Singleton Sick Day Pantry/Freezer
October 7, 2020 8:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for nutritious foods requiring minimal prep that a single person can keep around for days when they are too sick to cook or go out.

I am a single person who doesn't have anyone to take care of me when I fall sick. I don't actually live alone but I cannot depend on the people I live with to do anything.

I am looking for nutritious foods requiring minimal prep that can come in handy if I fall sick with a cold or are discharged after minor surgery but am too incapacitated to really cook or leave the house. I can't afford meal delivery.

Luckily, I have never been seriously sick but I've had miserable episodes in the past when I had to drag myself to the supermarket while ill because I ran out of food (I had stocked up beforehand but I still ran out).

The freezer compartment of my fridge is really small which puts a crimp in the amount of frozen vegetables I can stock. I do get groceries delivered nowadays but the slots for my usual supermarket are usually three days later and I don't really enjoy ordering groceries when my head is fuzzy.
posted by whitelotus to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I really love the line of Annie Chun's soup bowls for this--they can be as much as $4 at a Whole Foods, but I've found them on sale for $1.50 at local grocery stores and big box places like Target, so I buy a lot of them whenever I see a discount. Super easy and tasty.
posted by knotty knots at 8:32 PM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Shelf-stable Indian food packets (Tasty Bites are my favorite) + optional rice. Crackers and tuna/salmon packets cans + mayo. Canned/dehydrated soups. I like these shelf stable chipotle black bean bowls (mine come from Costco).
posted by charmedimsure at 8:38 PM on October 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

Indian pouch stuff like Tasty Bite is great. Pantry stable and yummy. Throw it over an (opened) can of chickpeas and heat it up, that's a filling, tasty, nutritionally dense meal with no work and no refrigeration required prior to preparation.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:38 PM on October 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

A box of Minute rice and some vegetable bullion cubes will allow you to make a simple brothy soup with minimal effort. Add in some crumbled silken tofu and whatever vegetables you have on hand for something a little more substantial.
posted by mezzanayne at 8:50 PM on October 7, 2020

I know you're asking for food, but after we had to deliver emergency gatorade & toilet paper to our friends when their whole house caught norovirus last year, I feel it necessary to put in a plug for gatorade or your rehydration solution of choice. Also mozzarella sticks and other prepackaged cheeses last a really long time in the fridge, and paired with crackers are easy to eat even when you don't really want to deal with food.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:57 PM on October 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

Frozen gyoza/jiaozi type dumplings. Easy to boil and eat as-is or add to soup broth, pretty easy on the stomach, available with a mix of meat and vegetables or veg-only.
posted by 4rtemis at 9:12 PM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

My personal "me and my husband both get COVID" stash is instant oatmeal, Indian food boil-a-bag, dried rice, frozen naan bread, rice noodles, frozen dumplings, and miso soup packets-- and if the frozen stuff was unavailable this is still reasonable IMHO. This may not be long term healthy (sodium!) but seems reasonable for a few sick days.
posted by holyrood at 9:52 PM on October 7, 2020

The shelf-stable Indian food packets from Trader Joe's are perfect for too sick/too tired to make food. I always eat them with some frozen naan toasted up in the toaster oven.

There's also the old standby of ramen packets. Use half the seasoning to cut down on sodium and crack an egg into the water as it boils to add some protein. Season or doctor with whatever else you have on hand: hot sauce (it'll clear your sinuses!), furikake, any vegetables you have lying around.
posted by yasaman at 10:13 PM on October 7, 2020

Miso soup (you can buy a tub of miso paste; it will keep for about 100 years in your fridge) with pre-cooked, heat-and-eat udon noodles. Prep takes about 2 minutes. Add frozen, shelled edamame for some vegetable goodness.
posted by lulu68 at 3:09 AM on October 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Peanut butter overnight oats, which requires old-fashioned rolled oats (the instant variety won't work); chia seeds; a dairy or dairy-free milk of your choice, and peanut butter (substitute sunflower seed butter, cashew butter, almond butter, etc., if you're allergic or just don't like the peanut variety).

People like it as a summertime break from a hot breakfast, but I enjoy it year round even though I live in a cold climate. Go figure.

This recipe incorporates dried fruit, which is easily kept on hand, as well as the yogurt of your choice. You can add fresh fruit in the morning if you want.
posted by virago at 6:04 AM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've never needed more than canned/packaged soup for this. I keep a wide variety in the pantry at all times, enough for a couple weeks of eating nothing else. The more expensive ones can be quite tasty but even the most basic ones are fine for the purposes of effortless nutrition. Oatmeal is also easy to prep, easy on the stomach and stores forever.
posted by randomnity at 7:09 AM on October 8, 2020

Best answer: Some of my favorite low-budget low-work quarantine concoctions in a town with neither Trader Joe nor Costco:

Fruit canned in fruit juice: peaches, pears, mangos, apricots. Half a can added to oatmeal along with some chopped pecans or walnuts, perfect. Applesauce works well too. If you have apples and they're not great for munching grate them into oatmeal.

Ramen with grated carrot, chopped onion, minced garlic, dried mushrooms, grated ginger, and a can of plain lentils or chickpeas. Add greens if you have any. A dash of hot sauce and/or sesame oil.

Low sodium store brand V8 juice as soup. Add a dash of hot sauce if you like spicy.

Quesadillas: tortillas, cheese, salsa, drained canned black beans.

Frozen meatballs nuked with jarred spaghetti sauce. Pasta of your choice.

Vegetables cooked with curry paste over rice.

Red cabbage cooked in any of the above or raw in a salad. Salad: slice cabbage thin, add grated carrots, a little garlic, some canned chickpeas, and the dressing of your choice.

Shelf stable store brand lemonade, cold, hot, or added to tea.
posted by mareli at 7:36 AM on October 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I'm sick I want food that requires almost no prep.
Ramen. get some chopped spinach for the freezer to add to it, probably some chili flakes, and keep eggs handy. It's easy, comforting, hot. You can also add a couple spoons of salsa for some veg. and flavor.
Canned ready-to-eat soups; I like Progresso, but there are good boxed soups, too.
Jarred pasta sauce is good heated up on its own, as a soup, when you're sick, can be added to ramen noodles.
Agreed about canned fruit in juice you can drink, oatmeal, applesauce. I cook regular oatmeal in the microwave, in a large bowl to avoid a mess, power on 3, 15 minutes.
Granola bars, whatever's lowest in sugar.
Crackers, peanuts, almonds, dried apricots
Eggs, bread, because scrambled eggs and toast is what I crave when ill.
If you regularly use caffeine, instant coffee is easy and will help avoid withdrawal headaches.
Tea bags, decaf, probably
Single-serving canned juice
Frozen OJ - you can scoop out enough for a glass at a time.
Gingerale. Lots of salt in soups, sugar in gingerale, for electrolytes.
Powdered lemonade mix - make with boiling water for fast comfort.
jello. It's very easy to make and is a major comfort food for me, especially if I add mandarin oranges or pears.

Get a hot water kettle, esp. because when you're sick it's even easier to let a pan boil dry. When Covid hit Maine, I put a thermometer, tylenol, Sudafed, cough drops, and comfort stuff in a basket in case I end up on the couch for a while. I put a few basics in a tote bag in case of a hospital visit.
posted by theora55 at 9:07 AM on October 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

Chicken soup, crackers, canned tuna or salmon, peanut butter, canned fruit especially fruit cocktail, canned vegetables - the smallest size tin of canned waxed beans works as comfort food for me - cheese, instant rice pouches, olives (you are likely to crave salt), vegetable soup, muffin mix, dried fruit, eggs (flip the egg box once a week to rotate the eggs if you are going to be keeping it six months instead of six weeks), biscuit mix, ryvita, powdered milk, oatmeal, shelf stable boxes of apple grape juice (really sweet but easier on the stomach than any other fruit juice), apple sauce, macaroni, baked potatoes, whole baked squash, yogurt, oatmeal cookies, dark chocolate, lemon drops, chew-able vitamin c, almonds or pecans, honey, chicken broth, canned chick peas or other types of canned beans you can eat without heating, bottled salad dressing (ranch?) which can be glopped onto biscuits, rice, macaroni, canned beans, canned fish or baked potatoes to give it some moisture and flavour so it goes down more easily.

If you get biscuit mix, muffin mix, or oatmeal that is not the kind made with boiling water from the kettle, get some extra and make them up a couple of times while you are still healthy so that you know how to do it easily and can figure it out while you are bleary. If you have silicone muffin pans you won't need to bother with muffin cups. The biscuits in this scenario should not be rolled but dropped by spoonfuls.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:12 AM on October 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

One of my solutions as a chronically ill person is tomato powder. Pour water in saucepan, spoonful of tomato powder, sprinkling of dehydrated onion flakes, sprinkling of salt if you can have it, dump in pieces of any frozen or fresh or dehydrated vegetable, cook until veg is done, optionally add at the end a sprinkling of some dried herb. World's worst vegetable soup, yes, but I only have to stand up for one minute.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:57 AM on October 8, 2020

Response by poster: Some of the foods on this list are perishables but I found it useful to think about.

1 day of nutritionally complete foods - vegetarian
posted by whitelotus at 12:30 AM on October 11, 2020

Antipasto plates: Canned black olives, jarred tiny dill pickles called cornichons (or regular dill pickle Spears or slices), jarred pickled sweet peppers or other pickled vegetables, sliced salami or other slice d sausage-type thing that comes in a shelf stable/no refrigeration needed form, packets of tuna salad or salmon salad that now come in pouches, or small cans of tuna or salmon, saltine crackers or water pepper crackers or wasa crisp bread. Then it is just a matter of opening cans or jars and draining if necessary, opening packages, taking out what you want and putting the rest away in the fridge or cabinet. I recommend paper plates, paper napkins, toothpicks and a tray, then you don’t have to wash any dishes and you can take it to the most comfortable spot.
(You didn’t ask, but this also works well as an impromptu appetizer tray for guests. If you happen to have a few grape or cherry tomatoes, cut them in half and put salt on them. If you have cheese, cut it in small pieces, either for the crackers or to be eaten with a toothpick. Some people like to add a small dish of mayo, esp if you have bread instead if crackers. Some people like to offer olive oil.)

Hot beverages: honey, sugar or stevia, herbal tea, regular tea. Coffee. Cream (Trader Joe’s has an inexpensive tiny shelf-stable box of whipping cream. If you want half and half you can just ad some water. Put the rest in a clean jar in the fridge.)

Cold beverages: ginger ale, Gatorade or the less sugary version G2, ice, water.

Hot soup: miso soup packets, frozen peas to add in for bulk, taste and interest. You said you have a small freezer so peas are the only frozen item I am suggesting. They don’t stick together so you can just pour out the amount you need and close up the bag with a twist tie or clothespin or rubber band and put it back in the freezer. Ramen noodles and other such soups are also good with peas added. There are other frozen vegetables you could use if have freezer space. Frozen vegetables are already washed, cut, cooked and have the detritus discarded, so they save a huge amount of prep and cleanup.
Other folks have already mentioned the Indian food packets. These are great for hot stew/soupy type meals. You can add frozen veg to these, too. They go especially great with rice if you can manage to make rice when you are sick, and with naan, if you can manage to fit that in your freezer.

Sometimes when I get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or Costco, I cut off a piece of breast, slice it in strips, and put it in the freezer in a quart freezer ziplock bag. This comes in handy to eat later because it defrosts quickly and you can eat it with toothpicks on paper plates.

Canned things to add to the above: chickpeas, black beans esp black soybeans, just drain and rinse and drain again. Keep Italian or other jarred salad dressings on hand. Mixing two kinds of canned beans with salad dressing is surprisingly tasty. I like to add canned diced tomatoes with two kinds of beans and jarred dressing.

If you know you are going to eat a canned or jarred item cold, just keep it in the fridge all the time, if you have the fridge space. Canned tuna, salmon, chickpeas, beans, pickles, unopened salad dressings and mayo, etc.

This list is all no cooking, just heating or chilling. Everything except cheese and freezer items are no freezer no fridge till you open it. I would add eggs and fresh fruit to this list if you had the ability to have a standing every other week delivery.

All the different canned soups mentioned by others could be lifesavers. There is something called “oyster crackers” that moms used to drop on top of soups to make sick kids feel better. This still works. My sick neighbor child was rejuvenated by chicken soup and oyster crackers from Trader Joe’s.
posted by KayQuestions at 5:59 PM on October 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older Which far right group carries this flag?   |   Seeking Spanish-to-English interpreter (by zoom)... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.