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KEM0727 Posts: 523
1/17/13 11:29 A

One of the "back-up" meals that I have been keeping on hand recently is the Birds Eye frozen "Voila" skillet meals. My favorite is the tomato chicken penne - chicken, broccoli and red and yellow bell peppers. Dump the whole bag in a skillet and add 1/2 cup water. 10 minutes later you have a hot meal that tastes really good and is not bad for you. They vary in calories, but the one I referenced above is less than 300 calories per serving (and there are a few servings per bag). And the chicken is actually GOOD! Not icky like in some frozen meals. I also like to use the crockpot when I think about it, for an easy meal.

YANKEEGIRL6 Posts: 1,064
1/17/13 9:20 A

I've found that it doesn't really take any longer to cook 2 or 3 meals as it does to cook 1. When I make dinner on Sunday, I also make a second dinner and sometimes a pot of soup. I also use this time to chop and slice whatever produce I have for salads and snacking for the week. I wash dishes as I go. Depending on what I make, I have dinners and lunches until at least Wednesday, on Thursday, I clean out the refrigerator and we finish off the leftovers.

I also plan a few "emergency meals" in case something doesn't work out. I'm not a fan of freezing home cooked food, but I do freeze soup in quart sized amounts so in a pinch I can pull those out. I can also throw together some sort of omelet on the fly.

When I first started cooking like this, it was a bit overwhelming. I need to plan my shopping so I don't start cooking and find I'm missing 3 ingredients. Now that I'm used to it, I saves me time, money (since I've planned out my leftovers, there's much less waste), and sanity. I love knowing that when I walk in the door after a crazy day, all I have to do is make something hot and then I have very little to clean up.

GIGI-NICOLE SparkPoints: (7,724)
Fitness Minutes: (4,075)
Posts: 254
1/17/13 9:05 A

I batch cook on Sunday evening for a couple nights a week. Once I run out of chicken breasts or what I've cooked for the week, I'll just have cereal or oatmeal a couple nights.

DOVE52 SparkPoints: (47,703)
Fitness Minutes: (9,134)
Posts: 1,154
1/17/13 8:46 A

wow great idea

125ISMYGOAL SparkPoints: (917)
Fitness Minutes: (239)
Posts: 48
1/14/13 3:19 P

I have a slow cooker...prep in the evening, turn it on in the morning, ready for when you get home...I've even bought myself one of those timer things that you plug in and it turns it on for me half way through the day (those timers you put on when you go on holiday so it looks like theres someone in) - if I know I'm gonna be out till late, they are always a good option.

SASAHAMMER Posts: 129
1/14/13 3:13 P

I know it's unpopular, but I'm a fan of batch cooking. It can be a challenge at first, but you refine your technique and get better after you do it a few times.

I batch cook two times per week and NEVER when I'm hungry. After all, how easy is it to bake or grill multiple chicken breasts when you already have the oven/grill on to do one or two? I keep it pretty simple because to me it's just easier and after all, it's just food.

I'm always grateful when I'm hungry and tired at 7pm on Tuesday that my dinner was cooked on Sunday when I was relaxed, rested and fed. I can just heat it up, eat and not have a mess to clean up.

RACHEL2WRITER SparkPoints: (2,581)
Fitness Minutes: (1,594)
Posts: 102
1/14/13 11:40 A

I LOVE my slow cooker and use it at least 2 or 3 days a week. I plan for slow cooker meals on days I know I'll be late or have something planned in the evening. Maybe you could also stock up on some of the frozen WW or lean cuisine-type meals for days you just want to nuke something. Add some fruit or a salad and a glass of skim milk, and you're set for dinner in just a few minutes!

A lot of pasta dishes can be put together quickly, too. I'll do a package of whole wheat pasta and toss with a can of drained tuna or chicken, a pack of frozen broccoli or other veggies I"ve nuked or boiled with the pasta, a little olive oil, a little parmesan cheese, and one of the different Mrs. Dash seasonings.

How about appetizers instead of a traditional meal? a plate of hummus and triscuits, baby carrots and fat free ranch, a slice of low fat cheese, and a handful of grapes or a pear

1954MARG Posts: 243
1/14/13 10:28 A

I mostly use a slow cooker to make casseroles in the winter. If you have a day off you can put one in the evening you finish work to cook overnight, one in the morning to cook during the day and another that evening again to cook overnight. depending on the size of your slow cooker that should provide 12-18 servings to freeze!. Also, there is nothing wrong with using defrosted frozen veg or canned veg in casseroles. Most veg that are prepared at home just need a quick brush in cold water after a soak, not peeling. That way you are throwing away less veg, and spending less time doing it.
I also microwave or bake fish in foil from frozen with a topping- very quick. Certainly quicker than going to a take- away or phoning and waiting. A salad can be chopped and potatoes microwaved or boiled in 10 minutes while the fish is cooking.
For those days when I am so cheesed off I WILL NOT COOK- How about a meal on toast?
Two slices of toast in the toaster topped with two eggs mixed with a dash of milk, salt, pepper and dried mixed herbs and microwaved. Half a large tin of tomatoes in juice with 4oz, 120g of frozen mushrooms and a table spoonful of frozen chopped onions and a little curry powder or paste stirred in and microwaved then poured over the toast and topped with the eggs.
Or lemon and coriander hummus on a crusty bap with chopped tomato and cucumber to fork in between mouthfuls? Follow with a piece of fruit for afters.
I hope you find these suggestions are helpful. They are also a lot cheaper than buying takeaways and you can spend the money saved on things that are FUN.

BASKETLADY13 Posts: 301
1/14/13 9:19 A

I have several slow cooker cookbooks and cookbooks that involve 30 minute or less recipes. Those are my favorites even when I'm not pressed for time. I don't really like to cook and sometimes it's hard for just me and my husband so I feel it's easier to eat out, but I know it's not healthy so I do the best I can. I also like the websites that show you a recipe with the things you have on hand. They're usually quick and easy too. Sometimes it's something simple like soup and sandwiches or left overs from the night before. Good luck to you with your meal planning.

MIAMIVT SparkPoints: (11,784)
Fitness Minutes: (9,058)
Posts: 244
1/14/13 8:38 A

batch cooking is a pain in the butt.

what you should do is google "quick healthy recipes" most of the ones that will come up will be ready in under 30 minutes. How long does it take a frozen pizza to cook? About 26 minutes, so in that same amount of time you could have a much healthier meal.

everyone is tired when they come home from working 9+ hours, but you will thank yourself for burning those extra 20 calories by cooking something that is good for you.

NIRERIN Posts: 11,875
1/14/13 7:40 A

get the idea of batch cooking just being you torturously slaving over the stove all weekend so that you can eat during the week out of your head. as it is, you are probably home at least one morning, afternoon or evening each day, right? so make a big pot of something when you are home. one of the great things about being single is that when you make a regular recipe, you are already batch cooking. so if you're home saturday morning, start up a crockpot or a regular pot of chili. have a serving of it for lunch or dinner that day. keep a serving in the fridge for dinner monday or tuesday night. and freeze two portions for easy dinners later on. whenever you are home on sunday, make another dish, perhaps lasagna. as a single person i would recommend doing rolls instead of a casserole dish of lasagna because it freezes better and is easier to portion. instead of layering everything into a pan, you lay out a noodle [or an eggplant slice], layer the toppings on and roll up. you can do one or two rolls per foil packet and they freeze and heat so much better than squares of lasagna. so in one weekend, you've made two meals you actually ate, you have dinner for monday and tuesday and you have at least four homemade frozen dinners in the freezer.
another thing to look at is what takes so much time and effort on the weekdays that you don't want to cook. if it's a long cook item like rice, then making up a pot of rice on sunday can cut your weekday cooking time in more than half. if it is prep for things like vegetables you can do one of two things. the expensive option is buying them already chopped and washed. the cheaper option is that tonight, after dinner, you plan tomorrow night's dinner and spend 20 minutes on the prep work.
i'm not familiar with the weeknight spaghetti recipe you use, but there are ways to make it no more than boiling and heating. on one of those weekend cooking bits you can make spaghetti sauce and freeze it into the portions that you use. you can also do this with whatever protein you use: chicken can be cooked and frozen into portions, so can ground beef and seasonings, meatballs, beans and really anything i can think of for going into spaghetti. and buying sauce is also an option.
when i find i really am not looking forward to cooking, the first thing i do when stepping in the door is to set my stuff down, grab a pot, fill it with water and set it on to boil. then i put my stuff away, get changed and start doing all the chores and things i need to get done when i get home. as i am running around the house doing all of these things, i'll toss the pasta in to cook, then add things like sauces and protein and veg. by the time my flurry of after work activity is done, so is my dinner and it doesn't really feel any more arduous than the flurry that i was doing anyways.

LINAREX SparkPoints: (22,715)
Fitness Minutes: (7,380)
Posts: 1,566
1/14/13 12:57 A

Crock pot and soups, they are great! You can have a meal cook while you are at work in the crock pot. Soups are good things to cook on the weekends, they don't really take a lot of effort, and most of them freeze well. I also try to have pasta on hand for the nights when you don't want to cook really.

ALLICIAC SparkPoints: (24,158)
Fitness Minutes: (6,253)
Posts: 146
1/13/13 11:12 P

Do you have a Trader Joe's in your area? They have a butternut squash bisque that's amazing. It's in a tetra pak (on the shelf) so you can keep it in the cabinet until you are ready to use it. I think it's only around 100 calories for a cup of it.

DOVE52 SparkPoints: (47,703)
Fitness Minutes: (9,134)
Posts: 1,154
1/13/13 10:35 P

what good ideas

AIREEULL SparkPoints: (7,103)
Fitness Minutes: (4,610)
Posts: 339
1/13/13 10:32 P

i work at a preschool too and i feel you, those kids can wear you out. i also hate cooking when i get home so i have started freezer cooking. basically i have a cooking marathon on a saturday and stock my freezer with things like chicken broccoli & rice casserole, soups, etc. i just get home and stick it in the oven or microwave. there are lots of blogs dedicated to freezer cooking, just google it and see what you find.
i also love my crockpot! there are so many good recipes out there.

CORTNEY-LEE SparkPoints: (52,481)
Fitness Minutes: (46,054)
Posts: 3,075
1/13/13 10:20 P

I use my slow cooker a lot.

Skinny Ms. has a lot of great recipes! The cool thing about it is you will get multiple meals out of one dish.

skinnyms.com/category/recipes/skinny-slow-
cooker/




FTSOLK Posts: 1,222
1/13/13 9:28 P

I do like eggs for dinner. I like making them into pizzas of sort. I make fritatas filled with veggies and top with tomato sauce, cheese, and (sometimes) turkey pepperoni. I also cook lunch and dinner together, but since I pack my lunch for work, I have leftovers for lunch- not dinner.

Grilled cheese and soup sounds wonderful- especially if the soup is butternut squash. I'm not a fan of tomato soup, but butternut squash is my FAVORITE- next to minestrone. Any tips on making a lighter version? I don't need so much help with the fillings, but the bread has me stumped. All of the lighter breads I've found seem really tiny, but sandwich thins don't cut it for grilled cheese. One of my favorite grilled cheese/panini combos is spinach, red onions, muenster cheese (although, I'm flexible about cheese here), ham (cut directly from a whole ham, not prepackaged deli meat), and mustard on a nice dark bread like pumpernickle. It's SO good, but not exactly the best when you're looking for a "light" meal.



SONICB Posts: 4,232
1/13/13 9:06 P

When I don't feel like cooking, sometimes I'll put together a salad with greens, canned beans, tuna, and shredded cheese. Or make oatmeal in the microwave. Or slap together a sandwich and eat it with a piece of fruit and glass of milk.

A lot of breakfast foods cook up pretty fast, and no one said you couldn't have breakfast for dinner. :)

SPUTNIK512 Posts: 1,714
1/13/13 8:56 P

I work long days and never really know when I'll get out of work most days and my fiance takes night classes and occasionally has to work evenings. Our weeknight meals are often one of 3 things:

1) Grilled cheese & soup (super fast and easy)
2) Something in the slow cooker
3) Left overs from the weekend

We plan our menu for the week on Friday night or Saturday and always plan at least one big meal for the weekend so we know we'll have leftovers. It makes dinners so much easier during the week if we've planned everything the weekend before.


RUSSELL_40 Posts: 16,826
1/13/13 3:52 P

I cook up my lunch and dinner at the same time. Leftovers always taste better IMO, so why not just cook it, and put it in some Tupperware. Most foods are fine within the next 24 hours. That way I am done with my cooking by lunchtime.

STDWYNWEN SparkPoints: (11,171)
Fitness Minutes: (4,491)
Posts: 552
1/13/13 3:21 P

Hi HONEYLISSABEE

I hear ya, I work 9.5 hours.
What I did was turn my kitchen into a fast food restaurant.
Start planning meals you can do in 30 minutes or less.
I have different proteins in my freezers ready to cook right from frozen. Or put in the fridge to defrost while at work
I have steamable frozen vegetables microwaved in 6 min or less.
I have red potatoes on hand which can be microwaved in 3 min.
Salad items can be repurposed to make an omelette along with a pancake.
I have canned beans I rince and add little BBQ sauce for a side.

You can do it. Just remember why you're worth the time and effort.
Before you know it, you'll be whipping up great meals in no time flat.

Edited by: STDWYNWEN at: 1/13/2013 (15:29)
FABULOUSBAMBI Posts: 50
1/13/13 1:51 P

I think it helps to have chicken breasts cooked in bulk and then cut them up into little chunks and keep them in the fridge. Then you can add this to salads or even reheat them and eat them with vegtables. I think for sure if you can keep cut up vegtables or even frozen vegtables. You can make a healthy meal very fast. Soup is another one that u can make in a crock pot and reheat up what you want to eat. I keep tuna packets in stock all the time also for pitas or salads. Keep fruit handy. A 5 minute prep dinner is very realistic. I like all the ideas below also!!!!

MRSAND Posts: 907
1/13/13 1:30 P

I work 6 or 7 days a week. When I'm faced with having to start a meal from scratch at night it is not appealing at all. On weekends I work fewer hours so I try to cook 3 healthy things that will be my go-tos to stick in the microwave on week night. This weekend it is:

1. big bag of collards cooked in the crockpot for 5-6 hours.
2. 2 cups of black beans cooked in the crock pot for 5-6 hours.
3. 3 big bone-in chicken breasts baked in a covered casserole with stock, onions and herbs

Right now I'm eating a bowl I just microwaved of 1/2 cup beans (1/4 cup uncooked), 2 oz shredded chicken breast, 1/2 cup bottled marinara sauce, a couple of tablespoons salsa topped with on ounce of greek yogurt (sour cream replacement) and a splash of olive oil to give me some good fat and make it more filling...couple of cups of collard greens with pepper vinegar on the side..

I can also use the beans and/or chicken for wraps, salads, etc...

if you don't like collards, spinach is even easier...I love warm spinach salads with chicken and tomatoes and a little crumbled goat cheese...just zap for a minute (or less) and you're ready to go...

I keep lots of fruits and veggies on hand too

emoticon

MICHELLEXXXX SparkPoints: (6,719)
Fitness Minutes: (5,730)
Posts: 1,973
1/13/13 12:57 P

I think once I gave in and tried batch cooking (I committed for one month) I fell in love with it.
If you feel most comfortable with throwing something in the microwave and would rather stick with that, here are some options that are just as simple as the pizza (as well as a few non-microwave easy options):

frozen chicken breast w/a bag of frozen veggies
salmon packet, frozen veggies, bagged salad
premade chef salad from the deli (cheaper than frozen pizza)
frozen turkey burger, frozen veggies, fresh fruit
tuna packet, bagged salad, olive oil
sweet potato (nuked), salsa, plain greek yogurt (just like sour cream IMO, good protein)

Edited by: MICHELLEXXXX at: 1/13/2013 (13:10)
ALGEBRAGIRL Posts: 1,689
1/13/13 12:46 P

I'm pretty sure WW has a slow-cooker cookbook. They have just about every variety of cookbook, and even the old WW cookbooks work well. If you make something very simple in a slow cooker, it will be ready when you come home, and it will smell good. Coming into a house with the aromas of dinner cooking is very nice!

FTSOLK Posts: 1,222
1/13/13 12:16 P

I work a full-time job at a preschool. Mondays, Wednesdays-Fridays I get to work around 9am and I leave between 6:30 and 7pm. On Tuesdays, I get to work before 7:30 and leave by 5pm. I don't always get a lunch break, but I always have a chance to eat my lunch regardless

I eat out on Tuesdays after Weight Watchers meetings, and on occasional Wednesdays after church, but most nights, I'm cooking at home. The only problem is, after working more than 9 hours a day several days a week (and at least 8 hours on any given day), I'm not really up to cooking. The idea of a frozen pizza sounds wonderful, but I know that cooking my own food is better for me.

I don't know what to do at this point. I've tried planning my meals ahead of time, but the prospect is overwhelming, and even if I plan on making, say, "Weeknight Spaghetti" from the Sparkpeople cookbook, by the time I get home, I find I would rather stick something unhealthy in the microwave.

I've considered doing some batch cooking, but the idea of cooking one day for the week is also overwhelming.

So, how do I change things? Any advice?

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