Feeding a large family is never easy. But feeding a family of 5 during COVID-19, that is a whole other ballgame.I never once thought I’d be writing up a post for my blog during a pandemic. However, here I am, doing it. The fact of the matter is that many of us are wondering how we are going to feed our families with empty shelves at the grocery story and less outings to the grocery store.
Before the uncertainty and challenges of COVID-19, I was always acutely aware of how much my weekly grocery store run cost me. On average, our family spent $150 a week on groceries. I have discovered (in many Facebook groups), that compared to some large families this is actually a pretty small amount.
By the time this post is published, I’m sure my own state will be placed under a ‘shelter-in-place’ but on the plus side, our shopping habits haven’t really changed. I feel particularly blessed, that my family and our life is pretty easily adjusted to our current situation. My husband has the blessing of being able to work at home in our office, I already work at home and my kids are homeschooled. While I know, we are very privileged in a dire situation and realize that many are not so privileged. So today’s post is all about feeding a family of 5 during COVID-19. I hope it will provide you with some ideas and provide a resource for getting at least your groceries under control.
Years ago, when I was pregnant with my first son, I read a book called What To Eat By Marion Nestle, and it was a very fascinating book about how we eat and what we should eat. In a nutshell, the book explains the psychology behind grocery stores and why they are all arranged the same way. This particular book ingrained in me the thought of ‘eat on the outside” meaning the outside edges of the grocery store.
Think about it, what lines the outside aisles of every grocery store? The fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy. The outside aisles have the foods that are considered ‘best’ for our body. But guess what, most of these sections are bought out currently.
In the last three times I’ve visited my grocery story, the vegetables and fruits have been stocked decently (but not great). However, the meat and dairy of each grocery store was completely picked over. Matter of fact, when I went today, there was no pork or chicken or eggs in sight.
So what do you eat when there is little to nothing on the shelves of the grocery store? Below, I’ll share with you what we are buying for our family of five at this time.
Rice is a must have for a large family, pandemic or not. It is quick to cook, easy to season and goes well with every meal. Additionally, it is also fairly cheap. When we realized that we were going to be social distancing for quite awhile, I went out and bought $10 worth of rice. This is enough rice for my family to eat for a month, if we eat it every other day. This isn’t the fancy Jasmine or Basmati that I prefer but practical long-grain white rice which is more cost effective.
So what have I made with rice so far? Actually quite a bit, mostly involving beans, which I’ll get into next. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a list of recipes we’ve eaten in the last two weeks involving these food staples. Please be aware, I’m not one to follow a recipe ‘exactly’, I use them as a guideline. If I don’t have an item for a recipe, I often get creative and substitute when possible.
I’m a huge fan of beans. When beans are paired with a grain, such as rice, the two together create a complete protein. How does that work? A protein source, whether it be vegetarian or not, has nine amino acids. Beans and grains both have essential amino acids but they don’t have all of the essential amino acids on their own. By combining the two together, you complete the amino acid chain to create a complete protein source.
I’ve heard many people are intimidated by beans, especially dried beans. They aren’t sure how to cook them, how long to cook them or what meals would work with beans. From my couple of years learning to use dry beans, the simplest way to cook them is to follow the directions on the bag. This usually involves an overnight soak to soften and re-hydrate the beans prior to cooking. Then you cook them for a short time with or alongside your meal. Though, there are times you NEED a meal and you don’t have time for soaking. That is okay too. Beans are very forgiving. Instead, there is a ‘quick’ soak option which involves boiling the beans. Below you’ll find some links to some resources that explain this more clearly.
As I mentioned earlier, most grocery stores I’ve visited are stocked in the fruit and vegetable section. Why is this, you think? My personal opinion is because vegetable require a lot of work. You can buy vegetables frozen or in a canned, in which all the chopping and cooking are done for you. I’m going to argue two benefits to whole vegetables at this time; they are more flavorful and more abundant.
Have you walked down the canned goods aisle? At my local grocers, these aisles are pretty bare because people want what is convenient and easy. And I get it, we are all strapped for time. We are also facing new challenges in which we have to work from home while our children are home AND we have to school them. It is hard work. Convenient saves our sanity.
If you stock any vegetables in your home, this is what I suggest: lettuce, tomato, celery, onions, potatoes.
This is just a basic list and is not exhaustive at all. These vegetables in particular are just the ones that I often find the most use for within our daily lives. For example, lettuce is great for sandwiches and salads, both quick and easy meals. Tomato can be used in a variety of these from main dishes to a topping. Onion is a MUST for flavoring dishes and stocks. Celery is a good snack, a great vegetable to add flavor, can be used in a stock and also goes well on salads.
Previously, I mentioned how hard it is to find canned goods in the stores currently. This is for good reason; they are cheap and easy. Canned vegetables are great addition to any miller for a healthy filler. They are easy to prepare and don’t require a lot of thought.
If there is just ONE canned good I suggest anyone to have in their kitchen for a large family, it is canned tomato products. Whether it is diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or paste. Tomato is a common base and flavor booster in many meals. Many of the recipes I’ve linked below include canned tomato products of some kind.
I believe most people believe and know pasta to be a staple in a large family home. For families like mine though, in which both myself and my youngest cannot eat wheat/gluten based products, it usually doesn’t happen that often. For those in situations like mine, my biggest suggestion is to watch for sales. I found boxes of gluten free pasta on sale this week for $2 a box which is a STEAL for gluten free pastas.
For those that can eat good ole fashioned wheat products, stock up on some pasta. Pasta is an amazing filler for any family that is easily customizable. And did you know? You can use pasta water to make a sauce, seriously.
For lunch today, I boiled the pasta and saved about half the pasta water, I placed the pasted in a pan then proceeded to mix in some butter, seasoning and cream cheese. I tossed the drained noodles back into this mixture and it provided a yummy and creamy sauce to enjoy with our noodles.
Highly Recommended Additional Items
The following items I use to season regularly, meaning several times a week. Cream cheese can be used to make creamy sauces. Chicken or vegetable base can be added in place of expensive sauce and boost the flavor of any meal. Soy sauce is great for many dishes, not just those that are Asian inspired. Mustard is another great condiment that is used to add a nice twang to dishes and, alternatively, on sandwiches.
Chicken or Vegetable Base (whether it is a stock, a cubed bouillon, or paste)
Recipes We’ve Tried:
If any of the recipe below do not contain a link it is because we did not use a recipe.