As we navigate these stressful and unprecedented times, our daily routines have been turned upside down. We’re all aiming to stay home more, avoid crowded places and limit interactions with others. Depending on your normal routine, daily eating habits have likely changed, too. We are no longer eating in restaurants or regularly stopping at the grocery store for last-minute items, so we need some strategies to help with planning and preparing healthy meals. By following a few helpful tips, you can make sure you and your family are staying healthy and positive during these challenging times.
One of the first steps you can take is to get organized. “Start by cleaning out your refrigerator, pantry and freezer. Throw away expired foods and organize what is left,” said Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman. “The more easily you can see what you have available, the easier it is to use what you already have and prevent waste.”
Another way to make sure you aren’t losing money on items you already have is to shop your own pantry, fridge and freezer. “What foods do you already have available that need to be used first? What foods did you forget were even there? Now is certainly not a time to be wasteful. Frozen chili or soup left over from the winter? Let’s make a plan to use that tonight,” Tillman explained. “According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, frozen foods remain safe indefinitely, however, food quality declines over time,” she added.
Next, Tillman says to make a plan. This could include writing down a weekly list of meal ideas and what you plan to make for each day. “I like to have a written plan for daily dinner ideas,” she said. “Focus on basing the meal around a lean protein source and a vegetable or two. For example, Monday is grilled salmon with broccoli and a sweet potato, Tuesday is leftovers, Wednesday is roasted chicken with bacon-wrapped asparagus, and so on. If you are home during the day, writing a list of a few easy-to-rotate breakfast and lunch ideas also helps,” she added.
Planning out meals for each day will, in turn, help your grocery list. “Plan your shopping list to match the needs of your weekly meal plan,” Tillman said. “Shelf-stable foods such as canned foods are great to have on hand. I also like to keep a variety of frozen meats available. And frozen veggies and fruits last for a long time,” she explained.
Shopping less frequently and considering using a grocery store pickup or delivery service are a few additional tips Tillman says could make a difference in your health. “It is a great way to limit interactions and the amount of time you’re spending inside a crowded grocery store,” she said. “Spend some time sitting at the computer with your weekly meal plan to place a thorough grocery store order. The fewer trips you need to make to the grocery store, the better.”
Finally, Tillman says to prioritize healthy behaviors overall. “As we find ourselves with more time at home, let’s focus on self-care as much as possible. Work on getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night, exercise daily by walking outside away from others or doing online workouts indoors, and prioritize stress management,” Tillman said.