Meal plan chart with food

Meal plan chart with food ()

PCS season is hectic, stressful, time-consuming and downright hard on your body. It’s also during this time that you might be settling for takeout, pizza delivery or just drowning your stress in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Not that there isn’t a time and a place for all of those, they shouldn’t be your daily go-to nutrition during your PCS—which we all know can stretch from weeks to months. Getting your body too out of whack can lead to more stress, illness and uncomfortable digestive woes (sorry, not sorry for the honesty).

To keep your body working properly and illness-free, make nutrition as much of a priority as getting your parts box safely to your next destination.

1. Make your own kitchen parts box. Much of eating out during PCS season comes from losing your beloved kitchen equipment for anywhere from a week to several months for overseas moves. Keep a few essentials back that will enable you to cook up simple meals at home. Even better, keep behind some pots and pans that you are ready to part with, use them during your PCS and then pass them on to another PCSing family when your household goods arrive. What else do you want to add to your kitchen parts box? Include a spatula or wooden spoon, cutting board, chef’s knife with a cover, plastic serving bowl and serving spoon. If you’re not into disposable serving ware, add forks, spoons and plates to your box too.

2. Meal plan. If meal planning is already part of your PCS organizational strategy, then you are already ahead of the game. If not, here’s how you get it done. You’re probably already knee-deep in the PCS pantry purge, as this usually begins a few months before your move. Make a list of quick and easy meals that use up condiments, cans, frozen vegetables and anything else that could potentially end up in the “free” pile you post on your neighborhood Facebook page. Group items together in your pantry that complement each other for a meal and put a sticky note on it with additional ingredients needed from the fridge or the freezer. An example of a dish that helps clear out those staples is rice and beans with frozen corn, canned tomatoes and top it off with some hot sauce and sour cream from the fridge. Group the rice, canned beans and canned tomatoes together in your pantry with a sticky note indicating what to grab from the freezer and refrigerator.

3. Commit to a fruit and vegetable goal. The standard goal is five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but if that doesn’t seem attainable during PCS season, aim for three and stick to it. If you are ready to make nutrition a priority, bump that number up to seven or eight and work your meals around that goal. Grain bowls or Buddha Bowls are the perfect way to get those fresh veggies in your meal and pull from the pantry and the accumulated condiments on your refrigerator door. We all know how painful it is to throw out all the condiments, so use them up early.

4. Make spice blend bags. Cooking during a PCS can be especially hard when moving OCONUS because your household goods are packed up early and that means you lose your spices. If you can manage to plan out your meals ahead of time, measure out your own spice blends into separate snack-sized zip sealed baggies and keep them in your “do not pack” room. Some examples of these might be taco seasoning mix, Italian seasoning mix or an Indian spice blend for curries. This will not only make meal preparation faster, but it will encourage you to make more meals at home when you know you aren’t compromising on flavor, not to mention, you’ll be using up those spices that would otherwise be sitting in a box for a while.

Your health should always be a priority and even more so during your PCS. Not only will you save some money by nixing the takeout (and we all know how expensive it is to move), but you will also save some wear and tear on your body.

Sarah Pflugradt is a registered dietitian, writer, health educator and blogger at, a website that promotes healthy eating for active families. She is the author of the cookbook Live to Eat Well, a weight loss guide with 100 Mediterranean diet recipes. Sarah lives in Germany with her husband and 3 busy sport loving kids.

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