Expert Q&A

Hate to cook: Any tips for avoiding pre-packaged family dinners?

I hate to cook. Do you have suggestions for me and my family? I don’t want to buy processed foods like mac ‘n’ cheese or frozen meals. But it doesn’t feel like I have much of a choice.

-Martha from Texas

Luckily, you don’t have to cook elaborate meals to eat healthfully. There are solutions out there for busy families. You’re right to be concerned about all of the processed quick and frozen meals out there on the market. Many of them are not made with healthful ingredients and contain preservatives and additives. Organic, all-natural frozen meals such as Kashi™ and Amy’s Organics™ are healthful and tasty options, but they can be expensive.

When your time is scarce and you’re busy with work, after school activities and more, think “simple and basic.” Stock your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer with healthful, versatile staples that can be used in simple recipes. Take advantage of short-cut or partially prepared foods offered by your local supermarket. Here are some examples:

  • Sweet and russet baking potatoes
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Eggs
  • Quick cooking rice
  • Rotisserie chicken (cooked)
  • Cubed stew meat
  • Canned light tuna or chicken in water
  • Bagged frozen veggies
  • Shredded carrots/cabbage
  • Bagged lettuce
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Jarred pasta sauces and salsas
  • Seasonings and seasoning packets (taco and Italian)

Here are some ideas for those hectic evenings:

Dinner #1

  • One whole, cooked rotisserie chicken cut into pieces
  • Microwaved frozen veggie mix (e.g. a packet of California blend)
  • Microwaved or oven-baked sweet potatoes
  • Salad made with pre-packaged greens, tomatoes, diced cucumbers, etc.

Dinner #2

Tacos made with:

  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Ground sirloin, cooked over the stove, drained, with 1/2 packet taco seasoning
  • Serve with pre-shredded lettuce, tomatoes and shredded, reduced-fat cheese

Dinner #3

  • Salad made with salad mix including: purple cabbage, thinly cut carrots, lettuce and tomatoes, etc., or one bag of prepared salad mix
  • Frozen cheese ravioli (cook as you would frozen pasta) topped with a jar of marinara sauce or refrigerated pesto sauce and grated parmesan cheese

Dinner #4

  • 1 can chicken chili (use an all natural brand such as Amy’s Organics™ or Trader Joe’s®) topped with salsa, reduced fat shredded cheese, and a
  • Cooked frozen carrots mixed with 2 tablespoons of nonfat plain yogurt and 1 teaspoon each of water and honey (if desired)
Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN
Contributing Expert

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