Gone Are The Days of No Meal Planning
I’m a big planner yet when it comes to buying groceries, pre Covid-19 I was often a fly by the seat of my pants girl.
I would peruse flyers and have a general idea of what I wanted but I often walked into the store and bought what I thought I would need for the week. The only meal planning I did was standing in front of the meat shelves in the grocery store and building it out from there.
Since Covid-19, social distancing and retail closures have been in place that has all change.
While I’ve been a fan of online groceries well before this pandemic, I learned relatively quickly when my orders were only half-filled or cancelled all together, that I would have to get creative when it comes to feeding my family.
Flying by the seat of my pants wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I couldn’t wander the store browsing the shelves picking what looked best. I had to get in and get out and follow the damn arrows.
This meant planning ahead.
The night before I head out I check my fridge to see what I have left from last week's shop. With four of us eating every meal and snack at home, more often than not that means nothing. But I check nevertheless.
I meal plan loosely but the key is to be flexible - sometimes the protein that I want isn’t available or they’re out of a specific product. I have learned to roll with it.
The planning starts with my list.
I use an app to make my weekly grocery list. There are many grocery list apps available, all offering different features and perks and I have my favourites. The most important feature for me is that it’s shareable.
Cozi Family Organizer is a great one because it not only allows you to create a shared grocery list but it also allows you to create different lists for different stores if you find yourself having to visit multiple stores on your grocery shop day. This app also allows you to input recipes and will add items to your grocery list according to your recipe.
AnyList is what my family uses. It has the shared grocery list feature allowing me to see when my husband has added something to the list but it also puts items into categories (dairy, produce, etc.) allowing me to walk through each part of the store quickly. I love that I can use Siri to add items to my list and that I’m able to add prices so that I know how much I’ve spent.
The truth is, even with grocery planning apps, I’ve had to turn to other resources in order to ensure my family is having properly balanced meals.
We’ve started using meal delivery services such as Hello Fresh and Chef’s Plate to ease the worry of what’s for dinner every night. Each week we receive a refrigerated box delivered right to our door with all the ingredients we need for four meals and a recipe card with step by step instructions on how to prepare it.
We love it. The meals are delicious and the recipes are easy to follow; even my kids are able to cook them. The best part is that the box contains just enough ingredients for each meal. No wastage.
Many of our local restaurants have started offering curbside pick up of produce or meat boxes. While you may not always know what types of fruits and veggies you’re receiving you can feel confident in knowing that you will get fresh produce and can plan your meals around what’s inside.
Bulk stores are a great place to stock up on some necessities. Baking all the things right now? Stock up on flour. Are you kids snacking away? Buy trail mix, crackers, or dried fruit. We’ve even purchased our dairy-free milk here when we didn’t want to wait in a long line to get into the grocery store. You can pick it up curbside or use instacart for delivery.
I think the key to keeping my family fed right now is flexibility.
The fact is, I can’t browse grocery stores with ease. I can’t hop from one store to the next if I don’t find the ingredient. I can’t run out every day to grab the one missing piece of what could be a fabulous meal.
Much like my own parents used to do, I have to make meals work out of what I currently have in the fridge.
What I have, that my parents didn’t have is the internet.
I’ve turned to apps and websites that will allow me to plug in an ingredient and help me build a meal from there.
Supercook is one of my favourite websites to help with meal planning. Simply type in the ingredient or ingredients you have and in seconds Supercook will show you recipes you can make. It will even allow you to narrow it down by meal and dietary needs so you can find recipes if you’re vegan, gluten-free or dairy-free.
All Recipes Dinner Spinner is an app that allows you to search recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand, includes videos on how to and even allows you to share your food creation via your social channels if that’s your thing.
Get halfway through a recipe before you realize you’re missing an ingredient? It’s relatively easy to find substitute ingredients out there.
Substitutions - Diet & Allergy is an app that you can download on any device and type in the ingredient amount and it will calculate substitution ingredients for your automatically. Don’t have any All-Purpose four left? Type in what the recipe calls for and the app will provide you with substitute options. If you follow a specific diet it allows you to search according to your needs. Are you following a vegan diet but the recipe calls for butter? Input butter and it will show you how you can replace it in the recipe.
All Recipes doesn’t just provide recipes but they have a handy common ingredient substitution chart that allows you to see some of the most common item swaps you can do. Out of baking powder? This chart will show you how you can replace it. It’s great to keep on hand because it lists some of the most common ingredients that you probably use on a daily basis.
The fact of the matter is life has changed for the time being. We don’t really know when things will go back to “normal”. In fact, I think normal has changed.
When it comes to feeding my family, I have to be intentional, prepared and flexible right now. Groceries have become trickier to find, harder to access and cost so much more. I can’t afford to be hitting the store multiple times and a week and I absolutely can’t afford to waste food.
I’ve adapted. I’ve learned when the best time to hit up the store is, good thing I’m an early riser. I’ve figured out how to get what I need in a hurry. We are throwing out much less food spoilage than we were before. While my heart skips a beat every time I see the total pop up on that register, I find comfort in knowing that my family will be fed. I feel so grateful that I am privileged enough to pay that grocery bill without worry.
And I’m learning that there are so many services, apps and sites that will allow us to pivot from the regularly scheduled program without too much pain.
Photo by Kevin McCutcheon on Unsplash