Help me avoid the Domino's app.
May 3, 2017 5:31 AM   Subscribe

I need some suggestions for super quick, super low effort meals to keep in the house at all times. Things that don't take much longer to make than a spoonful of peanut butter straight out of the jar. Things that don't spoil, because I never know when the demon of epic exhaustion is going to strike. Things that I can feel good about feeding to my kid, nutritionally. I have fallen into this trap where it has to be either empanadas from scratch or takeout, and it is unsustainable.
posted by missrachael to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a freezer? I make a lot of 'backup' meals partitioned into one-person tupperwares. Examples: curry and potatoes, roast veg and chicken, shepherd's pies. Anytime I'm too tired to cook, I bring a tupperware out of the freezer and pop into a microwave to defrost. Several minutes later, I have steaming, yummy, home-cooked food.
posted by moiraine at 5:39 AM on May 3, 2017 [9 favorites]

Chickpeas + English peas + lemon juice warmed for a few minutes over rice or couscous is a staple in my house. Add feta at the end if you like.

Nut butter on a tortilla with maple syrup and bananas is easy and quick with good nutrition.

Cut veggies with ranch dip is easy. Add rolled up lunch meat for an omnivore protein or use yogurt instead.
posted by crunchy potato at 5:49 AM on May 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

Do you have Aldi where you live? They have a lot of frozen meal in a bag solutions - not quite as cheap or healthy as cooking from scratch, but better than takeout. One of those and a frozen veg, and you're good to go, and a lot of it is really good.
posted by joycehealy at 5:50 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Trader Joe's, dude. They have a ton of prepared foods you can just throw in a microwave or toaster oven, and they're delicious. Often nutritious as well, but not guaranteed.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:50 AM on May 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

If I'm trying to move away from delivery or take out, I'd just cut myself a little bit of a break and just go with prepared foods for the freezer, i.e., frozen pizzas, frozen taquitos, frozen potpies, frozen pre-made stir fry things.

And then, once I got good at always eating at home, then, I'd graduate to more "home-made" easy to prep meals.
posted by ellerhodes at 5:57 AM on May 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, for stuff that doesn't require refrigeration - there is nothing wrong with canned soup occasionally, as long as you read the labels; ditto canned vegetables or fruit. Go to your local Asian market, if you have one, and stock up on good ramen/other noodles and canned fish, which then you can combine with frozen or canned veg. Asian markets often have Indian food in a bag, too, and it's really good. (Or there's Amazon, Kitchens of India is really tasty.)
posted by joycehealy at 5:57 AM on May 3, 2017

Canned fish is good here - you can make a quick semi-salad by mashing it up with mayo and seasonings and then eat that with crackers, bread, lettuce leaves, whatever. If you are really fancy, you can add lemon juice, capers, chopped up celery or onion, etc. Mackerel is what I'm hearing is actually the most sustainable, unless you know more about a specific fishing operation.

Also, any kind of meat or seafood (tofu and mock duck are also possible but trickier; beans are also possible but take longer) can be made into patties or burgers thusly: Take your canned fish and drain it, mash it, add an egg and 1/3 - 1/2 cup panko (panko keeps forever if you keep the bag sealed), add 1 -2 T mayo and add seasonings as desired (dash of hot sauce, Old Bay, whatever). Cook on a seasoned griddle or non-stick skillet until they are browned on each side. Minced canned clams are good for this, and also pretty sustainable. These can be eaten on their own or in a sandwich.

If you get some sun-dried tomatoes in bulk that are dried but not in oil, you can keep them in the fridge and use them to make white-beans-and-things. Chop up some of the following: carrots, onion, celery, garlic; chop several sun dried tomatoes into strips. Drain a can of white beans or butter beans. Heat about 1 T olive oil in a small pan. Saute the vegetables and sun dried tomato until soft, taking care not to burn the garlic if used. Add the white beans, stir and cook until heated through. Season with various things if desired.

Regular sausages (chicken are pretty healthy) or tofurkey sausages are good to keep on hand. Pretty much everyone likes the tofurkey Italian ones. Cut your sausages into slices and pan fry in a modest amount of olive oil.

This may be a little complicated, but not very: Get a cauliflower and keep it. Some dark spots may appear if you do not eat it promptly; these are just oxidation and don't mean it's bad. (Obviously, it will eventually start to dry up and go bad; don't eat it then. But a cauliflower is good for a couple weeks at least.) Cut off half or a third. Grate coarsely on a box grater while you heat a wide pan at medium high. Heat about 2 tsp olive oil (or other oil). Add grated cauliflower and a little salt. Cook, stirring periodically, for about five to seven minutes, or until the cauliflower tastes nutty and "cooked". Season with salt and pepper, hot sauce, other spices, curry paste, a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, etc. You will be surprised - almost everyone I've tried this on (especially when I've cooked in a T of mild curry paste diluted with a little water right at the end) really likes it, and it's an easy way to have a big vegetable serving.

A glazing/sauce technique that is very quick and works for vegetables and anything like tofurkey sausages, real sausages, pan fried tempeh, etc and can be adapted to sauce small pasta: Get a cup of broth (you can use home-made (keep frozen) or mix up a cup of Better Than Bouillon, etc). If you like, get some tomato paste (keep in tube in fridge). Saute your item. When it is almost done, add about 1 T tomato paste to the pan, if using. Stir until paste begins to darken. Add about 1/2 C of the broth and simmer until the broth reduces. Add more broth if you feel like it. The tomato paste/pan juices/broth will reduce to a glaze that will flavor the thing.

Some things I keep in the fridge and freezer that are helpful:
Frozen broth. If you ever poach chicken breasts or have a lot of vegetable trimmings, you can make stock and freeze it. Smaller containers are best so you don't have to defrost/use a lot at once. This can be used to jazz up soup, pasta, vegetables, beans, or to make a quick bean/pasta soup.
Tube tomato paste
Chilies in adobo - just a tsp of the sauce builds spicy flavor in beans, pasta, rice, etc
Japanese curry squares. They keep virtually forever. "Hot" is not in fact that hot at all - it's a different style of curry flavor.
Curry paste - I have several Kitchens of India packets going. They keep unopened for a long time, and even opened are good for a couple of months if sealed. You can dilute them with a little water and mix them in as you are sauteing pretty much anything.
posted by Frowner at 6:05 AM on May 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, rinsing canned beans and canned fish can remove up to 1/3 of the salt. I always figure that I keep my other salt consumption low, so the benefit of the beans, etc, is greater than not keeping my salt intake perfectly low.
posted by Frowner at 6:12 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

if you suspect in the morning that you will be lazy in the evening: throw chicken tenderloins (frozen ok) in a crockpot. Dump a large jar of salsa over them. Leave on low until you get home. The meat will be falling apart - wave a fork around in there to break it all up, then roll in tortillas. Stupid easy, cheap, delicious, sits patiently in the freezer/pantry until needed, smells like someone else cooked for you when you open the door. Mango salsa is super good here.
posted by apparently at 6:14 AM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Get one of those ridiculously fancy blenders like Blendtec ($330 Costco) or a Vitamix, or Breville. You can then take frozen fruit, kale, spinach and frozen bananas and make a quick (40 second) smoothie that will rival a $5.00 mall smoothie. I also use mine to make almond butter and sometimes soup.
posted by mecran01 at 6:17 AM on May 3, 2017

Canned soup, pierogi (Mrs. T's), and frozen veggies was my mom's most common got home late/tired meal.

If you always have some kind of bread around and your kid likes tuna fish, tuna fish sandwiches. Or salad (or any other canned meat).

Mac and cheese (box or frozen) + frozen broccoli. I had a friend who'd add some kind of canned meat to this.

My mom also made lazy feel veal parmesan: frozen breaded veal patties (chicken could work too), jarred tomato sauce, spaghetti, and some mozzarella.

We'd sometimes have breakfast for dinner: waffles + fruit. You could do something similar with frozen waffles/breakfast sandwiches/toaster strudel. It wasn't her healthiest meal, but it was an awesome rarity and got food in our tummies.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:20 AM on May 3, 2017

Canned beans and rice don't spoil. You cook the rice and add the beans with seasoning (such as this) and serve. If you have cheese or sausage, you can add that to the beans. If you have an onion or some garlic or tomatoes (even canned), you can add those (drain the canned tomatoes first). But you don't have to. Beans and rice is a perfectly reasonable meal.

Couscous and jarred sauces don't spoil. I like tapenade (examples: Walmart Trader joes) or caponata (Alessi, Cento). Couscous with raisins and almonds. Or with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese (admittedly not shelf stable). Or with canned fish. For that matter, pasta with jarred sauces are a reasonable "this feels like dinner but takes minimal effort" dinner.

You cook the couscous (or the pasta). Drain it, put it back into the pot with the jar of sauce and heat it for another few minutes until it's all mixed and warmed.
posted by crush at 6:40 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I plan my groceries for the week, I have my calendar open right next to my recipe app and grocery list. I try to be honest with myself as I write up my grocery list about "I need a quick and easy meal so I have time to go to the gym Tuesday" or "Honestly after cooking Monday through Wednesday I'll want a day off Thursday" or "I'll be working late Friday, definitely need an easy meal that day" and shop accordingly.

Favorite easy meals for me are frozen pizza; pasta + sliced chicken sausages quickly browned in a skillet (they come in all kinds of flavors and unopened they keep for a few weeks) + frozen peas + olive oil + parm or feta; hummus and pre-cut veggies and pita; egg-based stuff like an omelet or fritatta or whatever; frozen ravioli/tortellini with jarred sauce; those morningstar farms chicken nuggets or corn dogs with some baby carrots or broccoli for veg. Those skillet meals you can get from the freezer section are decent. I also plan for leftovers whenever I can: "Clean out the fridge/help yourself night" was a regular occurrence in my childhood and I do it frequently as an adult.

Pasta is probably my go-to base for easy meals, but you can switch it up with couscous, farro, quinoa, or whatever grain/pasta strikes your fancy.
posted by misskaz at 6:42 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dragon Noodles, with frozen greens, has become my personal solution to this very real problem. Rice noodles, in general, are great because even though they have less fiber than other starches that can have the sauce+vegetable combo added to them, they take SOOOO much less time to be prepared. So Rice noodles + jar o' prebought sauce + a veggie or Rice noodles + leftovers take much less time than meals based on other starch.

Also, rice freezes really well, so if you have time to make large amounts of rice and freeze some, then have bags of pre-cut veggies, you can toss those all together in a pan with maybe a can of beans and some soy sauce and you have a meal in literally less than ten minutes.
posted by theweasel at 6:43 AM on May 3, 2017

A tub of hummus keeps a long time in the fridge, as does a bag of carrots. Any other veggies you happen to have, plus crackers, and you have a hummus feast.

Flour tortillas kept in the fridge, pre-shredded cheese, and a jar of salsa = quesadillas.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:44 AM on May 3, 2017

(Also, thesignificantweasel and myself have taken to always having a frozen pizza in the freezer, just one, to be replaced when used. Sometimes you have the energy to turn on the oven, and if you stick to veggie pizzas I'm convinced they're better for you than Dominos.)
posted by theweasel at 6:47 AM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Can't go far wrong with meat, veg, and bread. As long as there's some kind of protein, no one's going to go hungry.


- Shrimp/scallops - no need to defrost ahead of time - run them under water, fry with a bit of butter and garlic (I believe it's possible to get already peeled garlic in a jar), and white wine or lemon juice, and a bit of paprika powder

- If you have a convection oven with a quick preheat mode, would just get a schwack of frozen prepared meat (if in Canada, from M&M meat shops). Wings, sliders, burgers, meatballs, you could probably find pulled pork.

(Or you could do a roast or meatloaf on a Sunday, portion and freeze it, and pull out yummy meat done your way any day of the week. Roast beef and meatloaf are most versatile imo [can go over pasta, in sandwiches, salads, what have you])

- Ground beef doesn't taste disgusting if defrosted in a microwave, imo (perhaps alone among meat products). I've done just straight up pan-fried ground beef (nothing but salt in it) with Uncle Ben's 10 minute jasmine rice and imo it's very satisfying and good (esp mixed together in a bowl in a 1:1 ratio).

- Eggs, scrambled. I like them with crusty bread and tomatoes, myself.

- You could have a no-cook cold dinner, cured meat, bread, cheese, tomatoes, yogurt

Veg that keeps: I dislike the texture of most frozen veg but think peas and green beans don't suffer too much from freezing. But any frozen veg you like. (I just discovered how great it is to have veg that doesn't spoil. Nuke 2-3 mins w water, in a bowl, covered.) I get pre-shredded cabbage, which keeps well, and often use that for a salad base (or throw it in a soup to add fiber).

Other easy veg, slightly more vulnerable: Tomato or cucumber (for a salad), spinach in a bag/box

Of course, pasta is super easy. Boiled potatoes mashed with butter & topped with yogurt, too.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:09 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Past Me is kind and will spend an afternoon making healthy wraps that get rolled up in baking paper and stacked in the freezer. They are variations of cheese, veggies and chickpeas, pesto and condiments I like. Past Me didn't bother labeling them this time round because she knew I'd be so hungry I wouldn't care, and she was right. I shuffle into the kitchen, throw a frozen wrap into the microwave and 2.5 minutes later, I'm thanking Past Me as I munch on a hot wrap. I also eat a lot of scrambled eggs, quick oatmeal with fruit and yogurt and very one pot pasta if I'm feeding two people. But the main thing I'm grateful for is that afternoon every two months when I get it together and make 30-40 frozen wraps in one go. I would buy them if time was worth money but they're about $2/wrap, and frozen prep meals are pricey here. Plus I like weird condiments.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:13 AM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

We're kind of experts at this around my house. Here are a few:

Breakfast for dinner plus additional nutrition:

Scrambled eggs, toast, peas (from frozen); french toast with green beans, cereal with milk and a separate (bagged) salad or one of those packs of veggies for a stir-fry but just cold, dipped in salad dressing if necessary, or instant-but-plain oatmeal with frozen berries and sunflower seeds (you can stir in your spoonful of peanut butter.)

Fridge-based instant meals:

Get a pack of those pre-cooked chicken strips, or just buy a rotisserie chicken and keep it in the fridge, add to caesar salad for chicken caesar, or to couscous + peas + soy sauce, or rice if you can cook it (I have a rice cooker so although it takes time the effort is low)...or rolled up in tortillas with salsa and tomato/lettuce/whatever vegetables you have on hand.

On that note a cold rotisserie chicken is kind of magic and can be thrown in canned soup, made into sandwiches, or used with rice bowls.

Tortilla roll-ups of any kind from cream cheese and olive to hummus and roasted red pepper, or beans and nuked-from-frozen corn. We also sometimes just roll leftovers in them.

Grilled cheese + vegetables/salad is a staple here. It's faster than delivery by a lot.

Those "rainbow slaw" or coleslaw packs are great, and we sometimes dice ham and cheese into them for a complete meal coleslaw (this require on-board children, or just put the ham and cheese on the side.)

Rice bowls, again if you have the time but not the energy and a rice cooker, are rice with just about anything thrown on top and they are really great. I keep pickled turnip and a few other jarred goodies for mine/ours.

Nothing wrong with Pb&J + raw veggies for dinner now and then by the way. Tuna melts. Open-faced anything feels more like dinner.

Pantry-based meals:

Take a can of beans, frozen corn (or canned if you do it, we don't), some salsa, and a can of tuna; toss with dressing of your choice for a hearty salad. For bonus fancy feeling, add tortilla chips.

Baked beans, nuked, over toast is magic.

Hope this helps! If you would be into crockpot/timed rice cooker type stuff please respond as we rely on those things heavily too. That's still effort but it's shifted in time.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:29 AM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Part of this for me was meal planning. If you KNOW you've got something to make, and you know exactly how to make it, it takes the stress of decision making out of it. I use and adore Plan to Eat (that's a referral link, btw), but honestly I suspect any meal planner would do (even an analog one, if that's how you roll).

With Plan to Eat, though, you can add recipes to your personal database and tag them. I have a set tagged "easy" and I make sure there's an easy recipe or two every week. I try to schedule them for nights when I know I'll be busy, but honestly there are some nights when I come home and the Domino's app is calling, so I move things around so that the easy recipes for the week are that very night. I always know I have the ingredients for anything in the meal plan, so I don't need to think about it. Even the easiest recipe is harder than a scoop of PB, but if you've got it planned out already you can just do it on auto pilot.

Some of my "easy" recipes (but note that I am vegetarian, sorry):
- Whole wheat pasta with jarred tomato sauce, adding a bunch of frozen spinach to the sauce while it's cooking (also a good pantry meal)
- the dragon noodles mentioned above
- more spinach pasta (I use whole wheat, as mentioned above, for fibre)
- any of the various riffs on Martha Stewart's one-pot pasta (this is a good one, this is the best one but it takes longer)
- Instant oats with stuff (savoury: slice up some cherry tomatoes and an avocado, toss with soy sauce, add a scoop of frozen green peas to the oats while they cook, top with avo-tomato mix. sweet: add a scoop of peanut butter to the cooked oats and top with sliced bananas)
- Canned split pea soup with bread and butter
- Fruittoes: spread a large tortilla with peanut butter. Add sliced banana and apple and sprinkle with cinnamon (and a drizzle of honey if you have a crazy sweet tooth). Fold like a burrito.
- Frozen perogies and a can of baked beans (salty as heck but oh-so-delicious and honestly, still not as salty as Domino's).
- Peanutty rice and peas: (this one is better if you keep pre-portioned pre-cooked rice in the freezer or if you have a set-it-and-forget-it rice cooker) run some frozen green peas under hot water. Let drain in a colander. Take a big scoop of peanut butter per person, a squirt of sriracha, a splash of soy sauce (or better: a little spoonful of miso paste of you have it). Add hot water to thin and stir with a fork till combined. Add peas to rice, pour sauce over top. This peanutty rice and peas mixture can also go over cooked instant oats if you like the savoury oats thing (and I do!)
posted by AmandaA at 7:38 AM on May 3, 2017

I have been thinking about this recently and the following has helped me.
- Raw eatable Fruits and vegetables to satisfy initial burst of hungers
- Popcorn, Hummus , Yogurt and Hummus for next stage.
- Frozen Foods for when I want to eat but dont want to cook.
- Weekly cook/ Weekend Cook sessions to make staples like rice, lentils, pasta etc for regular meals.
posted by radsqd at 7:48 AM on May 3, 2017

I always have a dinner ham on hand (Cure 81 least chemical additives brand), sliced fairly thick, pre-cooked. It lasts quite a while after opening. You can cut a slice up and add it to soups, topping for baked potato, rice bowl, or anything really. Makes a way better sandwich than lunch meat.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:49 AM on May 3, 2017

One of my quickest meals is pasta, pesto (Sacla fiery chilli is delicious) and chicken - and even if you have no chicken, just pasta and pesto is pretty tasty. Bonus points for some grated parmesan over the top.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 8:36 AM on May 3, 2017

Frankly, you could do a lot worse than a thin crust pizza from Domino's. Add whatever veggies your kid will tolerate - the Pacific Veggie one is particularly tasty. Even just a thin crust plain cheese isn't that terrible, if you check out the nutrition info. Add a healthy on-hand side like a salad, vegetable soup, or carrots+hummus, and you've got nothing to feel guilty about.
posted by storminator7 at 8:54 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I will make a quiche with veggies that my kiddo will eat; I cut it into pie-shaped pieces and then freeze it. Quiche freezes wonderfully and it's easy to take a piece out at a time for re-heating, and I feel better about my kid eating it than straight pizza.

We keep lots of eggs in the house, and frozen blueberries and waffles. That's an easy and somewhat nutritious meal. We usually have a pot of cooked oatmeal in the fridge too.

We buy protein in bulk packs and cook it all at once. A pot of steamed veg keeps nicely for several days, as does a pot of cooked rice. Easy to throw together a good meal of "leftovers".
posted by vignettist at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

When you cook easy stuff, make extra and freeze it. Some meals lend themselves to re-purposeable leftovers. Last night I had crab cakes (from the freezer), rice pilaf from a box, arugula w/light dressing. Tasty, low level of difficulty, took 30 mins start to eating time, and 15 mins prep time. Breakfast was bowl of rice pilaf, topped w/ scrambled egg and salsa from a jar. 3 or 4 minutes.

I love food shows and recipe sites, and cilantro, but the odds of having cilantro and lots of of other ingredients in the fridge at any moment is sketchy. If at all possible, plan 3 - 4 meals in advance and buy the stuff. I hate wasting food, but for me, wasting vegetables is acceptable, because if I have the energy to cook, there's a bag of green beans.
posted by theora55 at 9:34 AM on May 3, 2017

When I was a student and working too much to cook, we'd mix a can of beans with a can of red sauce. We didn't even heat it. It's good healthy food, and as I since have advanced to both having kids and heating up the mix, my kids love it. We used do it with lentils or chickpeas too; add some water or broth and it becomes something like a soup which you can add pasta to. As I approach granny-age I make it from scratch and it is still really easy.

The other day I was talking about our old habits with my daughter, she had forgotten completely that we had pizza every single Friday for years (so no harm was done), but she remembered fondly that there would almost always be a snack before dinner. That snack would be a cucumber and/or a couple of carrots cut into strips, sometimes with a can of hummus or some flavored yoghurt for dipping sauce, sometimes just with salt. Or I'd toast some old bread and spread it with red sauce, or peanut butter and apple, or tapenade if I was feeling posh. These snacks got everyones blood sugar to a balance and then I could better deal with cooking pasta or a curry with rice or something else quite simple but too harsh if you are desperately tired. It turns out the kids really loved this ritual.

Also, I still never cook rice without making enough for fried rice the next day.

For me, a pressure cooker is more helpful than a slow cooker. With a pressure cooker, you can make a really rich stew while the kids are eating those snacks (and again, always make enough for freezing a batch for some other day). But I sense that might not be what you are looking for.
posted by mumimor at 9:44 AM on May 3, 2017

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce uses three slow-to-perish/pantry ingredients, involves about five minutes setup and is amazeballs. Like, gave up three generations of saucemaking amazeballs. (via)
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:16 PM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tasty Bite makes microwaveable, shelf-stable Indian meals that are great. Trader Joe's also sells them as a house brand. If your kids won't eat spicy foods, I can attest that Madras Lentils and Vegetable Tikka Masala are not spicy at all. Nuke up some frozen rice (which you can get at TJ's, Safeway, or Whole Foods) and you're set.
posted by radioamy at 1:33 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I make an even more streamlined version of these black bean quesadillas a lot. I usually make them with beans, corn, cheese, and enough salsa to moisten, but if I have cilantro I'll add it.You can even mix it up ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Cheese and tortillas aren't non-perishable, but they last a long time.
posted by apricot at 2:24 PM on May 3, 2017

3 "ingredient" meal that takes less than 5 minutes

- boil water
- put cous cous in bowl
- add boiling water to cous cous
- put peas/carrot/corn in bowl
- microwave peas/carrot/corn mix for 1 minute
- dump tuna onto cous cous
- dump peas peas/carrot/corn onto cous cous
- mix together

For variety add BBQ sauce / mayonnaise / soy sauce / oyster sauce.
posted by trialex at 2:58 PM on May 3, 2017

Easily deployed:

Pasta additives:
-Caramelized onions made once a week
-frozen broccoli
-frozen kale
-black olives
-sun dried tomatoes
-pasta sauce (I know, but it's perfectly nutritious and you can buy a bunch of nice manufactured types--so you can have something interesting and still feed your kid something healthy)

Frozen soup

Cans of refried beans >> burrito night

My favorite: frozen pizza dough. You can parcook it and freeze it, so make it, cook little portions for individual pizzas, and freeze them. Freeze sauce in little 4 oz mason jars (I do tomato sauce with thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes -- but that's an individual thing and I don't think I've ever seen rosemary in pizza sauce anywhere other than my house.)

Little pre-cooked pizzas are easily deployable (7 minutes at 500) and you can put whatever you want on them, have a salad and a glass of wine and hey, fancy. Mozzarella can be frozen, also.

Our kid lives on milk, apples, chicken nuggets, almonds, Life cereal, Go Lean cereal, and carrot sticks. That's not wowing anyone, least of all me, but there's really nothing substantially unhealthy about it.

I am big on blank canvas stuff since I cook for picky eaters: pasta With Things, pizza With Things. That makes it easier to right size it. Parbaking pizza dough is one of my favorite tricks, as is having easy fancy additives around. Peanut sauce can be made ahead, also, and tossed with hot pasta and whatever vegetables are around. Same principle.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:03 PM on May 3, 2017

Oh! I forgot a favorite. You can save leftover cooked spaghetti and stir fry it the following day with vegetables (onion and garlic definitely) and a sauce--I use, roughly:

1/4 cup soy sauce
tablespoon brown sugar
teaspoon hot chili paste
tablespoon ketchup (do not judge.)

Stir fry to satisfaction and add the sauce at the last minute, crank up the heat until it thickens slightly.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:07 PM on May 3, 2017

Two of our high-speed staples are
1) chicken caesar salad (easy version: bagged caesar salad that comes with the dressing and everything + chicken; hard version: bagged romaine, croutons, parmesan, and caesar dressing + chicken) -- you can get packaged fully-cooked chicken in the meat case or I can get cut up breast meat in my deli section (they take it from the prior day's rotisserie chickens that don't sell, cheap easy and good).

2) "bruschetta," which in our house means french bread slices with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tomato slice (season with salt and pepper), buffalo mozzarella slice, and a basil leaf on top. When I have the energy it takes me about five minutes to cut up all the components and put them on a tray so people can assemble their own; if I don't have the energy we just kind of eat standing at the counter cutting as we go.

Not shelf stable over long periods but we all like them and it's easy to pick them up during the weekly grocery shop and eat it a night I don't feel like cooking.

Slightly more complicated but quick and easy and a good pantry meal:
Heat 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Saute 1/2 small onion (I use frozen chopped), 1/2 cup chopped carrots (frozen okay here too), and 1/2 cup raisins, until softened. Add 1 cup long-grain rice and stir to coat. Add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is just tender (follow rice directions for time, you can use any kind of rice you like). Remove lid; stir in 2 cups frozen green peas and 1 cup cashews (halves and pieces). Give it a minute or two to let the peas thaw (like, literally the amount of time it takes to go find the plates).

Takes about 5 minutes to get going and everything in it is in the freezer or pantry and lasts for ages.

My supermarket also has veggie stir fry bags (prechopped, sauce included) in the produce section, and meat-veggie stir fry combos in the meat case (no sauce, tho, I think you'd have to add sauce). Those aren't shelf-stable but they take 5-6 minutes to prepare, and you could always buy one at the beginning of the week in case you have a bad night, and make it at the end of the week if you don't!

Pita chips and hummus is a totally legitimate meal. Especially if you add some carrot sticks.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:30 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Frozen Costco salmon patties (bun optional, sometimes I just eat them with a fork...for the shelf stable requirement you could keep them in the freezer and put them in a toaster oven while getting the salmon ready) heated on the stove for 5-6 minutes a side + frozen broccoli done in the microwave. Done. Add rice from the rice cooker if you are fancy and have 30 min. rather than 10, or add a slice of cheese or avocado or diced onion to the patty if you are Extra Fancy.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:33 PM on May 3, 2017

Frozen burritos.

Toast with peanut butter, which my kid likes quite a bit more than peanut butter from the jar.

Pasta + sauce.

posted by talldean at 10:11 AM on May 4, 2017

« Older Avoiding Handshakes: My Ask is in Good Hands Here   |   Explain a flat tyre with no puncture Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.