Most of us are suddenly spending a lot more time at home, trying to stay as safe as possible and minimize our exposure to COVID-19 (coronavirus). If you have children there is a good chance they are home while school is closed and you may be wondering how you will pass the time and feed your family three meals a day in the coming weeks (without getting a little stir crazy). If you are facing a potential loss of income, this can be particularly stressful. In my family, our overseas spring break trip had to go on hold and our local schools are now closed for the next two weeks. We have spent this past weekend indoors and my teenage boys are already grumpy. How can we manage all of the many challenges of a quarantine while trying to be positive and upbeat for our families? I would like to share some tips and favorite recipes I hope can be helpful as we face what seems like an unsettling next few weeks and months:
- Plan a “Help Yourself Breakfast.” The upside of no school is that kids may not need to get up so early. I remember the days when the kids were impossibly early risers, but as they get older parents may get a chance to grab a little extra sleep in the morning. If your kids are old enough, plan breakfasts that they can serve themselves. “Steel Cut Oatmeal and Apples” or our “Yummy Morning Muffins” are easy, healthy and don’t require prep in the morning. Get these ready the night before and let the kids help themselves while you take your time waking up!
- Make Food in Bulk. You may now have to serve more meals on the weekdays than usual with kids needing breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home. Leftovers are always a great strategy to lessen the cooking load and can keep you from having to come up with so many ideas. Make a “Bean Lasagna” or a big pot of Power Pasta with our “Meal-O-Matic” that the family can dig into for lunch or dinner the next day.
- Try more plant-based options: For so many reasons, plant-strong foods can be a perfect solution to feeding your family during a quarantine. First of all foods like lentils and beans are cheap. If you buy them dry they can be bought in bulk. They are also relatively nonperishable and help us limit trips to the grocery store. When we are home we may have a tendency to snack more, especially if we are not preparing hearty and filling meals. But lentils and beans are high in fiber which can keep you full between meals. Our “Lentils with Spinach” and “Quick Black Beans” are a favorite at my house and with some rice or quinoa, you can make these recipes really stretch.
- Make soups and stews work for you: A big pot of a hearty soup or stew can be a great way to feed your family a nutritious meal that will last a couple of days. Use cheap plant-based proteins in veggie-heavy stews or stretch out more expensive meats by using them sparingly for flavor. It’s easy to double or triple these recipes, and an instant pot or crockpot can take out a lot of the work. “Nimo’s Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew” and “Squash and Chickpea Stew with Greens” were a big hit when my kids were younger.
- Get the kids involved: During our usual busy times, it may feel easier to prepare quick meals on our own while kids are doing homework or doing other activities. While we have more time at home with our kids, try to bring them into the kitchen to share some family time. Even young kids can help wash veggies, tear leafy greens, or use a kid-safe puppy knife to chop veggies. Our “Kids Club” recipe tag has a lot of familiar recipes that even hesitant eaters may enjoy trying, especially after they have had a hand in making them.
So what about if you are tired of cooking? At this time, home-cooked food might be generally safer than outside food and won’t require you to leave home. However, if you feel the need to support your local economy and get the occasional take-out from a trusted restaurant (while taking a break from cooking), consider that takeout boxes could be a potential surface where one may contact viral particles. Once you are home transfer foods into your serving containers, discard take out boxes and wash hands thoroughly. Also, when you are choosing take out meals, cooked foods may be safer than uncooked foods.
Lastly, PLEASE take social distancing seriously. As a pediatrician, I have been putting together multiple new policies to help lessen the exposure of my patients and their families to the coronavirus in my office. I have multiple physician family members who will be taking care of the sickest patients within hospitals, and my physician and nurse colleagues, in general, are facing very uncertain times.
We all have a responsibility to do our best to flatten the curve, even if it feels difficult to be home and be away from our social networks. There are ways to pass the time and make social distancing feel more like coming together. Since I’m on vacation this week for spring break, in between writing new office procedures and looking for more masks and face shields for our staff, I’m enjoying some slower, more relaxed time than I’m used to. Yesterday I heard from my closest group of college friends who were all checking in on each other to see how each of us was doing. We had a wonderful text thread and I felt connected to them in a way that I haven’t felt in months. I may take these next few days to actually CALL (gasp!) some friends and go totally old school by having some wonderful catching up conversations. I have been enjoying worry-free workouts in the afternoon, rather than cramming them as I usually do into my typically busy mornings, and my dog Frida is happy to get some extended walks with me and the kids.
Let’s share some recipes and tips with each other to make the time pass. If your family tries one of our recipes from doctoryum.org, visit our facebook page and post a picture! And most importantly be safe and stay healthy. PLEASE check out all of the free resources including webinars and social media events and videos designed to help families to cooking during the pandemic. CLICK HERE to learn more.