How to Navigate Premade Foods for EASY Weeknight Meals When There is NO TIME

Sometimes life gets busy.  No matter how we try to make it slow down, opt out of certain obligations, par back our after school activities, etc., sometimes you just can’t help it. Life gets busy and sometime stressful.  My family makes it a priority to make home cooked meals and to sit together for dinner. But, sometimes there is literally NO TIME to cook that meal.

Marketside Meal Solution

I’ve got several quick meals up my sleeve that I can whip together in 20 to 30 minutes and if I know in advance, I try to get organized so that I am prepared for a wild night. But, let’s be honest.  Sometimes life sneaks up on us.  Things unexpected happen. Or, there are even those nights when we are just plum exhausted. Everybody has those days. I try to choose foods that are “the lesser of evils” when this is the case and realize that one “imperfect” meal isn’t going to undo the rest of the week’s wholesome, nutrient dense meals I have prepared.

But, you might be pleasantly surprised to know that there are a few choices that aren’t really that bad when it comes to choosing “fast food.”  While many organic versions of processed foods abound {like frozen lasagna, burritos, or even chicken nuggets} they are usually TWICE {or more!} expensive than the conventional.  So, if you’re trying to keep from busting your budget, steer clear of the frozen food aisle and try some of these ideas:

  • Sandwiches with nitrate free lunch meat. {Just be sure to check the ingredient labels on the bread. Choose one with ingredients similar to what you would use to make bread at home: Flour, water, yeast, olive oil and stay away from breads with high fructose corn syrup {HFCS} and soy products.  I read nearly every label on the deli rack the other day and found only 2 that were acceptable.  It was easy enough to see the difference. Look for those with 5 or 6 ingredients rather than 20 or more! At Walmart, Marketside has many loaves available that were great choices {my favorite is the Roasted Garlic!}

Marketside Meal Solution 3

  • Salad – organic salad mixes are available almost everywhere and since lettuce and spinach both are on the dirty dozen list, it is best to choose organic.  Toss in your favorite fresh veggies, even some nitrate free lunch meat, pickled beets, or even sustainably caught canned tuna or salmon.  The mine field is the salad dressing aisle.  Again, just check ingredient lists. Choose one with out HFCS or soy products. Look for simple ingredient lists OR whip together a quick one of your own like this one.
  • Pasta and sauce – if you have been making my homemade pasta sauce, you might have some set aside for a wild night like this, but if you don’t there are several that are widely available on the pasta aisle that are acceptable. Again, it will just be up to you to check ingredient lists. Look for simple ingredient lists that are made up of readable ingredients like you would use to make pasta sauce: tomatoes, garlic, spices, olive oil, and stay away from ingredient lists that read more like a science experiment.  Boxed pasta is cheap and safe. But, you might also like to know that Walmart’s Marketside filled pastas, like five cheese ravioli, are a great choice too! I was pleasantly surprised to read all normal {unscience-like} ingredients on the packages I picked up for the meal pictured.
  • Quesadillas – Using flour tortillas, some organic cheese, and even bits of leftover veggies, lunchmeat, beans, {the possibilities are endless} you can grill two tortillas together with your own favorite mixture in the middle.  {Or even fold one tortilla in half with your favorite filling sandwiched in the middle for a smaller version}.  Everybody can even have something totally different.

Marketside Meal Solution 2

  • “Snack Plate” – this is actually a favorite of my kiddos {kids love little bites of this and that}.  We just put a combination of a few of our favorite  raw veggies and dip, some chopped fresh fruit, some cut up cheese, some bread, olives or pickles, lunch meat rolled up {sometimes with a bit of cream cheese smeared inside}, peanut putter, crackers, yogurt or boiled eggs. All the food groups are represented – so even though it looks “snacky” it is actually a very balanced meal.
  • Soup and Grilled Cheese – Again, if you’ve put some soup in the freezer for such a time as this, you are in business. Other options include making “quicky chicky” or pick up some already prepared soup at the store. Brands like Pacific, Wolf Gang Puck, or many others can be found with normal ingredients.  Just be sure to read ingredient lists and look for ones with foods you recognize and not weird sciency terms that don’t sound like food at all.
  •  Baked Potatoes and Simple Salad – Potatoes can be “baked” quickly in the microwave and then topped with whatever you have on hand {organic butter, organic sour cream, broccoli, cheese, leftover bits of meat or chili, etc}. Just be sure to choose organic potatoes {any variety} since they are on the dirty dozen list.  Serve with a quick and simple salad {see above for ways to navigate salad}.

Marketside Meal Solution

Whatever you decide to grab and throw together, choosing things that are minimally processed are always good choices – things like raw veggies, fruits, bread, cheese, boiled eggs, nuts, etc. You can make many things from just a few simple ingredients – salad, sandwiches, soups, quesadillas, wraps, even smoothies.  Think outside the box {literally}. Dinner can still be nutritious even if it doesn’t look like a typical dinner. Just make sure you’ve hit all the food groups!

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  1. Amanda D Holly says:

    Hi I am a new subscriber. Thank you for putting so much into this. I used to spend hours in the kitchen experimenting and joyfully slow roasting and cooking. Now with 3 kids under 4 I am learning to give myself grace and have 2 or 3 quick meals and one or two crock pot meals. Its a season and with it my kiddos are learning to do simple prep and eat what they help cook. I hope to get back to my beloved elaborate meals but I love sitting down with my family more.our kiddos need family meals as much as healthy meals. I would add to your list above if you happen to have A particularly busy time… Always budget 2 or 3 minutes before the meal to make sure that you have all condiments napkins sides and drinks at the table. Nothing makes a meal more hurried than a momma who doesn’t sit down to enjoy it.

    • Denisesawyer says:

      You are right, Amanda! As much as I try I am always wrapping up the last bit of “fetching” while everyone is fixing plates! Great tip.
      Wholesome Mommy

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