Help me make a default meal plan
September 24, 2014 9:14 AM   Subscribe

What are some things that are tasty AND healthy AND easy to make that you'd be content to eat every day? I'm trying to make a habit of eating roughly the same things at roughly the same times. I know your taste may be different from mine, but throw it at me anyway. I'm looking for ideas.

I kind of treat each occurrence of hunger in my belly as a sudden surprise and then scrambling to find the tastiest, least guilt-inducing thing nearby to shove into my pie-hole. This leads me to eat a lot of crap and spend a lot of money doing it!

I think if I have a "default" breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, that at least will be a start and can plan for that. Any time I've tried to look at meal planning sites, they look WAY above my level. Help me gain some eating XP.
posted by Calicatt to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
How about packets of instant oatmeal for breakfast. You can take them to work and have them with your AM coffee.

As for lunch, Sandwich and Soup is an oldie but a goodie. Ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, PBJ.

You can make a soup on the weekend and eat it all through the week.

Snack: Yogurt, granola bar, fruit, babybel cheeses.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:17 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

-Sweat a diced onion
-Add sliced sausage and cook through
-Add bagged frozen spinach
-Add pasta sauce
-Heat until hot

Or, even easier:

-Heat pasta sauce in a pan on low
-Crack a couple eggs in and let cook
-Serve on toast
-If you want, top with cheese or avocado or herbs or meat

These are my standard Bachelor Chow.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:17 AM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I eat a hard boiled egg, buttered english muffin, yogurt, and fruit (almost) every day for breakfast. One of the pleasures of my day.

If I have romaine and a tupperware of chopped mixed veggies (peppers, cukes, carrots, whatever) + cheese, nuts, craisins, protein, whatever, I'm very likely to have a salad for lunch. The key for me is to do some of the prep ahead of time.

When I'm in the mood to cook, I'll make a huge batch of food and put individually frozen portions in the freezer to have for lunch or dinner a different day. Right now, I have lasagna, lentil soup, ratatoille, and Thai curry chicken.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 9:18 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every day for a couple of months. Usually with baby carrots and yogurt, or applesauce and a few tortilla chips. I mean, it's neither the absolute healthiest nor the absolute tastiest but you could do a lot worse. I started doing it for dumb reasons but it was actually kind of freeing to never have to worry about what I was having for lunch.

For dinner, pasta with egg is great - cook pasta (spaghetti/angel hair), lightly fry an egg, dump egg on top of pasta. Throw some veggies in either the frying pan or the pasta water for a full meal.
posted by mskyle at 9:18 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Eggs and bacon for breakfast. Or Greek yogurt with honey or jam in a real pinch.

Sandwiches for lunch: tuna, turkey, peanut butter, hamburger, etc.
Or salads! Whatever veggies you have on hand, last night's leftover chicken and roasted/steamed veggies, nuts, hardboiled eggs, etc. Just find a dressing you reallly like and you're set.

Chili for dinner (just brown some meat and add beans, onion, diced tomato, what-have-you and spices and simmer for a bit). I could eat that every night.
What I DO eat most nights is roasted chicken. Some veggies work really well to just be thrown in with the chicken so they all cook together (carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, yams, onions, broccoli, zucchini).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2014

I get bored with repeat lunches but eat the same thing for breakfast every day: small glass of juice, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. It's nice because every week when doing my grocery shopping I only need to check on the status of three things and buy as required!
posted by jabes at 9:21 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, you mention "meal planning sites" so I will say -- planning what you eat each meal for the week really helps prevent me from doing random take-out or eating crap. So on Sunday afternoon, I'll write out a quick meal plan and boil my eggs, chop my salad veggies, and stick my individual portioned baggies in the fridge to thaw.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 9:22 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My breakfast standbys:

Strawberry/banana smoothie - Greek yogurt, frozen banana, strawberries, protein powder, a bit of water to loosen it up

Chocolate/banana smoothie - plain kefir, frozen banana, chocolate protein powder

Overnight oatmeal - steel cut oats, chia seeds (optional), almond milk, vanilla extract, molasses for sweetness
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:26 AM on September 24, 2014

The ultimate easy lunch is some variation of a ploughman's lunch. A regular assortment of items that are either precooked (like a boiled egg) or need no preparation at all. Items may include boiled eggs, sausage, cheese, bread, grapes or other ready to eat fruit, sliced tomato, etc. Throwing in hummus and carrots is always good as it covers protein/fat and vegetables all in one go.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:29 AM on September 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm one of those insane creatures of habit but I eat exactly the same breakfast and lunch probably 350 days per year.

Brekkie: Omelette with mushrooms and black pepper, toast and banana, coffee.
Lunch: Spinach salad with chicken breast, cottage cheese and berries, coffee.
Snacks: Quest bars, more coffee. Sometimes apples or pears.

All can be slightly adjusted depending what fruit and veggies I have available. All are delicious, healthy and pretty cheap (well quest bars aren't but I like them). All have lots of protein which fills me up.

I find when I feel like eating something different, most of the time what I actually want is not to have to clean the breakfast dishes or to wander down to the supermarket to stretch my legs/get a break from the office. I never enjoy store-bought food as much and it's a waste of money. Having a convenient way to bring lunch to the office is important too, nobody wants to be juggling containers on the subway, and a routine of when you make and pack lunch and so on so you're not rushing or stressed before work.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Like you, being prepared and ready to eat at the same time and having something sort of planned was something that I struggled with. I'm a busy gal and don't have the time (or energy, frankly) to commit to a complicated meal plan and it's associated grocery list. A big part of this is grocery shopping.

My weekly grocery list usually looks like this (give or take, depending what does or doesn't need replacing):
@5 individual yogurts
Some OJ
1/2 dozen eggs
Some nice thick sausages, usually italian or chicken apple
Individually wrapped chicken breasts
An onion
Some garlic
Some fresh herbs
A few sweet potatoes
A bag of pre-washed, pre-cut Kale or sauteeing greens
A few bags of steam-in bag brussel sprouts or broccoli
A bag of string cheese
Some fruit (whatever looks sturdy and tasty!)
Some micro-meals for emergency I'M TIRED AND I'M STARVING moments
Microwave in bag rice

For breakfast I usually wolf down some yogurt and some OJ with coffee in the morning. Super quick to make. If I'm looking for savory I might scramble an egg with some cheese, or make an oatmeal packet. If I remember on the weekend sometimes I buy and hard boil eggs and you can eat them quickly and they're pretty filling in the AM.

Lunch - I rarely bring to work... so much hassle. But to keep things healthy I usually grab a big chicken caesar salad and have gotten pretty used to eating it nearly every day, sometimes with a side of soup if I'm feeling particularly hungry. Sandwiches are great but I find pretty high calorie for the amount it fills you up. I found a salad/sandwich chain near my office (Specialtys, if there's one near you), where you can place and store an order online. I have a note in my calendar and I just place the order for it at the same time nearly every day and pick it up. No muss, no fuss.

Dinner -
If I have the energy to actually cook something I will:
Turn the oven on as soon as I get home. Grab a sweet potato, poke it with a fork, wrap it in some foil, and toss it in the oven.
Once I'm settled, I:
Slice up some onion
Chop up a little garlic and some herbs
Slice up a few bell peppers
Chop up some sausage, usually chicken sausage OR grab an individually wrapped chicken breast and slice it up (you can also buy pre-cooked chicken strips that just need reheating)
Toss in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper (I like ground sea salt), and for fancy points, you can chop up some fresh herbs, they sell 'em at the grocery store and they make everything taste fancy
On the side I'll usually sautee some kale with some garlic

If I DON'T have the energy to cook something, I still feel like I've made dinner when I grab:
A bag of steam-in-the-microwave brussels sprouts or broccoli
A micromeal of some kind - in Seattle there is a chain of frozen meals called "Eat Local" - they aren't cheap, like 7$ a pop, but they are really tasty, filling and good meals
I put it on a plate! (Nothing more depressing than eating out of those microwave trays)
If I need some carby goodness, there are these Uncle Ben's 90 second rice microwave packs, they are a godsend

Snacks - string cheese, nuts, fruit, trail mix

And drink LOTS and LOTS of water! Sometimes when you think you are starving you are just thirsty!
posted by pazazygeek at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2014

I've gotten into a pretty good habit of starting most mornings with a smoothie consisting of equal parts berries and mixed greens (usually kale or spinach + whatever I trim off of other veggies, currently turnip greens) and half an avocado. I buy bags of organic berries from the grocery store and keep a ziploc in the fridge I replenish with greens. This is a good way to use up greens that you bought for other purposes that are starting to get a little limp. I live in California so avocados are abundant, but you can use almond milk or yogurt or whatever. Oh, throw some mint in the bag of greens too if you want! I go through phases of keeping boiled eggs around too, but I tend to get sick of them after about a week.

I usually work pretty late into the evening, so I try eat my main meal at lunch time (something like chili I've cooked over the weekend that I'm eating all week or a big salad in the summer) and then keep cheese, pickles*, olives, dark chocolate, and nuts around to eat when I get home. It takes a little discipline not to go bonkers on this stuff, but it's fast and calorie dense so I can override my hunger before I do something silly like go out and get a burrito at 10 pm on a Wednesday. And no dishes to wash if you are a savage who eats standing up over the sink, which I am.

I also keep nuts, low glycemic bars (I'm into the dark chocolate and sea salt Kind bars right now), and dried fruit around for snacking during the day.

*If you're feeling adventurous, fridge pickles are super easy/delicious and allow you to keep a huge variety of interesting vegetables around that won't go bad quickly. Plus they're really, really fun to experiment with. I've got jalapeƱo dill gherkins going right now, yum.
posted by justjess at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Every morning, my breakfast is a 3-egg cheese omelette, hash brown potatoes, and toast with jam or honey. The hashbrowns I prepare one 2-pound bag at a time, and divide it into fourths for four breakfasts.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:49 AM on September 24, 2014

On Sundays, I make a week's worth of perfectly poached chicken breasts, putting Thursday and Friday's servings in the freezer and moving them to the fridge on Wednesday night.

I cut up each breast and package in Gladware (cut up is easier to microwave gently without turning it to rubber, or it goes over salad greens unheated) and have one every day for lunch with one of the following:
-steamed broccoli (sometimes microwave steamer bag, sometimes just microwaved)
-1/3 bag salad
-several handfuls of spinach, raw, sauteed, or microwaved

I just do meat + green to keep my carbs low, but you can make rice to portion out for the week, or add canned/frozen corn, a small white or sweet potato (or the big ones are perfect for roasting or microwaving and cutting into thirds for servings), or a tortilla or slice of toast.

You can get all wacky with seasoning/dressing if you need novelty. Generally if it's not a salad, I add a pat of butter or squirt of olive oil.

All of this gets as pre-assembled as possible into Gladware on Sunday so that it's grab-and-go. I leave salad in the bag and just box up a breast, putting in the salad just before leaving the house.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:49 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is not a long-term solution but I also suffer from 'surprise hunger' (and that's a great term for it), as if I've never been hungry before and couldn't possibly anticipate that I will be hungry again. My solution to this at work has been to keep a jar of peanut butter in my desk- when I'm hungry in between meals I just have a small spoonful- remember that a tablespoon is 100 calories, but it's a great way to keep yourself from what feels like dying of hunger when you haven't eaten for an hour.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:06 AM on September 24, 2014

The best side dish for satisfying those cravings? Macaroni and cheese with squash or pumpkin! Use whole grain pasta and low-fat cheese if it is your preference. A small serving isn't calorie laden, and it tastes amazing with butternut squash!

My usual meal:
A gigantic pot of steamed vegetables: broccoli, kale, carrots etc. Steam them until they're all bright green and able to be pierced with a fork. Then put these over couscous, brown/black rice, quinoa, buckwheat noodles etc. I typically add lots of black pepper, a pinch of salt, paprika and a bit of rice vinegar. This is my default meal, and I always look forward to it, especially when I use fresh instead of frozen veggies. You can also simply cook it all in a sauce pan, but steaming seems to preserve the texture of the veggies.
In order to make the meal it heartier I make pan fried tofu marinated in soy sauce and the spices of my choosing. I simply slice the tofu into cubes and pan fry it on each side to perfection(in sunflower oil). It's divine, and it made me a tofu convert.

For breakfast I eat pb&j on whole grain bread or oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts, in the summer: a smoothie including frozen fruit and VegaOne vegetable protein supplement.

My daily snack is a crisp granny smith(tart!) apple or a pink lady apple along with raw almonds, an orange and hot air popped pop corn, in the summer I make my own smoothies from frozen fruit. These satisfy my craving for a sweet and cold treat.
posted by bibliophilia at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seems like lots of people are giving you recipe suggestions, but you are looking for a larger system, right?

Here's one I've tried out with pretty good success. Think about the kinds of things you can make easily and like to eat, and they will probably fall into a few groups, like Pasta, Mexican, Crockpot, Stirfry, or whatever. Pick a day each week and assign it a category. So, your week might look like:

Monday - Pasta
Tuesday - Stirfry
Wednesday - Crockpot
Thursday - Leftover Smorgasboard
Friday - Mexican
Saturday - Oven Day
Sunday - Leftover Smorgasboard

Now you've probably got a few recipes in each category. Pasta night could be spaghetti and meatballs or tortellini or chicken parmigian. Tuesday could be fried rice or chicken curry. Wednesday could be chili or pulled pork sandwiches. Friday could be enchiladas, tacos, burritos, nachos. Saturday could be a roast chicken or a meatloaf or baked potato bar. Thursday and Sunday help ensure that leftovers don't get wasted, and give you a day off cooking.

At my house (two adults and one toddler), we usually eat leftovers for lunches, so we just repeat categories or have BLT night or date night or something. Breakfasts are pretty basic - I have either oatmeal, a bagel with cream cheese and fruit, or eggs and toast, and my husband either makes a shake or eggs. We like our eggs done differently, and our mornings are staggered, so it's not a shared meal. We keep our options limited and that works well.

I wrote all of this in a notebook - the first page was my assigned days/categories, and each category got its own page in which I wrote down all the ideas I could think of that fit in that category. Once a week, I make a plan for which meal I'd make on which day, check the pantry/fridge to see what I needed to buy, and go shopping. It's pretty painless!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

My pre-Paleo self used to keep cheese tortellini and pesto cubes (buy in bulk and freeze in ice cube trays, then pop out into containers or baggies) on hand -- takes like ten minutes to cook and generates a filling and relatively healthy meal.

For less carbs, you can do the same with, say, chicken breasts or even pre-marinated kebabs (thank you, Fresh Direct!).

Not sure whether either of these would be an every-night thing, but good to have a few things in the freezer as a back-up plan for when you forgot to shop...
posted by acm at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2014

I always have the fixin's for a sort-of burrito in the house. It's pretty much my daily lunch.

Tortillas (I use whole wheat, smaller size)
Refried beans (canned)
Salsa (I use the cheap store brand)
Hot sauce
Chili powder
Shredded cheddar cheese

Mix, oh, about 2 cups of salsa with the refried beans. This is your base mixture and can be kept in the fridge for many days to make more burritos.

Put a nice size blob of the mixture on a tortilla. Shake on some hot sauce. Shake on some chili powder. Add some chopped onion, (chopped onion will also keep well in a container in the fridge, although it won't be as strong as fresh) and then some shredded cheddar.

Roll up and nuke at 50% power for about 2 minutes (if you nuke on full power there may be an explosion).

Obviously you can tweak this in many many ways based on your preferences.
posted by JanetLand at 10:53 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Potatoes are one of the few foods you can practically live off of. This is why The Irish Potato Famine was such a problem: A lot of large, poor families were growing mostly or only potatoes on their small plot of land to keep everyone fed. So some sort of healthy potato dish with whatever you like to go with it (meat, veggies, whatever) is a good standby to keep in mind. Some ideas to get you started:

Potato soup with bacon and cheese on top.

Mashed potatoes with meat and a veggie.

Baked potatoes with bacon and cheese (as a small meal) or with butter to use as a side dish to go with meat and veggies.

Potato pancakes with apple sauce.

Homemade hash browns with an egg and toast.

Potatoes O'Brien with bacon and eggs.

Some of the above are things I would make with whole potatoes kept at home and peeled and chopped. Others are a case of "buy the frozen version and toss it in the pan and heat." Hash browns and Potatoes O'Brien can be bought frozen and you can add bacon or eggs or veggies to make it more of a meal.
posted by Michele in California at 11:15 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I try to eat like this as much as possible to make life easier. My routine:

Breakfast: I eat cereal for breakfast almost every morning. It's not the ideal breakfast because it doesn't have much protein, but it has the advantage of being easy and cheap: I buy a box of cereal and a carton of milk every Sunday and have breakfast taken care of for the week. You could boil a bunch of eggs on Sunday as well to add some protein.

Lunch: I try really, really hard to set aside time every Sunday to make lunches for the week. Then I divide them out into containers that each include an assembled lunch (rather than having to assemble them in the morning. Some go-tos:

- Chili/stew
- pasta with sauce, veggies, and protein (ie, marinara, zucchini, and sausage, or alfredo, broccoli, and chicken)
- Stir fry on rice (my favorite is chicken and broccoli with a mix of sauces I can share if you're interested)
- Sandwiches (bring the sandwich ingredients to work on Monday to assemble throughout the week)
- Enchilada casserole: blend a jar of your favorite salsa verde with low-fat greek yogurt. Line the bottom of a casserole dish with corn tortillas, then cooked, shredded chicken, then salsa, then cheese. Add another tortilla/chicken/salsa/cheese layer. Add sauteed zucchini and peppers to the chicken if you want some veggies.

Dinner: I tend to keep dinner pretty simple unless I have company. My go-to for nights when I have energy and half an hour is to cook some sort of protein (sauteed chicken breasts or chicken sausage, steak, etc) while I steam some broccoli or make a super-quick salad (like, literally bagged lettuce + dressing) and cook some rice or quinoa in chicken broth in my rice cooker.

If I don't have energy, then most of the time I will just fry some eggs (or make an omelette) and make some toast.
posted by lunasol at 12:05 PM on September 24, 2014

My favorite sandwich, that I can happily eat every single day, is as follows:

Your favorite bread
Miracle Whip/Mayo
Sriracha - a few drops on top of the mayo and spread evenly
Roast turkey lunchmeat
GOOD cheese (I prefer extra sharp cheddar)
Lots of crunchy lettuce

Mmm mm mm. Now I want one.
posted by SamanthaK at 12:11 PM on September 24, 2014

Funny - I do the same breakfast as lunasol, except I DO add the hardboiled eggs for protein.

So - on Sunday nights I make a weekly batch of cereal - either oatmeal, or millet, or cream of wheat. One cup of grains, simmered with some water, a bit of milk, butter, and two tbsp of brown sugar. So so good. One cup of grains gets me five small cereal portions, and with the hardboiled egg it's a complete meal.

I'm very happy eating poached, or grilled chicken breasts with lots of garlic and lemon and hot sauce, with about a cup of broccoli, or any green vegetable. Maybe a half cup rice here as well. If not chicken, then a lean pork roast. This is straight from my personal trainer and works very well for lunch and health and weight loss.

Dinner is my most flexible meal - it can be quinoa with lean protein, or pasta with lean protein, or chili or soup or curry or whatever I have time and inclination for. I also keep frozen dumplings or meals on hand in case of total failure to cook.
posted by tatiana131 at 12:19 PM on September 24, 2014

I like Steamfresh Rice Blends - frozen rice that comes with peas/carrots/corn or tomato/spinach/onion or broccoli/carrots. I think they have both white and brown rice. Microwave for 5 minutes, add salt and pepper along with a small amount of Parmesan, stir and let sit for a minute or two.
posted by soelo at 12:46 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have nearly lived, at various poor moments in my life, off of apples & peanut butter. Take an apple, dab some PB on it, bite; repeat until down to the core. It's high-fiber, enough fat to make you feel full, and a pleasant amount of chewing/crunching.

Apples are cheap, and keep over a week on the counter; PB is cheaper, and keeps indefinitely. Also, occasionally switching to a new apple type (Gala to Granny Smith) adds variety.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:04 PM on September 24, 2014

Here's a timely article from the NYT addressing your need, and linking to its new iPad app for supereasy meal planning and production.
posted by mmiddle at 1:51 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

breakfast, every day: Nature's Path granola, full fat yogurt. Soft fruit if there's any around.

lunch, most days: baked beans on toast. It's warm, it's yummy, it's filling. For me, I need "warm" to feel properly fed, so cold sandwiches are out.

dinner: my go-to dinner is a grilled steak and mashed yams; I bake a couple of yams and keep them in the fridge for near-instant heating up, and grill frozen steaks (M.F.K. Fuller's suggestion).

The point of listing this for you is to point out how very personal it is. You shouldn't be looking for new stuff, you need to sit down and think "what could I eat over and over"? Then make it happen.

It's very comforting to have food around that you know YOU'll like. Mr. K. always has a tossed green salad with mixed greens in the fridge. Not sure why, but seems to work for him.
posted by kestralwing at 4:34 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

My system changes every few months, because I get bored, but within that time period, I pretty much have the same thing for breakfast, lunch and snacks (dinner rotates).

Current system:
Breakfast: a bowl of microwaved frozen mixed vegetables with miso sauce. Coffee.
Lunch: homemade hamburgers - I make up a pile of them on Sunday nights by grilling some frozen burger patties, slapping them onto buns, adding a slice of cheese and some ketchup, and then individually wrapping them and putting them in the freezer. I grab one every morning and microwave it at lunch. I also take an orange.
Snacks: protein shake, or handful of nuts. I keep both in my office.

Most recent system before that:
Breakfast: a banana.
Lunch: homemade burritos (as for hamburgers above, making a pile on sunday night and freezing them.
Snacks: canned tuna on crackers, edamame, fruit.

Previous systems have included for breakfasts: oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts, nothing, or a boiled egg.
Lunches: toasted sandwiches (as with the other options above you can make a stack of these in e weekend and just take one out of the he freezer in the he morning and pop it in the sandwich machine.), leftovers from the previous nights dinner, soup (more of a hassle, but you can make a big pot in the weekend and freeze it in individual portions), instant microwave bag of rice with miso, boiling water, and an egg.

As I said, any of these options has been an everyday thing for me for months on end, but I do have to switch it out eventually. My husband on the other hand has had weetbix for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, and tuna for snacks every single day since he was about five years old.
posted by lollusc at 5:49 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My default is salad and fish or chicken. Meat seasoned with whatever I have a cooked in a pan for about an hour. I make my own dressing. If I'm lazy a basalmic vinegarette and Caesar dressing of I have more inclination. The one good thing about eating the same thing three nights a week is you learn to cook it really well and exactly how you like it.

I buy lots of frozen fish from trader joes and frozen marinated chicken so it's always on hand. So all I really need is lettuce, onions, a lemon and maybe some avocado and tomatoes.

Making sweet potato fries is super easy and something that will keep for quite awhile without going bad.

I also sometimes roast a bunch of vegetables in the oven with olive oil and garlic. It's pretty low effor but healthy and generally tasty if you season it liberally.

Bacon and eggs is also not a bad dinner in a pinch. Bake the bacon and you'll really cut down on the grease.

But yeah vegetables and meat is basically the go to. I don't actually like most vegetables, but the key for me has been finding the few I like and then just eating them over and over.
posted by whoaali at 7:56 PM on September 24, 2014

Salads are my lunch go-to. If you are at an office during lunchtime (I'm not) it's somewhat less convenient, though you can still bring a salad in one container and separate dressing so the greens don't get soggy.

Dinners when it gets cold (as it is where I live now) tend towards the stir-fry/curry/soup realms. You can make these ahead in big batches, so the convenience factor is high, and if you have traditional work hours it's nice to have something all ready for you when you get home, that just needs to be heated. They are also flexible, and can be made with whatever meat/veggies/starches are on hand. Today was thai coconut curry with beef, eggplant, and peppers. Just combine curry paste, a can of coconut milk, veggies and meat and simmer. Rice cooks at the same time. Easy, delicious, nutritious.

If you have a crock pot, you can slow-cook a stew while you are at work.

Breakfasts tend to be left-overs reheated in the microwave, eggs and toast, or less commonly a whey shake with whatever fruit we've got in the house.

Snacks can be a piece of string cheese, a hard-boiled egg, a piece of fruit, raw veggies (I especially like raw sugar snap peas as a snack), or less commonly a handful of nuts (we get nuts in the shell, which are less convenient of course, but it's very easy to eat a ton of calories by mindlessly nibbling shelled nuts). I will also drink kefir sometimes after a workout, since liquid nutrients are said to help recovery better than solid food.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 9:22 PM on September 24, 2014

I can eat a toasted cheese, red capsicum, baby spinach and mushroom sandwich everyday for lunch. (Though the cheese and bread must both be good quality). For breakfast I eat frittata, assuming I get time to make it.
posted by kjs4 at 9:27 PM on September 24, 2014

I have approximately three week-long systems, plus a couple of freezer backups:

stir-fry week

on the weekend, cook a large piece of meat (e.g., slow-cooked pork shoulder or roast chicken, saving the fat, drippings, and bones in the freezer), wash and prep a bunch of vegetables suitable for stir-fry (e.g., chopped leafy greens, a cabbage, broccoli torn into individual florets, diced onions, diced or shaved carrots, rehydrated mushrooms or auricula fungus), cook a pot of rice (ideally in stock from the meat)

each night, stir-fry some vegetables, add meat and rice at the end to warm up. Rotate through different sauces for variety. You can also use eggs or deep-fried tofu in place of meat, or serve on corn tortillas instead of rice, or add an ounce of finely diced sausage instead of sauce.

pasta week

on the weekend, make a big batch of red sauce by boiling down tomatoes, onion, and butter; make a big batch of white sauce (look up any recipe for bechamel sauce, and refrigerate it with plastic wrap or waxed paper directly on the surface of the sauce to avoid forming a skin); saute a bunch of gizzards with a bit of crumbled sausage or some anchovies for flavor; wash and prep a lot of leafy greens

each night, boil pasta (capellini becomes al dente in 3 minutes), adding the greens directly to the pasta water at the appropriate time, then scoop out with a mesh spider and toss with room-temperature sauce and meat to bring the whole dish to a comfortable eating temperature. Make carbonara one night if you want. The bechamel sauce also makes a great cauliflower cheese if you have the patience for an oven. Note that some greens (e.g., kale, chard, collard) have different cooking times for the stems and leaves, so make sure you prep those separately. Stuff like spinach, rocket, and mustard cooks uniformly and very quickly.

freezer week

on the weekend, using the meat scraps in your freezer, make a lentil soup, a barley risotto, and a split pea soup. These are all slow-cooker recipes, so even though it sounds like a lot of cooking it's really the same amount of prep work plus keeping a slow cooker running almost all weekend. The kitchen smells great the whole time. Aliquot into individual-serving tupperware and freeze most of them. Also, wash and cut some salad greens.

each night, reheat a container of soup or risotto, and make a salad. An old trick from Escoffier to improve flavor and texture, later rediscovered by hikers to add calories: stir a few lumps of cold butter into almost any soup, stew, or sauce. This is called "mounting the sauce", and can be done with olive oil (e.g., for caldo verde) or dark toasted sesame oil (e.g., just about any Chinese soup).

Don't skip freezer week. Freezer week is what saves you from surprise hunger, because it gives you the option of reheating some home-made food.

It's easy to double your dinner, to create leftovers for lunch the next day.

I've never been able to incorporate breakfast into this system except by eating the same thing morning, noon, and night. Make a peanut butter sandwich or an omelet or something. I can't help you.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:57 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

These meals brought to you by Trader Joe's:

Figs, stick of cheese, almonds
Snack: apple
Lunch: 1/2 box creamy roasted red-pepper tomato soup + pita chips for crackers
Snack: banana
Dinner: mixed greens + shredded carrots + shredded broccoli slaw + goat cheese or feta + pumpkin seed + TJ dressing of choice (the Asian peanut one is amazing) + canned tuna

I could and would still eat this every day but I'm the cook in the house and my wife is all like 'but I need variety' and 'think of our child.' What a bunch of whiners.
posted by Tevin at 8:13 AM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

For a long time I was pre-mixing yogurt, milk, and honey with some fiber added and storing them in jam jars, then filling in whatever fresh fruit I had on hand in the morning.

My recent go to meal is ramen - I take packaged, sliced brussel sprouts and do a thin layer on the bottom, put the ramen square on top, spice on top of that, and boil water to pour over it. Once the water is poured, I cover it with a plate and fry up an egg or two (heat the pan with a little butter, break the egg in when hot, add water to the pan and cover for about a minute or two). Once the egg is ready, usually the ramen is softened and the sprouts are lightly cooked. I'd imagine it would work with any smallish vegetable as well.

I keep microwave popcorn around if I'm suddenly STAAAARVING. I'll also drink water with lemon, since sometimes I'm actually thirsty.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:19 AM on September 26, 2014

I have an entire large bagged salad every day for lunch and another one with dinner. I keep dressing (a vinaigrette with healthy oils for those omegas) in the fridge at work and it lasts a week or two. Just throwing a bag of food into my shoulderbag is way easier than making decisions and preparing food and stuff. It's healthy, yummy and inexpensive too. And it makes me full but not groggy- i go for the ones that are spinach or kale based and/or have lots of veggies in them; watery lettuce and croutons does not a meal make. For snacks I usually bring one or two tomatoes and bananas as well. Toms get eaten like apples or cut in half and salted. If I'm feeling snazzy I'll have a bottle of watered-down juice or some bread and butter or a slice of cheese with me too.
posted by windykites at 11:10 AM on September 28, 2014

Oh and, you can make a giant Tupperware bin full of salad and it will stay edible for several days. I do this when prepackaged salads are outside my budget.
posted by windykites at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2014

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