Can my family live off low cook/no cook meals 3/4 of the time?
May 19, 2021 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Need advice on feasibility of drastically changing eating habits of our household over the next couple of months.

Mr. Objects a few months ago decided that he was tired of being, well, overweight and tired, and is trying out a Paleo/Ketogenic diet for the second time. He had some reasonable success the first time, but RL got in the way big time and derailed him. He is doing better this time around, but we are hemorrhaging cash on food delivery of things like "Keto" bagels with salmon and cream cheese or Poke Bowls and he's relying on cheat foods too much which is hampering his progress.

The household me, him, our two adult housemates, their 17 year old son, and 3 year old Baby Objects. The adults indicated they'd be willing to cut down some on their carbs, the 17 year old will pretty much eat whatever is put in front of him as long as he can put hot sauce on it and it has a protein in it, and Baby Objects loves fruit and veggies (but also Mac and Cheese).

I'm stretched pretty thin for time at the moment, and Mr. Objects doesn't cook, ever. One of the other adults is chronically ill and can only sometimes cook but loves to Souse Vide all the things, and the other is usually out of the house 3 days a week until almost 6pm and has family commitments on weekends.

I'm considering shifting our shopping to consist mostly of fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses and already cooked meats. Stuff that's already at least somewhat pre-prepped too. Costs more but not as much as a prime-time Uber Eats orders 3x a week.

Ideally I'd be able to get most of the others in the household to help do some minimal prep once or twice a week to get these items ready to pull out at a moments notice to throw together a Salad, Crudite, Charcuterie, or Antipasti lunch and/or dinner. With Summer fast approaching in AZ when no one wants to turn on the stove or oven anyway, I'm really hoping this could be a solution to ordering take out way too often, eating really unhealthily, and get me an hour or so time back in my day.

I'm not going to tell Mr. Objects to never order in again, maybe just try to keep it to once a week, and I still anticipate at least one standard home-cooked dinner a week too. Also, I and one of my housemates are the ones who do all the meal planning and grocery shopping.

Questions I have are: What pitfalls am I not considering? Has anyone else tried something similar with their families and if so do you have any tips? Like, how much variety of items do I need to consider to make sure we all don't get super bored of this? How long should I stick with it because any change is hard and takes awhile before it becomes the new "normal"?
posted by sharp pointy objects to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The thing about the cheeses and cured meats is that people generally want to eat them on some form of carb (crackers, bread, etc.). How are you going to handle that? Otherwise, this is not much different than the German custom of Abendbrot, except the vegetables will be nicer.
posted by praemunire at 11:08 AM on May 19, 2021

This sounds great to me! When I have really busy week, I try to stock the fridge with grab n go food. You could just try a week, see how it goes, get feedback, and then try another week. It does not have to be a commitment for a whole summer all at once. That way the pressure is off to do a summer's worth of planning. Just one week of planning and modify as needed.

It seems helpful for people to be able to grab a container that already has a pack of nuts, some cheese, and salami than to pull out the big containers of nuts, cheese, and meat.

I'm not sure where you are getting the 1 of day back, perhaps in nightly meal prep.

Kitchn has weekly meal preps, several low-carb or keto, that usually take an hour or two. Though I do not recommend if you don't like to meal plan, prep, cook.

The breakdown of needing to order the keto bagel often happens for me when I did not plan ahead and got really hungry. Maybe a whiteboard or paper list on the fridge with the items that can be grabbed?

Other food ideas: Hard boiled eggs so great, jars of veggies, small containers of ranch dip, already cut fruit, small avocadoes.
posted by RoadScholar at 11:11 AM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Mr. Objects doesn't cook, ever

You need to get an air fryer. The cheapest one with decent reviews will do just fine. I am one person living alone, so for you maybe one with a big hopper will be a better choice.

Mr Objects can purchase chicken, put the chicken directly into the air fryer, put some seasonings on top, and set the air fryer to 20 minutes. This produces a tasty, perfectly cooked, healthy lean protein and can be scaled up for the family. This requires no high level cognitive input.

If Mr Objects is not capable of doing this then he shouldn't be dictating meals for the entire household.

Prepackaged frozen veggies also do really well in the air fryer. Just dump them straight into the hopper. I particularly like asparagus.
posted by phunniemee at 11:15 AM on May 19, 2021 [70 favorites]

I like soylent for solving problems like this. It's yummy and nutritious.
posted by bbqturtle at 11:22 AM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have not actually tried it before, but I think about it sometimes. I thought it might make for a fun blog, before I remembered that this isn't 2006. But yeah, I *think* it's feasible, especially if you're willing to eat vegetarian. This is a golden age of no-prep veggies, between frozen steamers, pre-chopped fresh, cans, and salad-mix bags. You'd lose roasted veggies, although if you're willing to do minimal prep, you really just have to pour some oil on them and throw them in the oven. Likewise, your carbs should be pretty well covered - mashed potatoes, rice, pasta (Lipton sides) have plenty of quick microwave options.

The holdup for me has always been meat, but there are a couple of products that make me think this is changing. Specifically, Verde Sear It steak, which is about five minutes of prep, and Savora microwave sous vide. Throw these in a rotation with pre-cooked chicken breast (Trader Joe's), rotisserie chicken, cold cuts, sushi (if you're OK with grocery store sushi, which I am), the microwaveable BBQ pulled pork, hot dogs, cured sausages, and maybe some big-batch/portion-frozen ground beef, and that's probably enough to go a few weeks without repeating a dish. Throw in vegetarian meals and occasional takeout. Take-and-bake rolls if you want some bread, and yeah, you've got a solid menu with very little actual work. I'm actually talking myself into this.

Note that you're not just saving time (and heat) on the front end; you're also saving it on the back end by not having to do as many dishes. That to me is even more valuable.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:25 AM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Every Sunday, I throw 8 or 9 chicken thighs (no oil, just salt and pepper) in my air fryer for 25 min at 375. I get a bunch of spinach that I cook down by putting it in a bowl, dumping some boiling water on it, and covering for a few minutes before draining. Bam! Dinners for the week, and it takes 5 minutes of prep. I sometimes swap the spinach for fresh baby greens in the summer for salads instead. You could also do those steam in bag microwave frozen veggies for more variety. You can add whatever sauce or seasonings when you put your dinner together.

Breakfast is 2 boiled eggs (you can pre-boil them if you want!) and a piece of toast, though you could do microwaved bacon instead.

Snacks are fruit that needs no prep other than a rinse - apples, bananas, strawberries, etc. Not, like melons or pineapple unless you buy pre-cut or are willing to cut them up yourself on Sunday, perhaps while you wait for your chicken to cook.

I recommend Huel as a meal replacement for lunch, though my caloric needs for weightloss mean I really only eat the two above meals each day. But if I was larger or younger I would definitely do a Huel shake instead of any meal prep for at least one meal.

Is it repetitive? Yes. But varying the seasoning/sauce is enough for me, and the relative monotony is more than made up for by the fact that I dont have to think about it or make decisions during the week. If I have the opportunity to choose, because I didnt meal prep, I will invariably choose foods that I love (hi pasta) but make me feel like crap after.
posted by ananci at 11:39 AM on May 19, 2021 [4 favorites]

We (2 adults + baby) pretty much live off of:
-oatmeal with banana
-sheet pan salmon and broccoli
-sheet pan sausages w/peppers and onions
-hummus + veggies
-salad kits
posted by DoubleLune at 11:55 AM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

It's not quite grab-and-go, but Kitchn has a "Power Hour" series of articles that focus on cooking in advance for easy eating during the week, and several of their entries are low-carb/keto. Each article covers 4-6 days worth of food.
posted by aramaic at 11:56 AM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Keto people are used to just eating cheese and meat, he'll survive and the others can figure out if they need an augmentation with theirs.

Agreed on the air fryer, get a biggun in the 10-12+ quart range. It doesn't heat up the kitchen and you can bulk-cook proteins with not a lot of fuss. Our air fryer makes it possible for us to buy low-carb produce that won't go bad too quickly - whole zucchini, bags of brussels sprouts, and big bags of broccoli florets are our standards - and it's literally less than 5 minutes to cut up, toss in a big bowl with oil and salt, and chuck that in the AF for 10-20 minutes while washing the bowl and getting out proteins. (Or I prep the veg and put them on an air fryer rack ready to go in, use the same bowl to quickly prep chicken breasts or thighs, put those in and cook alone for about 15 minutes, wash the bowl, when the bell dings put the veg in above the chicken and cook it all another 10ish minutes.)

Something that you can do some of and still have it be cheaper than takeout is a thing I'll call planned home catering. Figure out what grocery stores and restaurants in your area do deals on bulk proteins - that might be BBQ by the pound, shawarma or fajita party platters, roast chicken deals, meatballs (also available frozen at the grocery store and just look for the ones with the least fillers so you can eat a full serving for modest net carbs) - most of the time when you're buying bulk protein you also get some bulk sides like green salad, or carbs for the carb eaters. Those proteins can be eaten in various styles over the next several days, and they can be rationed a little bit if you have an array of simple sides also on offer so that nobody's eating a quarter pound of BBQ per meal.

From the perspective of a keto or low-carb person though, I recognize his novelty-seeking behavior and a non-cook's lack of responsibility for feeding themself, and this will not work if he isn't willing to make more than just dietary changes - it'll just make everyone else miserable while he goes back to ordering gross keto bagels because "there's nothing to eat". I recognize this from someone who may live in my own household who, when I ask what he wants for dinner, will name something he ate at a restaurant on vacation 27 years ago while I stand there wondering which of our asses I'm supposed to pull sea bass out of ffs, in our refrigerator there is chicken and there is beef and there is some vegetables, what flavor would you like this food I already bought to be?

So, even if he won't cook or learn 3 basic air fryer techniques, he can go on the internet and look up "basic keto home meals" and then come back to you with a set of suggestions like: chicken thighs with zucchini and cauliflower rice, in the flavor of Italian. He's got to buy in to the idea of eating the food that is already here, and for people like that I think planning helps regulate the novelty urge and retrain "I do not recognize that there is edible food here because it has not been assembled on a plate and handed to me" into at least "capable of pointing to a series of things that can be put on a plate for me". I even have a little cheat sheet on the fridge that breaks down the staples that we generally always have on hand into meals, like there's a column for proteins and a column for Veg 1 and a column for Veg 2 and just pick something from each one and that's a meal.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:58 AM on May 19, 2021 [27 favorites]

Best answer: I too live in a mixed Keto/non-Keto household. Solidarity!

I think you can do this, but I might add that to keep the salt/fat/cured/nitrites down you might want to consider cooking some extra protein on the one night you are also cooking a regular meal. Here's a list of things we eat that do this without a huge ton of extra work:

Cooking night 1
- 3 whole chickens, plus a large pan of roasted vegetables (I can squash all this in my oven YMMV), turns into one night of roast chicken and vegetables, and then chicken salad in lettuce wraps, chicken caesar salad, chicken chunks to go with whatever else (kale salad, in a "you get tacos, you get a salad with taco things on top" sort of format). BONUS ACTIVITY: If you have a slow cooker or instant pot you can make stock and have a keto-friendly soup too, but totally get it if this is not what you're looking.

Cooking night 2
- 2 or 3 pans of turkey/chicken meatloaf + a tray of meatballs, turns into dinner with meatloaf one night, meatloaf leftovers with salad/vegetables/soup the next night, the meatballs again go in lettuce wraps or over zucchini noodles or in a salad (look up greek meatball salad or just get a bagged salad of your desired theme) or on meatball subs (we just nuke the meatballs if we want them hot...and to be honest a lot of time it's just 4 meatloafs and then I crumble them and people pretend they are meatballs.)

Cooking night 3
- large pork roast or ham along with roast veggies, very similar to the chicken profile but results in a different set of flavours on top of salads, cold 'noodle' salad with zucchini/squash noodles, etc.

Cooking night 4
- I make 3 crustless quiches with different things in them that get served next to different bagged salads or alongside soups

Cooking night 5
- as much salmon as I can get in my roasting pan with veggies, this becomes cold salmon on top of salads and/or salmon salad

In terms of truly no-cook platters/bowls, for us it's sort of keeping a variety of things going else we start to move towards old bad habits:

Base ingredients:
- lettuce (salad, or can be used as a wrap)
- the fresh, no-dressing coleslaw/shredded cabbage, ditto kale, ditto broccoli slaw
- edamame hummus or hummus for the bottom of the bowl or in a wrap
- tortillas or crispbread for the non-Keto folks
- barley or whole grain rice for the non-Keto folks

- diced cooked chicken, ham, pork, cooked bacon, salmon, turkey sausage, cocktail sausages if you eat them
- heated up pulled pork, ground turkey cooked, meatballs
- pate or cretons if you eat those (great in lettuce wraps)
- cheeses of all descriptions
- hard boiled eggs
- tuna, smoked salmon, canned salmon, shrimp
- falafel for the non-Keto crowd

- chopped peppers
- chopped cucumber
- chopped tomatoes if I have time
- avocados
- fruits of various kinds
- that sort of julienned/shredded pre-done carrot stuff they have at my grocery store
- regular type pickles
- turnip, carrot, beet pickles; muffaleta (sp?) pickles, pickled eggplant, mango pickle, kimchi, etc. etc. etc.
- olives

- wasabi
- za'atar
- salsa
- sour cream
- tzatziki
- balsamic vinegar
- mayonnaise etc.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:05 PM on May 19, 2021 [9 favorites]

There are innumerable fruit, veg and protein options that are nice cold. A lot of them require cooking at some point prior to being eaten cold though.

For proteins things like rotisserie chicken, cold meats etc can go some way but will get boring if in heavy rotation for months at a time. So this plan should probably include cooking batches of meat at the weekend that are nice cold or barely warmed through.

Salad leaves and classic salad veg also get boring very quickly (to me). To get more variety I like to also have things like roast veg, which is very nice cold in your salad. Different textures and flavours, doesn't have to be heated again prior to eating. But that again requires some prep ahead of time.

You'll probably also want all fruit and cheese/yogurt.

This is also one of those cases where you cannot make all people happy all the time. You seem to be in charge of feeding five adults and a child all the meals because all have to adjust their diet to help one person lose weight. Great if the adults are up for changing their diet. But they are also getting significant benefit in not having to worry about a single meal it seems. They don't get to abdicate all responsibility for feeding themselves.

Option 1 - Team effort where everybody has to contribute to the planning, shopping, meal prep aspects. Result nicely varied meals that require minimal/no cooking on the day.

Option 2 - They have to take significant other burdens off your shoulders in exchange for you taking care of planning, shopping and prepping for five adults. Result nicely varied meals that require minimal/no cooking on the day.

Option 3 - The less they contribute, the less variety they will get. Result - one meal/day is a shake, one is a bag of salad mix with either rotisserie chicken or cold meats, one is fruit and cheese/natural yogurt/nut butter.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:08 PM on May 19, 2021 [4 favorites]

This is entirely how I live. I have not cooked a meal since February of 2020! It's such a natural way of being for me that it's shocking to hear someone ask whether it's possible, lol.

I have a produce delivery box service which mostly knocks out my perishable food needs. Check out Imperfect Foods--they have a lot of proteins (both prepared and raw) as well; you could seriously cut down on your grocery shopping time, and it's definitely not pricier than delivery food (and I seldom find it to be significantly more than my grocery store. YMMV, as I'm in an expensive area.)

I get takeout or delivery 1-2x per week, but I could easily stop doing so; mostly I'm just trying to support my local places during the pandemic.

How to not get bored really depends on all of you and your individual preferences but for me I kind of rotate things out by the week. Some weeks are Adult Lunchables (cheese cubes, deli meat, olives). Others are Big Salad weeks, or Veggie Wrap weeks. If you wanted to rotate through all of these within a week it would take more prep at the start, but it still seems doable. Maybe invest in a lot of good storage containers so you can slice everything on, like, a Sunday?

Breakfasts and lunches might be harder for you with your carb restrictions and the small-child factor. For me I usually bake something at the start of the week and that's my breakfasts, with some kind of fruit or maybe nuts during the day. (I'm not a big lunch-er.)

Granted, I live alone, and when I was partnered my partner was NOT on board as he was a hot-food, actual-meals person. But as long as the household is all-in on this plan you can absolutely pull it off. Given that your questions aren't, "what should I buy," "what are some good snacky meals I haven't thought of" but rather "how long do we have to do this?" ...I guess the big question is: are YOU okay with eating this way? Or is this just something you're resigned to because meeting everyone's needs without help is too much?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:11 PM on May 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far for the great answers. It really helps a lot just to know I'm not the only one who's in the same mixed-household sort of situation, or even that there are other people who already eat like this!!

A couple additions: We basically own all the kitchen things: Multiple Crock pots, rice cooker, air fryer, Instant Pot, Kitchen Aid mixer (2!), microwave, toaster oven, etc. I might have to reorganize the kitchen storage though because most of them are currently stored in cabinets, and out of sight, out of mind. I will pull them out so we actually use them!!

I didn't want to ask "what meals" or "what should I buy" because I figured I'd cull all the old AskMetafilter's many, many meal questions for whatever comments offered suggestions that met my requirements! So I think I am OK eating this way, at least through the worst of the summer heat.

Also, because I forgot until my housemate reminded me, we have a sourdough starter in the fridge that has to get used once a week. (We named him Jesus Crust). I'm thinking we'll keep one loaf for the carb eaters in the house and maybe gift one to friends or neighbors each week.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2021 [5 favorites]

Respectfully, I would advise you to gently but firmly require Mr. O to prep his own meals and also not expect the whole household to follow his diet (? did I understand your post correctly? apologies if not). This is the major pitfall I see in your plan: he's making you take on an unreasonable amount of extra work and personal dietary changes. This diet is HIS special personal project - definitely outside the purview of your normal meal prep responsibilities.

You can still be a supportive spouse by doing his shopping if he gives you his list, or by pitching in as his sous chef when your schedule/energy allows. But it's his job to make his new diet happen without breaking the family budget and without expecting you to take on a whole lifestyle change that you don't even want to.

If he prefers not to cook, then I guess he won't do this diet (and you both can sit down and agree on how to stick to your budget). His decision. It's not your role as his spouse to protect him from these mild, harmless natural consequences. It's ok to treat him like the adult he is.
posted by MiraK at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2021 [47 favorites]

Well, as you say, this is a good time of year for doing it.
Come to think of it, this is almost how we eat during the summer months. Almost, because all of us like cooking so we will do the washing and chopping of vegetables and cooking of protein from scratch. Still, we want to be out doing stuff, not living in the kitchen. Also, there will nearly always be boiled new potatoes on the table because they are delicious. Can Mr. Objects resist temptation? Because if he can just avoid the potatoes, they will be nice to have for the rest of the group. Also some high-protein believers accept new potatoes because the starch content is different from old potatoes, this is the case in my family. Croutons on the side can be an other extra.

If you are doing one dinner a week, think of it also as a source of delicious leftovers. A roast leg of lamb or some cut of beef will go well with ratatouille or caponata which both keep very well and were originally intended to be eaten at room temperature. And the meat is great cold, too. Or roast more veal or pork than you need and make a vitello/porcina tonnato.

You could think of it as variations on the theme of "composed salads", I think that is what we do, unconsciously. Start with a bed of lettuce or summer greens, whatever you can get pre-prepped. Now add cooked vegetables, they can be roasted veg (bought frozen, just need heating in the microwave or oven), or steamed green beans or peas or corn or asparagus or whatever takes your fancy (again frozen, or canned). Add raw veg, like tomato or cucumber or sweet onion. Maybe add fresh fruit or berries for drama, any type of melon, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all work well in salads. And then some protein. Chickpeas are good, as is rotisserie chicken, or hard-boiled eggs, or anchovies or sardines, smoked fish are good too. And cheese. Oh, and seeds and nuts. The trick is to not have too many elements at a time. Look at how simple a Caesar salad is. A very complex salad is annoying, but also if you use all the ingredients at once, you don't get the nice variation from meal to meal. So one day you have a Caesar type salad with chicken and optional croutons, the next you go for a Nicoise style. Then it might be watermelon and feta using precut watermelon, as a side to rotisserie chicken or deli meats. A salad with avocado, grapefruit and shrimp is delicious and nutrient rich. A big family favorite is lettuce, peas, blueberries and a cream and lemon juice dressing. Goes with cold chicken, very well. Or any other protein.
My local deli counter has the most amazing pork roast and in tomato season it goes very well with a caprese salad or a Greek salad. You'll have to slice the tomatoes, but everything else comes precut here at least. Some delis even have the Greek salad ready made.
Vary the dressings, too. Some days a classic vinaigrette is good, other days a cream- or yogurt-based dressing is good. Or something mayo-ish. Bottled dressings are fine.

One thing I have in my freezer is organic falafels. They are not as good as if they were made in Jerusalem by people who do nothing else, but for me they are a very good thing to have when I am tired and home alone and just want food on the table fast. I eat them with something like a Greek salad and some yogurt and hummus and maybe a pita bread, but my last three attempts at pita bread making failed and the falafels were still a good meal. I deep fry them, but they are perfect for air frying and acceptable in the microwave.

I'm don't know anything about the sousvide, but I wonder if you could cook stuff like fish and vegetables and just freeze them in the vacuum bags for thawing when needed. For instance, I really like a salad with steamed salmon and asparagus. Both seem to me to be suitable for sous vide? I'd put them on a bed of pre-washed arugula and decorate with cherry tomatoes. Dress with mayo or hollandaise, from a bottle.
posted by mumimor at 12:30 PM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think it's helpful to think about what you think of as being "different" meals and how many different meals a week you like/need.

Like to me, felafel + hummus + salad is different to cold chicken + salad. But all platters that are a mix of cheese + meat + crudites are essentially the same meal. Also, I would probably eat "the same thing" twice in a week but not more while still enjoying it. I can eat the same thing for lunch for many days in a row because somehow that's different.

This isn't to say that you should do things by my restrictions, just that what a meal looks like is sort of arbitrary but needs to make sense for you and your household. And the amount of variety needs to work for people too. Maybe different spices or flavourings (Mexican vs Indian vs Italian) will add variety.

FWIW I think you have a good plan. I would suggest that rather than getting overinvested in this as they way you all eat now, you try it for a month (or other suitable/manageable amount of time) and then think about how it's gone. And also, that you need to get whoever are the prime suggesters/orderers of takeout on board that they're not going to do that as frequently any more and make them stick to it.
posted by plonkee at 12:50 PM on May 19, 2021

When I was doing no-cook I struggled with the lack of temperature variation. If possible, I would ease your household into it by starting with every other day or something. Frozen veggies are really good and healthy and add some temperature contrast. Drop a knob of butter on them and they become delicious.

Have you considered buying prepared meals from your grocery's deli section? Often these are just "put it in the oven and bake at X for Y minutes". Honestly easier than making a sandwich. Most are more casserole like, but there are things like meatloaf or pulled pork that are low-carb.

For managing a mixed house, it's important to remember that not everyone needs to eat everything. If you all switch to low-carb there will be an adjustment period where everyone is cranky. I would instead aim to serve 2-4 items per meal with the assumption that the low-carb person might only eat 1 or 2 of them. Say, pulled pork, mashed potatoes, frozen steamed veggies, bagged dinner buns.

I might be misunderstanding something, but I'm curious why you associate no-cook with low time or prep effort. When I'm feeling lazy I always use cooking to my advantage as in the oven it's usually not active time. Contrast that to making a sandwich or preparing a charcuterie tray where you're probably slicing up 3-5 different ingredients. Instead of cutting up a carrot for a salad, it's a lot easier and takes less active time to just cut off the root end, pour some oil and salt on it, and bake for 30 minutes. Same with slicing a sausage for a charcuterie board vs throwing some chicken thighs on a sheetpan. As long as you look up the timing you can use the same pan and the sauces will mingle nicely. Use prepared sauces like hoisin, korean bbq, etc to eliminate that prep work.
posted by hermanubis at 1:00 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

warriorqueen beat me to it with this concept, but I was going to say how delicious and easy my low carb lunches are. Salsa salad. Take a bunch of bagged lettuce, add purchased shredded cheese, salsa, and whatever else you enjoy. For examples, I usually add olives, banana pepper, canned pineapple (yup weird I know). Depending on how hungry, might throw on some canned beans, or tofu, or a dollop of cottage cheese. I'm not sick of this yet, but I can see a future where I switch it up to something more Middle Eastern with baba ganoush /hummus as the dressing. Or something Korean maybe.
posted by kitcat at 1:03 PM on May 19, 2021

In terms of trying to order less takeout, one thing I’d suggest is having a variety of frozen meals on hand - you should be able to find some that are paleo/keto friendly. Frozen meals are usually more expensivethan cooking from scratch, but significantly less expensive than ordering in! If you find that a meal isn’t big enough to be satisfying, mixing some frozen vegetables in can be a good way to bulk it up, or eating something like baby carrots or an apple on the side. I like Trader Joe’s frozen meals, if that’s available to you.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:24 PM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

So the other adult in the house who is chronically ill still manages to cook but Mr Object won’t cook, ever, but expects everyone else to not only cook, but purchase, meal plan and change their entire diets around him? I think you have a problem here but keto meal planning isn’t it.
posted by Jubey at 2:39 PM on May 19, 2021 [27 favorites]

>If Mr Objects is not capable of doing this then he shouldn't be dictating meals for the entire household.

A-friggin' men. (And seriously, can you imagine a woman demanding that everyone else Princess around her diet while she doesn't cook?)

Mr Objects eats what everyone else eats, minus the carbs, plus a little something he decides (and provides).

To second Jubey, the problem here isn't keto.
posted by cyndigo at 3:14 PM on May 19, 2021 [10 favorites]

First, I agree with MiraK, Jubey, and cyndigo. And... why are the other adults having to cut down their carbs? Is this a solidarity thing?

Second, what is Mr. Objects ordering all the time? Guess what, he is now making that at home! You can buy keto bagels, salmon, and cream cheese at the grocery store, and he can eat that at home for far cheaper than ordering out.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:22 PM on May 19, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'd also recommend pre-cut frozen veggies, and also add pre-cut fruit for snacks.

Plus and I hope this isn't derailing, but people recommending the air-fryer: can you use it with zero added oil or fat? When I look up reviews they all seem to say that you use less oil, rather than no oil.
posted by EllaEm at 4:04 PM on May 19, 2021

You do need some oil, but oil doesn't have carbs.
posted by cyndigo at 4:05 PM on May 19, 2021

Also, not to be too down on Mr Objects, but ... people who demand other people accommodate them don't get "cheat days," which many people who aren't demanding fealty to their diets enjoy and which may help actually help their long-term success. But, nope. If you're making other people provide and genuflect to YOUR desires ... you don't get to faff off to Burger King.

Lived with a demanding "celiac" roommate ... until she wanted a bagel. FTN (eff that noise)
posted by cyndigo at 4:23 PM on May 19, 2021 [4 favorites]

If you're making other people provide and genuflect to YOUR desires ... you don't get to faff off to Burger King.

Yeah, this! The whole household has been forced to overhaul their diet for his benefit and quadruple their (not his) meal prepping workload purely for his sake, and surely the least that should guarantee is *they* choose what takeout to splurge on and when.
posted by MiraK at 4:37 PM on May 19, 2021 [4 favorites]

Mr. Objects doesn't cook, ever

Your relationship is yours to run as you see fit, of course, but this is Ask and from my perspective Mr. Objects needs to put on his big-boy pants.

My keto go-to's were protein in the form of steak, chicken, or lamb chops, fried in good olive oil, and served with (proper) sauerkraut or kimchi, cheese or avocado depending on what was around, with coconut yoghurt as dessert.

The other one was scrambled eggs on keto toast, with tuna or salmon or whatever mixed through.

That's it. Any of those things takes like ten minutes to prepare. I didn't expect my partner to adjust her own meal plans to accommodate mine, and I sure as hell didn't expect her to prepare my special meal.

"Cheating" on keto - that is, eating carbs - completely defeats the purpose of it and literally puts you back to square one every single time. After that it gets harder, and harder, and harder to get back into ketosis.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:51 PM on May 19, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'm stretched pretty thin for time at the moment, and Mr. Objects doesn't cook, ever.

It sounds like you are trying to get Mr. Objects to take over the food prep by making "no-cook" meals?

Have you actually talked to Mr. Objects about this? Yes, he should be doing some of the prep, especially for his special diet, but if you don't talk to him about this plan it's not likely to be successful.

I don't understand why all the adults have to change their diet to accommodate Mr. Objects, but it seems like they are all on board, if all the adults want to do this that's fine.

For the baby, maybe talk to the pediatrician before changing the baby's diet? It's generally not a good idea to put a baby on a weight loss diet, and if the baby does need to be on this diet you should get specifics on what sort of diet to follow.
posted by yohko at 12:25 AM on May 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

What pitfalls am I not considering?

From the sounds of things, the biggest hurdle is going to be convincing Mr Objects that he doesn't get to have cheat days if you're all making an effort to change your diets because of him.

I'm really hoping this could be a solution to ordering take out way too often, eating really unhealthily, and get me an hour or so time back in my day.

These are all good reasons to change things up, outside of catering to Mr Objects' personal project. I imagine you might see some decent progress just from cutting out take out, since a lot of the time even healthy options will come with lots of additional ingredients/sides that you might not be taking into account, compared to making something at home.

Thinking about it in that way, your biggest problems will probably be facing the tendency to backslide into convenience once everyone gets bored of making salad. You could head that off at the pass by doing things like deleting take out apps from your phone/throwing away menus/removing your card details from websites. Basically just put more hurdles between your household and those take out orders. Make it a real pain in the ass to get those bagels.

I'd also suggest creating a routine. Make the home made meal night a specific night of the week and stick to it. Set aside a specific afternoon for everyone to help with meal prep. This will help keep it regular instead of becoming a "whenever we have time" thing.
posted by fight or flight at 5:55 AM on May 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've been low carb for about 5 months and it has been working well for me. The way I could follow through was to build discipline. No one else in my family is low carb so if my partner made pasta for dinner...well...I had to make do. That was fine and in retrospect helped me understand how I could create a dinner that I enjoyed, quickly.

I always have full fat yogurt on hand. Great with a bit of fruit, chia seeds, walnuts. Great in a smoothie. Very filling and fast.

I don't think anyone has talked about grilling proteins. Pretty fast, you can do a few at a time and refrigerate for later consumption. I can toss some grilled skirt steak on a salad or make a spicy chicken wrap pretty quickly in that type of grab-n-go environment.

The whole grab-n-go discipline has to be built up over time. It doesn't just happen.

Also: having freezer space allows you to have items readily on hand to defrost and prep. You can lose momentum if you have to run out and do a big shop.

So many great suggestions above. Regarding the air fryer: chicken wings are pretty great and customizable to everyone's tastes. I can fit about 3.5 pounds in mine. Plenty for dinner and leftovers.

A key element for me has been allowing myself some variety. I have bought, tried and not enjoyed a few different types of food that are big in the low carb world. I felt bad not eating them but, I believe, you have to have a process that works for you. I have been patient with the process of trying to eat better and have seen the results.

Good luck.
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:04 AM on May 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm considering shifting our shopping to consist mostly of fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses and already cooked meats.

Yes, do that. It's fine, especially in the summer. A couple additional suggestions:

Have hard boiled eggs in the fridge. The laziest and best way is in the instant pot.

Trader Joe's sells a refrigerated turkey meatloaf that is very low carb. Combined with a bagged salad and some quickly sauteed vegetables (zucchini or peppers) it makes a decent meal. Can be put out on the table with a bowl of clementines, cherry tomatoes, or grapes for a no-prep (and almost NO WASH, even more important) meal. We have this at least once a week and often more. Their frozen turkey meatballs are also relatively low carb, tho not quite keto compliant.

Costco sells a big package of seasoned chicken legs that just need to be put in the oven as is. If you line the pan with foil, it's not too bad for cleanup. (Or just sacrifice a pan to this use case, rinse it and don't worry too much about getting off every bit of crud.) Voila, a large amount of ready-to-eat keto food.

Another almost no prep very low carb protein is Trader Joe's "just chicken" (cooked boneless white chicken meat), plus a keto simmer sauce from Costco. Heat in one bowl, there's your protein, it even tastes good.

Everyone is right that he should be the one cooking yadda yadda but I understand that there's a reason he hasn't learned to do it yet in this life, and why you are not asking about how to make him do it. Sometimes it's a lot more trouble to have to show someone, share the kitchen, not be able to find your things afterwards, deal with their pissiness, eat an inedible meal, etc.

One thing: have a care with cured processed meats -- or at least do some research on them on your own. I don't feel comfortable with them as a staple because of nitrates and nitrites.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:04 PM on May 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Sous vide is another easy option for precooking a ton of proteins. I do it more for thick cut beef and pork, I rarely do chicken because chicken is so fast using other methods. I usually vide to a couple of degrees lower than I want final product, then hot sear for a minute or two, then serve.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2021

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