Whether you love or hate cooking, we all get busy and put dinner on the back burner (pun intended). You don't have to rely on takeout when your meals are faster than Uber Eats!
Step 1: Stock Your Pantry and Freezer
Here is a guide to what to keep on hand in the pantry and freezer and how to throw it together to make a meal - in under 10 minutes.
Microwavable Frozen Vegetables
Lucky for us, frozen vegetables are abundantly available in all grocery stores. Better yet are the ones you can microwave in the package!
Look for variations that are not seasoned or sauced. These often have too much sodium, added sugars, and fats that are not necessary. You can add your own seasonings and sauces later.
Brands we love: Green Giant, Bird's Eye, and store brands.
Microwavable Rice and Other Grains
If you don't have a rice cooker, microwavable rice packets are the next best thing. Again, look for variations that are not pre-seasoned or flavored. Whole grain is preferred, but not mandatory.
Brands we love: Ben's Original, Simple Truth, Bird's Eye, Barilla Ready Pasta
Canned Beans and Vegetables
You really can't go wrong here. Canned beans are a staple that have a place in everyone's pantry. Look for no added salt or reduced sodium. If you can't find those, you can always rinse the beans before using.
Salad kits are top-tier convenience foods. There are bag salad kits to accompany dinner for the whole family, or single portioned containers for a quick lunch. Only use as much dressing as you need, and remember to add protein to make it a meal!
Brands we love: Taylor Farms, Fresh Express, Kroger brand
Not all frozen meals are created equally, so here are some general tips to help you choose the best option:
Less than 45 grams of carbohydrate per serving
Less than 600 mg of sodium per serving
More than 20 grams or protein per serving
Brands we love: Healthy Choice Simply, Healthy Choice MAX, and Healthy Choice Power Bowls
Often times, one frozen meal is not going to be enough food. Use frozen meals strategically and create a more filling, balanced meal by adding extra protein and vegetables. More on this later!
A balanced plate is not complete without protein! This may be the trickiest part of quick meal prep, but there are no shortage of convenience options for lean protein.
If you want to cook a fresh protein quickly, use the air fryer! Air-fryer friendly proteins are individually portioned or cut into small pieces so they can cook quickly and evenly. Individually packaged salmon fillets, fresh or frozen chicken tenderloins (not breaded), small cuts of steak, burgers of all kinds, and tofu are great in the air fryer.
If you don't have an air fryer or need something even faster, look for pre-prepped protein options like a rotisserie chicken, frozen meatballs, frozen turkey burgers, frozen fish fillets, canned tuna and salmon, and tuna packets. (Frozen meatballs and turkey burgers also do great in the air fryer!)
Brands we love: Butterball turkey burgers, Good and Gather beef meatballs, Member's Mark or store brand frozen fish fillets, Starkist tuna.
Step 2: Mix and Match
Now for the fun part!
Mix and match any of these ingredients to make a meal. It's like a puzzle.
Make sure you have
3) Plenty of vegetables
Here are some examples:
10 Minute Meal Ideas:
Air fryer salmon + microwavable rice + microwavable Asian vegetables + soy sauce
Chicken Burrito Bowl
Shredded rotisserie chicken + microwavable rice + black beans + microwavable vegetables + shredded cheese + hot sauce or jarred salsa
Healthy Choice frozen dinner + microwavable frozen meatballs + extra spinach
Healthy Choice frozen meal + microwavable pasta
Dinner is served! Enjoy these tips and "recipes."