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Old 03-28-2008, 11:42 PM   #1
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Default Convenience Foods

Before I was losing weight, I used to eat a lot of Fast Foods. And since my husband is out of town for weeks on end, when he was gone I cooked less often and relied more on convenience foods for me and the kids. For as long as I can remember, we ordered pizza once a week. We also picked up drive-thru once or twice a week. And maybe we would order in chinese. Not real healthy, I know.

Now I have a little dilemma. Husband still gone a lot... and I am starting to feel really overwhelmed. He told me it was ok for me to order in or pick up ready-made meals if it helps me get everything done. With 5 kids, it gets really hectic. The teenage boys inhale so much food it makes me dizzy.

So, I have been trying to cook healthy foods and not eat convennience food at all. I make big batches of spaghetti sauce or chili and freeze portions. But I really wish that some days... like today... where you are just strung out and get home at 4 and think, oh man, I am too tired to fix dinner... I wish I could just GET something, ya know?

So my question is, are there any really healthy options out there, convenience-wise? I need something to fall back on when I am wiped out. The only thing I can come up with is Subway.
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:01 AM   #2
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Default Hmmmm

Now I am not normally the cook in the house, and it may not be considered convenience food, something I do is.... throw frozen (yes frozen) boneless skinless chicken breasts in the crock pot with a cup or so of water and a packet of lipton onion soup mix, or bagged frozen veggies and some chicken or vegetable broth. Put it on low and walk away. When you get home, there is fully cooked chicken, shreds like a dream. I throw it on salads, quesadillas, quick soft tacos. The other options I would have gone with are the spaghetti and subway suggestions. But you already have those!

Sorry I wasn't more help. If my cook (BF) has any ideas, I'll post again.

Good Luck!
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:04 AM   #3
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I'm with you on the five kids thing. I have to admit, too, that because my kids are older, I don't always feel obligated to feed them on crazy overscheduled days. I always make sure that our cupboards and fridge are stocked with easy-to-access options (including fruits and veggies, which my kids LOVE to snack on), and just let them feed themselves. But for healthy, easy options, there is no substitute for a crockpot! The planning is the key. Make sure you have ingredients for the meal, stick everything in the crockpot in the morning, and you don't have to worry when it gets to 4:00 p.m. (I will sometimes use not-so-healthy options like pizza when I am using it to get my kids to clean house or something, but I have to make sure that I have an appealing and healthy alternative for me before I let that in the house. I also make sure not to order too much food. My husband's always afraid that everyone won't get as much as they want, but we have enough food in our house that I know that none of the kids will starve if they're still hungry after they've had a few pieces. I don't want any leftovers, because it's much harder for me to turn it down for hours or days than to turn it down once.)
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:12 AM   #4
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Salad bars. Even if you don't have a grocery store nearby that has one, you may be able to find a restaurant that does. Seriously, this is my fallback - my local grocery store has a great salad bar, and I load up a big container with fresh veggies, grilled chicken, and a tablespoon or two of parmesan. I take it home and spray with my own spray salad dressing. Delicious and FAST. If you don't have a salad bar, keep canned beans around, and get a bagged salad mix. You can get pre-cooked chicken breast strips near the deli meats. Easy and very healthy, plenty of fiber and protein.
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:14 AM   #5
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Nixmom, Congrats on your loss so far. Honestly, I don't know how you do it with 5 kids! I can barely prepare a meal for myself. I do try to cook in batches, but w/limited freezer space, I end up eating left-overs for a week & it gets old.

Now with so many fast food restaurants giving nutrition info on the websites, I think it's easier to fit it into your schedule--just not all the time. Many have grilled chicken sandwiches, wraps, salads, heck even hamburgers w/o the sauces, mayo aren't so bad.

If you want to pick up fast food for the kids and prepare something healthier for yourself, I love my George Foreman Grill. A thawed chicken breast takes maybe 5-10 minutes to cook & then you can throw it on a salad, make a sandwich, wrap, etc. I also fix fish, steak, veggies, etc and it takes no time.

Also, you might think about keeping a couple of frozen meals around. I know some will disagree w/me--mainly for sodium content, but it's the same w/fast food. When I'm really craving pizza, I go to the freezer & grab a Lean Cuisine pizza & it really satisfies me and gets me past the craving.

Just a couple of suggestions.
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:18 AM   #6
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I don't have kids, but cooking for one can be daunting as well. So I eat a lot of fast food. That's probably my biggest hurdle to overcome. Subway is always a great option, and most fast food restaurants offer salads now. But yeah, crockpots are great. Maybe a pot of chili with ground turkey instead of beef. Canned soups are great too - I love the campbell's select and chunky varieties. A lot of them have around 5 or 6 points per can and they're very filling. Your teenage boys may even get full on them! Fry up a quick grilled cheese and they're good to go.
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:35 AM   #7
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The suggestion about the salad bar/hot food at the grocery store is great. I find that there are lots of things I could get, even though some may require a little preparation (like peeling the skin off fried chicken).

I also like Panda Express on occasion. I skip the batter-fried stuff (like the orange chicken) and will get something like tofu with veggies, and plain rice. (White rice is not a sin on my diet!).
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Old 03-29-2008, 06:33 AM   #8
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Salad bars is a great idea! How about adding deli turkey breast to it. We love that here. You can even do turkey breast wraps with a high protein/fiber flat wrap, like La Tortilla or Damascus. Roitisserie chicken from a grocery store is another decent option.

For "fast" food, though not "fast food", how about keeping a bunch of salmon fillets in the freezer? They just need some garlic and lemon juice and a few other seasonings and they cook up in 30 minutes. Serve with lots of frozen veggies if need be.

Maybe you could take one day a week and make a huge pot of soup for the week ahead. This way you have a portion of dinner already made ahead. Vegetable soup, tomato soup, butternut squash soup? Goes great with everything. Or perhaps a huge pot of black bean chili.

A crockpot is a great do ahead item as well.

Nothing wrong with a pizza night every now and then either. Just stick to low cheese, lots of veggies. Stick to a slice and add either soup or a large salad with it.
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Old 03-29-2008, 07:45 AM   #9
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Oh, boy, can I relate to you as far as having a teenage son who inhales EVERYTHING! Bless his heart, he even loves all of my health food that I cook, so I can't even look forward to left overs anymore to save me time for the next day or two. Perfect example- I make myself protein pancakes and spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese. Items that I USED to be able to make extra of so I had them for the rest of the week to reheat and eat on the busy days. I can no longer do that, as my hollowed legged son finishes off the rest of it before I can put it in the fridge. I look at it this way, though- at least he's eating healthy food and is fit and trim.

With a very busy and hectic baseball/softball season coming up, I find myself scrambling to make quick dinners myself. These are some of my fast food ideas that may help you:


1. Tortilla wraps-
ready made Caesar salad mix, Purdue pre-cooked white chicken pieces, croutons. Mix salad and the rest of the ingredients, put in tortilla, wrap up, and serve with fruit and Baked Lays chips.

2. Tacos- kids and hubby love the hard shells, but I prefer the soft shells. Kids love them, and they're decent as a diet food, too! Serve with refried beans on the side. If you have a free day on the weekends, I brown up a few pounds of the hamburger, wash, cut, peel up veggies for snacks except for tomatoes or anything that will get mushy, wash all of my fruits and put them in a bowl for snacks. Having the hamburger cooked and the lettuce chopped up saves time on a busy night. You can freeze the cooked hamburger, too.
Getting back to my soft shells- I love to take one soft shell, add two tablespoons of sour cream, a bit of salsa and spread on the bottom. I load it up with tomatoes, lettuce, beans, and some olives, then add the hamburger on top. Very filling and yummy!

3. Sausages and biscuits with a side of fruit salad. A HUGE favorite dinner in our house, and very filling and satisfying. I take a Jimmy Dean sausage, fry it up (I chop it into bits), drain and rinse in hot water to get excess fat off, drain again, put it in the fridge or freezer for one night this week. I make a sauce with four cups of skim milk, four tablespoons of flour, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. idosized salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 2 tablespoons of Smart Balance margaine, and serve it over biscuits.

We have a fruit salad on the side- you can also prepare the base for it ahead of time, and it will last four days: Mix one part apple juice to one part white grape juice (I use the low sugar/calorie versions). Add in red and green apples, cut up into bite size pieces (these will last up to four or five days in the juice!), red and green grapes, and oranges. When meal time comes, I add in banana slices and other fruits like strawberries and blueberries. The kids love this meal!

4. Sloppy Joes. Again, pre-cooked hamburger is your friend. Serve on hamburger buns, with a couple of raw veggies and Baked Lays on the side.

5. Boboli pizzas- another family favorite. My kids even love the wheat crust. So much you can add to this to change up the taste and keep it to low cal. I add lots of mushrooms and red peppers to mine.

6. The night before this next meal,
I do the following: cut up carrots into rounds, cut up sweet potatoes and red potatoes into bite sized pieces, and defrost a bag of frozen green beans. On the back of a Lipton Onion Soup mix, there is a recipe for roasted potatoes- I used that recipe with the veggies above cut up and defrosted, and bake them according to the package directions while watching my Bruins hockey games.

Next morning, I take a trimmed pot rost, rub in a package of Lipton Onion Soup mix and a tablespoon or two of olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil completely, throw it in the crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours- the beef is fork tender and delicious! You can make a gravy on the stove with the juices from the crockpot by adding some cold water or milk with flour, if desired. Reheat the roasted veggies in the microwave, viola, a yummy and healthy dinner when you get home.

7. Chicken and Cheese Fajitas. I marinade 2 pounds of cut up boneless chicken breasts in a marinade of : 2 cups of Italian dressing (I use fat free), 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 4 tsps of Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 cup of salsa. Marinade overnight in fridge. Next evening, cook chicken on medium for about ten minutes, then low for about 20 minutes. While chicken is cooking, prepare tortillas by cutting aluminum foil long enough to cover up each filled tortilla. Add sour cream and salsa to tortilla if desired, and reduced fat cheddar cheese. Once chicken is completely cooked, drain completely, add to tortillas already with fillings on them, wrap up tortillas, then wrap in foil, covering tortilla completely. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, turning over tortillas once half way through. Very filling, and another meal that gets some cut up fruit or veggies on the side.

8. Some nights, we have Chicken Salad ********* or some other Chicken Salad, warmed wheat rolls, and veggie salad on the side. Change it up and have tuna salad or seafood salad.

9. Some nights we have an antipasto salad with warmed wheat rolls on the side. You can have all the ingredients made up ahead of time, even the meat rolls (turkey breast, low fat cheese, fat free bologna, low salt/calorie ham rolled up and cut into rounds). My kids love this very much and we have it at least once a week during the spring time.

10. Do you have a grill?
Turkey burgers and potato salad are a nice option for a fast meal, even in the winter months. Low calorie hot dogs with a side salad and corn on the cob. Pork chops on the grill with Yellow rice and a couple of veggies. Steak tips and Tortellini salad with spinach and artichokes.

11. A family favorite veggie side-
I use one can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz), 2 small zuchinni a 1 summer squash sliced a about a half inch thick, a bag of frozen green beans already defrosted, and a couple of carrots sliced into rounds. I add 1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground red cayenne pepper, tsp of iodized salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. I cook it on the stove for about 40 minutes to an hour on low/medium heat, until carrots and both squashes are cooked.

You can eat as is with some grilled meat on the side like chicken or pork, or add to pasta and have a side salad. We add freshly grated parmesan cheese on top of it, it is delicious! I double or triple this recipe myself, so I have some for the rest of the week as a side for lunch or other dinners.

12. Hungarian Goulash in the crockpot. I serve it with bow tie pasta and a side salad.

13. Chicken Cacciatore in a crockpot. Another fast and easy meal! Just cook some ziti when you get home, and viola, another yummy dinner without much fuss.

14. BBQ'd beef, pork or chicken in a crockpot. Serve on hamburger rolls, with a side of baked beans and corn on the cob.

These are just some suggestions that I use to help with hectic nights. Hope a couple of them might help you.
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:41 AM   #10
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What about a rotisserie chicken? There are days when I stop at the supermarket on the way home to get one, because I just can't even think about cooking. I always take the skin off, and then it's on plan. You could get sides for the kids (beans, coleslaw, etc), and microwave something green and frozen for yourself as a side (I like Green Giant no sauce veggies.)

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Old 03-29-2008, 09:54 AM   #11
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Yep, rotisserie chicken is what we do. $4.95 at walmart. add some veggies & ***PRESTO****.

I'll admit that having 2 kids almost put me on meds, so I can't imagine 5. BUT, what I think I would do on these nights is grab a smartones/lean cuisine for me and make NAchos for the kids. Chips, cheese, beans, meat/chicken (IF you want to go to all the trouble & they care), lettuce, sour cream, etc. Throw it on the counter and let them make their own!
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:57 AM   #12
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I am a hugenormous fan of Sunday cooking. I am a fulltime student, so some nights even if I am home, I can't take time to cook. Here's what I do: Every Sunday I cook for about three hours. 3 pounds marinated chicken breasts go on the grill, five pounds of ground turkey browned and then split between Mexican seasoning and two bags of plain. When the chicken cools I slice it up thin. We use the chicken for salads, fajitas, quesadillas, stir fry and pasta. The Mexican ground turkey is taco salads or nachos for the daughters, or tacos. The plain I use for pasta sauce or a casserole or pizza or whatever. While the meat is cooking, I clean all the veggies for the week and chop whatever needs chopped. It is SO much easier for me or DH or a daughter to throw a meal together this way.

In the summer I still do the chicken breasts on Sunday, but we grill several nights, too. I've become a huge fan of turkey burgers, but DH and one daughter still prefer lean ground beef, so we just do both. We also grill fish and pork chops. If the grill is on, the veggies go in foil and get thrown on, too. Easy meals.

Hope this helps!
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Old 03-29-2008, 10:34 AM   #13
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Hey these are some good ideas!
I was going to suggest enchiladas too. I have a recipe for veggie ones with tofu but you could use beef or chicken - mix it up with low fat beans, wrap in ww tortilla and bake with low fat cheese and enchilada sauce. About 250 calories and super filling! I double the recipe and freeze them individually so I can grab one in a hurry and nuke it for 2 minutes.
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:04 AM   #14
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Have you heard of make ahead meals where you make meals and freeze them? There are entire companies built on the idea where they prep all the food and you go and prepare weeks worth of dinners within a couple hours. Then you take them out of the freezer and follow the instructions to actually cook them, which is usually pretty minimal in timing. I tried one for a while and since you customized the meal for yourself, you could adjust ingredients as you saw fit. The one I did was called "Let's Dish".

There are also cookbooks based on the idea doing it at home as well. The idea is basically the same, spend a couple hours one day prepping multiple meals.
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:22 AM   #15
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Holy cow! I am amazed at all the totally fantastic meal ideas you all have! I am definately printing out this thread, because I think my worries are solved! LOL!

Maybe I was just in a rut, with the same old foods, you know how it is. But I can totally see my kids wolfing down a lot of these healthy options, and I think I can even plan menus a week at a time with this thread! I have always wanted to do that... plan a week ahead... but never felt like I was organized enough. This printout can be my grocery list!

Thanks guys, this board rocks!!
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