The Coronavirus/Covid-19 crisis has put most of us in circumstances like none we’ve ever experienced before. Maybe you’re suddenly working from home. If you have kids, most likely they aren’t in school, and are home with you. For many of us, entire family units are “social distancing”, which means you’re spending a lot more time together under one roof.
This also likely means you’re responsible for more meals per day than you typically make. And quite possibly, you may have to “make do” with a limited amount of ingredients because of the wide-spread shortages in grocery stores.
Like many others, the plans my husband I had for spring break were cancelled. We spent the majority of this week alternating between being glued to the TV as this national health emergency unfolded, and then turning the TV off and trying to find things to do to give our brains/emotions a much needed break.
Also like many other families, this week required us to eat more meals at home than we typically do. And, like many of you, we made a trip to the store to buy some supplies and found the shelves empty of many staples.
Making Meals that Maximize Resources
Rather than panic, we’ve instead used this as an opportunity to take stock of what we already had in our pantry and freezer, and create meals that maximized our resources.
It’s definitely a shift in the way we have handled meals prior to this national emergency. We lead busy lives, and before, rather than buy weekly groceries that might end up going to waste if our plans changed, we instead often made our dinner plans one day at time. In the morning, or during the work day through text, my husband and I would touch base about what we had a taste for, if any kids would be joining us for dinner, and if we had any events to attend that night, and then, one of us would just stop at the store on our way home and buy the necessary ingredients.
Minimizing Trips to the Market
Now, going to the store daily is not a good idea. Additionally, many ingredients are not available in the markets right now. And, since we have a smaller number of people in our household, we don’t need to buy alllllllll the things. Instead, we can make use of what we already have, thus leaving supplies for people who may not have as much available to them right now. We have some things in our pantry already, and quite a bit in our freezer, too. Therefore, our meals have been a product of taking stock of what we have, and coming up with a plan of how to use it.
We had a habit, as perhaps some of you do, of things going into our freezer and then forgetting they were there. Our mission this week has been to dig through the freezer to see what we have and how we can use it!
In the past, many of our meal decisions were made based on time, because time was always our biggest nemesis. This week, that hasn’t been a problem. It’s actually been productive and cathartic to make meals that took a bit more time.
This week, we’ve eaten at home for every, single meal. We’ve been cautious with using our resources wisely, and yet we’ve still had very nutritious and delicious meals.
King Crab & Corn Chowder (from Costco) with Homemade Artisan Bread
We had this ready-to-eat soup in our fridge from a Costco purchase a couple of weeks ago (before the craziness ensued). It comes with two 20-oz bowls, that are heat-and-serve.
I almost always have flour and yeast in our pantry, because we use it to make homemade pizza dough fairly regularly. Since we were stuck at home all day, I used some of my time to mix up a batch of Artisan Bread to serve with it.
Making homemade bread is pretty easy, but this Artisan loaf is even easier, and it only uses three ingredients, so it’s super frugal. No matter how basic or simple your main course is, adding some fresh-baked bread always makes the meal better. Plus, it’s filling, comforting, and the smell of bread baking in your oven is good for your mood and senses–so many positives from something so simple.
Bonus, since the warm bread is so delicious and filling, we split one tub of the soup between the two of us, and tucked the second into the freezer for another meal later.
- 1 1/2 cups warm water about 100 degrees F.
- 1 pkg yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Combine the water, yeast, and salt in a 5 quart bowl. Stir to mix. Add all of the flour at once and mix with a spoon until the dough is wet and sticky with no dry patches. This is easy to do by hand, but I usually do it in my stand mixer.Cover loosely with plastic wrap, or a dish towel. Let it rise for about 2 hours at room temperature. If you are not using it immediately, refrigerate the dough, loosely covered, for up to a week.
- To make a loaf, sprinkle some flour onto the surface of the dough. Divide the dough in half and rub with a layer of flour while gently stretching the top around to tuck the sides into the bottom to form a round, smooth loaf. Repeat with the second half of dough to form another loaf.Place loaves on a board or pan dusted with cornmeal or flour to prevent sticking. Let them rise, uncovered, for at least a half hour or as long as 90 minutes. The loaves will plump, but not change drastically in size.
- About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a sheet pan cake pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Put the baking stone on the middle rack.
- Dust the loaves liberally with flour. Slash the tops with a cross or three lines with a sharp knife and slide them onto the preheated baking stone. Carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the lower pan and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the crust is browned and the loaves feels light and hollow.
- Cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before slicing. We like to serve it warm, but it reheats well, too, so can be made ahead for convenience.
Smoked Chicken, Roasted Brussels, Cheesy Rice (from a box) & Leftover Artisan Bread
When we went to the market to buy groceries last weekend, we were able to purchase two, whole chickens. My husband enjoys cooking things on his smoker, so we decided to cook two chickens at once, so that we could use them for various meals throughout the week.
He has this little gadget that allows you to smoke the chicken standing up, kind of like a beer-can chicken. He only had one though, so we spatchcocked the second one and cooked it directly on the grates.
We served Rice A Roni cheesy rice from a box that we already had in our pantry, roasted some fresh Brussels sprouts that we bought from our one market trip, and warmed up some more of the home baked Artisan bread from the night before.
Even after serving this bread for a second meal, we still had a few slices left! After dinner, we removed all the remaining meat from the two chickens and placed it in the freezer for additional meals over the course of the week.
Burrito Bowls with Leftover Smoked Chicken
Burrito Bowls are a regular occurrence at our house anyway, but since we had chicken and leftover cheesy rice from the night before, plus some tomatoes and cilantro in the fridge that needed using, we made a simple burrito bowl. We sliced the few pieces of Artisan bread that were still left and made warm cheesy garlic bread to go with the burrito bowls.
This meal was a great way to use up leftovers and not let any food go to waste. I’ll be honest, that is hard for us on a normal basis. We have the best intentions, but life gets busy and often things get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten, only to be tossed out a week or two later when it’s spoiled. Right now, we’re planning our meals strategically to use our food responsibly.
Grilled Cheese and Brisket Sandwiches, Home Fries and Leftover Brussels
This meal was comprised entirely from things that came from our freezer and pantry.
A few weeks ago, we smoked two beef briskets for a family barbecue. We only used one brisket that night, and sliced up the second one to put in the freezer. We’ve used it since then for burrito bowls, pizzas and this week we used up the last bit of it for these grilled cheese sandwiches with brisket.
We had two loaves of bakery bread in the freezer leftover from our reuben sandwiches a couple of weeks ago. We used most of one of those loaves to make 3 sandwiches. The last few small slices and end pieces I placed back in the freezer and plan to combine it with other bread odds & ends to make a french toast casserole that I’ll share with you another time.
We also had some odds & ends of various cheeses in the fridge that I combined for the grilled cheese. I used the rest of the cheddar left from the burrito bowls, and some slices of white cheddar left from a charcuterie tray awhile back.
Add in a few slices of the brisket from the freezer and it made a delicious sandwich. We had no frozen fries to serve it with, but we did have some potatoes, so used a few to make homestyle fries.
For lunch the next day, we split the third sandwich and served it with carrot sticks and hummus.
Acai Bowls with Bananas & Frozen Berries
Breakfasts on work days are typically grab and go. But since we’re home, we’ve been sleeping in a bit later and eating a “real” breakfast. I love acai bowls and always have this frozen puree from Trader Joes in my freezer.
We had bananas that wouldn’t last much longer, so we decided to make acai bowls, so we could use up the fresh bananas before they got too brown. We always have nuts, almond butter, granola and honey on hand for topping these.
Creamy Oatmeal Bowls with Dried Fruit & Walnuts
Oatmeal is another staple we always have in our pantry. I cooked it slowly on the stove in water until it was creamy, and then tossed in some diced, dried apricots leftover from a charcuterie tray, some walnuts and a drizzle of honey. All of this came from the pantry and no trips to the market were needed.
You likely also have oatmeal in your pantry right now. Get creative with bits and pieces of things to top it with. When my kids were younger, they loved a “top your own oatmeal bar” for breakfast. Chocolate chips, various nuts, honey, peanut butter, chocolate syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, sprinkles, are all possibilities to make this breakfast staple fun and use up things you already have.
Homemade Apple Fritters
This is a favorite breakfast treat of my husband’s that his mother used to make. My hubby whipped them up for us this morning, to go with our coffee. This recipe uses very few ingredients and is economical and easy. We had a couple of apples that were starting to get a bit soft, so this was a good way to turn them into something delicious.
Mama J’s Apple Fritters
- 1 cup flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 large apples
- powdered sugar for sprinkling on top
- vegetable oil for frying fritters
- Mix dry ingredients together.
- Beat egg and milk together, then stir into dry ingredients.
- Peel and chop apples into small chunks. Fold into batter.
- Heat oil in a deep skillet on the stove top. Drop spoonfuls of batter gently into oil to fry. You should get 6 fritters from this amount of batter.
- When fritters are golden brown on one side, gently roll over in the oil to cook the other side.
- When both sides are browned and batter is cooked through, drain on paper towels.
- Serve hot, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Homemade Pizza on the Grill
Tonight, I’m using some more of my flour and yeast to make homemade pizza dough that will be used for a barbecue chicken pizza on the grill. This will use some more of our smoked chicken from earlier in the week.
We have plenty of wine in our wine fridge; we’re always well stocked on that staple. 😂I think tonight will be a good night to make our pizza, pour a glass of much needed red wine, turn off the news for a bit, and give ourselves a break.
I’d love to hear some of the ideas you have for making prudent use of your resources, while we are all “socially distancing”. Because you are socially distancing, right? Right?
Wishing you all health and comfort,
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