3-Week Healthy Meal Plan & Shopping List for COVID-19 Isolation
**UPDATE: As of 8am on 3/13, I am hearing multiple reports from friends that stores are already experiencing shortages of the foods I've prioritized on this list. Do not wait to buy the groceries you need for the next few weeks. Don't forget about Amazon Pantry for staple foods if you can't find them at the store (if they're still available!) And, as always, if you can't find something on this list, either substitute it for something similar or think critically about whether the recipe can still be made without it.
At the bottom of this post, you’ll find three pre-made meal plans for a 3-week isolation from COVID-19, or Coronavirus. If you're reading this early on Friday, 3/13, please continue to check back for updates as I am posting Week 1 and updating this post as I finish the other plans throughout the day.
I've given links to recipes and resources for getting the most out of one big shopping trip, to avoid the grocery store for as long as possible while we deal with this pandemic.
Before scrolling down to the plans, please read below for my advice on how to tackle your meal plan during the first week of isolation.
I firmly believe that meal planning for the first week of isolation should be no different than a normal weekly meal planning practice, in that you will start by taking inventory of your kitchen and planning meals that use up what you already have.
This is always a great practice, to eliminate food waste at home, but it is especially important now, when there’s already the extra budgetary expense of stocking up and concern for the new, fresh foods you buy for the next three weeks going bad before it gets used.
Taking inventory of your kitchen is essential to not letting that happen. Before you hit the grocery store with the meals and list below, please take 15 minutes to do this Post-it exercise, to come up with some ideas for how to use what you already have in the meals you eat first. This will save you the money you’d spend on an entirely new grocery list because your inventory will help shorten that list. This will also help you keep the good food you’ve already purchased from dying a sad and slow death in the back of the refrigerator (which is also a waste of money.)
So, we’ll get to the pre-done meal plans a little further in the post, but for the first week, follow these steps:
^ My Post-it inventory. Yes, I spelled Gritz with a "z". Don't ask.
15 Minute Post-it Inventory Exercise
Step 1: Set a timer for 15 minutes so you know you’re not dedicating a ton of your precious time to doing this. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in this short interval, if you focus and work quickly.
Step 2: Get a pad of post-its and a sharpie (don’t have Post ]-its? Use a notebook and do this brainstorm style, like in school.)
Step 3: Write down the ingredients you have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry on the Post-its. Each ingredient gets a new Post-it note. As you write the ingredients, stick the Post-its to the front of the fridge or a blank wall.
Tip: You are not making an exhaustive list of absolutely everything you have in your house. Just focus on the major ingredients that can be used to make meals.
Step 4: Begin to arrange groupings of ingredient Post-its as they coordinate to make up meals you’re familiar with.
Step 5: Write the names of the dishes you’re thinking about on new Post-its, and stick them in the middle of their corresponding ingredient groupings.
Once you’ve done this, you will have fast-tracked your Week 1 isolation meal plan and will have saved a substantial amount of money on groceries in the process. 15 minutes is worth it.
If you have trouble thinking of ways to use up the foods in your house -- if you don’t have a list of go-to meals at the front of your mind, or if ideas just don’t come easily to you -- I’ve created a resource called The 6 Foundational Dinners for my Meal Planning Mastered students, which I’ve decided to release to the public in the wake of this pandemic. These are plug-and-chug ways to use up any random bits in the fridge, and they’re all wonderful recipes to commit to mastery. Get the list here.
If you focus on using up what you have in meals, you will likely have a list of 3-4, (and possibly up to 8 or 9) meals, depending on your current kitchen stockpile.
Just in case your number is on the lower end, I’ve given a few more ideas to round out your meal plan for the first week in isolation.
In the following plans, you’ll find mostly dinners, and I suggest sticking with a combination of leftovers and gap-filling snacks for lunches. To read further about how to handle breakfast, lunch, and snacks during COVID-19 Isolation, click here.
How to Handle Breakfasts, Lunches, and Snacks During COVID-19 Isolation.
That all being said, I have added a few great lunch options to round out your lunch leftovers in each week’s meal plan below.
COVID-19 Isolation Meal Plan - Week 1
Take inventory of what you have.
Round out your ideas with the meals listed below.
1. Frittata and salad
Frittatas are a great way to use up any greens, veggies, or cheeses that might be starting to go bad in the fridge. That’s why I love to cook them at the beginning of the week or the very end of the week. So you’re either using up last week’s leftovers in the frittata at the start of this week, or you’re using all the leftovers from this week in the frittata at the end of the week.
If you have baby spinach, arugula, or kale that are a little too limp for salad, you can add it to the frittata. I like to serve frittatas with lightly dressed butter lettuce.
2. Buddha bowl
If it’s not already on your list from the 6 Foundational Dinners, definitely add a buddha bowl to your plan for the week because of how much it’ll help you later on. It can be built from any combination of roasted veggies, grains (I’d go with quinoa for this week, and you’ll see why later), beans, dip, and toppings. This is another great way to use up what you have OR an excuse to roast a ton of vegetables at once, for stretching into other meals throughout the week. If using a grain in your buddha bowl, you might as well cook more than you need of it, as well. Leftover rice and quinoa can be used in so many ways.
Does prepping vegetables sound like something you want to try? Watch this video on how to prep a week of vegetables in an afternoon.
3. Roasted vegetable Mezze Platter (could be great as lunch, too)
Dress your extra roasted vegetables from Buddha Bowl night lightly with vinegar, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt to liven them back up. Serve on a board with halved hard boiled eggs, nuts, olives, dips, and crackers. I’d also serve mine with sardines but I’m weird like that!
This soup is so quick and it’s always a crowd pleaser at my house. I like to add canned whole peeled tomatoes that I tear into chunks with my fingers.
Also makes great leftovers for lunch.
5. Quinoa Tacos
Not only can you use up your extra quinoa from Buddha bowl night, but the extra ingredients you buy for taco toppings will also be great in next week’s meals. Think: lime, cabbage for slaw, tomatoes for dicing (buy a package instead of just one tomato), cilantro, and avocados (buy a bag).
6. Upgraded Breakfast for Dinner
Avocado toast with scrambled eggs and sauerkraut (optional), Bacon, and fruit
7. Tomato toast
Spread slices of toasted french bread with mayo, top with tomato slices and season with salt and pepper.
Grocery List (remember this list is for dinner ingredients, only)
2 dozen eggs
1 pkg Carrots
1 pkg Celery
Your favorite vegetables for roasting: cauliflower, the carrots, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes, etc.
1 bag of avocados
1 bunch or bag of kale
Your favorite easy snacking nuts
Your favorite olives or pickles
Hummus, tzatziki, smoked fish dip, or your favorite
1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 package of tomatoes (or 3 slicing tomatoes)
French or Italian bread loaf
1 box of chicken or vegetable stock
1 lb of Italian sausage
1 can cannellini or great northern beans
1 lb bacon (or more, if you have a larger family)
Your family’s favorite berries, apples, grapes, etc for serving with breakfast for dinner
Taco shells or tortillas. I prefer soft corn for tacos, but use whatever you like
Tortilla chips (you might as well… you’ll have salsa left over. Or eat it on your eggs with refried beans like huevos rancheros!)
Spices: Cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, nutritional yeast (optional)