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Chowhound approved convenience food

My husband has started working longer hours and I have two children two and under and for the past month we have been eating a lot of fast food. WELL I'M SICK OF IT!!! I'm sick of feeling guilty everytime I give my daughter an overly processed chunk of something that was once chicken, I'm sick of thinking about how many thousand calories are in the one burger I'm eating, I'm sick of thinking about how the food I am eating was processed.

So....since I don't want to eat fast food and I don't have the time to make a whole meal from scratch like I used to (or do all the dishes...I don't have a dishwasher)...are there any good convenience foods out there that are fast and easy to prepare with little prep work, little mess, and good for flavor? I have tried a few asian tv dinner type things that were good, but I otherwise, I'm at a loss. Any ideas?

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  1. Crock pots are a godsend for quick and easy. You can pretty easily prepare food in a half hour or so have it cook all day and come home to amazing food. Based on how picky your kids are you can go the gamut of ingredients.

    There are tons and tons of recipes for crock pots just search google for a couple minutes.

    You could also consider watching Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals to get tips on how to prepare food quicker and easier.

    1 Reply
    1. re: garbageis

      I didn't even think of my crockpot...I got one as a wedding gift and my husband uses it to make soup beans, but I never remember to use it. As far as Rachel Ray's meals...I've watched her show and not a lot of her food appeals to me, plus she makes so many dishes, that would be way too much clean up for me.

    2. When our daughter was little, we ate a lot of pasta, especially ravioli and tortellini. You buy it frozen and boil it, add some bottled sauce, salad or raw veggies and garlic bread if you're up to it. We also ate a lot of Annie's macaroni and cheese which we all still like. Making these simple things doesn't really take much longer than nuking something, and you don't have to feel so guilty!

      1. If you have Trader Joe's in your area, you should check out their frozen stuff. IMHO, some of the frozen items are pretty good. My husband likes the green chile chicken burritos and my kids love the frozen meatballs.

        1 Reply
        1. There are some Asian foods that aren't packaged as "convenience foods" per se, but are still very quickly prepared.

          If you like Asian noodle soups, you can just buy a bunch of prepared ingredients and basically heat and assemble. Rice noodles only need to be soaked for a minute or two in hot water, and then you add canned chicken broth, some frozen cooked vegetables and cooked chicken or maybe prawns. There's only boiling, no oil, so cleanup is a total no-brainer.

          Sometimes when I get Chinese takeout I buy some extra containers of rice. These are great for making into fried rice with some scrambled eggs, sesame oil, scallions, diced ham/chicken, frozen peas or edamame... whatever you like, really. And it can all be done in one wok in under 10 minutes.

          1 Reply
          1. re: frenetica

            There's a brand of noodle mixes -- Annie Chan? -- that have noodles and a sauce and you just add some chicken or veggies. Pretty good.

          2. If you can spend 3 hours in one day..maybe Sunday to help prep for the week you might feel less inclined to hit the fast food for convenience and less deprived of time to spend cooking fresh.

            Make a head recipes are all over this site. As suggested, crock pot dishes, stews, casseroles can be a big help and easily broken into freezable meals.

            I make a lot of smoothies for breakfast. French toast and pancakes can be whipped up in advance and frozen. Take out what you need each day and heat.

            Take one approach at a time and you'll feel alot less stressed over providing a healthy meal for your family.

            Good luck!