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What Do You Eat When There's Nothing in the House?

It’s late, you’re tired, and you have nothing planned for dinner. What solution pops into your mind? If you’re used to eating out, your mind may say, “There’s nothing here to eat, let’s go out.” You can become “trained” or conditioned to have this response. I know because this used to be be my first reaction too.

Tonight I was working hard to write three newsletters for this month’s cherylmillerville clubs. I knew I wouldn’t have time to make a big meal. I admit, my first thought was to slip out for a quick bite. But then I remembered that I have a great pantry and several back up meal plans.

What are Back Up Meal Plans?

Back up meals are things that you usually have on hand that can be quickly pulled out of the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry and put on the table in 15 minutes or less. They may not always be the highest quality nutrition, but they’re not bad and they’re certainly better than going out for a Big Mac, French fries, and a chocolate shake. And they can be upgraded by buying higher quality components.

One of my back up meals is a can of tomato soup and a sandwich – either grilled cheese or tuna salad. Tonight I had soup and a tuna sandwich on high-quality whole grain bread. In cold weather, this combo sounds appealing and I have it 3 or 4 times a year. You can upgrade the sandwich with a slice of tomato, avocado or lettuce. The soup can be upgraded from Campbell’s to the boxed organic variety.

More Back Up Meals

  • whole grain cereal and milk (organic soy, rice, or dairy)
  • a veggie burger like Boca burgers (they keep well in the freezer)
  • your own preformed frozen hamburgers
  • eggs and toast
  • frozen pizza (get a high-quality brand and freeze it in individual slices. Or make and freeze your own. A single slice or two cooks quickly in a small toaster oven.)
  • Spaghetti or other pasta dish – jar of pasta and 10 minutes to cook pasta (sauce and shells can be organic)
  • prepared soup – Progresso or the organic boxed varieties are nutritious choices and readily available
  • mac and cheese (believe it or not, also available in organic formats)
  • frozen burritos – I make my own – they freeze well
  • frozen casseroles
  • frozen leftovers – keep a running list on the freezer as a reminder – use this handy freezer inventory sheet.

Start stocking your kitchen with items from this list, so you’ll be ready for those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking and there doesn’t seem to be anything in the house to eat. You can pull out your slice of veggie pizza and spare yourself a night of eating out. Having back up meals on hand is more convenient, less expensive, and more nutritious than eating out, especially if you’re a fan of fast food.

Freezing tip: freeze your left overs in single servings so they’re ready to go – to work or school. Most break rooms and cafeterias have a way to heat them up.

Member Comments

This newsletter issue was inspired by a question I received from a subscriber:

My biggest challenge is getting dinner together on the days that I work. I only work part-time now, but I have a son who is almost 2. By the time I pick him up from daycare and get home, there’s no down time to think about dinner. The bigger problem that goes along with that is that my son is ready for some “mommy time” by the time we get home, so I find myself struggling to figure out something quick, tasty, and balanced to make for dinner that will be easy enough for me to either involve him, or get started and let it cook while we play. I have a natural aversion to crock pots, although I think I’d use it more if I had some decent recipes. We can only have scrambled eggs and toast for dinner so many times! :)

Any ideas on this one would be most helpful!

Mary Baldwin Veerkamp
Kansas City, KS

In addition to planning a whole bunch of back up meals, Mary, I’d suggest that you create a simple meal plan for the week so you don’t have to think of what to cook when you’re tired. You can use this handy meal planning form.

Here’s a subscribers response to Mary’s comments:

An aversion to crockpots? Yikes! I love crockpots…I used to put dinner on before I went to I use it on the weekends, so my time is free to be with the kids during the day, and dinner isn’t thrown together. She needs to rethink her aversion! The Internet abounds with wonderful crock pot recipes…as does the library.
Other than that, on really busy nights, we often will have steamed rice (brown), steamed veggies, and I’ll throw together homemade biscuits. Maybe a mixed fruit for desert. It takes only a few minutes of preparation and ALL of my kids (which include 1 very picky eater) love this. Another choice is pasta with veggies and fettucini sauce. Quick and easy and again, all the kids love it. Hope this helps…
Brooke, Osage City, KS

Here’s another response:

I am not sure what the solution is, and it is a struggle over here too. I am a stay-at-home mom during the day with my 3 year old daughter and with my 2 year old niece that spends the day here from 6:15 am to 4:45 pm. Getting meals ready and on the table and me fed before 5 has been a challenge.

I have tried a few things….. this is what works well during the winter season. I buy pre-marinated chicken or salmon, or just plain fish fillets. Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes (350-400F), on the stove at the same time I have 1 wok pan with frozen mixed veggies (several varieties out there now), add some Soya sauce or other veggie spices or marinade. I do not always have a rice or potato option, but rice in the rice maker goes quick, or microwave rice.

This meal basically cooks by itself so I take 1 on 1 time with my daughter for a few minutes before I run out to start teaching my evening fitness classes. Start to finish time for cooking is 30 minutes. Prep time to put frozen veggies in the pan and frozen meat in the oven is less than 2 minutes. Just thought I would offer my circus act of an operation in the kitchen, most disliked room in the house! And, my crock-pot recipes have been disasters….so more work at the end of the day.
Susanna de Beer, Ottawa, Canada

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