Prioritizing family meals in a time of crisis
I have never thought so much about what I’m making for dinner as I have the last five days.
Each night at dinnertime, we have set the table with a tablecloth, pretty napkins and candles. We have passed plates of chicken and rice, spaghetti and fruit salad, homemade biscuits and candied bacon. Social distancing has allowed us more time to cook and to share meals together. It has shored up family time in an enormous way.
There is no delight in the tragedy and devastation of this virus. And while we are happy for more time with each other, we are mindful of those in hospitals, those who have lost their jobs and those who are isolated in homes and apartments around the world.
Food brings comfort. And the ritual of preparing a meal and sitting down to eat without watching the clock to make sure we’re not going to be late for soccer practice has brought peace during a time of chaos. I have little control over a global pandemic, but I can reassure my kids that we’re doing everything we can to stay safe. And I can make them grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
In these weeks to come, we can let food, exercise, play, art and reading bring us comfort.
Food, while comforting, can also cause feelings of worry and frustration. We’ve all seen some of the bare grocery store shelves and long checkout lines. By all accounts, there’s no need to “panic buy.” At this point, shelves are being restocked and food is plentiful. However, it is important to use our time and resources wisely, buying all that we’ll need to feed our families so that we can stay home as much as possible to prevent contact and exposure in the days and weeks to come.
This means buying a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses plus canned and frozen foods that will last much longer, in case it becomes more difficult to make a quick run to the store.
I rarely buy canned fruits and vegetables, but my pantry is now full of them. And there is reassurance in knowing that if I can’t get out to pick up fresh produce, my kids will still have the nutrition they need from canned peaches and canned green beans.
Tightening grocery budgets are also a reality for many. Using a combination of fresh and canned foods can be helpful.
And supporting our favorite local restaurants though curbside pickup or delivery is also an important consideration.
We’re all doing the best we can to make sure our kids have healthy meals, our spending isn’t excessive and that our restaurants are supported. It’s a lot. But setting the table is an anchor. And eating simple meals and playing with our kids will go a long way to making our families feel loved and whole during this unprecedented time.
Natalie Mikles is a mom of three. She writes about food, sharing recipes for busy families and picky eaters. She has been recognized for her food columns as well as features on families and issues affecting local children. She loves pizza and movie nights with her family.