Meal Planning During a Crisis

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During a crisis, the daily routine of life changes. As a precaution, many people are decreasing their frequency of shopping at the grocery store. Many are also finding that with the changes in routine, they are preparing more meals at home. The following tips can help save money and time while minimizing food waste:

First, take inventory of the food in your home. Initially, this is a very time-consuming step, but it becomes much easier when completed weekly. Start with organizing your pantry. Group similar foods together in categories such as canned vegetables, grains, oils, baking ingredients, etc. Within these categories, organize the items by expiration date. Those that expire soonest should be placed in front so that they are used first. As new items are added to the pantry, add them to the back of the shelf so that the older items are always towards to front.

After your pantry is organized, take inventory of your refrigerator and freezer. If properly stored in the freezer, foods are safe to eat indefinitely but the quality becomes compromised with time. Follow dates on the packaging for optimal quality and taste. For the refrigerator, make note of what foods are perishable and need to be used in a timely manner. Examples include fresh produce, raw meat, milk, or eggs. These foods should be your priority for the next step.

Create a meal plan and a shopping list. Try to plan and organize meals for at least the upcoming week. My favorite template to use is from our Med Instead of Meds Program and can be accessed online for free. Start with the left column and plan meals using the items that will not stay fresh in storage for much longer. Next, see what other ingredients you have in your kitchen that are needed to complete the meal. If you do not have an item in your kitchen, consider if there is a possible substitution that can be used or add the item to the right column of your shopping list. Shopping with a list will help you buy only the food you need and also helps to save time spent in the store.

Finally, make cooking a team effort. If you have children, try involving them in the cooking process. It is a chance for them to practice math, reading, and fine motor skills. Plus, children are more likely to try foods that they helped to cook. After the meal is prepared, take a break from electronics and enjoy your hard work together! If you need recipe ideas or information related to food safety and nutrition, make sure to follow the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Lee County Facebook page.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 919-775-5624.