First a warning. I am not a trained cook or dietitian. When the Covid virus created the need for social distancing and being a high risk person because of my age I missed people contact; and eating out with my friends. But I also missed sitting in a restaurant alone enjoying the environmental sensations around me or playing Sudoku on my Kindle. I resorted to curb service and window pickups for my one meal out for the day.
I am a single woman with a desire to eat with good health in mind. During those times, as well as now, every vitamin and source of protein and fiber are important, but so is variety. If I buy the ingredients for a recipe but don’t need all of them, I have to freeze them in parts for later. But then sometimes I forget they are in the freezer or end up wondering how long the small containers have been in the freezer. Or I find the food in the freezer covered in frost and their appeal has greatly diminished.
So what I do is pick up a good lunch from one of my favorite places. If it the meal has large portions, I eat half that day and the other half the next day. Then I eat a TV dinner for supper or eat something light like coconut yogurt or cottage cheese with wheat germ, walnuts, and fruit. Even a large half of a sandwich is perfect for supper with an apple, strawberries, a peach, banana, grapes or other fruit.
The shelf “meals” like soups with meat and veggies may not have as many high level vitamins as you would think. Being a health minded senior citizen who keeps an eye on sodium levels in my meals I found that they often have a lot of sodium for preservation and flavor. So just be aware that the calorie, fat, and and sodium levels on the large cans often are for 2 servings. So the 26% sodium becomes 52% if you eat the whole can.
The problem with frozen dinners is many of them are not super rich in vitamins! Always check the box for vitamins, fat content and sodium! But generally there are plenty of protein and carbohydrates. You do have to pay a little extra for the healthy meals and you do need to look at labels for nutritious content.
Since TV dinners may be lacking in some vitamins, I like to supplement with peas and carrots or just peas or frozen vegetables. Just add them in for the last half of the frozen dinner’s cooking time. Orange or peach slices in their own juices in individual portion cups may give a good boost of Vitamin C. An apple (which can be cut in half, if it is big enough, and eaten later) can be added to the meal as a side dish or s a snack.
I know it may be a little more expensive to buy the small serving packages, but it is also expensive to have to throw out the other half of the can if you don’t use it in a few days. They could be frozen in freezer bags or containers though and thawed out for later use by just moving them to the refrigerator.
If you like Chinese TV dinners you can spruce them up if they are sadly lacking in texture, color, or even protein. For texture and some protein chow mein noodles can add crunch and some flavor to what would otherwise be bland in color or diminished taste. Sliced almonds are always good for you so they can be added also to these TV dinners for texture, protein and vitamins.
Then there are mushrooms. Every time I buy fresh mushrooms I end up throwing our a large portion of them because I didn’t eat anything that needed them for that something extra or I forgot they were in the veggie bin. So I buy the little jars of mushroom pieces or the button mushrooms. They can be cooked, chopped up, added to scrambled eggs, or added to many different TV dinners for a touch of extra flavor.
Speaking of eggs….Eggs are very nutritious and a good source of protein. There are many ways to cook them too. Some people don’t know it but scrambled eggs can be easily cooked in the microwave oven, do add a half a teaspoon of water for one or two eggs. I like to use two bowls: one bowl sprayed with the no stick spray (or butter/margarine rubbed) on the sides of the bowl and another to mix the ingredients in.
Then pour the mixed ingredients into the prepared bowl; and cook them in the microwave. For one egg alone 50 seconds is all that is needed. If a few ingredients have been added, cook 10 seconds longer at a time until the eggs fluff up but stir them a bit before adding more time so they don’t turn grey and tough.
For scrambled eggs you can add grated cheese in the variety of your choice, chopped ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers or whatever you like. Always add a half a teaspoon of water or a little more to make the eggs nice and fluffy. For two eggs with a variety of extras, (see above) you will need to add 30 seconds extra to the total cooking time. Do take the eggs out half way through and turn the whole mix upside down to cook the other half of the cooking mix well but not too much. Some microwaves are a little different so start out with a shorter time and work your way up.
Breakfasts for me vary from the above eggs and toast to a variety of cereals. I like the whole grain ones that don’t have a lot of sugar. But even these can get boring with time. So I add some chopped walnuts, pecans, or almond slivers or slices. Then there are fruits you can add to get some Vitamin C: sliced strawberries or blue berries are my favorites.
Oatmeal is a very filling and delightfully warming cereal on a cold morning. In addition to the protein and other goodies you get from oatmeal, you can add some of the same sliced fruit from above to get your vitamin C. But the fruit I love best on oatmeal is half of an apple chopped up and added to the oatmeal before it is cooked. Sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar on top and you have a delightful breakfast.
If you want a breakfast that is no fuss, no muss and little wait time I like the egg and Canadian bacon or ham English muffins. Wrap one in a paper towel, cook according to directions, never over 2 minutes, and be sure to turn over half way through. Just grab and eat it on the way to work or whatever. I have also discovered the joys of adding avocado to eggs, salads, when appropriate, and some sandwiches,
Use your imagination and try something new to spruce up your home cooked, microwave cooked meals.