Hello everyone, and welcome! I hope you had a chance to check out this post: Top 5 Tips for Being a Better Consumer. It’s a helpful collection of things to keep in mind to avoid having a bad customer experience.
Ever since I completed the Spoonie Guide: Shopping, I know you’ve been waiting to hear some tips to help make getting some food in us a little easier. This post, and the post preparing you for your shopping trip go hand in hand.
Food and eating habits will always be highly sensitive topics. Therefore, I think another disclaimer is warranted. Please always follow the plans that you and your doctors have in place for your diet. I do not have any dietary restrictions nor allergies, and do not require any special attention when it comes to my foods. While I am not a certified nutritionist, I have done extensive research into nutrition, and I understand what typical bodies require in order to work properly, and what doctors would label “healthy eating habits”. I’ve researched different diets, different ways to prepare meals, and how dietary needs and restrictions affect people with illness.
With chronic illness, everything seems to be against us when it comes to ‘eating right’.
For some of us, our bodies – not or values – dictate what we can and cannot eat, as well as how we eat. Not all of us can physically chew. Some of us cannot eat solid foods. Some of us have no appetite, or the smell of food repulses us. Sometimes, we’re hungry, and we have food to eat, but we have no energy to prepare it. Sometimes, we manage to get a meal down, and lose it to vomiting. Unfortunately, in my case, although I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, I am hyper-aware of disordered thoughts and habits that I’ve developed surrounding food. Eating and food are such a never-ending topics and solutions are definitely never one-size fits all. Because of that fact, I will not tolerate any comments that dictate what anyone should or should not eat. Please, please, feel free to share what works for you, and why, but remain mindful that your solution may not be plausible for someone else. I want our ideas to flourish so we can help each other, rather than this turn into an alienating and uncomfortable argument within our community.
What I’ve done in this post is documented what items I turn to when energy is low and pain is high. I’m being really honest about how we do things, in the hopes that it may give you ideas, or help you develop your own tricks. I find that it’s hard to think of new things to eat, especially when there are so many other issues demanding our attention. A lot of my options require little (microwave) to no cooking or preparation (chopping), as well as a lot of frozen options. I know a lot of people have strong opposition to frozen items, and even microwave use, so if that’s how you feel, this set of info probably won’t suit you well. If you require certain dietary restrictions, or are vegan, vegetarian, etc. please spend some time searching for guides that are tailored for those needs specifically.
Before we get started, you might consider opening a Pinterest account. It’s been my favorite way to have recipes at my fingertips at all times. I can access the recipes easily from the store or when it’s time to cook, and new recipes can be added to my regulars easily. I have a board of my favorite recipes, one for the recipes I tried and wasn’t impressed with, and a board of recipes I would like to try in the future. If you’re at all interested in seeing some of my favorite recipes, you can follow that board here.
One more thing to keep in mind – we ignore serving sizes. Rich is 6’4″ tall, and can eat 3 large pizzas in one sitting if they’re available. He works so much that he often misses meals. I tend to eat very little. Often the smell of food nauseates me, or my jaw is so stuck and in so much pain that I cannot eat. I shop by number of days and then by meal, instead of by serving size. For example, if I make a pot of stew, I can tell by how much food there is that it will feed us for 2 dinners.
Plan to use your fresh ingredients first
One thing I beat myself up about is letting food go to waste. I’ve cut back a lot on what produce and baked goods I buy, simply because I don’t always have time or energy to eat or prepare it before it goes bad. I try to plan easy meals that include fresh ingredients within the first 2-3 days after I’ve visited the grocery store. I tend to buy the pre-packaged breads as opposed to those from the store bakery, because they tend to keep longer. Salads are always some of my favorite things to prepare, but it takes some scheduling. I’ve included links to some of my favorite nutritious and tasty salads that you might enjoy too. My favorite thing about them is you can always substitute or eliminate any ingredient you’re not fond of and still be left with a great tasting salad. Salads are versatile because they can include pasta, greens, meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, and so much more. A salad, to me, is just a bunch of foods that taste good together thrown in a bowl. You don’t have to get complicated with them.
On this same note, always be sure to check the dates on each item you pick up at the store! The last thing you want is to get home with your stuff and realize your box of rice has been expired for six months.
Use the slow cooker
Crock pots will forever be one of my biggest saviors. You can type in “slow cooker meals” into Pinterest, and endless recipes and ideas will show up. They allow you to cook foods slowly and in large quantities, so you put in minimal effort for several meals. If you eat meat, it’s a great way to tenderize less expensive meats with a longer cook time. I don’t know about you, but cooking meat really repulses me, and the crock pot cuts down on handling time. I really only make it for Rich, now, but either way, the less I have to look at it and touch it, the better off I am.
One of my favorite slow cooker meals is chicken soup. It’s gentle on the stomach, will last for several days in the refrigerator, and is very filling. I like to add or subtract ingredients based on what I feel like eating.
1 pckg baby carrots
1/2 white onion, chopped
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
2-3 large potatoes (optional), cut to your preference – you can also purchase the frozen potatoes instead, so you don’t have to peel/chop anything
1 lb chicken breasts (substitute as you wish) you can cut your meat before or after it is cooked
1 cup white rice
1 Tbsp chicken soup base
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
3 cups of warm water
1/4 cup flour (optional – for thickening the broth)
salt and pepper to taste
If you have access to it, green chile makes an excellent addition to chicken soup (but isn’t ideal for when tummies aren’t cooperating). We put green chile in everything we can in New Mexico, anyway.
Throw everything into the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. The soup will make several, filling servings, and will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I wouldn’t suggest eating it after this point if you’ve included the chicken.
Not only can you find already prepared items to add to your meals, but the frozen section even has really great complete meal options. For that reason, it’s my favorite section to shop, and I don’t have to worry about cooking things before a certain date. I’ve included some options I like, and why. I still cook occasionally, but it’s mostly things like posole, enchiladas, or tacos.
Bird’s Eye stir-fry vegetables – the large bag has enough stir fry for two separate sets of meals, or can be prepared all at once for stir fry all week (although I wouldn’t recommend cooking the whole thing at once if you’re adding meat). It comes with two large packets of sauce, and is customizable because you can add meat if you like. It takes around 9 minutes to make without meat.
I recently discovered these Stouffer’s Skillet meals. The one pictured tastes amazing, so I have a feeling the others are just as good. All you have to do is throw it in the pan and stir it occasionally. This is another one that cooks in around 10-15 minutes, so you don’t have to spend too long at the stovetop. The Bertoli brand ones are delicious too.
These options from Bird’s Eye are awesome as well. They steam in your microwave in the original packaging, so you really don’t have to do anything but serve it! You can use the different creations as an entire meal, or as your sides – you’re cutting out a lot of cooking time if you choose these. They even have them available with rice.
If there’s a vegetable side that I want that is available in the steamable bags, I always choose that over fresh produce because they won’t be going bad anytime soon, and there is no chopping required!
I love potatoes, and they’re very filling, but keeping a sack of potatoes around is frustrating. They’re heavy to carry, seem to go bad quickly, and then you have to chop them! I instead buy frozen bags of sweet potato, regular potatoes, and hash browns. I place them on a cookie sheet in the oven and cook to my desired crispiness. We have them as a side, or put them into burritos with egg, meat and chile for burritos. (We frequently eat breakfast for dinner, because I love breakfast foods).
I always buy at least two frozen pizzas. All they require is the use of the oven. There’s no standing to cook, you just need to be there when it’s done cooking. Pizzas save me on days when I don’t have any spoons. Here are some more frozen items I like to keep on hand. Be sure to check your frozen food instructions first – there are often options that you can slip into the oven instead of having to stand to cook, which is so helpful.
Delimex rolled tacos are excellent alone, or with some beans, rice and salsa.
State Fair corn dogs often fill me up, or make a great snack. Add some baked fries and you’ve got a meal.
Gorton breaded fish fillets or sticks – these are awesome to put in a sandwich, top a salad with, or eaten as the main dish. Add some veggies and rice to have a full meal!
Frozen/refrigerated bags of pasta – usually with these you only have to warm and add sauce!
Keep extras on hand
There are always dry goods or pantry items I like to keep on hand. They are quick options that I tend to eat when I have bad nausea or lots of digestive issues. They keep for long periods of time, and you can always use these items to really stretch out the time in between grocery store visits if you’re struggling to get there.
Canned beans – you can buy them whole or refried, and use them as a side dish, or put them as salad toppers or in tortilla for burritos.
Instant mashed potatoes – I know a lot of spoonies love these when their stomachs aren’t being nice. They even sell them in single-serving containers now, making things even easier.
Canned soup/cup noodles – another great option for nausea. You can warm on the stove, or in the microwave. They’re super cheap, so keeping some in your cupboards won’t cost you too much.
Crackers/goldfish – yet another staple I need in my cupboards to help with nausea!
Seltzer water – I only drink sparkling water. It helps keep my sodium levels up, and gives me the carbonation I used to like in sodas. It’s the only thing that I can stomach to drink when I’m nauseous.
Instant oatmeal – another nausea-saver that can double as breakfast!
Read through entire recipes first
There’s nothing more frustrating than getting home with the ingredients you need to try a new meal, and there’s a step you don’t know how to achieve, or a tool you don’t have. Always read through your recipes first so you can determine if substitutes are needed, how long it will take, and whether it’s at your skill level. There are recipes that ask you to cook meats before you add them to the crock pot (WHAT is that?!), and recipes that require excessive amounts of time standing at the stovetop. I tend to stay away from those. If there are unfamiliar words in the recipes, that’s a clear no for me. There’s no sense in making things more complicated than they already are!
Don’t forget the snacks/sweets
Now you’ve got a bunch of meals, but you might get hungry in-between! I know that sweets aren’t healthy, and a lot of us have to be careful how much we eat. But, we’re struggling so much already. If it isn’t dangerous for you to do so I encourage you to treat yourself once in a while. We have to enjoy some parts of our lives, right?!
My favorite snacks are baby carrots with or without dressing, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, lightly salted Lay’s potato chips, unsalted nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, apples, and bananas.
I cannot eat any semblance of a meal without having dessert. I got it from my grandma. It’s engrained in me. I like the Cadbury Mini Eggs that come out around Easter. Cheeto’s makes cinnamon sugar puffs around this time of year too (think cinnamon twists from Taco Bell, but better). I like to purchase the baked cookies from our grocery store bakery. They’re thick and soft and usually last all week. Toaster Strudels and Pop-Tarts are fast and delicious as a snack, and I usually have something small like that for breakfast. Keeping granola, dried fruit, and yogurt on hand is also a nice way to enjoy something sweet without going into “junk food” territory. Granola bars are also a nice option for something small and decent.
What types of things do you like to keep on hand? What food items save you when there is no energy for cooking?
I hope my usual items will give you some ideas, and help you feel more organized when it comes time to make your shopping lists. Please be sure to add a comment below sharing some of your favorite things to eat!