Food Prep and Meal Planning – Covid Style

“Good food and a warm kitchen is what makes a house a home.” 

– Rachael Ray

During Covid, the kitchen has taken on a much more prominent role. It is the place we go not just to fill our bellies, but, much like the proverbial office water cooler, it’s where we head when we need a break from our screens or to connect with another human. It’s the place where we report back to each other on our  daily accomplishments or moods, or to share a giggle about something our crazy dog did that day. It has truly become the center of our home.

Given the kitchen’s elevated role in our lives, keeping our refrigerator and pantry stocked and organized at all times has become all the more important, not to mention an artform, during the pandemic. It keeps us all sane to know we have what we need when we need it. Today I want to share a few strategies I’ve used to maintain organization in the hub of our home. 

1.     Plan, plan, plan! At the end of the month, I sit down and map out an entire month’s worth of dinners for the upcoming month on a paper calendar (old school!). I post it near the fridge where everyone can see it. I make sure to vary the source of protein (I tend to cycle through chicken, salmon/cod, grass-fed beef,  and a vegetarian dish) and choose vegetables based on what is in season. By planning out a month at a time, I feel confident we are consuming well-balanced, nourishing meals with enough variety so that no one gets bored.

2.     Give yourself a break. I also like to plan “take out” or “pizza” nights to give a much needed break during the month. I also incorporate several “quick meals” for those nights when we are exhausted after a busy day of work (think: tacos!).

3.     Consider the cook. During Covid, our 16 year old son has become quite enthusiastic about cooking.Truth be told, he has far exceeded my ability and interest in cooking! My husband also loves to cook. When I meal-plan for the month, I am sure to include a few of their favorite dishes. We just make sure that the cook does not have to clean up! (Though we ALL clean as we go! This is a lifesaver!)

4.     Grocery shop/have your groceries delivered on the same day each week. For me, this is either Saturday or Sunday morning. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, just that it’s consistent.  This helps keep our inventory in control, and helps us build in planning time for the upcoming week.  I have also found that the kids are less likely to tear through a bag of chips if they know it will not be replenished immediately.

5.     Food Prep for the week. After my grocery run, I put all the dry food in its designated place (see blog on how to organize a pantry). I then tackle produce prep. I wash and dry all the produce. I then make two big salads. I also chop and dice veggies for salad toppers and snacks, then store them in individual containers. Midweek, when we have gone through the salad, assembling a new salad is a snap!

6.     Batch cooking. Whenever I make a crockpot meal or a soup, I usually double or even triple the recipe. Crockpot meals and soups can be easily stored in the freezer. We also grill chicken breasts and burgers and freeze them. This makes for an easy grab-and-go lunch, paired with our pre-made salad.

7. Tidy as you go. One key to staying on top of pantry and fridge organization is to get in the habit of tidying every time you open the doors. When I make smoothies in the morning, I make sure to put all of my nuts and seeds back into their designated home in the pantry. If something is out of order, I tidy on the spot. If dishes are out on the counter, I take 2 minutes to put them away. Honestly, this saves so much time in the long run!

8. Close your kitchen at night. Before going to bed, make sure the dishwasher is empty, dishes put away, sink and counters wiped down, and coffee maker ready to go. You won’t be sorry in the morning.

Create Calm wants to hear from you! Has your kitchen become the center of your home? What strategies do you use to keep your kitchen organized? Drop us a note!

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