Semi-homemade healthy
January 17, 2017 3:35 PM   Subscribe

I really don't like to cook. My ideal meal involves pulling bags out of the freezer and pantry, dumping a scoop from each into a bowl, and nuking. For example, microwaved frozen wild rice + Indian Fare eggplant sauce + precut kale + local frozen meatballs is a tasty dish that takes less than 20 seconds to prep. Can you help me brainstorm some meals that are HEALTHY and made up basically entirely of frozen/packaged meats, carbs, veg and sauces? I have access to a Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and regular grocery store.
posted by pintapicasso to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 184 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a different country than you seem to be, so this may need some adaptations, but I love this lazy lentil soup:
- can of lentils
- jar of Indian sauce, meant to make a curry dish
- bag of mixed precut veggies. things like carrots/onions/bell peppers/zucchini/broccoli.

Combine, add water, add a stock cube, simmer until done. Serve with naan, chapati or other bread. Enjoy.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:48 PM on January 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

I make very similar meals using-- along with the type of vegetables you use-- Gardein from Whole Foods and, instead of sauce from a jar, Trader Joe's lower-fat guacamole or yogurt dip. (I don't actually know that Gardein is any healthier than real meat; I just like it and it seems fairly low in calories and fat for a normal serving. I don't use any of the sauce packets that come with it, but i think you could use them and still come in fairly healthy.) Really I think the only thing that's potentially not healthy about your meals is whatever fat and sodium is in your meats and sauces.
posted by BibiRose at 3:55 PM on January 17, 2017

Quickly, before the serious and intimidating cooks get here, I like to cook some brown rice, add leftover chicken and dump the Tikka Massala sauce from Trader Joe's on it. If I've made the ratio too spicy, I could tone it down with plain yogurt. (Nutritious!) I might or might not have fruit or a raw vegetable on the side. The strong flavors make it really satisfying. (Hummus, and TJ's canned chilli are also popular at my house for lunch.)
posted by puddledork at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2017

A can of black bean soup and a package of Uncle Ben's 90-second microwavable rice is super fast and good.
posted by current resident at 4:10 PM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I like bean salads in the summer: mix up a can of chickpeas, a can of black beans, a can of corn, a can of diced tomato, and you have 2-3 meals' worth of food. I usually make quinoa to go with it, but it's filling enough without. I would recommend rinsing the canned goods, though, just to get some of the sodium out.
posted by basalganglia at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I cook like you. If you can stand to turn the stove on, Trader Joe's veggie fried rice plus some scrambled eggs (cooked in the same pan, of course) and a little mirin and soy sauce make a good meal. I'll throw in some extra frozen vegetables/cooked chicken sometimes too.
posted by k8oglyph at 4:19 PM on January 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

Love the suggestions so far. I have low blood pressure so I'm good with sodium!
posted by pintapicasso at 4:22 PM on January 17, 2017

Tasty Bite has shelf-stable "ethnic" entrees (I have only had their Indian dishes) that are really tasty. They are also sold at Trader Joe's under a house brand. Also TJ's frozen rice is great to have on hand.

Also TJ's prepared salads are good and IIRC pretty healthy. If you need something on the side you could have some greek yogurt.
posted by radioamy at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

scrambled eggs in the microwave/tuna/hummus on corn tortillas with avocado and tomato is my go-to healthy and quick meal.

baked potatoes are good too, and can also be made quickly in the microwave if you are short on time.

I also like salads- add some protein, avocado, to make them more filling (and cheese maybe)
posted by bearette at 4:38 PM on January 17, 2017

Lightlife's Fakin Bacon Tempeh Strips are SO GOOD and healthy and ridiculously easy. My preferred method of laziness is to heat them up in the oven on aluminum foil (so I don't have to wash a dish), but you could probably nuke them. They're good in sandwiches/wraps, salads, tacos, basically wherever you want a delicious smoky protein. Mmm I love them.
posted by leeloo minai at 5:06 PM on January 17, 2017

Lately for an easy work lunch, I've been doing Trader Joe's canned "Giant Baked Beans" (cannellini beans in tomato sauce) with a bunch of spinach (frozen or fresh) and some feta. Throw it in the microwave for a minute or two and it's really delicious. You can eat it over rice or quinoa too. TJ's frozen rice is definitely helpful to have around.

Another one: rice bowl consisting of rice, avocado, egg, bacon, sriracha. If cooking bacon is too much effort, Whole Foods has packaged bacon topping (like Bacon Bits) made of real bacon and it makes me feel like the laziest human in the world (also a terrible value) but it's handy when you don't have the time to cook bacon. TJ's and Whole Foods also have pre-packaged avocado.

Whole Foods rotisserie chickens are a go-to for me also. I'll eat a half chicken with some Near East couscous and a vegetable of some sort, and fork out the rest of the meat and store it in the fridge. The next day I throw the chicken in a pot (though I'm sure you could microwave it too) with TJ's salsa verde and make quesadillas or tacos with it. If you don't overdo it on sour cream or cheese, it's pretty healthy. You can also do a teriyaki bowl with the leftover chicken - mix it with TJ's Soyaki sauce and some frozen mushrooms or onions, and put it over rice.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 5:07 PM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Granola. Glop on some yogurt from a big tub (it's less packaging and less money than individual serving size tubs, and allows you to account for appetite). Put some frozen fruit on top of the yogurt. I especially like mango because it doesn't give up as much liquid as frozen berries.

Refrigerator oatmeal- recipes for this abound online. Oats and your said or dairy analog of choice. Stir. Cover. Place in fridge. Ignore overnight. Eat in the morning. I add dried fruit to this. Some people add flax or other supplemental 'superfoods.'
posted by bilabial at 5:11 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I sometimes have Bush's baked beans for lunch. Single serving can, pop top. Best with diced ham added.

I make oatmeal in the 'wave. Put the ingredients for one serving in a quart pyrex measuring cup. You need the room for boiling. Wave for 3 minutes, stirring each minute. Oatmeal doesn't have much nutrition, so put in some good stuff like dried fruit.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:20 PM on January 17, 2017

I think you can get peeled and chunked sweet potatoes in the higher end grocery stores

Nuke sweet potatoes to soft. Mash. Add in a can of black beans. And a handful of chopped cilantro. Salt pepper. Cheese is good. Eat.
posted by Ftsqg at 5:27 PM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Collard greens, black eyed peas, boil with some onion and garlic powders. Add sausage if you like, salt & pepper if necessary. Can substitute a wide variety of dried beans, fresh or frozen greens, other meats, chili/hot spices, etc.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:28 PM on January 17, 2017

Trader Joe's has this stuff that's basically cauliflower chopped up into the consistency of rice. Microwave that with some of their Marsala simmer sauce and a can of garbanzo beans. And maybe some frozen veggies.
posted by delight at 5:29 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Trader Joe's also has a channa masala in a can that's insanely good. I wouldn't have believed it except I tried it when it was the sample. Now I bring it to work for lunch, with a bag of their precooked brown rice.
posted by Miko at 5:32 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Similarly to what you described, I sometimes take a 4-serving steamable-in-microwave bag of frozen broccoli and nuke it, put it in a bowl, and add jarred pasta sauce and nuked frozen meatballs. I like to add lots of parmesian cheese and extra garlic powder to mine.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:35 PM on January 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

My newest easy meal is a can of Trader Joe's Turkey Chili with Beans mixed with half a can of black beans - heat and eat. It's especially good with avocado on top, and you could put it over rice or eat with a few corn chips.

I also use the Trader Joe's precooked, individually vacuum packed chicken breasts a lot. Since they're individually sealed, they last for quite a while in the fridge - I think the use by date is usually about a month out. They're a super easy protein choice for sandwiches or on top of rice or a salad.

Do you have a rice cooker? I have a relatively fancy Zojirushi one and it's fantastic. I use it mostly for steel cut oats and for rice, but it also does other grains. Measure the grain and water, hit start, and that's it. It's very easy to clean, too.

One of my roommates in colleges introduced me to super easy sushi - it was a go to meal for her growing up. Cook (traditionally short grain white, but you could use brown) rice, add seasoned rice vinegar to make sushi rice. Open a can or packet of tuna, open a packet of nori. Take squares of nori, put some rice on it, put tuna on top, eat like a taco. So good! You can add some cucumber strips if you feel like cutting them, but they're not necessary.

Sometimes I heat up Trader Joe's Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup and add in a handful of spinach or kale. Top with cheese or croutons if you want, or eat with some bread. I bet it would be good over rice or couscous though I haven't tried that.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:59 PM on January 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seapoint farms frozen veg mix with edamame, soba noodles, and an egg boil together in mere minutes; drain off most of the water, add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds.
posted by kapers at 6:24 PM on January 17, 2017

Can white beans, can chicken broth, cut up pre-cooked chicken sausage, baby spinach/pre-chopped kale, add to bowl, stir, zap: Voila, Tuscan Bean Soup. Pinch of rosemary and put the sausage in the George Foreman first if you're feeling fancy.
posted by Diablevert at 6:46 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is a fun game of "What Should I Dump My Meatball On?"

At TJ's, my go-to base layers for food are the frozen polenta with carrots and spinach, and mixing the 8-veggie mix in with the microwaved rice and sauce.
posted by juniperesque at 6:55 PM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Inch of chicken stock in the bottom of a pot. Heat. Stir in pre chopped garlic- a lot. Slice in those big chicken sausages you get in a 4 pack into bite sized pieces. Warm them by dumping them in the chicken stock. The . Dump in a bunch of pre chopped kale and stir until all the kale is coated in the chicken stock garlic sausage mix and softened.

posted by slateyness at 7:28 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Chicken broth (I make my own, but I think the whole foods brand was good), frozen veggies, and leftover rotisserie chicken meat. I used meatballs one time for a wedding soup feel. Optional pasta or rice. Season to taste (candidates do standard poultry or more Mexican, etc). Squeeze of lime or lemon at the end.

If pasta is OK, pasta salad. Steamer bag of broccoli, pre-made chicken (either rotisserie or vacuum packed), cooked pasta, artichoke hearts (canned or frozen), pre-chopped Veggies of choice (I've seen and used peppers, celery, zucchini) and dressing of choice. You can make a huge batch relatively easily and then just eat the rest of the week. I tend to go really heavy on the broccoli (sometimes don't even use pasta).
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:51 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

From TJ's: Saute a package of pre-chopped onion with a bag of chopped spinach or other greens. Dump a can of lentil soup in the pan and let it simmer a little. Boil a package of cheese or pesto tortellini. Combine tortellini with veggie goodness. Scoop into bowl. Season as desired. Sprinkle with handful of shaved parmesan. Extra protein: Add some veggie sausage or fake bacon.
posted by the thought-fox at 8:14 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Couscous can be made in the microwave in about a minute + a bit of standing time (it should tell you how on the side of the box). I then toss on a small can of flavoured tuna in oil on top (I assume they exist in the US, lemon pepper is my favourite), and some veg. I like red capsicum, carrots, corn and/or celery. Anything hard and crunchy.
posted by kjs4 at 8:16 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

One that I enjoyed today was a Boca spicy black bean burger, with sliced avocado, cheddar, and salsa on top.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:26 PM on January 17, 2017

Our standard I-can't-even dinner 'round these parts is a Costco salmon burger (no really they are delicious and fairly healthy and juicy and easy- put in saute pan on medium- 5 min on a side) + pre-sliced Muenster cheese + bun with a side of microwaved frozen broccoli. If we are feeling especially festive we will throw the bun in the toaster and put a thin slice of onion and avocado on the burger but it is not strictly necessary.

We are monsters who put cheese on a fish burger though, so you probably shouldn't listen to us.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:42 PM on January 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Spring mix or other mixed baby lettuces + cherry tomatoes (maybe cut them in half) plus pieces of precooked chicken breast or fake chicken (veggie chicken patties) plus some sort of prepared salad dressing.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:46 PM on January 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

My favourite "can't be arsed" dinner is to throw a bag of pre-washed stiry fry veg, packet of pre-cooked prawns and a few cherry tomatoes in a pan with soy sauce, tomato puree and chilli flakes. 5-6 mins and an occasional stir and it's done. You can throw in some straight-to-wok noodles too if you like.
posted by billiebee at 1:21 AM on January 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Cook some pasta (I like penne) and drain (leaving a tiny bit of water to soften/loosen the cheese you're going to add). Put back on the burner at a very low heat and stir in some soft goats cheese or feta. Mix in any or all of the following: chopped tomatoes/halved cherry tomatoes, chopped spinach, toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds or walnuts, olives, capers, chopped garlic, basil leaves, chopped chilli peppers or red pepper or chilli oil. It is cooking, however it's so unbelievably easy it feels like it isn't. Super healthy, too.
posted by hazyjane at 3:32 AM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

TJ meal of champions:

Get a Tupperware. Add some couscous. Pour boiling water over it and let stand for about 10 min. Fluff. Cool, nice couscous! So easy!

Sub any thawed frozen grain I guess.

Crumbled feta or goat cheese, can of chickpeas, roasted in a jar or sliced on your own red peppers.

Optional fun: TJ artichoke hearts in a jar with some of their oil as a dressing, cherry tomatoes, some vinaigrette, pine nuts or almonds, a handful of that TJ sturdy greens blend, olives, capers. Bonus round: take a veggie peeler to some carrots and make carrot ribbons (like cooking but fun).

An alternate version is couscous, preserved lemon, a sprinkle of cinnamon, sunflower seeds or almonds, some sliced smoked tofu or precooked meat, peppers, olives for a totally fake "tagine" theme.

Congrats, in like 45 seconds you just made a delicious grain salad that will last several meals and didn't even get a cutting board dirty. I lived on this for awhile so it's healthy enough.

Also I refer you to the recent sweet potato thread. You can nuke a sweet potato in the microwave for 6 minutes, load it up,with cheddar cheese and cowboy caviar and have such a good dinner.
posted by athirstforsalt at 5:02 AM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Chompy chomp black bean soup from the Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups makes it into dinner rotation almost weekly. Contrary to the title, this one is quick and simple. I like it with cornbread and collards.
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:47 AM on January 18, 2017

My sweet potato ask, as referenced by athirstforsalt.

A couple of simple soups:

Box of chicken stock, bring to boil; add a bag of frozen cheese tortellini; when the tortellini start to float, toss in a couple of big handfuls of fresh baby spinach (it shrinks A LOT); top with grated parmesan. So much better than the sum of its parts.

Saute some frozen onions and a cube or two of frozen garlic puree (the BEST item to buy at TJ's, if you ask me) in the bottom of a saucepan, stir in 2 small or one large can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling); top with a sprinkle of parmesan or asiago cheese
posted by sarajane at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yah! Soups! Back in the ole Tupperware grain salad days I used to do one like this one.

Canned pumpkin, can of black beans, cumin, bacon bits. Thin with stock or water. I think I did sautée onion and garlic to start but surely there are shortcuts to be had there (garlic paste, prechopped onions, just throw some fried onions on top).
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2017

"Soup": heat up a box of TJ's boxed miso broth in a pot. After the broth is already very hot, add a bag of frozen TJ's stir-fry vegetables (I use the one that looks like this; I think there are a few blends with similar names) and cubes of firm tofu (or I guess some kind of precooked chicken or other meat that you like) and let it heat up just enough to defrost and warm the vegetables. Pour a little toasted sesame oil on each bowl of soup--that kicks the taste up a notch. If you're adventurous or like hot things you could probably add some sriracha or put some red pepper flakes in the broth while it's heating up.

I specify heating the broth up first because I think this helps the frozen vegetables stay more crunchy/not get overcooked. The snow peas will stay bright green if you're quick enough. You could let the vegetables defrost/sit out for a bit first, too. Either way - definitely don't boil them in the soup.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:19 PM on January 18, 2017

OK one last thing. If you are at some point interested in a little more cooking, I would suggest Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food as training wheels.

The book is written pretty free-form and is full of ideas like you asked for (opening cans & boiling pasta = dinner) including a fabulous "secret snacks" section-- but then also has very simple ideas for slightly longer-duration projects. Slater is a real deal, legit chef who knows about things that taste amazing, but this book "was conceived as nothing more than a little book of ideas for making yourself something nice to eat when you come in from work".
posted by athirstforsalt at 2:29 AM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not strictly healthy but I'm strangely proud of figuring out that mixing trader joe's meatballs with their frozen mashed potatoes and frozen mushroom mix and some frozen peas is a pretty good approximation of shepherd's pot pie.

In my house, we call this 'balls'. As in, "Should I just make balls for dinner?"
posted by sciencegeek at 10:05 AM on January 21, 2017

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