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Friday, March 20, 2020

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers While Rationing Our Supplies

We're in week 3 of living off of February's stock-up. We're beginning to run out of some of the fruit that I bought, but otherwise, I think we're doing pretty well so far. As we've talked a bit about, here, I've been trying to use both the exciting and not-so-exciting foods in the meals that I prepare. So, some rice and bean meals as well as meat or cheese meals.

I haven't posted what we've had for weekly meals in a while, so in no particular order or with dates attached, here's what we've been eating since early in the month.

rice, vegetables, and beans mexi-style
 topped with cheese
cheesy tuna and tofu noodle casserole
fried homemade tortilla and bean tostado ,
 slaw on the side
potato and veggie curry topped with cheese,
green beans on the side
homemade flour tortilla chips, carrot sticks,
bean dip
frozen pizza (bought by daughter a while ago),
carrots and green beans
meatloaf and rice smothered with
tomato gravy and carrots
bean burgers topped with gravy made with
meatloaf drippings,
brown rice, frozen spinach and onions --
I began eating right away, I was so hungry!
bean and veggie tostado, green beans
lentil salad on Romaine leaves,
pasta and marinara, carrots
tuna, tofu, veggie, noodle casserole,
sweet & sour slaw
beans 'n' greens with brown rice, sweet & sour slaw

We're eating well, or so it feels. At dinner last night, my husband commented that the kitchen is well stocked. I told him to hold that thought for another 3 weeks and we'll see just how well stocked we are. Although these meals mostly look vegetarian, we do have meat in the freezer. We're just trying to ration it all out. 

I'm excited for this year's garden! I picked a bunch of watercress and sorrel from the garden yesterday. Watercress is the green from last night's dinner. I'll use the sorrel in a pesto for tonight's dinner. I also used garden kale this past week (not shown -- a veggie and lentil soup). I've been working in the garden preparing a larger spot for planting potatoes. The rhubarb is up, but it is so, so tiny still. I'm planning on making a lot of rhubarb jello this spring, as that's such a palatable, reduced-sugar way to use rhubarb. I planted the snow peas on Wednesday and covered that patch with a plastic tunnel row cover. I'm hoping the row cover will help heat the soil and give us snow peas earlier than usual. We shall see.

That's about it for recent meals. What's been on your menu? Are you going to try limiting grocery shopping during this pandemic, or do you feel comfortable with your usual shopping routine right now? While the virus is now in every US state and I think every Canadian province, I understand that this will affect each of us slightly differently. I pray for health and safety for all of us.

Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Your meals look delish! Excellent planning on your part. I think this crisis we're in will have re-evaluate how we spend and prepare, I know it has me thinking. As of last night my state (PA) required all non essential businesses to close. I'm an accountant, this is a nightmare for us but we'll weather through it together. I'm lucky for my and my families health - all else is miniscule.

    Sending positive vibes to you and your family and everyone here!


  2. Your meals look good, as always. We're still going in the stores but not as often. We had been able to go when there were very few people, but that's getting harder to do. Yesterday we went for fresh veggies and wore gloves in the store and wiped stuff down when we got home. My son went to the store at midnight recently and found a store empty of people.

    We are pretty well stocked for now, but we need to get a better plan to vary the meals. All of us still have to go into work and don't feel like cooking when we get home. A good plan will help with that, too.

  3. Shelby, I heard that your state shut down the highway rest areas, at the same time as the restaurants closed, and the all-important truckers trying to restock the stores have nowhere to stop/park. I'm sure that it reduces the risk of exposure to state employees who would have had to maintain them, and it'll reduce citizen's desire to travel... but I thought it was pretty wild to shut down that high a percentage of public bathrooms all at once when some people, like truckers, DO still really need to be out doing business. I think that I heard on the radio that our state just shut down the camping areas in state parks, but says that the trails and some other rec areas are open. I can't help but wonder if any of the sanitary services will be maintained at those or not? One wonders at the unintended consequences of some of the actions being taken. Sorry this hit during tax season for you!

    Lili, LOVE the photos, looks like lots of yummy meals. Like you, I'm rationing out the meat, since I do have quinoa and some good bean/grain combos for complete proteins. DH brought home more onions and potatoes and celery, two kinds of sausages, and some A2 milk (which seems to have an extremely loooooooong best-by period, compared to normal milk -- we have no idea why -- as well as being easily digested.) It was like Christmas, and my mind got all busy thinking of how best to maximize my use of these unexpected treasures. Isn't it wonderful how you can shift your expectations, and really appreciate little blessings like these?

    DH enjoyed his split pea soup, with some toasted buttered hot dog buns, last night -- his first real "pandemic rations" meal. :)

    Take care, everybody! SAra

  4. Sara, I've had the same thought about the public restrooms being closed. My brother and SIL returned home from FL yesterday and while they had a place to spend the night during the journey (their son is in southern Indiana), I've been wondering just what they did in terms of bathroom facilities along the way--I'm hoping some of the rest areas were open. I guess I don't know much about trucks--I know they have a sleeper cab in them but is there a toilet like what is in a travel trailer? (I'm giving my brother a day or two to catch his breath before I bother him with questions!).

    Lili, your meals look fantastic! I made a sweet and sour chicken recipe last night--it's what I refer to as a "4-burner meal" meaning lots of dishes afterwards, but since life is otherwise slow, it seemed a good time to do it! We are minimizing going to the grocery stores. My husband sometimes gets a wild hair (which he did yesterday morning) and will pop into the grocery store to pick up something--I'm trying to encourage him to minimize or eliminate these trips (although he did go super early in the morning, so, almost no people). Starting today, our local Meijer is limiting hours and is implementing specified times for either at-risk people to shop without others in the store (elderly, immunocompromised ... ) and they have specified a time for essential workers to shop (hospital employees, police, fire, etc.). I fully plan on taking advantage of that!

    Our hospital has, over the past week, tried to empty our hospital of as many patients as possible to be able to manage beds for Covid patients (surgeries like hip replacements, etc., are being rescheduled). Many outpatient service areas have also been temporarily closed. This has resulted in staff being reassigned--since I'm "resource" staff (read: substitute), there hasn't been much for me to do so I've been home (which is kinda nice). New procedures to keep staff and patients healthy are being implemented daily at the hospital. Not sure when I'll need to help out again so I'm hanging loose for the time being. I'm praying for my fellow co-workers for strength, hope, and peace as they work on the battle front (and for myself that, when I do return to work, I will get things right and not put anyone at risk!).

  5. Your meals look filling and delicious, Lili.

    I live in Michigan where Kris lives also and we are having more and more closures each day.

    I'm beginning to wonder if having a stockpile or a good stash of food isn't such a bad idea. I'd hate to think that in the next few weeks we can't get necessities like food. So I'm beginning to make sure to be cautious with what we have in the freezer and pantry and make the meals that I make last longer. I just feel like we might be heading in that direction.

    Not sure what to do with the parents. Should I visit them once in a while or just call. I feel bad if I don't visit especially today as it is their 61st anniversary. Hubby's mom decided not to come over for her weekly visit and dinner on Sunday. I feel bad for that too because it is the highlight of her week.

    I have gone to the grocery store once with week so we have absolutely been shopping much less. I bought evaporated canned milk if we ever are unable to buy fresh milk. I can make bread if we need to. But all in all we are still fairly well stocked up.


  6. Hey, Kris--

    As far as I know, based on friends who used to truck, most truckers only have a bed in their sleeper. Some might carry a separate porta-pot (like some people I know who camp in their vans/VWs, and most male truckers probably have a porta-john (not to be indelicate); but I don't think that there's room for a real camper/trailer toilet and black water tank. We travel a lot, and I've seen a few truckers with HUGE cabs. Maybe that was more than just a roomy bed for a husband and wife team, but I think that most truckers probably need access to a public loo at least sometimes.

    And since we're chatting about this, maybe you heard that truckers' mandatory rest hours had been cancelled by the President? I heard that, but I heard a couple of different truckers on the radio mention that that is only for "essential supplies" related to the emergency. I also got the impression that some trucking companies were hesitant to allow their drivers to drive longer without breaks, for liability reasons. So, long-haul truckers aren't just needing facilities for an 8-hour shift like most people. They sometimes have to stop for a longer rest before they can continue on their way.

    I'm glad to hear that your brother and SIL got home safely. Since gas stations are open, I assume most of their facilities are open. But we thought we might have to travel last week, and DH said if we had had to, we'd have taken our little motorhome, just so we could limit our interaction with folks/germs and not be caught without a place for a bathroom break. A widowed friend of mine is moving 400 miles between now and the end of the month (as soon as she can possibly get on the road); and her friends who were going to drive the U-Haul were forbidden to travel by their bosses (he would have made them self-quarantine when they got back.) Her plan now is to put her stuff in storage where she's selling her house, and just drive herself to where she's moving. But I worry about a woman in her 60s driving all that way under these conditions. She's very independent and has a lot of common sense; but it's a difficult and strange time!

    Best-- Sara

  7. Thanks, Sara, for your input. So many things to have to think about that we haven't had to before! I hadn't heard about lifting the mandatory rest hours--I hate that idea! Rested drivers are safer drivers and they are healthier, too--lack of sleep isn't good for the immune system. We all need to beef up our immune system these days!

    Alice, I, too, stocked up on canned milk. I might get even more next time I venture out. For now, we have a lot of meat in our freezer, as well as several loaves of bread, frozen veggies and fruits, but for the next few weeks I feel like we are ok--but like you, I'm starting to think that stocking up a bit more is a good idea. I plan on buying ahead on things like cat food and litter as well.

  8. Alice, I completely understand where you are coming from on visiting your parents. It's hard to know what the right thing is to do. I just got a text from a friend (who lives in GR, so, close to both of us) saying her niece is getting tested for covid and her niece visited her mom a week ago .... so .... hard as it is, I think it's best if you don't visit in person but instead find another way to stay in touch. Virtual hugs to you. So many of us are concerned for our elderly parents, both physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

  9. Hi Shelby,
    I hope this helps your situation as an accountant (I don't know if tax preparations are a large part of your business), but I did read that the tax deadline in the US is being extended. Hopefully that will help your situation out.
    Thank you. Wishing you and your family well through all of this, too, Shelby!

  10. Hi Live and Learn,
    I can understand the situation with being tired at the end of the day and still needing to cook dinner. Planning does help, especially if the plan includes lots of super easy meals.

    I'm glad you and your family are finding ways to shop and still stay safe. Before the panic buying from this virus, our stores closed around 11 PM and didn't open until 7 AM the next morning. Now, stores are closing earlier, so they can restock. This means that shoppers are in a condensed window of time, meaning even when shopping near closing time, stores still have a lot of people. I did hear that many stores are now offering "60+/special medical needs" shopping hours. However, I understand that even those hours have been extremely crowded. At some point, everyone's pantries will be saturated and the panic shopping will stop.

    have a good weekend, Live and Learn.

  11. Hi Sara,
    I'm glad your husband could bring home some groceries. Is your A2 milk ultra-pasteurized? The UP milk that I've seen in stores has sell-by dates that are way out there compared to other brands. Or perhaps, the milk he brought was just fresher. I've noticed differences in sell-by dates between different stores, as if some stores keep back-stock on hand at all times, so by the time the jug I buy makes it to the front, it's been sitting for a while.

    My attitude with meals now is the food just has to taste good. I can do that with budget meals like rice and beans as well as less-budget meals. Yum, split pea soup -- I wouldn't even put that in the category of "ration cooking." I'm sure your husband enjoyed the meal!

  12. Hi Kris,
    I've wondered about how this will impact your work. I know that many medical people are being cross-trained. Is this an option/possibility in your field? Stay safe. I'm glad that stores are offering special shopping times for medical personnel and first responders. I've been praying the God will guide all of our frontline people so that they will do the right things for themselves and the people they help.

  13. Hi Alice,
    I think a stockpile to last a month is sensible. I know our government has been saying to only buy a week's worth of food, but then they turn around and say don't go out. I am starting our garden early and doing things to get veggies growing sooner than usual. And I will make sure that we use every last bit of food that we have. Like this last week when I made meatloaf. I saved the fat and rinsed/scraped the pan with some water and saved that. The next day, I used the fat and rinsings/scrapings to make a gravy to top the bean burgers and rice.

    I hope you can come to a decision about in-person visits to your parents vs calls that works for them and you. Could you call them more often so they feel more connected? And the same with your husband's mom? I'm sure they realize their vulnerability with this virus.

    Alice, if anyone could improvise and have enough food in stock, I think it would be you. Worst case scenario with our supplies is we just don't have some foods (like milk or fresh fruit) for a brief period. We can survive that.

    Stay safe!

  14. Lili, chatting with you always makes me smarter! Yup, we've only been buying A2 milk for about 6 months, and thought about how long it stays fresh (even opened!); but hadn't looked into what it might be. Sure enough, it's ultra-pasteurized! Mystery solved! I've heard that pasteurization may remove some good things as well as bad things, so I imagine ultra-pasteurized takes out more. Still, it's so digestible, and whole milk gives you so many useful nutrients all in one easy package. Also, in a very small household, it's nice not to have to RUSH to use up a half-gallon of milk. :)

    We LOVE split pea soup. This version with salt pork rather than ham shank isn't as filling, but the flavor was excellent. And I'm half-joking about it being ration food, just because it was the first thing I made scraping together what was on-hand to make freezer "convenience" food for busy or sick days. Yesterday ended up a very busy day, so even at 8 p.m., the soup and buns as fast and easy and really hit the spot.

    Flavor really IS important in ANY cooking plan, but moreso in an emergency plan. That's why we always buy herbs and spices in bulk and try to keep a stash of taco sauce, Asian sauces, mustard, sugar sprinkles, etc. They really help make simple meals tastier. I feel so blessed to have that stock now. I have enough ingredients to make a lot of instant cocoa mix, too, which is a comforting thing in our cool weather. I also always keep a lot of varieties of herb and spice tea on-hand (some I even mix myself), because sometimes just a nice cup of aromatic tea can be a treat.

    Keep hanging in there, everybody! Sara

  15. Lili, thanks for your concern and prayers. Our health system's first priority is to keep "core" staff (full or part time) who suddenly have found themselves without patients to care for cross-trained and therefore able to continue working without having to use PTO. As a resource staff person, I don't receive benefits (except a 403B) so I am lower priority. I know this and we plan for it in our budget. That's where frugal living comes in handy--my paycheck is not reliable and so we don't plan on it to meet our daily needs. I received an email today from my director (for all resource staff) saying to be patient as she anticipates the need for us will increase in the weeks ahead. Frankly, I have mixed feelings on working--I want to support my team and I love patient care, but the social distancing makes me feel safer in terms of interacting with my family. Overall I have peace about the situation--this may change as things continue to evolve, but for now, no big concerns on my horizon.

  16. Lili, your meals look so yummy, as usual.

    I have to comment on the truckers not getting a rest period. I heard a trucker on the radio say that the trucking companies are not going along with that - the truckers are still being held to the same restrictions they've always had as far as driving hours.

    Jo Ann

  17. Lili, your "ration" meals look so delicious and nutritious. They are less defined than entrees of the Standard American Diet (SAD) but we know how unhealthy that regime is. My husband's urologist strongly advised my husband to avoid eating the SAD diet as one of the things he could do to avoid recurrence of cancer. I find the best antidote is eating our foods whole and with the least amount of preparation. It seems harsh and unrefined to eat this way but we got used to it. We have some favorites like burrito, pizza and spaghetti, and when we do eat meats it is usually slivered as an ingredient in a dish. But otherwise, we eat much more simply. We cut the tofu and eat as is, garnished and seasoned in our own plates. I love it plain without any added seasonings. Tossed salads are usually made simple too. I love cole slaw ingredients without any dressing, just a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for flavor. I love plain brown rice with beans, or adzuki beans with mochi rice, that kind of dishes without any seasonings but a sprinkle of salt in the cooking process. I find if the dishes are plain and simple, I am aware of what I'm eating in terms of nutrition and I tend not to overeat. Since we eat only two meals per day, we are eating less, rationing our foods, and losing weight. I understand it is good to fast, since it gives your body time to rest and repair. Just a side note, but I gained so much weight through the years being indulgent with my food choices. Now, being mindful, I've lost over 30 lbs in the past few years. I still have another 20 lbs to my normal weight. In times like today's pandemic, it also is a good immune saver.

    Have a good day,

  18. Hi Sara,
    Oh I totally agree on flavor being even more important when either rationing or during stressful periods. It's a small way to add a bright spot to a dismal day or simple food. I try to keep lots of spices and sauces on hand, too. You can make beans and rice a lot of different ways with several different spices or sauces!

  19. Hi Kris,
    I understand the safe feeling when just keeping everyone under one roof for the day. And for you, with the possibility of hospital work down the road, for now, you know that everyone is safe and well.

  20. Hi Jo Ann,
    Thank you.
    I'm glad to hear that trucking companies are keeping their drivers safe and maintaining rest periods.

  21. Hi YHF,
    Eating simply does help one eat appropriate amounts. I've had periods where I became accustomed to less salt or less sugar. Then eating commercially-prepared foods seem to taste overly salty or sweet.
    Congratulations on the weight loss! That's no easy feat. That could become one of the happy side effects of this virus for a lot of us.


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