So, your spouse has orders overseas and now it’s time to get the house packed. Between navigating all of the paperwork, appointments, and timelines on top of everyday life, one of the last things we tend to think about is planning ahead for exactly how our family is going to eat during the PCS.
Moving is often a time of chaos. We have to pack up our whole lives and ship them sometimes halfway across the world. There are express shipments, and household good shipments, and storage shipments to figure out. Pro tip: We’ve compiled a list to completely nail each of these shipments. You know we’ve got you covered.
In simple terms, the actual moving process goes a little something like this. The packers swoop in, and in a flurry of 2 days, all of our precious belongings are wrapped in thousands of sheets of brown paper and stuffed into boxes. Movers come in and fill their truck with said boxes. Then, we stand at the door and slowly wave goodbye to our stuff, keeping our fingers crossed that it all shows up intact and mold-free on the other side.
Once the dust has settled, it may be a few days, or even weeks, before you actually move out of your house. During that time, it is hard not to fall back on takeout and fast food to feed your family. But, with a little bit of planning, you can ensure that in this hectic time, at least you have mealtime in the bag.
Here, we share five of our favorite easy meal ideas to rock this PCS season!
In the months leading up to PCS time, start to think about your family’s favorite dishes. The next time you decide to make one of the meals on the list, buy enough ingredients to make a double batch. Prepare each dish separately, then serve one and freeze the other. By doing this once every week or two, you will build a stockpile of meals that are ready to heat and eat once most of your kitchen is packed away.
- Pot pie
- Shepherd’s pie
- Pasta bakes
The most important thing to note when preparing meals for the freezer is to let the food cool after it is cooked and before you pop it into the freezer. Make sure that the food is prepared or stored in a freezer-safe container, then remove as much air from the container as possible. Cover with foil or an air-tight lid.
To serve, pull the meal from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. For lasagnas and bakes, pop the container into the oven (as long as it is oven-safe), and reheat at 350-375 until warmed through to the center. For soups, pour the contents of the container into a pot over medium heat on the stove, stirring occasionally, until hot.
Another one of our favorite freezer meal ideas is egg rolls! Prepare the filling, roll it up in egg roll wrappers, then individually wrap in foil or plastic wrap and freeze. When ready to serve, thaw in the fridge, then fry on the stove, and serve with a homemade or storebought dipping sauce.
Freezer meals are not just for dinners. Give your cereal bowls a break in favor of homemade breakfast burritos! Cook up some shredded frozen hash browns and bacon or sausage (or roasted veggies for a vegetarian version). Set out tortillas in an assembly line, then pile the centers with the potatoes, meat, shredded cheese, and seasoning. Feel free to add in extras, like black beans or salsa! Tightly wrap each burrito, then individually wrap in foil and freeze. To reheat, discard the foil, then wrap in a paper towel and microwave in 30-second increments until warmed throughout.
Crock Pot Meals
Crock pots are a staple in our normal meal planning routine, so it should be no surprise that they can be a lifesaver during PCS season too! They cook meals low and slow, which is best for braising meats or creating hearty stews. Now is the time to dig through the bottom of your freezer to identify the items that may still have some life left in them. Pull out that roast, add some beef broth and onions, and eight hours later indulge in the most tender French dip sandwiches around!
Crock Pots are a great way to prepare meat for use in other dishes too. For example, add some chicken breast and salsa, then shred the meat once tender. Enjoy chicken tacos one night, then use the leftover meat in a casserole the next!
Nothing says “I dug through my cabinets and fridge for random ingredients and this is what I found” quite like a casserole. In fact, many of our most memorable meals have come from our own in-house version of the Food Network show, Chopped! If you stick to the equation of carbs+veggies/meat+sauce+cheese, it is hard to go wrong!
One of our go-tos is Mexican lasagna. We layer tortillas with cooked, seasoned taco meat (pull that ground beef from the freezer — you know you have at least a pound in there), canned enchilada sauce, salsa, black beans, and corn. Oh, and cheese — you’ll need lots of cheese. Bake it in the oven until all of the cheese has melted, then serve like lasagna.
One-pan meals are not only a snap to make, but a breeze to clean! Grab a bunch of fresh ingredients, then toss them in a marinade and pop into the oven.
Marinades are the key to imparting the most flavor into these meals. While store-bought versions are completely acceptable, you can also follow a simple formula to make your own marinade at home:
3 parts fat (oil) + 1 part acid + herbs or seasoning
For the fat, we prefer olive oil, but you can also switch it up with avocado, grapeseed, or coconut oil. Acids would be freshly squeezed citrus juice or some type of vinegar (think balsamic, red wine, rice wine, or apple cider). Use any combination of seasoning, along with some salt, and pepper, then shake it all together and you’ve got a marinade! Add your ingredients to a large zip-top bag along with the marinade, then seal closed, toss to coat, and place into your refrigerator for a few hours. Spread the contents onto a greased baking sheet, then roast!
Kitchen Essentials Kit
As much as you plan ahead, there still may be some nights where you want to cook up something fresh and light. For those instances, we recommend building a “kitchen essentials” kit. Keep this behind after the rest of your items are packed. When you’re ready to move, throw the non-perishables in a suitcase to bring with you (except for the knife, do NOT pack the knife). They will now become lifesavers on the other side before your other shipments arrive at your destination! If you do not have the room to pack, either send to storage, or gift to a neighbor or family member!
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper, plus a small container of any favorite spice blends
- Cooking spray
- Baking sheet
- Small crockpot
- 9″x13″ casserole dish (or disposable version)
- Mixing bowl
- Mixing and serving spoon
- Disposable utensils, plates, and cups
- Aluminum foil
We hope that you’ve gained some helpful tips to ease your mind for your move! Drop us a comment and let us know your favorite PCS meals, or which of our recommendations that you’re most excited to try!
Want to keep your health in check mid-move? Check out these workout tips for advice on how to stay active during PCS Season!
Photo Credits: Christina Carter