“What’s for dinner? This is my most dreaded question on most nights and one I avoid altogether during PCS. The truth is, feeding the family during a PCS cycle is complicated for multiple reasons that go above and beyond the normal conflicts for schedule, budget, and picky eaters. Before the move, we’re often attempting to purge the kitchen by donating unopened goods, giving away open goods to friends, and my favorite, a special level of torture called “Chopped: PCS edition”. If you haven’t seen the show Chopped, it is an anxiety-inducing, timed cooking competition with surprising unusual ingredients. It makes for great TV, but not great moving meals. Then, during active PCS you have the towers of cardboard during pack-out, a bare kitchen in a house that smells like dust, sweat, and cleaning supplies, and a combination of travel days relying on meals from restaurants and gas stations. Once you arrive at your new duty station, you get to “camp” in an empty house while you wait for all of your household goods to (hopefully) show up unscathed, then feed your family with a half-assembled kitchen while trying wade through piles of packing paper to find the sheets for bedtime. Let’s not forget learning about the new town, attempting to get friends for the kids, finding your new grocery store, and replacing broken/ lost appliances. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, these favorite meal hacks are for you.
Okay, this is the time for using up odd ingredients, donating items, and trying not to buy anything that creates leftovers. “Should we get more milk? Will we have to throw it away? Who knows!” This is the time to embrace whatever works and add fruits or veggies to it for a more balanced plate. One-pot meals, casseroles, soups, bagged salads, and easy-to-eat produce will be your best friend during these last days before departure.
Once you’re packing out/ on the move, try your best to stick with your normal eating pattern. Sometimes that will mean traveling with yogurt, or using fruits & veggies for car snacks while meals come from restaurants. Whatever that looks like for you, try to mimic your normal routine as much as possible to avoid the traveler’s tummy. Nobody likes traveling with bubble guts, and I’ll leave it at that.
When you’re into the new house, and whether or not you have your household goods, this is the time to start establishing regular routines- but not the time for difficult meals! Keep it simple with family favorites, one-pot meals, bagged salads, takeout, etc. Same as before and during PCS, once you’re in the new location, try to mimic your normal routine as much as possible with a focus on simplicity. Give yourself lots of grace to work through the boxes. Getting into a scheduled routine is far more important than having picture-perfect, optimal nutrition meals. Do what works, add a fruit or veggie on the side, and spend your brain space on more important things.
Whenever you’re moving with the military, the entire season is stressful. Before, during, and after a PCS all have barriers that need to be taken into account when planning how to feed your family. Give yourself grace, keep it simple, and allow the dust to settle before worrying too much about having your ducks in a row. Or, maybe even wait until the next PCS, and start over again.
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