I’m a meal planner. I always feel better when I know what my family will be eating over the coming couple of weeks, because it means I know what groceries we need and I can plan to minimize or eliminate food waste by using up the food that’s going to spoil first, soonest.
But meal planning is a little different in these days of Covid. For me, at least. With our kids back in school, our household risk level is already higher than I’m comfortable with, and therefore I’m looking for any way to lower risks in other areas. One of the ways I’m doing this is by using different tactics that allow me to visit the grocery store less often.
I was already only going to the grocery store once every week or two as I try hard to avoid people (and their germs!), but I’ve found that in between trips, the things we run out of are produce, meat and dairy. So I made the first goal with my meal plan for this winter to drastically cut back on our meat and dairy consumption, and incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables that keep well along with frozen and canned fruits and vegetables.
My Goals For our Fall/Winter 2020-21 Meal Plan
- to support our immune systems by including lots of fruits and vegetables as well as superfoods and healthy fats; prebiotics and probiotics; and fewer inflammation-causing foods
- to go to the grocery store as seldom as possible by utilizing bulk foods, dried foods, and delivery services, and eating fewer meat and dairy products
- to balance the costs of grocery delivery by eating less meat and cheese and eating more bulk, dried products like beans and lentils
Of course, achieving these goals will look different for everyone depending on your (and your family’s) tastes. But by starting with these general guidelines, you can create a meal plan that has you going to the grocery store very little.
Resources I’m Drawing On to Keep Us Stocked Up On Groceries
- online grocery ordering for pickup or delivery — for smaller items; bakery; produce
- the Good Food Box — not the meal delivery service but the affordable produce non-profit (I build subsequent meal plans based on what we receive each month). Calgary's Good Food Box is facilitated by the Community Kitchen Program. FoodShare Toronto also offers a Good Food Box service. Try searching in your local community to see if there is a non-profit offering a similar affordable produce option!
- Costco (this is largely because we have a big family, though)
- The Apothecary’s Mobile Refillery service — for dry goods like rolled oats, popcorn, spices, dried beans and lentils, flour, and so much more! There are a few options for getting bulk goods like this if you’re not in Calgary, including starting your own food co-op. Costco is also a good place to buy things like bulk dried beans.
- SPUD for organic produce delivery
- Home fermenting for pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, water kefir and more, as well as sprouting for mid-winter greens!
I only plan our dinners, and just have our favourites on hand to choose from for breakfasts and lunches.
Examples of Meals That Are Included In Our Three-Week Plan
Frittata: great because you can put such a variety of ingredients into it; it can easily be made vegetarian; eggs are cheap, and keep well; and you can make enough to eat leftovers all week. Here's a great basic recipe!
Black bean quesadillas / vegan burritos / lentil tacos: all delicious options that everyone in our family seems to like; don’t necessarily require cheese (the quesadillas are the exception — otherwise we sub nutritional yeast); and also make great leftovers. The burritos can be frozen and reheated later; the lentils for the tacos can also be frozen for later.
Slow cooker meals like chili; Cabbage Roll Casserole; and soups
Roasted root vegetables with miso gravy
Salmon (from frozen) with brown rice and edamame
Falafel on pitas — order fresh falafel balls for curbside pickup from your local shawarma restaurant and freeze them. Top with all your favourite toppings!
Rice and beans — a complete protein!
Perogies with raw sauerkraut
Simple curries with rice and grocery store naan (which you can keep frozen) — OR, it’s actually really easy to make delicious naan yourself!
Comfort foods that freeze well, like meatballs (to go with spaghetti, which we can buy in bulk, and home-canned tomato sauce or pasta sauce that we’ve stocked up on from the store)
Smoothies to get in important anti-oxidants; sources of essential fatty acids such as hemp seeds and chia seeds; blue green algae like chlorella or spirulina; fish oils (we like Nutrasea) and other healthy supplements
Between the Mobile Refillery; the Good Food Box; a trip to Costco once or twice a month; and online grocery ordering, so far we have been able to only step foot in stores two or three times per month. That’s pretty good in my books!
I make sure to keep some easy staples (like pasta and sauce, and nacho fixin’s) on hand so that when supplies get low or we need to veer from the plan, we are set with something easy that we like.
Want even more ideas on how to avoid the grocery store during this pandemic? Coincidentally, the Zero Waste Chef just posted about this as well! There are some great tips in her post, “Avoid Shopping a Bit Longer During Covid.”