Meal Solutions for the Common Sense Inept
November 27, 2012 2:45 PM   Subscribe

What are some handy, affordable, healthy meal solutions for a kitchen-less existence?

In the effort to replenish my daily stock of free time I've decided to spend 5 nights a week sleeping over at the office. For the record, my higher-ups are totally comfortable with this (and, for better or worse, encourage it). Looking over my expenses for the past month, as well as the ever-expanding circumference of my waistline, I've come to the realization that eating take-out 5 days a week for lunch and dinner probably isn't the most intelligent way I could be spending my money. Especially when I make peanuts per/hr.

Well then.

So, we have a mini-fridge here, but no stove, no oven, no microwave, no toaster, nor nothin' else. However, there is a well-stocked supermarket just 50 feet across the street. Hmm...

For the survivalists and spendthrifts out there, as well as other creative minds of all kinds, I ask you: how would you nutritionally sustain yourself under such circumstances?

And, bonus points!: in the absence of being able to cook raw meat/poultry, how would I best consume adequate amounts of protein for a weight lifting regime? I'm looking at you, vegetarian and vegan mefites.

All tips, suggestions, pointers and recommendations are most welcome, even if they may seem absurdly obvious. To me, they probably are not so obvious. I've never lived all on my own (in a sense) before, so this is crossing more than one threshold for me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, all who may contribute! :)
posted by Sine_Agraphia to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Any canned fish is already cooked, and usually an excellent source of protein and relatively low calories. Now's your chance to learn what a kipper snack is, or to put a tin of sardines on your salad. Often you don't even need a can opener, but get some napkins as some are packed in oil or sauce and can leave a fishy smell on your hands if you're not careful.
posted by furtive at 2:51 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I lived without a fridge, I ate a tremendous amount of dry nuts and avocados.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:52 PM on November 27, 2012

My well-stocked supermarket sells prepackaged salads (usually with a protein, dressing, and a mix of vegetables) which you could keep in the fridge and eat without needing anything to heat them up.

It also sells grilled chicken breasts, grilled chicken strips, and rotisserie chickens, all of which you could keep in the fridge for your protein needs. They're often kind of dry, but a jar of salsa would cure that easily.
posted by willbaude at 2:53 PM on November 27, 2012

Toaster ovens can be had pretty cheaply, either new or used. If your workplace allows it, look into that to expand your options. Barring that, try sandwiches--anything from PB+J to banh mi--or something like potato salad. Actually, stuff you would eat at a picnic is probably a good model.
posted by Cash4Lead at 2:57 PM on November 27, 2012

Make sandwiches. Everything can go in the fridge. If you want them hot, like I like sandwiches, get a Lean Mean Grilling Machine or a toaster oven. The grilling machine can also cook meat, but I wouldn't recommend it in an office (especially if you can't open the windows).

You can premake salads over the weekend (or just ge the supply). As long as you don't put in the dressing, most salads will keep for a week. Or you can make "mason jar" salads where the dress is put in at the bottom with pickled veggies so the lettuce/spinach/arugula stays soft.

You can buy premade curry at stores (no meat, just veggies) that only need to be boiled to be reheated. Get a cheapo water boiler for ~$10 and reheat the curry in there. Serve on bread.

With the same water boiler you can make instant noodles. It CAN be healthy if you spend a bit more than the minimum and add pre-cooked veggies to it. (You'd probably precook the veggies over the weekend. Just parboil them or something.) You can also add an egg, either hardboiled or just when you add the boiling water and eat the egg half raw. (Insert some salmonella warning here, yadda, yadda, yadda.)
posted by ethidda at 2:59 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hummus on pita with avocado, spinach, sprouts, tomato, etc -- anything you feel like adding. Greek yogurt with chocolate protein powder mixed in (it's like pudding!). Sandwiches of any sort. Lots of salads. You could even eat cold cereal.
posted by baby beluga at 3:06 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I buy pouches of pre-cooked chicken breast (usually by the canned meat/tuna) and a couple containers of pre-cut fruit and regularly eat that as a healthy but portable lunch that doesn't need cooking.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:07 PM on November 27, 2012

Do you have a coffeemaker or way to heat up water? Ramen makes a good base for a lot of things, or you can eat it dry, crumbled onto a salad.

Cheese and bread has been my breakfast many times.
posted by WasabiFlux at 3:13 PM on November 27, 2012

I just asked a variant of this question about twelve hours ago and got some good responses:

The Fine Art of Stealth Cooking at Work.

posted by mecran01 at 3:33 PM on November 27, 2012

I'd get a rice cooker. You can make pasta, hard boiled eggs, steam vegetables, you name it. Make enough at dinner time for lunch the next day, and you're set.
posted by lemniskate at 3:46 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know this isn't what you are asking for but I use this portable burner when the power goes out. It works better than my actual stove and doesn't need venting. It also packs up neatly and you could store it under your desk.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:08 PM on November 27, 2012

Baked beans aren't too bad straight out of the can, especially if they're cold. You could keep one can in the fridge and the rest under your desk.
posted by anaelith at 5:19 PM on November 27, 2012

Everyone always talks about how beans are a great source of protein. I'm a big fan of kidney beans. You can actually just throw a little italian salad dressing on canned kidney beans (you're supposed to rinse them first, throw 'em in a strainer and run water over). Add in some cut-up tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe some olives, and you have yourself a salad.
posted by radioamy at 5:45 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding water boiler and dry meals in a cup like this stuff (you can use the "add boiling water" method just as effectively as the microwave method).
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:51 PM on November 27, 2012

Yeah, there's plenty of pre-cooked meats, canned beans, canned tuna, and nuts to provide your protein. The worst thing about your setup, to me, is not being able to make pastas and rice. Which basically means a lot of sandwiches, wraps and salads. However, if you can bring in an electric kettle, you could make couscous. You may even be able to swing a crock pot, although it will definitely be aromatic.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 5:57 PM on November 27, 2012

Can you make pasta at home and eat it cold or room temperature? Pasta with pesto (and chicken if you want) is good cold, IMO.
posted by MadamM at 6:58 PM on November 27, 2012

If you want simple, try tuna and crackers. Or, a can of beans and a big scoop of salsa. Peanut butter sandwiches. All will get you decent amount of protein.
posted by markblasco at 6:59 PM on November 27, 2012

Seconding rice cooker. You can cook chicken in it without fuss. I linked this site for a question yesterday, you can find a lot of resources for cooking without a kitchen on there.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:00 PM on November 27, 2012

I use a Blender Ball (a fancy plastic bottle that helps mix shake powder) with Vega protein shake powder (vegan). This is something that can be kept around all the time.

One thing to keep in your desk for emergencies is are oatmeal packets that just need hot water.

Look into making burritos ahead of time and bringing to work! :)

Keep little section in the fridge for a sandwich station-bread, condiments, meat/tofurkey, etc.
posted by dottiechang at 7:24 PM on November 27, 2012

Low-fat cottage cheese for protein. Also hard-boiled eggs. Cheese, cured meats, and crackers or bread. Peanut butter sandwiches.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:35 PM on November 27, 2012

This may feel more like breakfast to you but what about refrigerator oatmeal or muesli? The basic idea is: oats + milk/yogurt/non-dairy milk product, mixed together in a container and left overnight or longer in the fridge will turn into a yummy, creamy snack without having to cook the oatmeal. That link has various ideas for flavoring and mix-ins to add flavor and nutrition (fruit, nuts, peanut butter, cocoa) but inventing your own is easy. Maybe you could invent a savory variation if that is more your style for lunch and dinner. I had a friend who used to eat miso oatmeal with all same ingredients as miso soup but with oatmeal added.

I often mix up a quart of this stuff at the beginning of the week and scoop out a serving at a time whenever I want.
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:44 PM on November 27, 2012

Not a specific thing, but aim for variety over the course of a week, as opposed to necessarily that day. So eat one protein and one vegetable and one starch one dinner, and then the next day have something completely different. Then you can eat it all and not have to worry about leftovers.

For example, a pot of hommus and some bread and carrots is a pretty good meal, assuming you don't eat it every night. Oh, and tuna with celery and or capsicum is a pretty good salad too.
posted by kjs4 at 9:45 PM on November 27, 2012

Greek yogurt is loaded with protein. Peanut butter is another option. With crackers, or on bread.

You don't say where you are, which makes a big difference. In the US a supermarket has a deli section AND a microwave AND a seating area, so you can actually prepare your meal in the store, if it isn't already prepared and warmed for you.

Cheese is another delicious source of protein. Some cheese, bread a pre-made salad, that's a meal where I come from.

What about cold-cuts? You could make sandwiches. Ramen or other soups that only need hot water.

Knowing what grocery store and where you are will help a lot with recommendations.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:51 AM on November 28, 2012

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