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Today is Day 35 of mostly sheltering in place on the 15th floor of a large apartment complex in Dallas. Even with four takeout meals, I have prepared more than 100 meals at home alone in the kitchen.

On Wednesday, March 18, I flew to Dallas with my son in time for takeout Whataburgers for lunch. The trunk of my daughter-in-law’s car was stuffed with full grocery bags to stock my kitchen as I readied myself for social distancing. That evening I roasted chicken thighs, new potatoes and baby spinach in a sheet pan and served antipasto to accompany my meal. My goal was to find ways to prepare three simple but good meals a day.

It hasn’t worked out quite like I expected. I arrived with my three favorite cookbooks for easy, weeknight cooking and printouts of recipes from NYTimes Cooking that I wanted to try. I thought I could plan a week’s worth of meals and grocery shop accordingly. I didn’t count on the rush on groceries, hoarding and empty shelves, let alone the risks involved in shopping.

The reality is that I stare inside my refrigerator to see what I have on hand to make a meal from. The photo above is of yesterday’s lunch, starting with an old flour tortilla that I baked in a low oven for several hours to crisp up, topped with canned refried beans, chicken carved from a leftover thigh, a half avocado from breakfast and nine-day old cherry tomatoes and spinach.

Never have I paid so much attention to expiration dates. I have kept a food journal. Perhaps some of my improvisations will inspire you to get creative as we all try making do with what we have on hand.

Week 1
Day 1:

Breakfast: mushrooms and sausage on multigrain toast topped with goat cheese crumbles and a “fried” egg

Lunch: spinach salad with antipasto, tomatoes, sliced roasted chicken thigh, pine nuts and goat cheese crumbles tossed with Balsamic vinegar

Dinner: my favorite sheet-pan meal—Italian sausage link with sweet potato fries and roasted grapes

Day 2:

Breakfast: “taquito” omelet filled with a mixture of new potatoes, bacon, spinach, Pace’s picante sauce and grated Mexican cheese

Lunch: Trader Joe’s pulled pork barbecue in a flour tortilla

Dinner: frozen gnocchi with ground beef and marinara sauce cooked together in a skillet

Day 3:

Breakfast: eggs “forestiere”—heated spinach with leftover sausage and mushrooms; stirred in an egg until the white was cooked and added goat cheese

Lunch: burrito—warmed mix of half black beans and half ground beef precooked with taco seasoning, served in a large flour tortilla with cheese, sour cream, picante sauce, chopped tomato and spinach

Dinner: sheet-pan dinner—skinless chicken thighs with pesto sauce, new potatoes, butternut squash and tomato

Day 4:

Breakfast: multigrain toast with hummus, goat cheese, crispy bacon crumbles and “fried” egg

Lunch: leftover gnocchi and ground beef with added pesto sauce, parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes, served with antipasto salad

Dinner: I forgot to eat! I snacked during FaceTime wine time with friends on Nantucket, followed by the news that Dallas County residents were ordered to stay at home

Day 5:

Breakfast: hash of leftover pulled pork barbecue, butternut squash and new potatoes, with added chopped onion and cherry tomatoes, topped by a fried egg

Lunch: deli ham and cheddar on toast with country mustard

Dinner: Trader Joe’s pulled pork barbecue on a whole wheat bun with pickle relish and roasted sweet potato fries

Day 6:

Breakfast: omelet with a dab of leftovers—potato, squash, spinach and picante sauce heated together—plus black beans and Mexican cheese

Lunch: a repeat of my favorite—Italian sausage, sweet potato fries, roasted grapes and country mustard

Dinner: Perini Ranch smoked beef tenderloin, stuffed baked potato, mushroom and gorgonzola sauce, sliced tomatoes and avocado with picante sour cream dressing

Day 7:

Breakfast: eggs “Florentine”—toast stacked with fried deli ham, mushrooms and spinach, goat cheese and fried egg

Lunch: black and blue salad with leftover beef tenderloin, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, spinach, cherry tomatoes, avocado, black beans and pine nuts, lightly dressed with Balsamic vinegar

Dinner: Sheet-pan dinner—pesto chicken thigh, new potatoes and buttered asparagus

Week 2
Day 8:

Breakfast: egg on toast spread with hummus

Lunch: pulled pork barbecue and ranch beans casserole

Supper: grilled pimiento cheese sandwich

Day 9:

Breakfast: frittata with potatoes, sweet potatoes, pancetta and tomatoes

Lunch: takeout—hero sandwich from Carbone’s

Dinner: beef fajita

Day 10:

Breakfast: chopped hard-boiled egg on hummus toast

Lunch: leftover beans and barbecue

Dinner: leftovers—smoked beef tender seared in butter, lemon and Worcestershire, with stuffed baked potato, roasted cherry tomatoes and asparagus

Day 11:

Breakfast: egg muffin with picante sauce

Lunch: leftover hero sandwich from Carbone’s

Dinner: sheet-pan dinner—pork chops with red cabbage, pears and potatoes

Day 12:

Breakfast: toast with mushroom, pancetta and spinach mix, topped with goat cheese and egg

Lunch: beef fajita salad

Dinner: Italian sausage with leftover potatoes, cabbage and pears

Day 13:

Breakfast: omelet filled with spinach, sausage and goat cheese

Lunch: homemade chicken tortilla soup topped with sour cream and cheese

Dinner: takeout from Taverna

Day 14:

Breakfast: toast with hummus, crisp bacon crumbles, goat cheese and hard-boiled egg

Lunch: soft taco with leftover tenderloin, Ranch beans and cherry tomatoes

Dinner: barbecue brisket, potatoes and salad with antipasto, tomatoes, pine nuts and goat cheese


Unless specified otherwise, bread and toast mean multigrain; egg means “fried” in a nonstick skillet with a little Pam; potatoes are fingerlings, hash-browned in a sheet pan; antipasto is a refrigerated mix of 3-bean salad, marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. My recipe for Gluten-Free Egg Muffins can be found on my blog. Unless otherwise noted, meals are cooked from scratch, though I use store-bought pimiento cheese, pesto sauce, broths and the like, as well as occasional frozen vegetables.

I have not provided recipes or extensive notes here, since I have been sharing recipes and tips regularly on Instagram and my Facebook page, and some of the recipes can be found in my blog archive. If you would like any recipes, cooking tips or preparation details, use the comment form below to make your request and I will post the information.

About the author:

Ella Wall Prichard—widow, CEO, mother, grandmother and now great-grandmother—divides her time between Corpus Christi, Dallas, Nantucket and the rest of the world, blogging and posting on social media about her travel, food, cooking, gardening and life in general as a single. She is author of Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows, published in 2018 by 1845 Books, an imprint of the Baylor University Press, and co-editor of the top-selling Fiesta: Favorite Recipes of South Texas, first published in 1973 by the Junior League of Corpus Christi.

Watch for two more weeks of menus in the days to come.