Updated: Apr 15
Here are some steps to help you eat healthy on a budget, empty out your pantry stash, and even have a little fun with your kids, all while #socialdistancing.
I don’t know about you, but it feels like I haven’t left my house in years! This extrovert does not handle social distancing well, BUT I’m doing my part to flatten the curve. And since I’m expecting my third little love, my husband has also banned me from running any household errands, which I definitely appreciate.
The early pregnancy sickness and the kitchen we demolished back in January has not helped me get through this quarantine, but it has helped me get a little more creative. I’ve been using up some of our pantry staples, and thinking of new ways to eat healthy, try to stay on budget, and even get my kids involved in some fun activities. Plus, cooking and cleaning the dishes counts as schoolwork, right???
So, here are some ideas to use in your kitchen to help you get through #quarantine2020.
1. EMPTY YOUR FREEZER AND PANTRY. Come on, you know you do it. You make a big meal, with the intention of freezing it for later. You think, “Oh, when there is no time to cook, we’ll just pull this out to have for dinner! I am a genius!” Then the aforementioned meal sits in your freezer for years before you work up the courage to clean it all out, and most of it ends up with freezer burn and in the garbage.
So, now is the perfect time to NOT let that food go to waste! Dig through the freezer, and see what you have. Can you use something in there to make a meal for your family? If so, go for it! I currently have some rice thawing that will be served with chicken and veggies.
It’s also a great time to go through all of your dry goods. Not only can you use up the boxes of pastas and cans of beans and tomatoes, but it’s a great time to get rid of all those expired bags of flour, boxes of crackers and containers of spices. Admit it. You have spices that have probably been around longer than your kids…I know I do!
Here are some ideas of items you mightjust have hanging around and what you can do with it!
· Rice. You might not know, but rice freezes really well. Just place it in a zip top bag and lay flat to freeze. When you’re thawing it out, just stick it in your fridge overnight! I love to roast up some veggies, and sauté with rice and avocado oil.
· Chicken. I always grill or sear a few extra chicken breasts, so I’ll have some to freeze. Thaw it out, and shred it up in your mixer. Use it however you want! I like to make this chicken salad. It’s light, fresh, and a perfect grab and go lunch.
· All. The. Frozen. Veggies. I currently have 2 large bags of frozen okra, and 4 large bags of frozen broccoli. Did you know, you can actually roast frozen veggies? Like you can cut open the bag, throw it on a sheet pan, drizzle with avocado oil, salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven! It takes a few extra minutes in the oven, but it’s SO easy!
2. GET CREATIVE! Now is the time to try all those bookmarked recipes you swore you would make one day. It’s also a great time to try out new ingredients. Have you always wanted to make that Farro salad you saw on Pinterest or those chickpea chocolate chip cookies? Well, now is your chance! Recipes that use “off the wall” ingredients are prime for this time. They are likely the only ingredients left on the shelves at your local grocery store!
I was craving some good ole’ fashioned chocolate chip cookies the other day, so my husband went to the store to stock up on baked goods. There were 2 bags of flour left in the entire store! So, get brave and flex those creative muscles with ingredients you’ve never used before.
Here are some ideas for ingredients that you might not use all the time, but might be able to find in the store when there is no bread or pasta or toilet paper!
· Farro. Farro is a grain that is not used nearly enough. It is high in fiber, Vitamin B3 and zinc. It has a nutty flavor and can be used in all sorts of ways. I especially love it in a warm farro salad with dried cranberries and baby kale. Some keys to making the best farro around – soak it overnight, season your cooking water WELL, don’t forget the butter.
· Gluten free flour blends.A few months ago, I made the switch to gluten free. I am not 100% strict with it, but I do notice that I feel much better if I steer clear of it (harder to do when pregnant!). So, I’ve been finding new ways to use gluten free flour blends, almond flour, and coconut flour.
3. GET YOUR KIDS IN THE KITCHEN. Baking requires math and science, so that counts as school, right? Or am I the only one hoping it does??? Either way, the kitchen is a great place to spend time with your family, blow off some steam, and turn it into a science lesson for your kids all at one time.
Just last weekend, my girls put together a cake. They didn’t follow a recipe, they just asked me what goes in cake, and got to work. Guess what? It actually turned out really tasty! Their proportions were slightly off, but none of us cared, and they had a blast. I threw together a simple buttercream for them and divided it into 2 bowls. I colored one bowl of icing pink and one bowl turquoise blue. They each got an offset spatula and alternated between licking the icing off the spatula and putting it on the cake. In the process, a happy accident occurred – they made purple!
This playtime in the kitchen turned science experiment was a great reminder for me to slow down and enjoy the beauty of kids. Their discovery served as a tool for an entire conversation about mixing colors together to create new ones. It was also a great way for my 2 ½ year old to practice her fine motor skills. She worked on grasping tiny objects, like measuring spoons, and carefully whisked the ingredients together. All in all, it was a win!
Here are some ways you can set your kids up for success when helping you cook:
· Mise en place. This is the French phrase used in professional kitchens for “everything in it’s place”. It’s important in your own cooking, but even more so when you involve your kiddos. Measure all the individual ingredients out and place them in small bowls. This way, your kids can dump and stir. That way, you know they’re putting in the correct amounts, you don’t have to spend as much time supervising.
· Aprons and hats.My girls love their kitchen accessories. They always get dolled up in their kitchen best with hats and aprons. Not only is this fun for kids, but it’s also a great way to keep their clothes clean!
· Incentivize cleanup time.I don’t know about you, but my kids don’t love the clean up part of cooking or baking. So, I often create a rule that they cannot have the item they’ve prepared until the dishes are done. This not only saves moms and dads time, but it also gives them responsibility and a reward!
One last tip in the kitchen to remember now and always – prep in bulk! I always make more than we need. This gives us healthy options to keep in the refrigerator to quickly grab and heat up for lunches throughout the week. Plus, this saves time once the dinner hour hits. And if you end up not eating it, well you can just throw it in your freezer…see above tips!
So, I know this time is tough for all of us. Believe me, I am craving some time with my friends, being able to work out like I am accustomed to, and the normalcy of the busy morning routine as we all try to get out the door on time. But, if you take a few minutes to see the beauty in it all, I think you will realize there is a lot to be learned in quarantine. You may even discover some new cooking techniques or recipes that you love!