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KELLILVN SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (18,038)
Posts: 915
1/6/14 2:40 P

Using a crockpot can be a great way to have dinner ready for you. You can find great recipes by just googling or go to the library and check out one of the Fix it and Forget It crock pot recipe books. Also to make clean up easier I love emoticon the slow cooker liners by Reynolds!

If your son's school doesn't have a microwave available for the kids to use and insulated container (like a FunTainer or food jar) and keep their food warmed up for lunches. I have used one for my daughter to send her mac n cheese for lunch sometimes and I have used it for myself to take soup with me for lunch. My kids like string cheese goes fast in my house.

When I pack their lunches they usually get a sandwich (depending on which kid it is, depends on what kind of sandwich they turkey and cheese, ham and cheese, PB&J or just peanut butter) a healthy thing (Fruit,string cheese, applesauce, carrot sticks,etc) a snack type thing (granola bar, fruit snack or a couple of cookies) and a juice pouch. I believe everything in moderation and I rather them eat something and not be hungry at school.

For my lunches on the days I work I pretty much do the same thing a sandwich (I love the Sandwich Thins it at the bakery thrift store much cheaper than the grocery stores), leftovers or an occasional healthy TV dinner, something healthy like yogurt and fruit (I love strawberry yogurt with fresh raspberries) and my 90 calorie Fiber One brownie for a dessert and water to drink. Also pack a snack for the afternoon, usually a Balance bar to get more protein in and keep me from being starved when I get home.

Hope that helps! emoticon

CERTHIA SparkPoints: (22,539)
Fitness Minutes: (16,207)
Posts: 770
1/6/14 1:13 P

Perhaps buy a good cookbook that keeps things simple? Many pasta dishes are very easy. You can saute any veggies and/or meats, then toss it with cooked pasta and chicken-stock/tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste. If you feel like making it more fancy shred some fresh herbs, chop some walnuts or grate some cheese to sprinkle some on top. Simple, and tasty.

Super-easy pizza-rolls (perfect for brown bagging); spread store-bought wholewheat pizza dough with tomato-sauce, cut up and sprinkle lean ham, basil and some grated cheese on top, roll up, slice and bake. You can keep them in the freezer, and just take up one or two to thaw in the fridge overnight.

Add an apple or some carrot-sticks and a yogurt (preferably Greek, it has more protein and usually way less added sugar), and it's a fairly balanced lunch.

And cereals aren't all bad. Try finding a whole-wheat, high fiber, low sugar one for the kid? Mine loves fruit muesli as well as wholewheat oat cheerios.

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are always popular with my kid. I make them using whole-wheat bread, so they're pretty healthy.
Best of luck!

And don't give up on cooking even if it's tricky starting out, practice makes perfect. :)

1/6/14 11:20 A

If possible, don't take your kids or your husband shopping with you, and go when you've already eaten so junk stuff doesn't jump into your cart like it does when you're hungry. And I second the suggestion below to keep it simple with pre-portioned meats that can be grilled or baked and bags of frozen vegetables that can be steamed and bags of salad. At least that's a start.

Another thing that might work is learning one new recipe that you like a week. Don't start with a recipe with 20 ingredients. Start simple. You'll naturally feel proud of yourself if you've figured out one good recipe that you like, and you can slowly build on that success. Don't expect too much too fast or you'll get overwhelmed.

KENDILYNN SparkPoints: (22,924)
Fitness Minutes: (24,670)
Posts: 2,738
1/6/14 10:39 A

You can cut some of the prep time by pre-cooking chicken or other protein on Sunday to use throughout the week. If I'm roasting a whole chicken, I usually throw in two so I have extra to make soup, bbq chicken pizza, enchiladas, tacos, etc. I've also cooked a whole ham and portioned/frozen it for later use in quiche, omelets, etc.

ALGEBRAGIRL Posts: 1,925
1/5/14 12:31 P

Go to (or cooking blogs) or just google 'five ingredient recipes.' There are so many cookbooks out there that use just very few ingredients, are very simple, and usually very quick. There are even 5-ingredient recipe cookbooks for the pressure cooker, for the microwave, for the crockpot, etc.

But then, there are 4-ingredient cookbooks and 3-ingredient cookbooks too!

Start with quick and easy.

Even Weight Watchers has (or had) a 5-ingredient recipe cookbook. If you can find it used somewhere - or online - you know it's going to have some healthy stuff.

NIRERIN Posts: 14,297
1/5/14 11:36 A

start by keeping about double of the ingredients you need for that 10% you already cook at home. and work on actually cooking at home more. if you think the 10% recipes aren't that great start tweaking the recipes to make them better: add an extra cup of vegetables in. cut out a Tablespoon or two of oil and so forth.
then find new recipes. start by looking at pampered chef, starving students, and is it sandra lee at food network who does simply homemade? on the one hand, i don't consider these be all, end all great recipes. tasty, yes. but they often rely on premade stuff to make it quicker and easier. long term they probably aren't where you want to be, but while you're trying to get in the kitchen more, use whatever cheats you need to in order to get dinner on the table. it's still going to be better than eating out and you're easing yourself into the kitchen rather than trying to make a 40 ingredient 4 hour martha stewart recipe.
i always remind myself that it's going to take me double the time the recipe says to make it the first time. i keep rereading the recipe, checking the measurements and it just takes longer. so if i don't have an hour to make that 30 minute meal the first time, i wait until i do. once i've made it a few times i can often get it under the active time. but til you get the hang of it [and/or til you get cheats like prechopped vegetables in the freezer or fridge], it's going to be a little longer.
the other thing to do is to use the shortcuts available at the store. ideally you want a plate to be 1/4 protein, 1/4 grain and 1/2 vegetable. so buy the boxed, flavored rice dish. most of them cook in less than 20 minutes and the instructions are add water/milk, a little oil, boil, cover and wait. once you get used to that you can dump in beans or extra vegetables to make the nutrition info a little better. and once you get used to the dump, stir and wait cooking, you'll realize that you can buy the store brand minute brown rice, a little parmesan, some broth and chives and you can make that rice dish for less money in about the same time. but in the short term the boxed mixes can give you an idea of what you like so that you're not expending money and effort for dishes that are only so so. do the same with veggies. there are some great seasoned, frozen blends of veggies out there. if you find the sauce makes it a little less than ideal, mix a bag with sauce with a bag without and you'll still have a ton of tasty veggies, ready in about 5 minutes in the microwave. green giant makes a great blend with zucchini and carrots. since i usually have those on hand fresh, once i found i liked the blend all i had to do was slice of some zucchini and carrots, lightly sautee, add in some rosemary and garlic and finish off with a taste of butter. it takes 5 minutes, though i do still keep a frozen one on hand for when i do not want to cook.
i also keep frozen ravioli, frozen spinach and jarred pasta sauce on hand. i'm just me, but i can toss ten ravioli in a pyrex dish, microwave it for 70 seconds, add a half cup of frozen spinach, microwave it for 30 seconds, add a Tablespoon or two of sauce, back in the microwave for 30 seconds and have dinner. it's under 250 cals, has about 10 g protein and it's hard to call going out to get food easier than that. or even ordering in and waiting.

KPA1B2 Posts: 785
1/5/14 11:07 A

We were in the same position you were at one time. Getting rid of the junk food was the hardest. Breaking those habits were hard. I argued with myself in the grocery store to not buy those cookies. They are still something I desire and therefore I don't allow in my home very often.

Start by committing to making dinner X number of times a week. I make enough to have 1 serving of leftovers for my lunch. No more as it won't get eaten. Hubby takes a sandwich for lunch. Stick to it. You can do it.

1/5/14 8:47 A

I absolutely love to cook, and typically have plenty of time at dinner to do so. But, breakfast and lunch are another matter.

As has been mentioned, cooking in bulk has helped me incredibly with the limited time meals. Two books that I can personally recommend that will give you a script to follow are;


You can certainly modify the recipes to your liking/lifestyle. They give you some wonderful tips on preparing, storing, and serving. The "Meals in a Jar" book gets a bit of a bad rap because a lot of the content is actually "Meals in a Bag", but I find that concept to be handy also.

This will require you to set aside as much as one whole day a month to prepare. And, you have to keep the fresh vegetables to serve along side much of this. It's just incredibly convenient afterwards to have a single serve lunch, or family size, entree ready for reheat.

KELLYFIT123 Posts: 1,312
1/5/14 8:21 A

You have a lot of good ideas from this thread already! Here's my two cents.

My life isn't as complicated as yours, but what works for me is to plan my meals. Then I buy the ingredients I need for those meals, and make ahead what I can or have on-hand what I need for each evening. But sitting down and making a plan ahead of time is really important!

Good luck!!

ZORBS13 SparkPoints: (199,640)
Fitness Minutes: (195,052)
Posts: 15,862
1/5/14 8:18 A

but! you DO have some idea what foods are less healthy (you listed cookies and chips and ice cream). There are plenty of easy and healthy recipes available on spark and other places online. Plan what meals you are going to make, go to the store with a list (I use a grocery list app..also fooducate is an excellent app that gives a healthy rating to foods if you are stumped on which one is better for you). Make sure you stick to the list. If your husband brings in treats then he should keep it out of sight.

MICHELLEXXXX SparkPoints: (12,272)
Fitness Minutes: (5,920)
Posts: 3,790
1/5/14 12:15 A

I would keep it simple:
Meat (buy preportioned frozen cuts; just put in the oven on a tray)
Cooked Veggie (frozen; just steam on stove)
Raw salad (buy packaged and drizzle with olive oil)
Fresh fruit (dessert)

Entire meal in 5 minutes of work.

Snacks: cheese, veggies, fruits, hardboiled eggs (we prep a few at a time), pumpkin cookies (freeze well), frozen bananas.

Edited by: MICHELLEXXXX at: 1/5/2014 (11:52)
EXOTEC Posts: 3,327
1/4/14 10:37 P

Starting out a new healthy lifestyle can be daunting, I agree! But it doesn’t have to be stressful, just a reorientation.

First, try to simply stay out of those aisles where the processed foods are. If you MUST give in to temptation, put one of those handbaskets in your shopping cart. Only buy a few items which will fit in there (I don’t mean overstuffed!) from those snack aisles. Over time you can reduce the amount to *one* item per person per shopping trip. Stock up on whole meats, cheese, produce – even frozen veggies are fine (and better than canned), so long as you go for the unadorned sorts, not the sauced-up ones.

Find some simple recipes your family enjoys and make extra quantity to freeze. I love my slow cooker for this – big batches of chili or stew or whatever one-pot meals you like. Make a lot! then freeze portions. You might even get your family to join in a weekend cooking day, where you cook several meals to put by for later in the week. This would be an excellent way to introduce your son to healthy cooking, too. You never know: he might love it. How many successful chefs may have started this way?

I’ve been known to make a couple roasts, my favorite chicken, some fish in a sauce … those are great things to pull out later. It’s even nice for days when everyone wants something different. You’ve already got it covered.

I love wraps instead of sandwiches. I use coconut wraps, which are great for many uses. I can’t find them in stores, but two online sellers carry them: PureWraps and Julian Bakery. I like the former, because they market them in regular and curry flavors. They *don’t* taste like coconut! they’re very sturdy for hot or cold things, and microwave well. I’ve used them for regular sandwich fillings, BBQ wraps, hot dogs or sausages, taco or fajita fillings, breakfast fillings, even berries with whipped topping! They’re a bit pricey, but I love them.

I don’t know about your son’s school… it seems to me most school lunch rooms should have a microwave -?- If so, those frozen portions would be great to send along. Pull ‘em out in the morning and they’ll be thawed enough to microwave at lunchtime. Simple.

Snacks can be hard-boiled eggs, raw veggies with dip, nuts, a bit of whole fruit (go easy – lots of sugar in there)… for “crispies” we like chicharrones, or pork cracklins. Those make nice dip chips instead of the potato or grain things full of trans fats or unhealthy oils in most typical snack items. We eat bacon like candy around here. I bake up entire packages and refrigerate them. I love shrimp, too. I get big bags of precooked shrimp and just thaw a portion at a time. I sometimes eat them as lunch too. Any meaty leftovers are great on salads, and those should make okay lunches, even for a son, occasionally! lol

I’m sure you’ll get plenty of great ideas from other members here, too. You’re going in the right direction! Hang in there. It will come together and you’ll all be so much better off for it!

SLIMMERKIWI SparkPoints: (253,564)
Fitness Minutes: (41,531)
Posts: 27,138
1/4/14 10:14 P

Have you ever thought about bulk cooking on your days off? I do this all the time and have done for many years.

I make all sorts, from various veges soups, with plenty of lentils and/or split peas in it, too, and casseroles, also laden with veges and pulses. Using the pulses allows me to cut down a little on the lean meat.

I containerize them into single serves, and then just take what I want, when I want.

It is a brilliant way of saving time, saving money (one lot of cooking and one lot of cleaning up) and giving you the time to relax after work.

Another thing you could try is using a crock pot/ slow cooker. You can do all sorts in them, roasts, casseroles, soups, etc. and the house will smell inviting when you come home.

have mainly healthy snacks in the fridge or pantry for your family. If you do baking, you can make some healthy muffins and snack bars (reduce oils and add a little stewed fruit to them in it's place, and a little less sugar than the recipe generally calls for) . They can be frozen, too! They are great for bulk-baking, too.



DANID1976 SparkPoints: (743)
Fitness Minutes: (75)
Posts: 1
1/4/14 10:04 P

Hey all. I need a little help. I am not totally clueless as to what foods are bad and what foods are good. However, because of work schedules etc. My family has eaten out 90% of the time. I want to make a change. I want to start cooking at home, offering healthy snacks that my 11 year old son will eat (instead of cookies, chips, frozen meals, etc.). I don't know where to begin. It is so overwhelming. I usually go to the store and get some meat, chicken, canned veggies, some produce; But I also end up with chips for sandwiches, cereals, cookies, sweet granola bars, etc. How do I make a change? I go to the store with best intentions, but next thing I know my son has a bag of chips out and my husbands eating ice cream. I know these things are okay in small amounts but not all the time. And then I get so overwhelmed by recipes with 20 ingredients and an hour and a half in the kitchen, that I just say, "Forget it" and we go out to eat. I need help stocking my fridge and pantry, and with meal planning that won't take the whole night. And for some reason I haven't been able to get a handle on lunch. All I can think to make is a sandwich and that gets old quick. I'd like to send my son to school with lunch but I'm clueless as to what makes a good brown bagger. Any tips, advice, or swats upside my head are welcome! :) I would love some help getting my family healthy.

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