I have to admit, “quarantine cooking” doesn’t look much different than my regular cooking, because I was already in the habit of doing just one big grocery shopping haul at the beginning of every month with minimal (2, maybe 3) very small grocery trips in between for things like milk and produce (where I try to spend only around $20 or so).
Because that’s been our habit and because I try to keep our grocery budget as low as possible anyway for our family of 5 (around $450 a month for all our groceries and household goods, including diapers for two kids), I’m used to getting a bit, uh, creative in my meals the last week of the month before I do my big grocery trip again. (I will note that my grocery budget has had to increase the past couple months, just because stores aren’t running as many sales as they usually do and because I’m often having to make expensive substitutions depending on what’s in stock. As a result, instead of spending the usual $450ish a month, I’m spending more like $550.)
Below, you’ll find five of the lunches I made last week for the kids, as well as general notes about what actually was eaten by them both.
Drink Note: Because my grocery trips are so limited, we often just have the kids drink water with their lunches, unless we’re trying to use up the milk quickly before it expires. Otherwise, we save it for certain dinners (think: “spicier” fare like enchiladas or things involving something like peanut butter), cereal, or with the occasional snack. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, and it honestly just depends on how long I need to make the milk stretch, but there you have it.
On to the lunches!
- Lunch #1: deli turkey + melted cheese quesadillas, sliced apples
- (preschooler ate all of it + one of these pumpkin chocolate chip muffins + Gogurt, toddler ate about one-third of the quesadillas + all the apples)
- Lunch #2: eggs-in-a-hole, sliced oranges, steamed broccoli
- Have you ever made eggs-in-a-hole? My kids love them! You just use a cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass to cut a hole/shape out of a piece of bread, then put the hole-y bread on a hot skillet that has a little butter melted on it. Crack an egg in the hole (my kids like their yolks cooked through, which means I have to break the yolk; otherwise, leave it intact), and cook on medium heat, flipping once to make sure both sides get toasted and the egg gets cooked through. Season with a little salt and pepper and a bit of cheese if you want (while the bread is still on the skillet, so it melts).
- (Preschooler ate all of it, plus a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Toddler pretty much ate all of it (minus a tiny part of the crust) and then had a double portion of broccoli because he loves it, plus half of a cookie.
- Lunch #3: homemade mac + cheese with peas, applesauce pouch
- We’ve been making this homemade mac + cheese recipe for years, to the point where our kids are suspicious of the boxed stuff whenever they encounter it.
- (Preschooler ate the vast majority of the pasta + peas and all of the pouch, and the toddler ate about two-thirds of his bowl of mac + cheese and all his pouch)
- Lunch #4: peanut butter + jelly sandwiches, canned peaches, graham crackers + frosting
- (Preschooler ate everything, plus another full graham cracker with milk + string cheese; toddler ate 2/3 of his sandwich, all of his peaches, and most of the crackers)
- Lunch #5: avocado + egg salad open-faced sandwiches, apples and peanut butter
- I realize that not everyone is going to have avocados at the end of the month, but we typically buy two bags (of five) of them at Sam’s Club on my first-of-the-month shopping trip and then store them in the fridge, so we usually always have one or two left even when there’s hardly any other food around. We also have chickens, hence the reason why eggs are something we usually have in stock. This avocado-and-egg salad is just 2-3 hard-boiled eggs mashed up with an avocado and a heaping spoonful of Miracle Whip or mayo, as well as some salt and pepper and ground mustard, to taste. Our kids LOVE it!
- (Preschooler ate everything + string cheese; Toddler ate everything + string cheese)
It used to be that our toddler was the one who would clean his plate and ask for more, but lately our preschooler seems to be going through a growth spurt and has been eating a TON (for her, anyway).
We don’t really do snacks (like, hardly at all), so our kids tend to eat really well at meals since they know it has to last them for awhile. This is totally how I ate as a kid, and it was a concept that I also came across in French Kids Eat Everything (aff link), and I think it’s one reason why our kids are pretty good eaters in general. If you find that your kids tend to pick at their meals and not eat a lot of what you make for them there, try weaning them off snacks–you might be surprised what they suddenly develop a taste for!
How are you making things stretch at your house? And what are some of your go-to quarantine lunches? I would love some more ideas!