What do you do when your kid’s safe foods are out of stock? How can you make sure your groceries are safe? How do we ration food without scaring the kids? What resources should I use or support to help food insecurity? We get into all of these pressing questions on this week’s podcast episode.
Feeding Your Family Now
Feeding our families right now is more challenging than usual for so many reasons. There’s the sheer reality of simply having to feed everyone every meal—when usually some of our kids at least would be in school or a parent would be at work. And then you add on empty grocery shelves, picky eaters who eat all of their favorite crackers and you have no way to get more, food insecurity, fears of bringing sickness home and more.
We wanted to help you sort through those issues and concerns with our question and answer episode this week. Let’s get into it!
What do I do when I can’t find my picky eater’s favorite foods?
“If you are crying in the bathroom while your kid eats Goldfish and watches Dora the Explorer, it’s okay,” says Katja Rowell, MD in a story Virginia wrote for the NYTimes, who was specifically talking about kids with more extreme picky eating issues. Stockpile their safe foods when you can and maybe also ask friends or family to help track them down. But if things run out, it’s okay to let them read while they eat or watch a show reduce the stress. Depending on your reality, you may need to change the normal way you approach food to help kids through it.
But for all of us, lowering the bar when it comes to meals and snacks is a good idea—especially if the food you usually buy is hard to find and/or you are trying to work at home and keep the kids occupied with school and activities.
Virginia shared that her daughter was completely attached to her iPad when she was in the hospital for most of 2016, and yet when they were home and back into normal life, it took not even a day to reset that behavior. So know that even if you change the way you handle food right now, it doesn’t mean it’s forever.
Plus, it would be unusual if your kids didn’t react in some way to the shift in their normal routine, so keep in mind that you may see things pop up as this goes on and it’s okay if they’re out of sorts at the table right now. Give them the power you can and try asking things like “What order do you want to eat these foods?”. “Which night do you want this pasta and which night should we have the rice?” Give them choices between the food you do have and maybe even the cooking and food prep.
TIP: There are still simple ways to help them try new foods even if you don’t have all of the options you usually do.
I keep hearing that the country has enough food, but the shelves in certain aisles are bare every time I go to the store. What gives?
There’s enough food in the country, it’s just that it’s having a hard time getting where it needs to be now with the new pressures on demand. There are temporary shortages on staples like bread, milk, eggs, and flour, but it shouldn’t be a forever issue. It’s of course stressful to have this happen weeks in a row and it can be a challenge to cook when you’re out of staples.
We’re hoping that as the current situation feels a little more normal as it goes on, people will panic buy less, stores will keep their quantity limits on high demand items in place, and the supply chain will catch up.
What are some good online ways to order groceries that actually have stock?
You can look to local farms or farms that can deliver. Restaurant and wholesale food distributors are offering options to individuals. Online companies like Schwan’s, Honeywell, ButcherBox, Imperfect Produce, King Arthur Flour, and others are options too—though many have been flooded with orders and have a short supply now too. You can still order takeout too!
Will my kid’s eating be ruined forever if they eat all of their favorite foods for weeks in a row?
Short answer: No. There is always the opportunity to introduce new habits and new foods, no matter what’s going on in life. And remember that they will likely want more variety in a week or two (or three) and you might need to help entice them to eat those favorite foods! Because if you do have favorite snacks on hand more often, it’s entirely possible that those favorites will lose some appeal and their obsession will decrease a little.
Do I need to worry about the safety about my groceries?
It seems like everyone posted videos or stories about food safety this past week and I know that I was incredibly anxious when I went to the store last weekend. This NYTimes story has great (and sane) info about how to shop safely, what precautions to take, and what not to worry about. Give it a read (and maybe skip the viral videos flying around social media).
What’s the best way to stretch food without scaring the kids?
People are trying to stretch trips to the grocery store, so you may be running out of things before you can get back to the store. I think we’re all facing that reality, but that’s different than actually running out of food. Talking to the kids about what you have an don’t have and involve them in the meal planning to help them feel like they have a say in what they get to eat.
Portion out any remaining bits of snacks into small snack containers, which always makes the food more fun to my kids!
Let them help you decide what to make with the food you have. Look through a cookbook together or search online for a specific ingredient and decide what to cook. Let them choose between two or three veggies and let them get excited about aspects of the meal—which might give you more energy to cook too!
You can also set one night of the week for the kids to decide what they want for dinner (from the options you have). And then you can decide what to eat for your own meal to have a break from meals that have to please everyone and it’s a fun way for the kids to have more power over their plate. (Pancakes for dinner is a fun kid meal!)
How can we eat with awareness of the food we have on hand and not feel like we’re restricting food access (to the kids or to us)?
If you have an eating disorder history and this food scarcity and increased focus is bringing up issues for you, know that you’re not alone. Or if you’re just feeling more emotional about food, that is normal too. Have compassion for yourself and remember that food can provide comfort and that is an okay thing. Do what you can with the coping strategies you have and remember that this is in fact an incredibly stressful situation.
Your body may change during this time because it’s incredibly stressful. And like any other time of the year, your body size is the least interesting thing about you.
What’s the best way to help other families dealing with food insecurity?
Donate money to your local food bank. Better yet, set up a plan to donate monthly since more people will likely need more help for a long time. You can also help to spread the word about the food available from your public school (most are feeding area kids breakfast and lunch regardless of whether they’re enrolled in the school), donate to No Kid Hungry or another local organization helping to provide food to people in need, and check in with friends or families who you know have lost employment and may be needing a little extra help.
Links from the Episode
Eating Disorder Support: These accounts are great resources if you need some support with your own eating right now.
Here’s a link to my post on helping to reduce food waste in kids.
Mystery Recipe is a fun new podcast that my kids have been loving and I love that they’re learning about food and science!
Feeding Your Family
Our new e-book takes you through 8 concepts that will form the foundation of your understanding of how to feed kids and give you a firm starting point for improving mealtimes in your house. We’re here to reassure and inspire. We’re here to remind you that you’re doing a good job. We’re here to let you know that you’re not alone in the daily challenge of feeding your family. We’re here to help.
Get your copy of Feeding Your Family The Comfort Food Way here.