How to Prep Meals for a 14-Day Quarantine

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Men preparing meals in their kitchen
Dmytro Zinkevych /

With coronavirus cases on the rise again, you might be considering a preventive “self-quarantine” so you can avoid going into crowded public places like the grocery store for the next couple of weeks.

This could mean being prepared to not leave your house for a couple of weeks. You’ll need enough food for that entire time.

If you’ve never had to plan out meals for that long a stretch, this could be daunting. However, with a little advance preparation, you can have delicious and nutritious meals during a 14-day quarantine period.

Following are some guidelines to help you get ready.

Pick recipes everyone loves

This is not the time to experiment with new dishes or ingredients.

You want tried-and-true meals that get bellies full and keep everyone happy.

Planning out your meals is a great habit to get into at any time, quarantine or not, as I detail in “This Habit Saves Me Money and Stress All Week Long.

Use a calendar

The easiest way to plan meals is to start with a 14-day calendar. Under each day, write out breakfasts, lunch, dinner and snacks. Fill in each slot with a meal idea. For example, you can rotate eggs, cereal and oatmeal for breakfast.

Write out full meal ideas, for example: baked salmon with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes. Be as specific as possible for lunches and snacks, too.

Plan an extra meal each week. That gives you a fallback in case you decide what you have planned doesn’t sound good. You don’t have to stick to the letter of your meal plan. Move meals around to different days as necessary.

Or use a subscription meal kit like Blue Apron or HelloFresh to fill in on some of these days.

Use your meal plan to create a shopping list, and stick to it at the store. Remember to shop for every meal ingredient you need, including snacks and treats.

Plan meals around pantry ingredients

One key to planning meals for a long period is to rely on pantry ingredients, including canned goods, rice, pasta, and some fresh vegetables as well as frozen ones.

Other pantry staples include canned and dried beans, canned olives, honey, canned coconut milk, canned fruits and veggies, dried grains, dark chocolate, nuts and dried fruit.

Remember to include these “10 Foods That Should Always Be in Your Pantry or Fridge.”

In this category also belong fresh items that can be frozen. Also, include fresh foods with a longer shelf life, such as some fruits, cheese, meat and butter.

Other good choices for longer storage are carrots, onions, garlic, cabbage, hard squashes, yams, sweet potatoes, celery, lemons, oranges, beets and potatoes. Frozen fruits and vegetables are good to have on hand during a quarantine. They likely were frozen within hours of picking and last a long time.

Spices, herbs, oils and vinegars also store well and will make your dishes interesting.

Use up perishable ingredients first

When planning your meals, begin with recipes that use up perishable ingredients like kale, spinach, avocados, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, limes, lettuce and asparagus and delicate fresh fruits and berries. Also, use fresh herbs immediately as they wilt quickly.

Use this refrigerator and storage chart from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a guide on what to stock up on, how to store it and how long it will last.

Freeze fresh ingredients

Many people don’t realize that they can freeze fresh ingredients to be used later. Just prep the ingredient in the right portion for the meal you plan to use it for before freezing.

If you’re freezing meat, for instance, portion it into 1-pound or 1.5-pound packages so it’s ready to use in your next recipe. You can chop up onions and freeze them in 1-cup portions, which is about the size of one onion. Other things that freeze well are peppers, garlic and jalapenos.

You can freeze cheese (both block and shredded), butter, milk and whipping cream. Once frozen, they are best used for cooking, though, rather than eaten separately.

Don’t forget snacks and treats

Being stuck at home for 14 days can get old. Pick-me-ups and treats can help carry you through the rough patches.

If you enjoy baking, stock up on basics. Include flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, yeast and chocolate chips. This way you can always whip up your favorite baked treat to enjoy fresh out of the oven.

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