I like simple, easy, and quick. I like Hamburger Helper, frozen dinners, those complete meals and the like. I'm over 4 months pregnant with a 16 month old and my husband at home. We would like to start eating healthier, but my husband and I are both picky eaters. We are also on a VERY tight budget since I just lost my job due to the pregnancy.
Does anyone know recipes for these types of quickie meals (especially Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper) and others that could be prepped and stored for those days I just don't feel like cooking? Also does anyone know how long these foods could be frozen or the mixes be stored in the pantry?
By Heidi (Guest Post) 03/12/2008 Flag
First of all, you're not really a "picky eater" if you're willing to eat Hamburger Helper. Now let's get down to business. It is really very inexpensive to cook a large pot of stew, soup or beans and divide it into smaller plastic containers and freeze them. You can even freeze the food in ziploc baggies and they can actually be washed and reused. It would be a much healthier way for you to feed your family and far more cost effective. You can make a large batch of everything needed for lasagna and then put it into bread loaf pans and freeze those. That way you just pull out a fresh little loaf pan of lasagna from the freezer and allow it to thaw and bake it. One recipe batch usually fills about 3 loaf pans. Search for some healthy recipes and start experimenting. You'll spend less money and you'll feel better about feeding your family a more nutritious meal. Try going vegetarian occasionally as another way to save money too. Good Luck.
By Heidi (Guest Post) 03/12/2008 Flag
First of all, you're not really a "picky eater" if you're willing to eat Hamburger Helper. Now let's get down to business. It is really very inexpensive to cook a large pot of stew, soup or beans and divide it into smaller plastic containers and freeze them. You can even freeze the food in ziploc baggies and they can actually be washed and reused. It would be a much healthier way for you to feed your family and far more cost effective.
You can make a large batch of everything needed for lasagna and then put it into bread loaf pans and freeze those. That way you just pull out a fresh little loaf pan of lasagna from the freezer and allow it to thaw and bake it. One recipe batch usually fills about 3 loaf pans. Search for some healthy recipes and start experimenting. You'll spend less money and you'll feel better about feeding your family a more nutritious meal. Try going vegetarian occasionally as another way to save money too. Good Luck.
If you want to eat healthier versions of convenience mixes like Hamburger Helper, see if you can get a copy of "Make Your Own Convenience Foods" by Don and Joan German at your local library. pp. 112-113 gives recipes for Seasoned Rice Mixes; pp 116-120 has recipes for Assisters(same as Helper mixes but without additives etc.) You make packets of the mix ahead, one per meal, then add meat etc. when cook it. You could also try recipe websites under Make Your Own mixes or something similar. Good luck with the search, eating healthier and quick too can be difficult.
Kraft had a list a few years back for things that you added to prepared Mac & Cheese, making lots of different things. For example, you add a drained can of Tuna in water and half a can of peas and carrots along with a little italian seasoning. Or you add about a pound of cooked hamburger meat, a can of drained tomatoes and some chili powder for chili mac. For the cheeseburger mac you like, it would be just the hamburger meat, and a little garlic powder. Try looking on the website for Kraft, that list is bound to be out there somewhere. Several years ago they ran it in all the women's magazines, and even ran on the boxes.
Also, try making you own chicken nuggets. There is a good recipe for these on the shake-and-bake box, and they're great!
If you truly want to eat healthy, you should stop using hamburger helper and look up recipes for these dishes on the internet to make from scratch. Go to Google and type in search words such as "healthy food recipes" Take the time to study a little about what a healthy diet is, and try to use at least a few of the things you learn. Learn to read nutrition labels, and you can cut out a lot of things that are not healthy. Use sugar and fats sparingly. A good place to start is with your breakfast cereal, if you are cereal eaters. Always read the label, and try to find cereals that you like (or think you may learn to like) that have 3 or more grams of fiber per serving and 5 or less grams of sugar. The higher the fiber and the lower the sugar, the healthier the food.When you buy bread, buy only whole grain bread. Just these two things will start you on the right track, and neither even has anything to do with "cooking". Healthy eating doesn't just happen...it takes planning, determination and education.
Harlean from Arkansas
I have to agree with Heidi - if you're eating the kinds of food you say you are, you're not a picky eater! That's essentially junk food - full of additives. You've gotten good advice so far, so I won't give you the same over again. However, if you'll send me an e-mail so I can get your address, I'll send you some cheap, easy, quick and healthy recipes. E-mail me at jrsladytoo AT yahoo.com. I was a mother of a four month old when I get pregnant again and I have heavy morning sickness (all day), so I do understand not wanting to cook. But there are things you can do that are as easy (and much healthier and less expensive) than Hamburger Helper!
Go to Goodwill and spend $5 to get a bread machine. Then go online and download the manual if it didn't come with the machine. Make whole-wheat bread or half-white/half-whole-wheat, or add nuts or raisins or cranberries, whatever you like. It's delicious, loaded with good nutrition, mom, and for less than a dollar for a 2-pound loaf, you'll never go back to store-bought bread. It's also very filling, and if you add peanut butter or cheese, with a bowl of soup, you've got a great meal.
By Debra in Colorado (Guest Post) 03/15/2008 Flag
Hello I was a family of seven living on a very tight budget and a lot of times we ended up having to get food from the food bank and one of the cookbooks I found to be most useful was "Make a Mix". It has many recipes for make ahead foods. Another thing since you are pregnant and don't like cooking would be to try some of the "once a month cooking recipes" and see if you can get your mom or sister or best friend to come and help you.
I know Hamburger Helper is cheap and it seems like you are getting good nutrition out of it (Why else would they have commercials right) but the other posters are right it is basically junk food. Now with make a mix you pick the ingredients and you freeze it so you know you are capturing most of the vitamins when you do this. I know it sounds hard but any lifestyle change is hard and with a new baby coming you know what I am saying "been there, done that, got the t-shirt) so hang in there.
It is not your fault, most people don't know about nutrition anymore we are so used to going to fast food restaurants that we need knowledge to fight back with. You also could ask your local county extension office if they have any classes in nutrition or your county health dept.
Good Luck! Deb in Colorado
I work for MSU Extension in Michigan and your local Co-operative extension can help you stretch your food $$ with some of their programs. I do have a Home-made Helper Mix with recipes that are much healthier for you. They are also quick, easy and cheap. If you have an e-mail address I can send it as an attachment but it is too long for me to type it here. dickson AT msu.edu
By (Guest Post) 03/19/2008 Flag
When I catch hamburger meat on sale, I buy a bunch of it and make up a bunch of meatloaf and put it in the bread loaf pans and freeze. I also use the meat to make stuffed bell peppers to freeze or make up a couple of batches of seasoned taco meat and divide it into the amount we would use per meal or two ina ziplock bag (I also do the same for tacos with chicken on sale). When I make chili or soup, I always make a large batch and freeze what's left. With me working and going to school with the kids, sometimes all I have to do is set it out that morning and me or my hubby can pop it in the oven or microwave. It makes it easier, quicker, and healthier than hamburger helper. You can also do the same with rice and brocoli casseroles or anything like that! Chicken spaghetti can also be frozen.
By Jessica (Guest Post) 03/23/2008 Flag
Thanks for all the great feedback. I do have a freezer cookbook but was wondering if there were things that just don't freeze as well (or if there are some things that freeze one way but not another, ie potatoes) as well as how long you can freeze other foods. (Breads/muffins I've seen say 3-4 months, and meats by themselves can be frozen for up to a year. How do you know how long and for what?)
Also the picky eaters thing is mostly when it comes to me not eating seafood, and both of us are bad when it comes to a lot of veggies.
By G.Tischer (Guest Post) 06/24/2008 Flag
Buy a food saver! Use your crock pot and make double meals at once. If baking chicken, bake two! Same electric double makings. Save on electric and heating the house up! Buy bulk if you can, check your pricing close, with the food saver you can even put just one steak in a bag at a time so if a person shows up you just take one out or if one of you aren't home that night, no wasting! Make up different dish on a Sunday and you have most of the meals prepared and add a veggie, less time in the kitchen.