I light of these circumstances and a foreseeably very busy fall, Steven and I have made a decision: This school year, we will be eating one "convenient" meal per week, and eating out once a week.
That may not be a shock to you. You may be thinking "well gees, we eat out a lot more than that!" or "only one convenient meal!?" But please understand: I'm an idealist. I don't want to let any processed convenience foods into our home. Our budget is tight and unpredictable, which means high-end "healthy" processed food is off limits. Right now we almost never eat out unless absolutely desperate, or if parents are visiting.
But something's gotta give. I dream of the day that I have a child old enough to really help in the kitchen, or an older child who can entertain a younger child while I cook. But almost-two is a hard age to have your mom cooking real food meals all the time.
Steven suggested we have one "convenience meal" a week. And I said, how about one "convenient meal." The difference? Convenience meal makes me think of lean cuisine and ready-made lasagna. Convenient meal means something that is easy to prepare but not necessarily out of a box or full of junk.
So here's my list of healthy-ish convenient meals. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments! I know I may need to sacrifice my ideals once in awhile in this season of our lives. I just don't want to sacrifice them too much. ;)
Convenient Meals for a Busy Season
1. Spaghetti with meat sauce (brown some meat, throw in ready made sauce, cook pasta, done.)
2. Trader Joe's nitrate-free hot dogs with whole grain (store bought) buns.
3. Hamburgers with store bought buns (Does anyone know if frozen french fries have crap in them?)
4. Frozen pizza (ideally something without hydrogenated oils, MSG etc.)
5. Grilled cheese with store-bought (MSG-free) tomato soup
6. Quesadillas on corn tortillas with canned black beans
7. Nachos: tortilla chips, canned beans, taco meat if there's time, salsa, cheese, etc.
8. Sandwiches with (gasp!) nitrate-free lunchmeat
I would also love some slow-cooker recipes that involve only a few ingredients but minimal processed foods. Does that exist? Share in the comments!
As for going out once a week, we made a list of our favorite mid-range restaurants and we'll rotate between them. We will probably go for lunch since it can be a lot cheaper. We'll also save coupons for our favorite pizza place. :) And we'll pray that even though our food budget will expand slightly, God will provide for us, and make our home a peaceful place.
What tips do you have for eating well during a busy season, or for keeping a toddler entertained while you cook?