Whether you’re making a full-on interstate move or simply swapping out some winter items for summer replacements, the disruption of moving takes its toll. Suddenly, it seems like the house is a tornado and you can’t find a box of pasta, let alone a pot to cook it in.
The good news is, you needn’t throw up your hands in despair and order Chinese for the next month. Instead, you can make easy moving meals that don’t break the bank, create a mountain of Styrofoam or leave you with the mildly bilious feeling that comes with too much takeout.
How do you do it? Good question. Here’s your handy crash course in moving meals and how to make them like a sane person.
1. Factor in moving meals ahead of time.
Even if you’re moving to a foodie mecca like Chicago, you still don’t want to have to eat out the entire time you’re moving in and unpacking. Not only is that ugh for tummies big and small, but poor nutrition can limit your energy, make your thinking foggy and stress you out.
Let’s be honest, though: If you don’t plan ahead, it’s going to be pizza o’clock every evening when you finally dust off your hands and flop onto the nearest box. That’s no good.
The secret to moving meals is to instead plan for them weeks and even months ahead of time, at the same time you’re planning the rest of the move. When you print out your free moving checklist, make sure to include moving meal prep on the calendar.
2. Set a meal schedule.
As with regular meals, moving meals include breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks. Setting a meal schedule while moving is a great way to get all of them into your day the smart way.
Ask yourself ahead of time, “When will it make sense to eat?” Think carefully about all meals, as well as snacks, and set times for each.
If you have kids, for instance, you have natural breaks in the day: before school, after nap, upon pickup, before bedtime. Even if your schedules get thrown off, you can make an alternative routine for the time being.
Then stick to it. The temptation is to “eat when that box is packed” or “clean out the kitchen cabinets first,” but that’s a one-way ticket to hypoglycemia and ruined marriages. Instead, set alarms on your phone if you need to. When they go off, stop working and feed everyone!
(Note that all of the foods below can be consumed easily, so that by moving day you don’t have good food lying around uneaten. Just make sure to make space for a cooler on moving day so you can bring condiments and minimal leftovers with you.)
3. Have easy, zappable breakfast foods on hand.
Before the move enters Critical Mode, spend an afternoon making a huge batch of oatmeal and chopping veggies for mug omelets. Buy some whole-grain bagels, cream cheese and lox. Splurge on protein-rich granola, and stock up on nut milks. Your goal: Enough protein and carbs to get you to lunch without crashing.
And for a true moving meals gem, master microwaved scrambled eggs. This has saved lives, and could save yours as well.
Pro tip: Set aside a box for the coffeemaker and don’t pack it until the very end. You might think that Starbucks for a few days “won’t kill you,” but it sure will kill the budget. If you can spare the space, just plan on putting that sucker in your car on moving day.
4. Buy lunch ingredients that can be thrown together.
The goal with lunch is to always have good, nutrient-rich foods to eat that require little to no prep. There should be no cooking on moving day because you’re already in for a lot of work that day. Instead, keep on hand:
- Sandwich bread
- Sliced meat and cheese
- Protein-rich finger foods, like string cheese or peanut butter balls
- Sliced veggies and baby carrots
- Easily consumed fruit like grapes, bananas and pre-cut melon
That way, when that lunchtime alarm goes off, you can simply assemble a meal and move on with your day.
Of course, no one’s saying you shouldn’t eat out at all. Target those meals carefully, though. Good occasions for takeout include moving and arrival days (if different), packing days and errand days. In other words, if you’re going to be knee-deep in boxes or out of the house all day, that’s a better time to order out than when you’re just low-energy. In the latter case, a good meal at home is often the ticket!
5. Combine healthy carbs, fats and proteins for every dinner.
You need to balance your dinners. These get you through the night and help you wake up recharged. That said, you don’t want to be cooking all day and night, so making food ahead of time is a win. Good make-ahead items include:
- Tofu slices marinated in store-bought teriyaki sauce and grilled
- Whole roast chickens, either homemade or store-bought
- Large batches of beans and rice
- Chopped romaine, grated carrots, chopped cucumbers and shredded cabbage
- Roasted broccoli and cauliflower
- Whipped sweet potatoes
These meals are good eaten cold or microwaved, can be made in huge batches without spoiling, appeal to palates of all ages, and will keep you fed without spending every last dime. When dinner time comes, peek in the fridge and grab one protein (tofu), one carb (rice) and one veggie (broccoli). Throw everything in a bowl, zap on high and add green goddess dressing, tahini or soy sauce.
Add a side of fruit. Boom: Dinner #FTW.
6. Give yourself a pass on snacks.
In your everyday life, you’re probably pretty careful about snacks. But while moving, give yourself a pass. Instead of lovingly prepping munchies from whole foods, head to the store and buy pretzels, cheese sticks, trail mix, and – we give you permission – a bag of peanut butter M&Ms (or similar candy that actually contains some protein).
Eat when hungry. Seriously, while you should eat the rest of your moving meals on a schedule, you need to snack when hungry. You use a ton of mental and physical energy when moving, so don’t wait until things get desperate. This is an especially good strategy when you’re loading up a truck and don’t want to break until you’re done, for instance.
7. Prep the night before for “Storage Unit Day.”
If you’re going to get a storage unit when you move – or if you simply have to reorganize your possessions, such as swapping out winter goods for summer – go ahead and plan a “Storage Unit Day.” That might mean setting aside a pre-move day to take loads of possession to the storage unit you’ll use while living somewhere else temporarily. Or perhaps it means going Weekend Warrior to clean out the garage and stow the camping gear in a smaller storage unit until next trekking season.
Whatever the case, use the above tips to plan ahead for meals so you don’t end up eating out all weekend, and stash some trail mix in the car. That way, you’ll save money and won’t give yourself a bad case of the pizzas when you have to return to work on Monday. (Admit it, you know what we’re talking about.)
Bottom line? A little planning goes a long way. You are not fated to sub sandwiches for a month, so long as you use the above tips. So grab that moving checklist and start penciling in smart strategies for your moving meals today!