Look, we all have things happen in our lives that make food difficult. Maybe you’re stressed, in a hurry, or broke. I can’t promise this list of food will solve all your problems, but I hope it’ll give you a jumping off point.
Please remember that this list is coming from a middle-aged white lady in decent health who has been broke, but never Broke. This means there’s a certain level of assumed convenience such as access to a grocery store, fridge, microwave, secure place to store your food, at least a little bit of cash to buy the food, and few dietary restrictions.
I came up with this list because I have a few mental illnesses that cause executive dysfunction and I can struggle with remembering to eat and having something easy to prepare when I do get around to eating. A lot of these foods require little to no prep and I’ll separate out the more advanced options that may require a bit of thinking ahead or work.
If you have any suggestions, please comment below and I’ll add them to the list. Let’s help each other out!
- Cream cheese and saltines (put the cream cheese on the unsalted side, it’s tastier that way)
- Baby carrots and hummus
- Pitas and hummus
- Instant rice (frozen tends to only be plain rice, but you can get flavored instant rice in the rice aisle at the store)
- Steamer vegetables (pairs well with the instant rice, can be found in the frozen vegetable aisle)
- cheese sticks or string cheese
- Cheese & crackers
- Fruit–there’s a lot of prepared fruit in containers in the produce section at the grocery store. Ever looked at pre-sliced apples or already peeled clementines and wondered who buys those? ME. I buy those.
- Veggie trays
- Microwave potatoes (there are potatoes at the grocery store that are already cleaned and wrapped in plastic for you to chuck in the microwave)
- Meal replacement shakes (keep them as cold as you can and slam them quickly so you don’t taste them)
- Cereal (bonus points if you have a favorite that doesn’t need milk, Golden Grahams and Cheerios are my go tos)
- Chips and dip or tortilla chips and salsa
- Shredded chicken (Costco definitely has this, some grocery stores also have shredded chicken in a tub or bag that you can buy. They’re assuming you’re going to use it as an ingredient but you can also just stuff it directly in your face.)
- Taco chicken: buy chicken on sale at the grocery store and dump it in a crockpot with a jar of salsa or enchilada sauce and a ridiculous amount of taco seasoning and then cook until the chicken is falling apart. Shred it and then you’ve got tasty chicken to eat by itself, in tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, over your instant rice, etc.
- Tip: If you’ve got the money, buy crockpot liners so you don’t have to scrub the crockpot afterward. If you don’t have the money, fill the crock with hot water and dish soap and let it sit for a while to loosen things up.
- Sandwiches are a forever classic. Bread + filling + bread = food. Sliced meat or cheese if you’re feeling fancy or your favorite nut spread if you’re in a hurry/extra broke. Ready-made tuna and chicken salads are things that exist and could also work. Fried eggs or egg salad are also classics for a reason.
- Roll string cheese in sliced meat
- Lazy charcuterie board: pre-sliced cheese, a handful of whatever nuts you may have on hand, crackers, sliced meats (you can even get some specifically for charcuterie boards at some grocery stores if you’re feeling fancy and not broke), maybe a bit of fruit, olives if you’re nasty, just…whatever will fit on your board/plate/tray. Think Lunchables for adults.
- Smoothies: Look, you need a lot of planning for these but putting them together is fast enough. Dump fruit (frozen is already prepped and therefore delightful) and some liquid into a blender and hit the button until it’s a drinkable consistency. You can find smoothie blends in the frozen fruits if it’s a lot of effort to pick your fruits. You can put in extras like nut butter, spinach, protein powder, kefir, or yogurt if you want to boost the nutrition value further. There’s definitely some bucks involved in these, but they’re a tastier option than meal replacement shakes.
- Downside: you will have to clean the blender. At least rinse it off as soon as you’ve poured out the smoothie because you are not going to want to deal with it after it’s sat out for hours.
- Macaroni and cheese: boxed, frozen, premade….it’s all cheese and noodles in the end.
- Pasta is always an easy choice. I have seen premade pasta in a bag that you can just heat up and pour out, but I haven’t tried it and can’t speak to it. Buttered spaghetti is easy to make. Dump a jar of pasta sauce and water into a pan and cook your dried pasta directly in that for extra flavor. Frozen cheese tortellini is tasty and cooks up in only a few minutes.
- Ramen is a struggle food classic for a reason. It’s easy to make and only needs a hot pot, electric kettle, or even just a microwave to make it happen. If you’ve got the time/resources, you can make it fancier by adding a slice of American cheese, frozen veggies, an egg, or subbing the sauce packet with something else (soy sauce, butter, a teensy bit of hot sauce, and a touch of brown sugar can be quite tasty but again: effort).
- Oatmeal is easy to make and relatively low effort, but it’s still on this list because some prep is still needed. I tend to buy packets of flavored oatmeal and boiling water for it in my electric kettle. You can buy oatmeal in bulk and make overnight oatmeal in the fridge. While a lot of Americans tend to go sweet with their oatmeal toppings (maple syrup, brown sugar, fresh fruit, dried fruit, chocolate, etc) you can also go savory if you’re feeling brave (eggs and vegetables were common suggestions I saw when I googled).