frozen mango or pineapple (or whatever you might like as a popsicle substitute). I also like yogurt, cottage cheese (I go for individual containers because I could eat a whole, massive container in one sitting…) and pretzels which are often pretty low calorie.
Remember, condiments and seasonings are your friend. I mean, look at the calorie count on condiments first but don’t be afraid to flavor, especially more “boring” meals. Most seasonings (depending on what you’re using) have little to no calories. Condiments and seasonings last for a long period of time so that is good. Make sure you have your favorites too because I know some people (MEEE) can’t eat half their meals without ketchup (yes, I measure it now, because I have no willpower with ketchup).
This is where it gets fun. You can use any combo of the ingredients I suggested above under each food group, but I am going to list out some of my favorites that use mostly non-perishable and fairly accessible ingredients– at least as far as I know, every region is different.
I swear, I won’t make you wait any longer. Onto the meal ideas….
- Chipotle Burrito Bowls: Oh wait, I think I just made an entire video on these? Yes, yes I did in fact… Honestly though, this isn’t just a plug. This is a great meal and the only fresh produce I used in the video was tomatoes. I often add shredded lettuce and avocado too, but it’s not necessary or an option for me right now. Use what you have and mix it all up, give it some Mexican spice and voila. Delish.
- Ground Meat/Green Beans/Rice: This one is so so simple, but somehow the perfect combination that you just need to try. This is my number two most made and most loved meal prep recipe, second only to the one above… but it comes close. The key to this one: ketchup. Okay, I know that’s not for everyone but I swear it compliments the meat just like ketchup on a burger. Here are the very complicated steps to making this one. Cook your favorite rice. Brown your meat. Ground beef has more flavor, but we usually get very lean ground turkey. Add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Finally, steam fresh green beans or….. you won’t believe how tricky this part is…. open up a can of green beans and heat them up. I love both fresh and canned in this recipe, honestly. The fresh might have the edge for me but canned green beans are probably the best canned veggie out there and perfect for what we’re going for here.
- Stir Fry over Rice: This isn’t so much a recipe as a general idea. The genius of stir fry is its versatility, which is what makes it so perfect for a difficult time like this. Our family uses chicken most often, but almost any type of meat works great. Use whatever you can get your hands on, throw it together and voila! Done! Frozen veggies work especially good in stir fry which also makes this ideal. Use whatever veggies and protein source you have on hand, mix it up with some rice and soy sauce and you’ve got a meal. I like to add peanuts or cashews as well as some scrambled egg. Trust me on those additions, you won’t regret it.
- Crockpot Lentils: Like I said at the beginning of this post, I could eat lentils weekly and not tire of it. Better yet, this is a crockpot recipe. My kids love it too. I have made this about a million times but never photographed it because it’s well… not so pretty. So no pictures, but just trust it’s delicious and nutritious. Pour your dry lentils into your crockpot, cover with water until the water is a few inches above the lentils. I add about two of the Knorr Chicken Bouillon cubes (this brand far surpasses the others) to the water, but boxed or canned chicken broth or vegetable broth would work well too. After that, it’s up to you! Diced onion and minced garlic are great additions, but onion and garlic powder are fine too! I also usually sprinkle in a touch of cumin and add salt and pepper to taste at the end before serving. One cup of dry lentils has about 50 grams of protein, but I often also add in a ham slice that I chop into small, bite sized pieces, if I have it. Talk about adding some flavor. Finally, I like to add in some shredded carrots or kale towards the very end. Frozen carrots and frozen kale or spinach would be fine too! OR just go with the lentils and serve as is: a perfect, mushy brownish green bowl of deliciousness. Cook them on low for about 6-8 hours, try to check that there is enough liquid during cooking and add any if needed.
That’s it! Thats’ all I’ve got for you. That’s what I’m eating while I’m stuck at home, my grocery stores are half empty, and I’m still trying to lose weight.
I hope you have some ideas now and I hope you have access to good food options. I hope you are physically healthy and mentally surviving this difficult time for so many. We are all in this together…. or, alone but…. together. You know 🙂 Let me know what you’re cooking right now in the comments!