Feeding my family during the pandemic

This image features a wooden table with three dishes: pizza, beef tacos, and a beef steak. It is titled 'Feeding My Family" ands the subtitle "The challenge of feeding a family of four during a pandemic."

The challenges of feeding my family and navigating parenthood during the pandemic have been overwhelming and wild. This has been a learning process for all of us, but there have been rewarding moments. Here’s a look at what it takes to feed my family during these times of rationing and empty shelves.

My kids, ages 13 and 14, have a lot of autonomy, and they did a great job making sure that they did what needed to be done for school while I worked full-time from home. We developed a lot of routines early into our state’s shutdown, including an exercise routine for the kids and meal planning on Saturday mornings before we sent Hubs out to do the grocery run.

Tensions ran high at several points during the pandemic, as we navigated the difficult news that it wouldn’t be safe for the kids to travel to see their dad for the summer due to the significant concerns regarding the pandemic’s spread and travel restrictions that were put in place as the situation ebbed and flowed. To add to the travel concerns and virtual schooling, Hubs and I went through IVF in February and March, with a successful embryo transfer in early April.

We made the decision to cut our risk percentage and only have him go out on errands since his essential job required him to be present in his office every day, though social distancing measures and masks were used from the early onset of the pandemic here. This became an incredibly stressful time for all four of us.

Creative shopping

Those first few grocery store trips were harrowing.

Meat shortages made it difficult to find specific types and cuts of meat that we wanted to cook, and stores rationed everything. Shoppers were allowed two fresh beef or pork items and one fresh chicken item, and the cashiers at our local store were strictly adhering to the limits. We got creative with frozen chicken products and went meatless on several meals a week due to the shortages in the early part of our shutdown.

A lot of last-minute adjustments were made to our planned meals when the items we needed weren’t available. We had to be flexible when entire meals weren’t possible. Luckily, we have some great friends in the area who were able to drop off things like toilet paper when our stock ran low at home and none could be found in the stores!

As things began to settle down in our local stores and availability improved, we were able to stick more closely to our plan. Things were going swimmingly until… we hit a food rut.

What am I going to feed these people!?

A pattern emerged at our table.

We had tacos every Tuesday. Burgers every Friday. Some type of pasta on Wednesday, usually with marinara sauce because it’s something I can let simmer for hours. We hit the rut hard, and we stayed there for almost four weeks before desperation began to take over.

“What am I going to feed these people?” I had wondered aloud as I stood in front of my fridge, throwing out leftovers that had gone bad.

My family’s frustration grew. Night after night, I watched as they picked at their dinners. We had to make a change to get us out of the rut, and nobody had any ideas. I turned to Pinterest, where I’d been compiling a board full of recipes, and to my cookbook collection for ideas.

On a Saturday morning in late May, I sat everyone down at the dining table and pitched my new idea: that each week we would try something new that we hadn’t made before. No types of cuisine were off the table. Only our grocery budget limited us. Both kids, avid lovers of Pinterest, were happy to help come up with new and exciting ideas. Excitement grew as I’d be feeding my family something fresh and new.

Breaking the rut

We had purchased a farm share from a local farm in early spring as an attempt to cut down on grocery bills and get seasonal fresh produce. As luck had it, the farm share started the second week of June. Each Sunday from the second week of June to the second week of October, we would get an email with our weekly picks. I worked our meal plan around the farm’s veggie offerings.

The addition of the seasonal produce selections from our farm share forced us to shift our meal planning to Sunday mornings. The variety of produce proved to be an exciting challenge in itself as we experimented with a lot of vegetables and fruits the kids hadn’t tried before. Attempts with eggplant, peppadew peppers, sugar snap peas, and heirloom tomatoes were exciting experiments for the kids though we did learn that none of us like eggplant. Between the farm share and my Pinterest board, dinners started to get a bit easier. 

Our rut of repeated meals had come to a delicious and creative end.

A family united through food

Looking back over the summer and our experience with food and the pandemic, it’s pretty amazing to see how far we’ve come. The strength and bravery of my two teens impressed me. They navigated a host of unexpected experiences and overcame so many challenges this year. The resilience of children never ceases to amaze me, and their willingness to try new things when we fell into our food rut really impressed me. I have never been so aware of the task of feeding my family as I have been this year.

The pandemic came with a host of challenges and difficulties, including food and supply shortages, but the extra time with my kids has been a welcome change. Despite the challenges and the frustrations that came with Covid-19, I truly believe that we have been incredibly lucky to be together and to have stayed healthy. As we start the new school year, we’ve decided to continue meal planning and keep focusing on trying new things together. 

Meal plans from my kitchen to yours

I’ve included two sample meal plans for you here, as well as the recipe for one of our favorite discoveries: bubble pizza! We made a garden veggie version recently that turned out really well, but you can use whatever pizza toppings you like and make it your own. Best wishes and happy eating!

This is a week-long meal planner for feeding my family seven main courses; beginning Monday: steaks, Thai drunken noodles, tortellini, shredded chicken quesadillas, Balsamic pork chops, veggie pizza, and barbecue orange chicken. This is a week-long meal planner for feeding my family seven dinners; starting Monday: spaghetti squash, ground beef tacos, apple cider pork chops, crockpot beef stew, veggie bubble pizza, pressure cooker pot roast, and four-cheese baked skillet rigatoni.This is a recipe for Garden Veggie Bubble Pizza.

 

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