A Quick Meal Plan Guide for Busy Home Cooks


Did you stock up on your pantry? If so, what staples do you have? I have a knack for storing food so I stocked up on food which is good for 3 months — only if my boys don’t raid the supplies. I even kept an inventory of the supplies and threatened to lock the pantry AND fridge if they sneak out even 1 jar of Nutella. That stopped them LOL! Anyway, I did my best and came up with a weekly meal plan based on the supplies, just to make sure that nothing goes to waste and that we don’t need to restock in the next month or so.

Meal Plan Essentials

If you are planning to restock your supplies any time soon, I suggest you list down all the necessary items that you need. Best if you also categorize them, for example: toiletries, cleaning supplies, frozen food, etc. It would also help to list down how long they last so you don’t have to hoard on one specific item that you can use for a month, i.e. conditioner.

To help you out with your meal plan essentials, here are some food that you can stock for a long period of time:

1.  Rice – White rice can last for 4 to 5 years in the pantry. Brown rice has a shorter shelf life which is 8 months. However, if kept in the freezer it can last forever. Stock up on rice based on your family’s average consumption. Since all members will be at home for most of the day, it would be best to cook only what you can finish. This would also help you manage your family’s diet.

2. Oats – Oats are not just for breakfast, you can also use them for cookies, bread, and even as an extender for ground beef. Surprised? Add 1 cup per pound of meat. Quick cooking oats can last up to 3 years from the best by date, while instant oats can last up to 2 years. Since you will have minimal physical activity, oats will be beneficial to your diet as it is heart-healthy and will give you energy, too.

3. Pasta – Dried pasta can last up to 2 years and is a versatile ingredient. You can use it as a main dish or with soup. It is easy to cook, too!

4. Peanut Butter – Yes, that creamy peanut butter that Joe Black loves can last up to a year, unopened. However, once you open it, it will only last up to 3 months in the fridge. Natural peanut butter has a shorter life span which is 6 months when refrigerated. Peanut butter is rich in protein and is not only good as spread but also for cookies, smoothies, and Thai-style dishes.

5. Potatoes – Rich in potassium, fiber, Vitamin C and B6, potatoes are very nutritious and helps decrease cholesterol in the body. Potatoes are also versatile – you can add them to dishes, in soups, or bake them and have them for snacks or as a meal. Place them in a cardboard box, basket or paper bag and store in a cool, dark, humid place and they will last for 6 months.

6. Carrots – Carrots can last up to 5 weeks if you store them properly. Remove the carrot tops (they pull out moisture), place them in a brown bag, and store them in your fridge’s vegetable bin. You can use them for snacks as carrot sticks, or use them for soups, salads, and dishes.

7. Beans and Legumes – These are healthier alternatives to meat and are a good source of fiber, protein and minerals. Canned or dried, they can last up to a year when stored properly.

8. Apples – “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” That’s why you should never lose this versatile fruit in your pantry. Wrap the apples in kraft paper or newspaper and store them in a cool, dark place, away from other vegetables. Apples give off ethylene gas which spreads decay of other produce. That is why it is important to wrap them to keep them apart. Best to keep them in the fridge or if the temperature is 30-35 degrees F. Make sure to check them because they ripen even in storage. Large apples spoil first, so don’t apply the rule to save the best for last. When an apple goes soft but is not decaying, use them as applesauce.

9. Flour – All-purpose flour can last up to 8 months while whole wheat flour can last up to 6 months. Keep them in the freezer if you want to extend the shelf life. Just make sure to thaw before using it. Flour is great for baking bread, such as sourdough bread, cookies, cupcakes, and even to thicken soups.

10. Frozen veggies – These last longer than fresh ones so don’t be afraid to stock up on peas and spinach. Frozen carrots, beats, asparagus, cauliflower, celery, wax beans, cooked mushrooms, and cooked pumpkin can last up to a year. Zucchini, summer squash, corn, and blanched leafy vegetables can last up to 8 months. Avocados can last up to 5 months when frozen.

How to Plan your Meals

Since you already have your ingredients lined up, it’s time to create a plan of action. Since you’ll mostly be home, you will have a lot of time cooking. However, there may be days that you just want to take it easy.

Here’s a sample meal plan for a week:

BreakfastPancakesEggs Benedict, toast and avocadosOats with bananasBacon and egg muffinsCereal with fresh fruits and milkHash browns and baconWaffles with fruits
LunchRoast chicken with carrots and potatoes5-ingredient Spicy PorkChili Beans (canned beans and ground beef)Korean Ground BeefAsian Chicken CurryRoast PorkTuna pasta
SnacksBaked potato friesGarlic Parmesan EggplantEgg sandwichCarrot sticks and apples with peanut butterBaked Sweet Potato FriesFruit Cups or Trail MixTuna sandwiches
DinnerChicken fried rice (using leftover chicken)Sauteed leftover spicy pork with cabbageSpaghetti with tomatoes and basilOne-pan chicken with veggiesSpaghetti with Fried EggsPulled Pork TacosTeriyaki Sauce chicken wings

I hope this helps! Remember, try to stay at home as much as you can. Feel free to share these meal plan tips with family and friends, too! Keep safe, everyone!


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