15 Realistic Recipes to Feed Your Family in an Apocalypse

The pandemic continues, Oregon is on fire along with the rest of the West, and even though the fire a couple miles from our house is now 75% contained (THANK YOU, FIREFIGHTERS!), my brain is broken. Just totally kaput. Zero percent battery, and I forgot where I put my brain charger. 

I was feeling badly about this, as though my inability to get anything done is proof that I’m a lazy sack who doesn’t deserve the air I breathe, even though that air is currently full of smoke and so dense we could chew it. But then several friends reminded me that our brains and our bodies are reacting exactly as they were built to do. There are fires in our forests. Visibility is shot due to opaque air. We’ve been at a heightened state of emergency for six months. OF COURSE WE’RE EXPERIENCING MENTAL SHUT DOWN. Our bodies are priming us to fight or flee. Our brains don’t need to form complete sentences right now. They don’t need to do anything other than basic survival. 

Nevertheless, because I am a frickin’ heroI made three new recipes for dinner this week. And because I know you, too, sometimes need dinner ideas, I shall graciously share them with you.

When my darling children whom I love more than life itself asked what was for dinner, I made:

1) Why Do You Ask Hard Questions?

Ingredients: Plastic container of smooshed limited edition powdered pumpkin donuts from the grocery store bakery section.

Instructions: Eat 4 of the 6 while doom scrolling Facebook for forest fire updates and leave everyone else to fend for themselves. If they want limited edition powdered pumpkin donuts from the grocery store bakery section, they can fight you for the 2 that are left.

2) It’s Like You Don’t Remember Where the Cereal Is

Ingredients: Five boxes cereal from Grocery Outlet (or other discount grocery store) that sounded Not Horrible, all open, all stale, and one half-gallon expired nonfat milk.

Instructions: Tell the humans in your house There Is, Too, Plenty of Food and you are ABSOLUTELY NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, buying more cereal until they finish what they already opened. They will eat Lean Cuisine Vermont White Cheddar mac and cheese they microwave themselves — leaving every bit of trash from those meals on the counter directly above the garbage can — except for the one child who (incorrectly) thinks the Hostess Twinkies cereal is awesome. Also, you will, too, buy more cereal before those boxes are finished because you’re a sucker and that’s how you roll.

3) IDK, What Are You Making Me?

Ingredients: Nothing.

Instructions: None needed, because no one is making me anything. I’m on my own. Am currently choosing between frost-bitten green tea ice cream and the dregs of the pretzel bag. It is what it is.

And, because sometimes we need more than just three recipe ideas, I asked my friends what they’ve made for their families this week, as well. Here are their contributions to your dinner table:

4) For the parent of teens: The last three days, I’m like, “Here’s some granola bars and beef jerky. I’ll be in the living room eating a bag of chips and stress scrolling on FB.” — Heidi

5) For the health conscious parent: Find a protein. Find a carb. Eat something that actually grew in a tree or in the ground. — Aj

6) For the parent of toddlers: i’ve prepared “my toddler will only eat four things and i’ve given up here are some chicken nuggets for the third time this week at least you’re putting protein in your body” so many times i’d go so far as to say it’s my specialty. note: do not recommend this recipe to sanctimommies. they will judge you and instead tell you to make “eat what i make or starve” and then judge you more. — Laney

7) For the parent diligently preparing her children for the future: My favorite thing for dinner is whatever leftover thing that isn’t growing something on it you find for yourself and microwave for yourself and clean up for yourself. I do cook on occasion, but every. dang. night? No, thank you.  How will they ever survive if they don’t practice discerning which leftovers are still edible and which might leave them on the bathroom floor for the night? The time is NOW. #lifeskills — Hillary

8) Illusion Pasta
Ingredients: A seemingly full container of left over pasta and sauce from dinner two nights ago.

Instructions: See Illusion Pasta in fridge and declare it to be ‘left over night’ because there was plenty from the prior meal to feed everyone. At dinner time, open the Illusion Pasta container only to discover the middle child DUG ALL THE PASTA OUT OF THE MIDDLE and there’s maybe a half a cup left just clinging to the sides so it still *looks* full when you see it in the fridge. Declare everyone to be on their own and go eat a bag of Doritos in the living room with a bad Netflix show.  Note: You can use your favorite pasta, sauce, and child assistant and substitute your own chip flavor as needed. — Andrea

9) For the parent who wants to ensure her children have a well rounded diet with all the food groups: 

Ingredients: Popcorn contains all the food groups.

Instructions: Put popcorn in air popper and melt a stick of butter. Considered both carb and vegetable, popcorn also has protein and fiber! It’s a whole grain. Success, you’ve included all of the food groups in one meal. Plus, since fat is good for you now, make sure to melt a whole stick and salt vigorously. Repeat as needed until full. — Maryl

10) I Don’t Got This Tonight: I made I Don’t Got This Tonight, and when it arrived it looked suspiciously like Subway. — Tamara

11) Grilled Pizza Cheese Sandwiches: Was able to scrounge expired pepperoni and half jar of grocery store sauce to make “grilled pizza cheese sandwiches” for lunch. Kids dubious there is enough food in house for dinner. Husband tells them “I work tonight, Mom will probably order you a surprise for dinner.” Follow me on Pinterest for more tips. — Stephanie

12) Go Make Pancakes: I dont know? Go make pancakes. I taught you to make pancakes didn’t I?” This is valid any time of the day. — Jenniffer

13) Surprise Dinner: On more than one occassion I’ve announced tonight’s the night for Surprise Dinner(tm) as in “Surprise! There is no dinner!” It’s usually as big a hit as you can imagine. — Beth

14) Highbrow Foody Dinner: I’m usually all foody and health conscious but Wednesday dinner was rocky road ice cream and Pinot gris. — Jenny

15) For parents who care about their kids’ education: 

Ingredients: Frozen corndogs, frozen chimichungas and burritos, frozen fish sticks.

Directions: read what the box says and do it. For young kids it can count as homeschooling – reading with a comprehension test. Pass food is good, fail it sucks but you have to eat it anyways. Helps spure on good reading skills. — Chrissy

Please feel free to add your own favorite dinner recipes in the comments. 

ALSO, let’s be gentle with ourselves. We’re doing the best we can, and we’re not alone, friends.

Waving in the dark, waiting for dawn,




P.S. When I said my three recipes were “new,” that was an alternative fact. I’ve actually made those recipes for my family thousands of times.

P.P.S. Maryl Kunkel, who gave us her coveted popcorn recipe,  is running for Newberg City Council. If you live in my hometown, VOTE FOR MARYL

P.P.P.S. I know it probably doesn’t need to be said, but just because this post is lighthearted doesn’t mean we’re not also grieving with the many thousands in Oregon and beyond who are currently displaced and have lost homes and businesses. You’re in our hearts! I just wanted folks to know that being at a minimum functioning level is OK right now. And I know as a mama we tend to judge ourselves so harshly. Let’s not do that right now. Let’s choose to be kind to ourselves, instead. We’re doing the best we can. 


ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
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