Covid Cooking During the School Week

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 19. Aug. 2020

Cooking for the family has been hard enough this summer, with covid upending traditional schedules and kids and parents suddenly spending most of their days at home. And now that schools are beginning to open for the fall, many of them online, preparing healthy lunches and dinners might sound like an even more onerous task. However with the right prep and foresight, keeping your homebound family fed during the school week can be way easier than you think. In fact, it might be fun. Check out our tips for quick weekday eating in the time of covid below.

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1. Meal prep is your friend.

If you’ve never given meal prepping a try, there’s no better time than the present. Cooking up a large batch of ingredients on Sunday night to eat throughout the week has long been a secret weapon for working fathers and mothers, and in the time of covid is simply a must-do. You’ll save tons of time, some money, and ultimately end up with a range of potential meals that can be eaten throughout the week, allowing everyone in the family to prepare their meals to taste and even experiment with flavors and ingredients.

Quantities and dishes will vary based on how big your family is, whether they’ll be eating lunch and dinner at home, and of course your family’s personal tastes. However as a general rule, we recommend a prep list that includes:

  • Two main proteins such as chicken, steak, tofu, cooked in mild seasonings  (sauces/condiments can be added later to give each meal variety)
  • Three separate vegetable dishes such as broccoli, carrots or vegetable mixtures, either roasted, grilled or steamed in mild seasonings
  • One large portion of grains such as brown rice, quinoa or pasta
  • One large portion of chopped, washed mixed greens for salads
  • Variety of sauces (teriyaki sauce, marinara sauce, etc.) and salad dressings to individualize each meal

Prep shouldn’t take more than a couple hours based on your cooking technique used, and we always suggest doing your prep on Sunday night. It’s a great way to wind down from the weekend and ready yourself for the upcoming week. Try involving your kids as well with some of the easier tasks like chopping vegetables or organizing each dish. It’s a great way for them to pick up simple cooking skills and become more engaged with what they’re eating.

2. Up your breakfast game.

With school and work commutes now a thing of the past, not to mention most of the rest of our morning routines, families have suddenly found themselves with an extra hour or two in the mornings. And while it might be tempting to spend that time getting in another hour of sleep or shooting off emails before your work day officially starts, may we humbly suggest another option: eat an actual breakfast. This is a jarring concept, we know. In most pre-covid households, breakfast is an afterthought at best, a bowl of cereal or granola bar quickly scarfed down on the way to the office, or entirely skipped altogether. However nutritionists have long preached of the importance of eating a good breakfast; studies show that getting a shot of nutrients first thing in the morning means greater concentration and energy for hours, a quicker metabolism and ultimately healthier choices throughout the day. In fact, people who eat breakfast tend to weigh less than those you don’t.

Taking just half an hour in the morning to prepare a healthy breakfast for you and your family will pay dividends throughout the day and farther, teaching your children of the importance of making time for healthy eating in the morning. And it doesn’t have to be complicated-- this Vegetable Omelet comes togeher in just a few minutes and is packed with protein and antioxidants, while this Smoked Salmon Tartine relies on just a few store-bought ingredients and provides omega-3 fatty acids, energizing whole grains and powerful protein.

3. Stock up on healthy snacks.

For many kids, this year will be the first time their school day doesn’t have a strict eating schedule. At school, kids can only eat at certain times, and can only eat certain things-- either what they’ve packed, or what they can buy from a small menu of concessions and cafeteria meals. However this year, kids will have unfettered access to the refrigerator all day, which has certain benefits but could also open the door to unhealthy snacking patterns or poor food choices. Bypass the issue by doing a cleanse of your pantry, throwing out the sugar-rich and empty-carb snacks that are sure to tempt your teen and stocking up on healthier snacking alternatives that will actually boost your children’s energy and concentration, instead of giving them a sugar crash. Our Sesame Energy Balls and Parsnip and Sweet Potato Chips are both great options. 

4. Acknowledge times have changed while trying to keep to your old schedule.

Even if you’re spending all day with your family, it’s important to sit down to a family meal when you can. Studies have shown that routinely eating dinner together strengthens the bonds between family members, generating a sense of comfort that is even more necessary today than ever. For many families, enjoying a meal together at the end of the day is a rare chance to enjoy a sense of normalcy. While schedules and temperments might now allow for eating together every night, make sure to set aside a few nights a week for the whole family to eat together, even if it seems silly after a whole day spent in close quarters. If you can, try to keep to your pre-covid dinner schedule as much as you can. If your family usually ate dinner together most nights, try to do so during quarantine as well. If you only ate together one night a week, designate a special night to do so now. Of course, while it’s important to retain a sense of normalcy, be sensitive to the fact that schedules and emotions will require some flexibility. Family members might require more alone time than they did before; respect this when you can, while doing the work to make time to come together.

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