Om nom nom... hey kid! Gimme back my taco!!
June 18, 2012 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Long, busy summer running a day camp. Looking for quick, easy, yummy meal ideas.... help me not to starve!

I'll be pretty busy at work all summer, and I'm looking for easy, cheap meal ideas. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I have 8 weeks of this crazy work schedule, so I'm looking for some variety!

Breakfasts should be something I have eat on the bus, ideally, lunches can be hot or cold, but nothing with a lot of lunch-time assembly (I work with kids, and so I'll be helping the kids with their lunches at the same time), and dinners should be closer to comfort food. I can spend about an hour or two (plus grocery shopping) on the weekends preparing, but I don't want to spend a lot of time on it during the week. Something I can grab and go. Say, 2-3 minutes for breakfast, and no more than 5 minutes in the morning getting lunch prepared. I'm ok with dinners that take a while to cook (up to 30-45 minutes), but I don't want a lot of prep time or dishes!! I'm not against disposable packaging for this season of my life.

I prefer strong flavors (soy sauce, hot sauce, cheeses, etc), and have no allergies, but I don't eat mushrooms, seafood, or pork. I prefer healthy, but within reason (ie: chicken fingers and salad would be ok, chicken fingers and fries would not). I have a particular affinity for Indian, Mexican, and Korean, but anything is ok. Try as I may to eat leftovers (ie: last night's spaghetti), it just doesn't happen. It ends up in the trash a week later. I have an oven, toaster oven, and microwave at home, and a microwave and fridge/freezer at work. I can leave food in the fridge during the week.

Things that have worked before:

- pre-packaged breakfast burritos
- I made a whole bunch of potato/couscous/taboulleh salads, bought a roast chicken, and then just threw a bunch of each in a tupperware each morning.
- A bag of unbaked, homemade spinach flautas in the freezer, 3 thrown in the oven when I get home
- I made a large batch of enchiladas (unbaked), and put them in small tin foil pans. to freeze. I'd take one out in the morning, and pop it in the oven when I got home, eating it right out of the pan. Only a fork to wash!
- Frozen "Lean Cuisine" for really desperate days
- Various bags of chopped raw veggies and a tub of hummus.
- Pouches of "boil in a bag" Indian curries. I just make a pot of rice, and eat some with a different curry each day.

I can spend up to $100/week on food, but that includes any takeout or whatever.
Sorry to make this question so long!

Thanks in advance, mefites!
posted by hasna to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Buy a bunch of good soba noodles. Boil 'em up (8 mins max) and throw stuff on top of them or toss them into stir fries.

(Cold) leftovers will be even better than the original meals.
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:33 PM on June 18, 2012

Make a giant pot of oatmeal with whatever flavorings/fillings you like (I favor cinnamon, raisins, bananas and blueberries, with cashews or walnuts if I need it to be more filling), spoon out serving-sized blobs, and freeze them. Drop one into a bowl in the morning, microwave it, and you have a portable hot breakfast.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:47 PM on June 18, 2012

I liked the Lemon Orzo salad idea from this thread. Also note that you can make banana bread (that kind or just the regular kind) and it will keep for 5 days, making a great breakfast. You can also make frozen blueberry muffins, and then freeze them. Thaw overnight and they make a handy breakfast to go. The ultimate hot night, no-cook meal for me is Tomato and Mozarella salad, which is even better for lunch when it's been sitting all morning. Finally, gazpacho is (or should be) super easy to make and great for any meal; recipes and consistency vary wildly, though, and you need to find a version you like.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:49 PM on June 18, 2012

--make your own breakfast burritos!
--cook up a vat of steel cut oats on Sunday, they'll keep all week in a tupperware in the fridge. Nuke 'em for a minute or two, stir in brown sugar/nuts/bananas/dates/whatever your little heart desires.
--make your own Egg McMuffins!
--speaking of english muffins, how about one toasted with some peanut butter and sliced bananas on top?
--make and freeze breakfast quiches! You can cut/freeze them in individual bags, wrapped in wax paper, for easy reheating.
--greek yogurt with cereal or granola and berries

--Chickpea, olive + apricot salad. I could eat this every single day for lunch. So good.
--Lentil and bacon salad. More protein! And bacon, of course.
--Shred some of that store-bought rotisserie chicken with a tiny bit of mayo, lots of curry powder, and golden raisins for a stripped-down curried chicken salad. If you have time throw in some celery and mango. Fancy!
--Try some of the salads that Bittman recommends
--On the weekends when you have some time to experiment, try some of the bento recipes at Just Bento.
--Make a homemade version of Chipotle's burrito bowls. Add avocado, hot sauce, lime-soaked cabbage, ghost peppers, whatever floats your boat.

I'm always starving when I get home so these are my go-to's that ensure I will have food in my face in less than four minutes with as few dishes as possible. I'm sure others will be able to give you ideas for tastier/classier/comfort-foodier!
--Shove two cups spinach in a microwave bowl, toss in three frozen chicken meatballs and pour some marinara over top. Nuke for three minutes, shred some parm on top, and voila!
--Toast and butter some multigrain bread, top with sauteed asparagus/chard/spinach/something green and a poached/over medium egg, finish with grated parm.
posted by stellaluna at 3:10 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have Trader Joe's where you live? I have survived almost exclusively on their healthy, prepared (frozen) meals during similarly demanding periods of my life.
posted by TrixieRamble at 3:23 PM on June 18, 2012

Breakfast can be a toasted homemade or healthy whole grain waffle with nut-butter spread or nutella, and a glass of milk (yummy!) Or an egg salad sandwich and a banana. Or flavored cream cheese on a toasted bagel. Lots of neat, healthy choices there.

How about a nice wrap for lunch? Fruit and greek yogurt. Full of protein, veggies and calcuim.

A take on the cold Vietnamese spring rolls. Instead of shrimp, you could put shredded chicken in there. Banh Mi are also delicious and should travel well.

Make a nice pot of soup, or buy ready made soups at a deli, and take them with a sandwich for lunch.

Get a crock pot and throw stuff in there. Leave it on all day. Come home to dinner. They make smaller ones now, for one/two people meals. (I'm not a left over person, so I feel you on that.) I have one with the crock that separates from the heating element so I can get it set at night and just put it in the fridge until morning. Quick and easy.

Bagels and tuna salad is an awesome evening meal in the middle of summer. A little tomato soup with that and some salad, yum!

When you do your enchiladas, instead of freezing in metal pans, make a big pan and bake. Put in re-heat containers and have reheated for lunch. (that's not a left over, it's a cassarole and better on the second day)

Tamales are awesome reheated, and can usually be purchased by the dozen. Steam or nuke.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:52 PM on June 18, 2012

Full fat greek yogurt. The fat is key--it will keep you feeling satisfied with no sugar crash. A cup is about 250-300 calories depending on brand, which is totally reasonable for breakfast. Sometimes I will do greek yogurt and a simple salad for lunch instead.
posted by elizeh at 7:29 PM on June 18, 2012

Super awesome ideas!! Thanks, guys! I'm not choosing a favorite cause pretty much all the answers are exactly what I was looking for. :)
posted by hasna at 7:49 AM on July 2, 2012

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