Here in the south, we've had several surprise emergencies where we had to hunker down at home for a few days as a hurricane passed through or a bit of snow shut down the entire city.
I'm no stranger to being unexpectedly housebound but now that the coronavirus is causing the CDC to warn everyone to prepare for a two week quarantine, my emergency meal planning skills are really being put to the test.
Emergency meal plans can be complicated to plan for. Depending on the cause of the emergency you may or may not have electricity.
You don't want to rely on frozen/refrigerated foods and the ability to cook with an oven/stovetop if you're dealing with a hurricane or ice storm which can affect the power grid and cause outages.
However, since the coronavirus (or regular cold and flu season) shouldn't impact electricity, this meal plan was significantly easier to compile.
I still included several items that don't require electricity so you can prepare for hurricanes but the rest of the list is perfect for a snow emergency or surprise quarantine for any cold and flu season where electricity will still be running.
Honestly, you never know when your family might get really sick. It's just a good idea to have even a few of these on hand just in case every season.
How to stock supplies for a two week pantry meal plan in case of emergency:
Winter storms come every year. Cold and flu season come every year. Neither of these situations should be a surprise to you. It is just smart to spend a little time prepping your home for an unplanned period of quarantine.
If you add just one or two items to your emergency stash every grocery trip for a few weeks, you'll be prepped and ready for anything that comes your way without having a huge expense hit you out of nowhere.
For a two week quarantine, I planned:
- 7 breakfasts
- 7 lunches,
- 9 dinners
You can repeat each meal idea as needed to get you through the emergency. Many of these recipes will leave you leftovers so you can absolutely stretch this out as long as you need.
RELATED: My friend Stephanie lives in the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Be sure to read her safety tips for your kids here.
Breakfast recipes to store for an emergency:
- Eggs & toast: Eat these earlier during the quarantine before the bread goes bad.
- Pumpkin bread: My favorite pumpkin bread recipe makes 3 loaves that freeze well. Enjoy one when you bake them and freeze the other two for an easy breakfast during an emergency.
- Pancakes: These easily freeze flat so they take up less space and can be reheated in the toaster. By making them ahead of time and freezing them, you won't need milk to make the batter.
- Protein smoothies: Prepare some smoothie kits with yogurt or milk frozen in ice cubes. This will help get some much-needed fruit into your kids' diet, a little protein into everyone, and reduce your need for fresh milk. Here is a great post with three protein smoothie recipes to get you started.
- Oatmeal with nuts & coconut: The perfect pantry-stable breakfast. Keep a variety of oatmeal packets on hand or better yet, a big container of rolled oats. Top your bowl with shredded coconut and chopped nuts for protein.
- Breakfast burritos: Filled with protein and veggies, this warm breakfast can be heated up in your microwave. This breakfast burrito recipe makes a great big batch for the freezer.
- Cereal and milk: Cereal is often the kids' favorite but it will make you blow through your milk supply really quickly. Dole this out slowly and encourage the other items on the list first.
Easy pantry lunch recipes to keep on hand for emergencies:
- PB&J: Perfect for a pantry-stable lunch in an emergency. Eat this early on to use up fresh bread before it goes bad.
- Tomato soup & grilled cheese: You can keep a few packages of tomato soup in the pantry for this comfort food lunch. If you run out of bread, try dipping a cheese quesadilla in it instead of the sandwich.
- Chicken quesadillas with salsa: Freeze some shredded chicken and you'll be able to make simple quesadillas in a pinch.
- Mac & Cheese: This will use up quite a bit of milk, but if it is close to expiration this is a great lunch for the whole family.
- Apples, cheese, sausage, and crackers: Chop up bits of whatever you've got in the fridge for a nibble plate.
- Chicken soup and crackers: Use boxed chicken stock, frozen shredded chicken, a bag of mixed veggies, and some pasta for a down and dirty chicken soup that will still taste a LOT better than anything that came from a can with a fraction of the sodium.
- Tuscan chicken soup: This tomato-based chicken soup recipe is a classic reader favorite here. You can make it entirely with things from your pantry if you plan well, including a shredded rotisserie chicken.
RELATED: You can find our favorite homemade mac & cheese, veggie chicken soup, quesadillas, and homemade tomato soup recipes in The Ultimate Kids' Cookbook.
You can buy the Kindle version here if you don't have time to wait for an Amazon delivery.
Healthy dinners you can make with just pantry or frozen ingredients:
- Pasta with jarred tomato sauce and meatballs: Using frozen meatballs makes this a super-simple pantry dinner.
- Pesto noodles with frozen veggies: For variety, keep a jar of pesto in the fridge. You can mix and match a frozen protein of your choice or cherry tomatoes on top if you have any.
- Chicken fried rice: One of my favorite pantry meals, you can make it with or without the chicken if you don't have any on hand. Get our favorite chicken fried rice recipe here.
- Mojo chicken tacos with Mexican rice: Prep the chicken in the marinade and keep it in your freezer for fresh-tasting tacos in an emergency. Get the mojo marinade recipe here and our favorite Mexican rice side dish recipe here.
- Shrimp scampi: Thaw your frozen shrimp before cooking this or they'll make your dish too watery. Follow our tips here. I always keep lemons on hand for this recipe in particular.
- Skillet potatoes, peppers & onions, scrambled eggs: This can be used for breakfast or dinner. Eggs are such an easy protein to make and take up so little room in your fridge. Dice some potatoes and saute them in oil with some peppers & onions or whatever veggies you have.
- Ramen beef stir fry: Stash a pound of ground beef or ground turkey in your freezer for this simple pantry dish. Get the stir fry recipe here.
- Frozen pizza: You'll be doing a lot of cooking while stuck at home, give yourself a break with a couple of pizzas just in case.
- Frozen fish (cod, mahi, salmon) with rice and veggies: Keep a box of your favorite fish in the freezer. Serve it with a bag of frozen veggies and your favorite rice. My kids go nuts over Rice-a-Roni but any rice side dish will do.
Need more dinner ideas?
I've added even more easy pantry recipes for you to get inspiration:
- Easy pantry recipes for dinner using ingredients you already have on hand
- Easy pasta recipes using pantry ingredients you have on hand
- Easy rice recipes using things from your pantry you have on hand right now
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Emergency snacks and treats to keep on hand:
Just because your family is in quarantine doesn't mean you have to suffer. Keep a few of these tasty snacks and treats on hand, they are great for lightening the mood for the kids.
- Chex Mix: We love this Honey Sriracha Chex mix recipe.
- Chips & Salsa
- Mixed nuts
- Trail mix
- Applesauce pouches
- Granola bars
- Fruit cups
- Boxed chocolate milk
- Sugar cookies: Decorating them can take time and is a super-fun activity to keep the kids busy. Keep a batch of dough in the freezer if you want to prepare, otherwise the recipe is easy enough to make with simple things from your pantry. Check out the hurricane cookies we made a couple years ago.
- S'mores: The perfect pantry-stable dessert. You can even make these on the grill if you're out of electricity.
- Birthday cake kit: Birthdays happen with or without a snow storm on schedule. Keep a simple box cake mix, a can of frosting, and some candles in your emergency kit just in case you still have a special day to celebrate while you're stuck at home.
Items you should freeze in order to make these emergency recipes:
To make the most out of the space in your refrigerator and freezer, I highly recommend keeping these items neatly stored in the freezer:
- Cheese: freeze your cheese in blocks to save space. You can thaw it on the counter for a couple hours or overnight in the fridge. Then shred it with a box grater or food processor before using.
- Meatballs: There are several varieties of frozen meatballs at the grocery store, or you can prep your own.
- Ground Beef, Ground Turkey: Store a pound of each in the freezer, they thaw better than other cuts.
- Onion-pepper veggie mix: If you're not in the habit of keeping onions and peppers on hand like I am, you can purchase the mix in the frozen section of the store.
- Broccoli: Dark green veggies are crucial for keeping healthy, keep several bags in the freezer.
- Assorted veggie bags: Corn, peas, mixed veggies bags, whatever your family likes. Have several ready to go.
- Assorted frozen fruit: Strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and cherries are perfect for smoothies or putting in a pie with a frozen pie crust, it's a great way to get some fruit into the kids during an emergency.
Items you can make ahead to store in your freezer for an emergency:
Many of these are available premade from the grocery store, but you can save money if you make them yourself.
- Pancakes: Just double the batter the next time you make them for your family and freeze half of them for later.
- Breakfast Burritos: Set up an assembly line and you'll have these frozen burritos ready to go in no time. Get the recipe here.
- Pumpkin Bread: This recipe makes three loaves, enjoy one when you bake them and freeze the other two. Get the recipe here.
- Meatballs: Make your own so you can control the seasonings and flavor.
- Smoothie kits: Mix and match your favorite flavors, freeze the fruit juice, yogurt and/or milk in ice cube trays to cut down on your need for fresh dairy. Get several recipes here.
- Marinated meat kits: Don't stare at random frozen meats and wonder what to do with it. Have a plan for them before they go into the freezer. Just mix a quick marinade and the meat will be nice and tender when you pull it out to cook. By freezing the marinade with the meat, you have one less thing to store in your pantry. Check out our favorite marinade recipes here.
Always have a big stock of these items on hand for fresh-tasting food:
These items help you make fresh-tasting food but have a long shelf life.
When you run through about half of your current supply, simply restock. The goal is to just never run completely out.
The baking essentials on the list will help you to make fresh bread, cookies, or other things from scratch as needed. Baking with the kids will give you something to do together during a long stretch at home and provide fresh food you will be craving after all the pantry meals.
- jarred minced garlic
- baking powder/soda
- canola oil
- olive oil
- peanut butter
- milk (buy organic, it lasts so much longer, the milk I bought this morning is good for the next 4 weeks)
Hide these from the kids! Shelf-stable items for an emergency bin:
Ok, let's be honest. If you're in charge of stocking your pantry, you know that these items tend to be opened and snacked on by family when you're not looking!
We know it is highly unlikely the kids will touch a can of fruit or tomato sauce while rummaging around in your pantry for a snack so you're totally safe storing those kind of items with your regular food stores.
But, it is just a good idea to have a secret hidden supply of the more popular things your family enjoys to pull out in a true emergency:
- Crackers (salty + graham crackers)
- Granola bars
- Trail Mix
- Jar of Nutella & Nut butter of choice
- Juice pouches/boxes
- Shelf-stable juices (cranberry, apple)
- Birthday kit (boxed cake mix, jar of frosting, box of candles)