Four Meal Ideas For Any Time of Day When You Can’t Bother to Cook
by Piotr Golinski
Do you ever feel like eating and cooking can become a chore sometimes? I’ve recently been feeling this pretty regularly. I can’t justify ordering in all the time as it’s such a waste of money and cooking & cleaning up just about sounds like the absolute last thing I ever want to do. And don’t get me started on grocery shopping. Such a draining task that always ends in over buying because I want to avoid having to go back in there for as long as possible. Sometimes I wish I could just plug myself into the wall and charge up like a cell phone.
Or maybe you’re just not a morning person or are not hungry in the mornings/afternoons/evenings, but know you should be eating something because it’s been hmm 10 hours and all you’ve had was an iced coffee? If any of this sounds like something you’ve experienced, then read on for some quick, [almost] painless meals that satisfy and don’t need a ton of effort. The great thing about these ideas is that they can easily be made to be quite nutritionally dense or high/low calorie (if that’s what you want). Just depends on the ingredients you have on hand!
Oatmeal Hot or Cold
Large flaked oats are my preference, but some people swear by steel cut. If you want the easiest to prepare, get instant oats. I love oatmeal because it can be made hot or cold and either way you can prepare it beforehand and let it sit in the fridge making it immediately available for when you need it. Most importantly, it’s a one bowl meal that only requires a spoon and some household ingredients. I like to add some protein powder for a little extra nutrition and to help sweeten it, but some other suggestions include cinnamon, berries(frozen or fresh), mashed or chopped banana, peanut butter, shredded carrot, and chia seeds. If you’re doing overnight oats, I would definitely recommend the use of chia as it’ll help make it more of a pudding consistency but it’s not exactly a common ingredient so you’ll have to remember it on your next grocery trip. Try out different recipes like this carrot cake one.
Growing up, I had a sandwich everyday for my school lunch because my mom knew that I wouldn’t have access to a fridge or microwave at school; thinking about this today, it’s absolutely genius. Sandwiches provide endless opportunities for meal and can be filled with almost anything except soup, although some toast with garlic butter is the perfect soup pairing. Whether you’re craving something sweet like PB&J or want something more substantial like a chicken or tofu sandwich, the beauty of the sandwich lies in its simplicity and minimal cleanup. Of course if some of the ingredients aren’t cooked already then you may put a damper on your “quick and easy” lunch. Do yourself a favour and prep your ingredients beforehand.
This also leads to one of my favourite tricks to eat healthier (if that’s what you’re going for) which is just to make the healthy food more accessible. I’ll peel and chop some carrots into bite sized pieces and store in some tupperware so that next time I go to look for a snack, there’s already carrots and hopefully some hummus ready to go. This also works wonderfully for sandwich making. Pre-cooked tofu or chicken can be easily microwaved and added to the bread, (or even eaten cold, no judgement here!) Add some pre washed field greens and tomato slices (Precut yesterday) and don’t forget the chipotle mayo and/or sriracha and wow I’m already hungry just thinking about it.
Salads/Bowls (Think Hearty Cobb rather than Cesar salad)
The beauty of the bowl is that it’s much like the sandwich except minus the bread. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a filling and easy meal. A bed of greens and or rice/noodles can be topped with just about anything you have on hand; tofu cubes (raw or cooked), leftover chicken, mixed beans, lentils, tomato, nuts and seeds, dried cranberries, avocado, and hard boiled eggs. Once you are happy with the contents of your bowl drizzle your favourite sauce or dressing. The secret of a good bowl is all in the sauce. Bring out that chipotle mayo and sriracha again or change it up with some caesar or balsamic glaze And there you have it, a delicious one bowl meal with minimal cooking and effort.
Smoothies are the most obvious “easy and simple” meal of choice especially for breakfast. They can be made to be quite heavy or light depending on what you want but like any of the other mentioned meals, are completely customizable. Don’t be afraid to try out weird combinations and if you’re out buying a smoothie and really like it, take note of the ingredients and steal the recipe before leaving the store to make at home later. I always try to add protein or supplement powder to make sure that there are some more benefits in my smoothie, but spinach, kale, cucumber, tomato, and even avocado can be wonderful additions to any smoothie and more or less get masked by the protein powder and if in doubt, add some ripe banana and it will cover up almost every other flavour. Don’t forget that chia you bought for the oatmeal and heck why not put some oats in there too? Blend it all up in a frothy breakfast beverage. If smoothies aren’t your thing or it seems like too much to buy, try for meal replacement drinks such as Ensure or Soylent. Although maybe not healthy to be reliant on these long term, they’re certainly a good alternative to skipping your meal every once in a while.
Sometimes easy things become difficult or exhausting. Changes in our life lead to stress and fatigue that diminishes other parts and eating is often directly affected by stress and change. What’s funny is that eating well is also one of the best solutions for stress and change because it provides your brain and body with the energy needed to power through difficult things. For some it also provides emotional support when necessary, I’ve definitely used food in this way before as I’m sure many others have. It’s a constant catch-22, but if you can catch yourself slipping then remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated either. Da Vinci himself said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, so go easy on yourself and get some good food in you already!