Emergency Week Meal Plan


tomatoEver have one of those weeks? Every night has two obligations—soccer practice and a parent-teacher conference one night, a work dinner and your daughter’s band concert the next, a committee meeting and a trip to Urgent Care for a spider bite after that? Or perhaps an aging parent is in the hospital and requires every spare minute. Or your spouse had to go out of town for a last minute, unplanned business trip. Or everything–absolutely everything–exploded at work. Or…you know what I mean—one of THOSE weeks.  As a mom, even if you are having one of those weeks, kids still have to eat. YOU still have to eat.

During typical times, I try to make sure my family eats a reasonably healthy diet—one that is mostly home-cooked and limited in processed products, one that includes a fruit or vegetable at each meal, one that doesn’t include too much fast food or processed sugar. When one of THOSE weeks happens for us, my best laid plans go to heck. It usually means lunch consists of a granola bar and cheese stick that I throw toward the backseat of the van. It usually means that drive-thru becomes our go-to plan for dinner. Nearly always, it means I end up feeling sluggish and rundown, no one feels their best, and all of us are a little cranky and irritable. Yet in times of stress, it is even more important that our diet sustain our energy and health, even if especially if we don’t have the time or opportunity to make it happen.

I need a better plan.

Because I don’t do my best thinking in a crisis, I decided to write down some things that I know work for us so I don’t have to try to think on my feet or create a plan from scratch the next time we enter survival mode. It needs to be simple and fast, it needs to be nutritous, and it needs to serve us even if I am not the person in charge of gettig a meal on the table. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve even gotten to test out some of my Emergency Meal Plans so I can tell you what worked well. (Lucky me, huh?) Here are some of the ways I’ve been keeping us all fed and healthy when our schedule is all sorts of crazy. I hope you find some of them helpful when your life is all sorts of crazy too.

Sandwich fixings: Even a well-trained five-year-old can put together a sandwich for himself. That means mama can take a shower or return a phone call instead of make lunch. So, whatever your family likes for sandwiches, put it on your Emergency Grocery List. For us, that means some deli turkey or chicken, tortillas (because my kids prefer wraps to sandwiches, the little divas—sigh), cheese, lettuce, and if they are lucky, avocados.

Produce: We eat all sorts of fruits and vegetables here, but when I know we will need to have portable options, I keep it to things that don’t require peeling, cutting, condiments, or a napkin. These include pre-cut carrot sticks, grapes, bananas, and apples. I also include pre-cut and pre-washed greens, like kale, spinach, or lettuce. That way, I can throw together a quick salad for lunch or a side dish for dinner. I also add it to sandwiches or soup (like Ramen, see below) to squeeze in a little extra nutrition.

Snacks (especially those that can count as a meal in a pinch):

Hummus and pita chips. We can make a meal of this, along with some fruit.

Yogurt. Instead of the big tub of plain Greek yogurt I usually get, I get the individual serving size, flavored kind.

Good quality granola bars, like these. Why these? Duh, chocolate. Seriously, they are low in sugar, have some protein, and there’s chocolate. When I am stressed, chocolate is not optional, and these are a convenient, reasonably healthy way to get some without going overboard.

Peanut butter and celery sticks or graham crackers.

Nutella. Did I mention chocolate? Smear some on a tortilla, add banana slices, and everyone in the house will love you.

Eggs: Boil the whole dozen. Makes for a quick breakfast, an on-the-go snack, or a simple sandwich filling.

Ramen: Seriously, it’s not just for college students any more. Whip it up in minutes, and throw in some leftover chicken or ham. Or drizzle in a beaten egg for a simple egg drop soup. Or add some meatballs (from your freezer stash, see below) and a handful of greens from your salad fixings for a complete, comforting meal in under five minutes.

Freezer meals: I can’t say I have enough foresight to always have meals prepared and frozen in case of emergency, though that would be ideal. Still, I try to keep something in the freezer by simply doubling a recipe when I have the chance. We eat half and freeze half so a meal only takes as long as it takes to a heat up in the microwave or oven. Even better than a whole meal is a stash of individually wrapped, microwaveable meals so that everyone can have something nutritious and homemade even if we don’t all get to eat together.

My favorite freezer stash recipe right now is Cheesy Beef and Bean Burritos. They are a lot like the ones you can get in a bag in the freezer section of the grocery, except they are way yummier, and I know exactly what’s in them. I use one of my favorite slow cooker recipes for refried beans as the base, which by the way, is also a great thing to have on hand when time is short. You can find it at here, on the Budget Bytes blog: (Not) Refried Beans. IMPORTANT NOTE: Please soak your beans overnight before putting them in your slow cooker. I’m not sure why that isn’t part of the recipe, but it’s very, very important to soak your beans. Ask me how I know!

Cheesy Beef and Bean Burritos

½ a batch (or more to your preference) of (Not) Refried Beans

1 ½ lb ground beef, browned

1 packet low-sodium taco seasoning

1 8 oz block of cheddar cheese, shredded

tortillas (10-12 inches, approximately a dozen)

Brown beef in skillet. Add seasoning as directed on package. Allow to cool slightly. Stir together beans, meat, and cheese. Place about ½ cup of mixture on a tortilla and roll up, tucking in both ends to form a closed pocket. Place into a freezer bag in a single layer and freeze. To serve, heat on microwave safe plate on defrost setting for about 2 minutes, flipping over halfway through. Then heat 1-2 minutes on high until heated through. Serve with salsa, sour cream, or avocado as desired.

Some of my other favorite freezer meals are soup, baked spaghetti, chicken rice casserole, mac-n-cheese, Chinese dumplings (shu mai or pot stickers), meatballs (easy to serve on pasta or subs or add to soup), and quiche. Of course, we all love homemade, but there’s no shame in stocking up on these same items from the grocery, especially when you’d otherwise be eating something fried out of a takeout bag.

Lastly, train your people. Kids can cook. I said it before, but I will say it again–even a five-year-old can make a sandwich. When he was eight, my middle son started making simple dishes like scrambled eggs and grilled cheese. My oldest (12 years old) has been baking for a couple years and can now make cakes and cookies from scratch without supervision. I realize that this tip isn’t helpful if you are having one of those weeks right now, but when you have a chance to breathe, do consider spending a little time teaching everyone in your house some age-appropriate kitchen skills. (Maybe even your husband. HA!) You will be glad you did someday when you are able to have 15 minutes of quiet time to yourself while one of them makes you lunch.


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