Author Topic: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction  (Read 11845 times)

Kaplin261

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Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« on: July 26, 2016, 09:43:24 AM »
So I have to admit I love the convience of microwave meals for my lunch at work. Buy them in bulk at the grocery store when they have sales and coupons and I normally average $1.75 per unit. The variety is also nice, I can have pizza one day and turkey and mashed potatoes the next. For me the taste is ok but a home cooked meal would be much better. They come out of my freezer frozen and require no refrigerator or lunch box to stay fresh till lunch.

I stopped taking leftovers from last night's dinners to work because we save the left overs for dinner for the next night. If we grab a pizza or a cheap dinner out during the week we only have to cook 2 meals during the week. We do however cook a lot on the weekends.

So in total my wife and I are spending $18 a week on lunches, how could we do better?

brute

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2016, 09:49:34 AM »
I cook in bulk on sunday afternoon for lunches for my wife and I the next week. This week is shredded chicken. Somedays I make a burrito with it, some days a salad. Cheap and versatile.

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2016, 09:58:17 AM »
You know, I wouldn't kick yourself for this one.  I bring leftovers many days.  I always try to have things on hand (eg, jar of unsweetened applesauce, carton of cottage cheese) in the fridge at work, but sometimes a Lean Cuisine is the best you can do.  I do really enjoy homemade soup though so I bought a large corningware soup mug that vents on top for heating things up.

Kaplin261

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2016, 09:58:50 AM »
I cook in bulk on sunday afternoon for lunches for my wife and I the next week. This week is shredded chicken. Somedays I make a burrito with it, some days a salad. Cheap and versatile.

How much time does this take? I tried this as well, would go to the grocery store on Sunday get my ingredients, come home and cook everything, divide out 10 lunches and then clean up a big mess.  From start to finish it ended up being 4 hours. And it did not seem to have much variety in the meals. I feel like those 4 hours can be hard to come by and I make a lot more money per hour by doing other things.

Choices

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2016, 10:03:22 AM »
The price seems reasonable, and you seem very happy with the Lean Cuisines. Is it really money, taste, or someone else who is inspiring you to think of other options?

Making a crock pot of stew/chili or a big batch of pasta with veggies on the weekend doesn't take too long and could last for many meals.

You could also make larger quantities at dinner and thus have enough leftovers for lunches and a second dinner if you don't mind eating the same thing multiple times. These leftovers usually keep for a few days, so with one meal you could have dinner Monday and Wednesday and lunch Tuesday and Thursday.

brute

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2016, 10:04:03 AM »
I cook in bulk on sunday afternoon for lunches for my wife and I the next week. This week is shredded chicken. Somedays I make a burrito with it, some days a salad. Cheap and versatile.

How much time does this take? I tried this as well, would go to the grocery store on Sunday get my ingredients, come home and cook everything, divide out 10 lunches and then clean up a big mess.  From start to finish it ended up being 4 hours. And it did not seem to have much variety in the meals. I feel like those 4 hours can be hard to come by and I make a lot more money per hour by doing other things.

For me it takes maybe 45 minutes (most of the time). I do all my shopping at once, planning out lunches for the next week as well as dinner. Sunday I'll do one of two things:

1. Put a bunch of chicken or pork in the crock pot (5 minutes) then shred it and put it in the fridge that night (10 minutes)
2. Grill hamburgers, bratwurst, chicken, pork chops, whatever sounded good earlier in the week. No extra time since I often grill on sunday anyway.

Then at night I'll spend 5 minutes putting lunch together for the next day. Keeping veggies and condiments around makes salads, sandwiches, burritos, etc go together fast.

There are other times when I'll spend 8-14 hours cooking, but those are days where I make a 9 quart batch of boeuf bourguignon or oxtail soup. I just make a ton extra and take it all week for lunch, maybe cooking a larger batch of stir fry on wednesday and taking some thursday to break to monotany

Kaplin261

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2016, 10:15:06 AM »
I cook in bulk on sunday afternoon for lunches for my wife and I the next week. This week is shredded chicken. Somedays I make a burrito with it, some days a salad. Cheap and versatile.

How much time does this take? I tried this as well, would go to the grocery store on Sunday get my ingredients, come home and cook everything, divide out 10 lunches and then clean up a big mess.  From start to finish it ended up being 4 hours. And it did not seem to have much variety in the meals. I feel like those 4 hours can be hard to come by and I make a lot more money per hour by doing other things.

For me it takes maybe 45 minutes (most of the time). I do all my shopping at once, planning out lunches for the next week as well as dinner. Sunday I'll do one of two things:

1. Put a bunch of chicken or pork in the crock pot (5 minutes) then shred it and put it in the fridge that night (10 minutes)
2. Grill hamburgers, bratwurst, chicken, pork chops, whatever sounded good earlier in the week. No extra time since I often grill on sunday anyway.

Then at night I'll spend 5 minutes putting lunch together for the next day. Keeping veggies and condiments around makes salads, sandwiches, burritos, etc go together fast.

There are other times when I'll spend 8-14 hours cooking, but those are days where I make a 9 quart batch of boeuf bourguignon or oxtail soup. I just make a ton extra and take it all week for lunch, maybe cooking a larger batch of stir fry on wednesday and taking some thursday to break to monotany

I guess for my family by mid week we would be tired of eating the same thing everyday and be tempted to eat lunch out. Well that has been the case in the past.

How do you do it in 45 minutes, it takes me that long to go to the grocery store and come back home?

mrteacher

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2016, 10:37:25 AM »
Lean Cuisine meals are certainly a time saver...but what is the cost of ingesting, habitually, that mix of mostly unnatural ingredients?

I looked up the nutritional info for a Lean Cuisine meal: Sesame Chicken (first result for a "lean cuisine nutritional info" Google search). Right off the bat I notice that over 25% of your daily sodium is packed into just 330 calories...just over 15% of your daily calories. I am not a nutritionist, but I imagine that this 330 calorie, sodium drenched meal will leave you slightly dehyrdated and with afternoon cravings as a result of a calorie-deficient lunch.

I dug a little deeper and found the ingredients from the Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken:

blanched spaghetti (water, semolina), sesame breaded chicken tenderloins (cooked chicken tenderloins, water, seasoning (dried soy sauce {soybeans, wheat, salt}, maltodextrin, fructose, salt, autolyzed yeast extract, flavor, modified corn starch, mixed triglycerides, chicken broth powder, wheat dextrin, contains less than 2% butter {cream, salt}, carrots, chicken fat, citric acid, cornstarch, sesame oil, sugar, tapioca dextrin), isolated soy protein, modified rice starch, roasted sesame oil, sodium phosphates, salt. battered and breaded with: water, bleached wheat flour, yellow corn flour, bleached enriched wheat flour (niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sesame seeds, modified corn starch, salt, leavening (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), nonfat dry milk, dextrose, soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, yeast, dried onion powder, dried garlic powder, dried whole eggs, extractives of paprika, oleoresin paprika and annatto. breading set in soybean oil.), water, green beans, plum sauce (sugar, salted plums, water, rice vinegar, modified cornstarch, ginger, citric acid, sodium citrate, chili peppers, xanthan gum, contains wheat, soybeans), red peppers, 2% or less of sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), modified cornstarch, garlic puree, sesame seeds, dehydrated soy sauce (soybeans, salt, wheat), vinegar concentrate (rice vinegar, corn syrup, natural flavor), spice.


Do you know what half of those are?

I understand that making time for 4 hours of cooking on Sunday is not easy. But when you cook for yourself you control the ingredients, and thereby, control the healthfulness of that which you consume.

Several of the chapters in this book may appeal to you: https://www.amazon.com/Devoured-Chicken-Wings-Smoothies-How-Defines/dp/0062390988

The author provides a 'how do we, Americans, eat? why is it that we eat this way? what are some of the consequences of our diet?" She includes several lengthy passages on microwaved, 'on the go' type, meals.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2016, 10:41:42 AM by mrteacher »

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2016, 10:39:32 AM »
Yeah I'm gonna go with mrteacher on this one. Someone could *pay me* $18 a week and I still wouldn't eat a lean cuisine every day. Not worth it- I can never buy my health back.

Rezdent

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2016, 10:49:46 AM »
If 4 hours a week is too big a chunk right now, can you start smaller?

Say you are cooking dinner, with plans to eat the leftovers.  Build in just one more complete portion.  Put it in a saved, washed Lean Cuisine container, cover and freeze.  Repeat several times while continuing to eat the frozen dinners (saving container) for the week.

Start taking your own prefrozen meals NEXT week, interspersed with the LC meals.  After a couple of weeks you will have a variety of home cooked meals, so you won't get bored.

Then dial back the LC meals until they are a rare treat.  Although, once you get good at this you might discover you prefer your own meals to the store bought ones (at least now I do).

brute

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2016, 10:50:02 AM »
I cook in bulk on sunday afternoon for lunches for my wife and I the next week. This week is shredded chicken. Somedays I make a burrito with it, some days a salad. Cheap and versatile.

How much time does this take? I tried this as well, would go to the grocery store on Sunday get my ingredients, come home and cook everything, divide out 10 lunches and then clean up a big mess.  From start to finish it ended up being 4 hours. And it did not seem to have much variety in the meals. I feel like those 4 hours can be hard to come by and I make a lot more money per hour by doing other things.

I go grocery shopping after work one day a week. I don't count that into meal prep time.

For me it takes maybe 45 minutes (most of the time). I do all my shopping at once, planning out lunches for the next week as well as dinner. Sunday I'll do one of two things:

1. Put a bunch of chicken or pork in the crock pot (5 minutes) then shred it and put it in the fridge that night (10 minutes)
2. Grill hamburgers, bratwurst, chicken, pork chops, whatever sounded good earlier in the week. No extra time since I often grill on sunday anyway.

Then at night I'll spend 5 minutes putting lunch together for the next day. Keeping veggies and condiments around makes salads, sandwiches, burritos, etc go together fast.

There are other times when I'll spend 8-14 hours cooking, but those are days where I make a 9 quart batch of boeuf bourguignon or oxtail soup. I just make a ton extra and take it all week for lunch, maybe cooking a larger batch of stir fry on wednesday and taking some thursday to break to monotany

I guess for my family by mid week we would be tired of eating the same thing everyday and be tempted to eat lunch out. Well that has been the case in the past.

How do you do it in 45 minutes, it takes me that long to go to the grocery store and come back home?

tweezers

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2016, 10:57:14 AM »
Every time you prepare a meal at home, double (triple, quadruple, +) the recipe.  Eat whatever you're going to eat for that meal, and divide the remainder into lunch size portions for the freezer.  Chopping 2 or 3 cups of vegetables vs. one isn't super onerous, and if you do this every time you cook you'll end up with a selection of lunch options that are varied and better than frozen.  It doesn't have to be done in enormous batches as a separate cooking exercise, but gradually as part of your normal meal prep routine.

Jrr85

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2016, 11:07:33 AM »
I guess for my family by mid week we would be tired of eating the same thing everyday and be tempted to eat lunch out. Well that has been the case in the past.

I don't think you can cook two nights a week and avoid eating the same thing alot, or paying to eat out a lot, or spending time on those nights cooking multiple meals. 

We typically cook on Sunday night and Monday night.  Sunday nights dinner is Monday's lunch and Tuesday's dinner.  Monday nights dinner is Tuesday's lunch, and wednesday's lunch.  And then we will do something easy like pick up pizza or chinese one night, which also provides leftovers for a lunch, and then we each usually have at least one lunch out for business purposes. 

That's not a very cheap way to eat, but I think you could it more economically by cooking two nights, and cooking two meals each night.  It'd be pretty easy to say on Sunday do a crock pot meal while you are cooking something on the stove or grill.  Then do the same thing on Tuesday.  If you get six servings out of each meal (i.e., 3 per person), you basically cover lunch and dinner for 6 days of the week and it shouldn't cost you but say 2.5 hours (1 hour for grocery shopping, and then 45 minutes each night that you are cooking).  Doing that, you could pretty easily knock out all but one lunch and one dinner a week at minimal cost and without a big time investment. 

As far as the lean cuisines go, I'm not a health nut and think a lot of people worry wayyyy to much about what they eat (although most people obviously don't worry enough) and my basic philosophy is everything gives you cancer, so you just need to avoid having enough of anything to give you cancer too quickly.  And even u nder that philosophy, I'd worry about eating microwavable meals multiple times a week, every week. 
 

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2016, 11:10:05 AM »
So you are considering getting to the next level of badassery. It's scary! If you want this, you're going to have to change your schedule, and make cooking a priority. I'm getting ready to get to the next level myself. I spend time cooking on Sundays for lunch Monday thru Thursday. By Friday I'm bored so I get something from the grocery store nearby. But, as much as I hate doing food prep after work, I'm going to start making lunch for Fridays, Thursday night. I'm taking it to the next level baby. And cooking counts as exercise!

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2016, 12:56:17 PM »
I make extra with every easy meal, enough for a second supper and a couple of lunches - the "easy" meals are the crockpot or instantpot things and some stir fries. Then I refrigerate the supper portion for another supper two nights later and put one or two lunch portions in the freezer. I always have a varied stock now, but the first week or so you might want to do three lunches' worth of extra to build it up. I use clean store bought yogurt and cottage cheese containers when I have them and "disposable" leftover containers otherwise - they're fine to reuse.


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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2016, 01:09:49 PM »
So I have to admit I love the convience of microwave meals for my lunch at work. Buy them in bulk at the grocery store when they have sales and coupons and I normally average $1.75 per unit. The variety is also nice, I can have pizza one day and turkey and mashed potatoes the next. For me the taste is ok but a home cooked meal would be much better. They come out of my freezer frozen and require no refrigerator or lunch box to stay fresh till lunch.

I stopped taking leftovers from last night's dinners to work because we save the left overs for dinner for the next night. If we grab a pizza or a cheap dinner out during the week we only have to cook 2 meals during the week. We do however cook a lot on the weekends.

So in total my wife and I are spending $18 a week on lunches, how could we do better?

Start eating out more

MrsDinero

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2016, 01:31:30 PM »
Make your own!

My friends (husband/wife) invested in several of these food containers with dividers.  They double up their meals several times a week (not every day), portion the leftovers in the food containers, date & label them, then stick them in the freezer.  They will end up with 10-20 at any given time, but this way they don't end up eating the same thing every day.  They bought the same type containers so everything stacks neatly.



Kaplin261

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2016, 01:44:37 PM »
Make your own!

My friends (husband/wife) invested in several of these food containers with dividers.  They double up their meals several times a week (not every day), portion the leftovers in the food containers, date & label them, then stick them in the freezer.  They will end up with 10-20 at any given time, but this way they don't end up eating the same thing every day.  They bought the same type containers so everything stacks neatly.

Do you know the brand of the containers?

MrsDinero

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2016, 01:47:27 PM »
Make your own!

My friends (husband/wife) invested in several of these food containers with dividers.  They double up their meals several times a week (not every day), portion the leftovers in the food containers, date & label them, then stick them in the freezer.  They will end up with 10-20 at any given time, but this way they don't end up eating the same thing every day.  They bought the same type containers so everything stacks neatly.

Do you know the brand of the containers?

They have the.  She complained about the price at first and bought them over several months, but that was several years ago they still use them daily.
Rubbermaid Lock-its 5-1/4-Cup Divided Food-Storage Container with Lid

https://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-Lock-its-Divided-Food-Storage-Container/dp/B002CGS8V8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1469562325&sr=8-2&keywords=rubbermaid+storage+containers+dividers

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2016, 02:52:33 PM »
My approach seems to combine what some others have said. I cook in the crockpot a lot - it takes very little time to prepare. But I always double the recipe (be sure to get a large crockpot.) Doubling it really doesn't take much longer than doing a single recipe and I'll often end up with enough for 8 meals. To avoid eating the same thing every day, I just freeze some of it in single portions. Then the next week I make something else. Part way through the week, when I want something different, I pull out a frozen portion from the month before.

On top of that I make sandwiches and salads, plus I cook other meals. But the crockpot approach takes care of a lot of meals without a big time commitment (and as a bonus, in this summer heat it lets me avoid standing over a hot stove!)

Good luck! And congrats on making this change. I used to eat frozen meals too, but like others have said, I stopped because of health concerns (and honestly, crockpot meals taste better!) I love the recipes on this site: http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #20 on: July 26, 2016, 03:00:12 PM »
We do once a month cooking. (From here on out, abbreviated as OAMC.) There are websites, books, forums, and YouTube videos directed at how to get started with OAMC. Some of the websites offer printable shopping lists, tell you how to prep, then you just assemble and throw in the freezer.  I do a big OAMC shop on a Friday night, (one hour), then I wake up Saturday morning and prep and assemble. For the rest of the 29 days, I don't cook an entree for dinner because it's already cooked. I just thaw the night before I need it, and add a salad or a cornbread or something.  For lunches, you could thaw 2 entrees in lunch sized portions, then you'd only need one Lean Cuisine a week.  It's easy to get started, Pinterest.com had some great how to's and I love only have to cook once a month.

JoJo

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2016, 06:41:54 PM »
lots of good advice here.

I'm on a pretty strict diet so I eat the same lunch everyday at work but it is cheap (about $1) and nutritious - 3 hard boiled eggs, a couple tablespoons of flaxseed, and a big baggy of raw veggies.  I boil 12 eggs at a time and keep the rest in my fridge.  I have 2 lunch packs so I only have to pack ever other night.

Lookilu

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #22 on: July 26, 2016, 07:29:43 PM »
Every time you prepare a meal at home, double (triple, quadruple, +) the recipe.  Eat whatever you're going to eat for that meal, and divide the remainder into lunch size portions for the freezer.  Chopping 2 or 3 cups of vegetables vs. one isn't super onerous, and if you do this every time you cook you'll end up with a selection of lunch options that are varied and better than frozen.  It doesn't have to be done in enormous batches as a separate cooking exercise, but gradually as part of your normal meal prep routine.
+1
This is my technique. It doesn't take long before you have a nice variety of grab and go frozen meals.

sonjak

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #23 on: July 26, 2016, 07:38:02 PM »
I want to add my voice to the couple with concerns about the lack of nutritional content in those things.  Learning about nutrition and the importance of vegetables primarily and fruit too could help give you the motivation to implement all the great suggestions others are making as to *how* to do it.

abhe8

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2016, 06:25:13 AM »
It go with a non cooked lunch. I eat as lot of tuna salad lettuce wraps, sandwich, fruit, veggies, yogurt or cottage cheese, eggs, trail mix, etc.

Kaplin261

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #25 on: July 27, 2016, 07:24:00 AM »
We do once a month cooking. (From here on out, abbreviated as OAMC.) There are websites, books, forums, and YouTube videos directed at how to get started with OAMC. Some of the websites offer printable shopping lists, tell you how to prep, then you just assemble and throw in the freezer.  I do a big OAMC shop on a Friday night, (one hour), then I wake up Saturday morning and prep and assemble. For the rest of the 29 days, I don't cook an entree for dinner because it's already cooked. I just thaw the night before I need it, and add a salad or a cornbread or something.  For lunches, you could thaw 2 entrees in lunch sized portions, then you'd only need one Lean Cuisine a week.  It's easy to get started, Pinterest.com had some great how to's and I love only have to cook once a month.

I love this idea OAMC! I see this working the best for our household. But im still trying to figure out how to store the meals in the freezer, lunches alone would require 40 containers that are freezer and microwave safe.
Quote
I want to add my voice to the couple with concerns about the lack of nutritional content in those things.  Learning about nutrition and the importance of vegetables primarily and fruit too could help give you the motivation to implement all the great suggestions others are making as to *how* to do it.

A lot of people have been focusing on the nutritional value of the lean cuisine. Its only 300 calories and makes up for 1/7 of my caloric intake. The rest of the day I am eating fruits,nuts,veggies and with a protein packed dinner. It makes up such a small portion of my diet does it really effect my health??

7:00am coffee and a handful of raw almonds
8:30am a apple and a orange
10:00am another apple and a banana
12:00pm lean cuisine
2:00pm a apple
5:30pm a big portion of chicken or another protein with 2 veggies.
8:00pm some cheese or milk and cookies

« Last Edit: July 27, 2016, 07:31:32 AM by Kaplin261 »

notactiveanymore

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #26 on: July 27, 2016, 08:09:46 AM »
I think it's hard to give advice on this because I'm not sure what "help me do better" means for you.

Do you...
  • Want to cut down the per meal cost?
  • Want a variety of lunches at similar/whatever cost?
  • Want healthier meals at similar/whatever cost?
  • Want similarly convenient lunch option which is also healthy, variety-filled, and cheap?

We keep lunches pretty kindergarten-style in my household: PB&J with carrots and yogurt for him; whole wheat bagel with carrots and apple for me. With occasional leftovers or the rare freezer meal, we're satisfied.

But if I had to pick the best option for what I think you're looking for (option 4 above) I think the crockpot shredded meat scenario above was the best. Fairly cheap to buy some chicken breasts. Easy to stick them in a crock pot with a cup of water for a few hours on Sunday. Variety by taking shredded chicken and using it on: burrito, taco, salad, wrap, sandwich, rice, crackers etc. Just plan out ahead of time and consider your condiments. I'm not sure you're going to get under $1.75 for each meal, but it could be done.

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2016, 08:53:40 AM »
I want to add my voice to the couple with concerns about the lack of nutritional content in those things.  Learning about nutrition and the importance of vegetables primarily and fruit too could help give you the motivation to implement all the great suggestions others are making as to *how* to do it.

A lot of people have been focusing on the nutritional value of the lean cuisine. Its only 300 calories and makes up for 1/7 of my caloric intake. The rest of the day I am eating fruits,nuts,veggies and with a protein packed dinner. It makes up such a small portion of my diet does it really effect my health??

It does seem like you're getting in most of the essential nutrients with your other snacks and meals for the day, but it's not so much the caloric value of Lean Cuisine that is questionable.  The sodium in those things is huge.  My go-to lunch is a turkey sandwich with a slice of cheese, lettuce, and tomato, and a side of baby carrots, grape tomatoes, or similar.  I find that it's very quick and easy to throw together, and it's nutritious and more filling.

Side note:  Wow, you eat a lot of fruit!  And how do you not get sick of 3 apples in a single day?  You know, just an apple a day will keep the doctor away ;-)  I personally would swap one or two of the morning fruits for a low-fat Greek yogurt.

mrteacher

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2016, 09:03:55 AM »
We do once a month cooking. (From here on out, abbreviated as OAMC.) There are websites, books, forums, and YouTube videos directed at how to get started with OAMC. Some of the websites offer printable shopping lists, tell you how to prep, then you just assemble and throw in the freezer.  I do a big OAMC shop on a Friday night, (one hour), then I wake up Saturday morning and prep and assemble. For the rest of the 29 days, I don't cook an entree for dinner because it's already cooked. I just thaw the night before I need it, and add a salad or a cornbread or something.  For lunches, you could thaw 2 entrees in lunch sized portions, then you'd only need one Lean Cuisine a week.  It's easy to get started, Pinterest.com had some great how to's and I love only have to cook once a month.

I love this idea OAMC! I see this working the best for our household. But im still trying to figure out how to store the meals in the freezer, lunches alone would require 40 containers that are freezer and microwave safe.
Quote
I want to add my voice to the couple with concerns about the lack of nutritional content in those things.  Learning about nutrition and the importance of vegetables primarily and fruit too could help give you the motivation to implement all the great suggestions others are making as to *how* to do it.

A lot of people have been focusing on the nutritional value of the lean cuisine. Its only 300 calories and makes up for 1/7 of my caloric intake. The rest of the day I am eating fruits,nuts,veggies and with a protein packed dinner. It makes up such a small portion of my diet does it really effect my health??

7:00am coffee and a handful of raw almonds
8:30am a apple and a orange
10:00am another apple and a banana
12:00pm lean cuisine
2:00pm a apple
5:30pm a big portion of chicken or another protein with 2 veggies.
8:00pm some cheese or milk and cookies

I did - incorrectly - make some assumptions about the rest of your diet with the knowledge that you typically eat Lean Cuisine for lunch. I apologize.

In looking at your typical day, I do see a lot of fruit (sugar). Like another comment said, see if you can swap out a couple of those fruits for raw veggies (carrots, green beans, tomatoes) - perhaps with some hummus, a Greek yogurt, or something less less sugar. 

I am also wondering your response to the following questions posed by another member:

Want to cut down the per meal cost?
Want a variety of lunches at similar/whatever cost?
Want healthier meals at similar/whatever cost?
Want similarly convenient lunch option which is also healthy, variety-filled, and cheap?

Prairie Stash

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2016, 09:37:26 AM »
Lean Cuisine meals are certainly a time saver...but what is the cost of ingesting, habitually, that mix of mostly unnatural ingredients?

I looked up the nutritional info for a Lean Cuisine meal: Sesame Chicken (first result for a "lean cuisine nutritional info" Google search). Right off the bat I notice that over 25% of your daily sodium is packed into just 330 calories...just over 15% of your daily calories. I am not a nutritionist, but I imagine that this 330 calorie, sodium drenched meal will leave you slightly dehyrdated and with afternoon cravings as a result of a calorie-deficient lunch.

I dug a little deeper and found the ingredients from the Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken:

blanched spaghetti (water, semolina), sesame breaded chicken tenderloins (cooked chicken tenderloins, water, seasoning (dried soy sauce {soybeans, wheat, salt}, maltodextrin, fructose, salt, autolyzed yeast extract, flavor, modified corn starch, mixed triglycerides, chicken broth powder, wheat dextrin, contains less than 2% butter {cream, salt}, carrots, chicken fat, citric acid, cornstarch, sesame oil, sugar, tapioca dextrin), isolated soy protein, modified rice starch, roasted sesame oil, sodium phosphates, salt. battered and breaded with: water, bleached wheat flour, yellow corn flour, bleached enriched wheat flour (niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sesame seeds, modified corn starch, salt, leavening (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), nonfat dry milk, dextrose, soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, yeast, dried onion powder, dried garlic powder, dried whole eggs, extractives of paprika, oleoresin paprika and annatto. breading set in soybean oil.), water, green beans, plum sauce (sugar, salted plums, water, rice vinegar, modified cornstarch, ginger, citric acid, sodium citrate, chili peppers, xanthan gum, contains wheat, soybeans), red peppers, 2% or less of sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), modified cornstarch, garlic puree, sesame seeds, dehydrated soy sauce (soybeans, salt, wheat), vinegar concentrate (rice vinegar, corn syrup, natural flavor), spice.


Do you know what half of those are?

Semolina is the proper name for durum flour, that's like saying Roma tomato's instead of just tomato's. Chicken tenderloins are from chickens. Maltodextrin, dextrose and fructose are types of sugar; fructose comes from fruit, dextrose from corn (it makes great beer) and maltodextrin from starch. They're all natural but have slightly different flavours and properties, dextrose (corn sugar) makes better beer than sucrose (cane syrup) for example. Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin, Folic Acid are additives found in multivitamins, it boosts nutritional content. That's over half the contents in two sentences more if do the the easy ones like salt, water, eggs.

Is there anything you really don't know or are you just exaggerating your ignorance to attempt to make a point? Does anyone really not know the majority of those ingredients if not all? It feels like your trying to use ignorance as a scaremongering tactic, you should never let ignorance guide your life or use it to intimidate people.

abhe8

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #30 on: July 27, 2016, 09:44:22 AM »
I agree with pp... help us be defining your goals a little more. :)

You don't need 40 containers... a box of freezer ziplick bags and 1 correll plate and bowl at work in your desk and you are set.

Freeze the food in a glass box, transfer to bags for cheap freezer storage, and then to the plate or bowl to cook and eat. Or cook in the plastic bag, if that doesn't bother you.

Kaplin261

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #31 on: July 27, 2016, 10:09:10 AM »
I agree with pp... help us be defining your goals a little more. :)

You don't need 40 containers... a box of freezer ziplick bags and 1 correll plate and bowl at work in your desk and you are set.

Freeze the food in a glass box, transfer to bags for cheap freezer storage, and then to the plate or bowl to cook and eat. Or cook in the plastic bag, if that doesn't bother you.

I never thought of using freezer safe zip locks and dumping on a plate at work. Love this idea!

Quote
Want to cut down the per meal cost?
Want a variety of lunches at similar/whatever cost?
Want healthier meals at similar/whatever cost?
Want similarly convenient lunch option which is also healthy, variety-filled, and cheap?

Variety is important, Cost of meal is important(time and money), Healthy nutritious food is important, Convenience is important. Taste is something we are willing to sacrifice to a certain point, its just a lunch at work that I'm eating while working.

So why the fruit? Because it's super convenient, the cost isn't to bad and it is healthy. I've been doing this for 6 months now, I started with whole foods fruits to help me establish the habit, then moved over to bulk fruits from Costco. The raw fruits and nuts are kinda bland so when I eat the lean cuisine it actually doesn't taste bad.

mrteacher

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #32 on: July 27, 2016, 11:33:51 AM »
Lean Cuisine meals are certainly a time saver...but what is the cost of ingesting, habitually, that mix of mostly unnatural ingredients?

I looked up the nutritional info for a Lean Cuisine meal: Sesame Chicken (first result for a "lean cuisine nutritional info" Google search). Right off the bat I notice that over 25% of your daily sodium is packed into just 330 calories...just over 15% of your daily calories. I am not a nutritionist, but I imagine that this 330 calorie, sodium drenched meal will leave you slightly dehyrdated and with afternoon cravings as a result of a calorie-deficient lunch.

I dug a little deeper and found the ingredients from the Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken:

blanched spaghetti (water, semolina), sesame breaded chicken tenderloins (cooked chicken tenderloins, water, seasoning (dried soy sauce {soybeans, wheat, salt}, maltodextrin, fructose, salt, autolyzed yeast extract, flavor, modified corn starch, mixed triglycerides, chicken broth powder, wheat dextrin, contains less than 2% butter {cream, salt}, carrots, chicken fat, citric acid, cornstarch, sesame oil, sugar, tapioca dextrin), isolated soy protein, modified rice starch, roasted sesame oil, sodium phosphates, salt. battered and breaded with: water, bleached wheat flour, yellow corn flour, bleached enriched wheat flour (niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sesame seeds, modified corn starch, salt, leavening (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), nonfat dry milk, dextrose, soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, yeast, dried onion powder, dried garlic powder, dried whole eggs, extractives of paprika, oleoresin paprika and annatto. breading set in soybean oil.), water, green beans, plum sauce (sugar, salted plums, water, rice vinegar, modified cornstarch, ginger, citric acid, sodium citrate, chili peppers, xanthan gum, contains wheat, soybeans), red peppers, 2% or less of sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), modified cornstarch, garlic puree, sesame seeds, dehydrated soy sauce (soybeans, salt, wheat), vinegar concentrate (rice vinegar, corn syrup, natural flavor), spice.


Do you know what half of those are?

Semolina is the proper name for durum flour, that's like saying Roma tomato's instead of just tomato's. Chicken tenderloins are from chickens. Maltodextrin, dextrose and fructose are types of sugar; fructose comes from fruit, dextrose from corn (it makes great beer) and maltodextrin from starch. They're all natural but have slightly different flavours and properties, dextrose (corn sugar) makes better beer than sucrose (cane syrup) for example. Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin, Folic Acid are additives found in multivitamins, it boosts nutritional content. That's over half the contents in two sentences more if do the the easy ones like salt, water, eggs.

Is there anything you really don't know or are you just exaggerating your ignorance to attempt to make a point? Does anyone really not know the majority of those ingredients if not all? It feels like your trying to use ignorance as a scaremongering tactic, you should never let ignorance guide your life or use it to intimidate people.

I did not know that dextrose is corn sugar, nor do I think that is common knowledge. Regardless, why would one want, expect, or be ok with a sugar made from corn in their sesame chicken? Are you arguing that because these ingredients can be traced back to a naturally occurring product that they are fine to eat?

I suppose my argument was less "what are these?" and more about the extent to which microwave meals are processed and 'designed' to resemble dishes created with less processed ingredients and not in the 'factory'/'bio lab' model.
 

Kaplin261

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #33 on: July 27, 2016, 12:32:50 PM »
I did not know that dextrose is corn sugar, nor do I think that is common knowledge. Regardless, why would one want, expect, or be ok with a sugar made from corn in their sesame chicken? Are you arguing that because these ingredients can be traced back to a naturally occurring product that they are fine to eat?

What's wrong with sugar made from corn?

Allie

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #34 on: July 27, 2016, 12:36:11 PM »
 I send my husband to work with tubs of frozen soup/stew and a slice of bread.  The crockpot or thermal cooker makes soups easy and they freeze pretty well for a few weeks.  I'll make a crock of stew one week, a crock of chicken soup the next, a crock of tortilla soup the next and because each crock makes a couple weeks worth, I can rotate them.  Eventually, I can take a week off if I'm busy and still have a huge variety of meals. 

I did buy a bunch of freezer tubs when they went on sale.  There are also plenty of tutorials for homemade lunches.  I happen to love pasta, which isn't the very healthiest, but whatever, and use this idea: 

http://frugalitygal.com/2014/03/freezer-cooking-024-microwavable-pasta.html

She also has this idea for homemade lean cuisine:

http://frugalitygal.com/2013/06/homemade-lean-cuisines.html

I hate the ads on the site, but I like the ideas.

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #35 on: July 27, 2016, 05:07:10 PM »
Best tip for freezing lunches:  wide mouth pint canning jars are freezer safe and about $.75 cents each and last decades as long as you don't drop them. 

In the summer when all the veggies are in season, I make HUGE batches of soups, and freeze in pints.  This is about the perfect portion for a lunch.  Add a piece of fruit or a roll or whatever and lunch is done.  You can also freeze all kinds of other things in them.  Like half full of rice, then the rest beans, etc. 

Basically, if you are used to cooking, and will be shopping and cooking anyway, it takes very little extra time to make a huge batch at once.  If you are not used to cooking it will seem like a huge amount of time. 


Bee21

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #36 on: July 27, 2016, 05:57:43 PM »
It depends on what you like eating.

My husband takes the leftovers ( finally!), I just have to make sure that there is enough, so these days while serving dinner I put a portion in his lunch container and hide it straight away  (he eats a lot, if I don't do it, there are no leftovers, hah) I usually pack a soup/salad and a sandwich for myself. The. Trick is to pack it in the evening, it won't happen in the morning rush( am making the kids lunch boxes then).

We have lots of freezer meals ( stews, casseroles, curries, spag sauce, lasagna freeze well), though I am not fan of the once a months cooking. I get tired halfway, lose interest and half of the meals end up bland or burnt cos I don't pay enough attention. I do better if I just cook 2-3 things in large batches and freeze those in individual containers. Plus I find cooking large chunks of meat and using the leftovers in various dishes very economical. We spend more than 1$ per person ( meat is non negotiable for hubs), so this might not work for you.

lukebuz

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #37 on: July 27, 2016, 06:09:34 PM »
From a fellow health conscious Mustachian, it's OK to eat them for work lunches.  I do.

Horror Story:  I eat pre-made turkey sausage or ham muffins for breakfast!  OMG!


justajane

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #38 on: July 27, 2016, 06:25:31 PM »
From a fellow health conscious Mustachian, it's OK to eat them for work lunches.  I do.

Horror Story:  I eat pre-made turkey sausage or ham muffins for breakfast!  OMG!

LOL

Seriously, I wonder sometimes if the anxiety people feel about all the "chemicals" they can't pronounce, all the companies out there supposedly poisoning us, and optimizing every single fucking calorie is worse than just eating whatever the hell you want....in moderation, of course.

Matt (Semper Fi)

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #39 on: July 27, 2016, 06:35:29 PM »
I'd say that if the difference between eating Lean Cuisine, and eating home cooked meals at work, is only the difference of a few bucks, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it, especially if you can be more productive during the time that you would normally be preparing a home-cooked lunch.  If both you AND your wife are only spending $18.00 total for lunch during the week (not just L.C.), that's not bad in my book.  But maybe I misunderstood your predicament.

Prairie Stash

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #40 on: July 29, 2016, 10:07:57 AM »

I did not know that dextrose is corn sugar, nor do I think that is common knowledge. Regardless, why would one want, expect, or be ok with a sugar made from corn in their sesame chicken? Are you arguing that because these ingredients can be traced back to a naturally occurring product that they are fine to eat?

I suppose my argument was less "what are these?" and more about the extent to which microwave meals are processed and 'designed' to resemble dishes created with less processed ingredients and not in the 'factory'/'bio lab' model.
Are you arguing that corn is not safe to eat? See how silly that question reads, do you really want to debate every product about its relative safety? Can you provide any proof that dextrose is unfit for human consumption? If your argument comes back with, dextrose is bad in high amounts I'll point you to potassium, a vitamin necessary for survival, and its use in chemical injections; everything in the extreme is bad for you.

A classic toxicology problem "how much dihydrogen monoxide is dangerous for people? 6 feet"

Most people use the same ingredients in their kitchen.  Do you make plum sauce from scratch or use the same stuff lean cuisine buys?
plum sauce (sugar, salted plums, water, rice vinegar, modified cornstarch, ginger, citric acid, sodium citrate, chili peppers, xanthan gum, contains wheat, soybeans)

teen persuasion

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #41 on: July 29, 2016, 10:50:30 AM »
Best tip for freezing lunches:  wide mouth pint canning jars are freezer safe and about $.75 cents each and last decades as long as you don't drop them. 

In the summer when all the veggies are in season, I make HUGE batches of soups, and freeze in pints.  This is about the perfect portion for a lunch.  Add a piece of fruit or a roll or whatever and lunch is done.  You can also freeze all kinds of other things in them.  Like half full of rice, then the rest beans, etc. 

Basically, if you are used to cooking, and will be shopping and cooking anyway, it takes very little extra time to make a huge batch at once.  If you are not used to cooking it will seem like a huge amount of time.

Ooh, like the canning jar idea - never thought about using those for soup.

I tend to pack a sandwich, fruit, treat (cookies, banana bread, etc) and whatever leftover is available.  I will make a big pot of soup and take that all week after having it for dinner, or things like lasagne, pot pie, homemade pizza, chili (there is never as much of those leftover, sadly).  When I'm having lunch at home I make omelettes and throw in odd bits and leftovers - veggies, rice based dinners, cheese.

I don't really batch cook much.  I tend to have a freezer full of meats that I found on sale.  Each morning I decide what I'd like to make for dinner, and pull out the appropriate meat to thaw.  Some packages are bought in the correct size for our family, but big packages are broken down to single dinner size before freezing (especially boneless chicken breasts).  Dinners that take more time are chosen on my days off, quick things like pasta work well after a work day, and I keep a few extra quick options in reserve for those days we have to buzz out again after work and dinner (soccer games, school concerts, cello lessons, double shift).  I've been spoiled a bit this summer - DS4 has been available to cook for me on the "days" I'm working.  I will just prep things for him in the morning - measure out rice and salt into the appropriate pot, with measured water nearby ready to be added, or pasta pot refilled and pasta preweighed nearby.

 We also divvy up the tasks among the whole family - little ones could set the table, tear lettuce for salad, count baby carrots for everyone.  Older kids could cut/peel/slice, make koolaid, schlep heavy stuff.  DH could grill.  It has always been divide and conquer (chores) with 5 kids.

Metric Mouse

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #42 on: July 31, 2016, 06:19:01 AM »

I did not know that dextrose is corn sugar, nor do I think that is common knowledge. Regardless, why would one want, expect, or be ok with a sugar made from corn in their sesame chicken? Are you arguing that because these ingredients can be traced back to a naturally occurring product that they are fine to eat?

I suppose my argument was less "what are these?" and more about the extent to which microwave meals are processed and 'designed' to resemble dishes created with less processed ingredients and not in the 'factory'/'bio lab' model.
Are you arguing that corn is not safe to eat? See how silly that question reads, do you really want to debate every product about its relative safety? Can you provide any proof that dextrose is unfit for human consumption? If your argument comes back with, dextrose is bad in high amounts I'll point you to potassium, a vitamin necessary for survival, and its use in chemical injections; everything in the extreme is bad for you.

A classic toxicology problem "how much dihydrogen monoxide is dangerous for people? 6 feet"

Most people use the same ingredients in their kitchen.  Do you make plum sauce from scratch or use the same stuff lean cuisine buys?
plum sauce (sugar, salted plums, water, rice vinegar, modified cornstarch, ginger, citric acid, sodium citrate, chili peppers, xanthan gum, contains wheat, soybeans)

Bu...bu....but corn has been Genetically Modified! It's not longer natural or whatever. It can't be good for you.

Yeah, I don't think anyone takes dietary advice from an internet poster who doesn't know what dextrose is very seriously.

ysette9

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #43 on: July 31, 2016, 03:50:25 PM »
I dont have a problem with the idea of supplementing with frozen meals. Certainly I  went through a phase of grabbing some at the store to have at work be aside they are convenient. For pete's sake though, you can do so much better than Lean Cuisine. I mean better in the sense of both flavor and quality of food/goodness for you. Most of the ingredients in those types of frozen meals are the empty calories from things like white flour. At least go to a place like Trader Joe'sthat has a decent selection of frozen meals made with real food ingredients. When I am on business travel I like getting the Kashi frozen meals as they are also higher quality (though more expensive). Life is too short to eat bad food.

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #44 on: July 31, 2016, 06:00:41 PM »
At one point I as eating a lot of these types of meals for lunch until I realized that they were loaded with sodium so they would taste good and I had HBP. Yikes!  Then I started to make sandwiches and only eat 1 occasionally.

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #45 on: July 31, 2016, 07:41:31 PM »
I agree with pp... help us be defining your goals a little more. :)

You don't need 40 containers... a box of freezer ziplick bags and 1 correll plate and bowl at work in your desk and you are set.

Freeze the food in a glass box, transfer to bags for cheap freezer storage, and then to the plate or bowl to cook and eat. Or cook in the plastic bag, if that doesn't bother you.

I use paper plates at work (I know, I know - I'm a teacher and it's faster).  I freeze one serving in a baggie, and by lunchtime the baggie I've taken out of the freezer that morning is thawed enough to be emptied out on a paper plate and heated up.  I sometimes pour some salad greens  and dressing into a tupperware (very fast when you have to be out the door at 6 a.m.).

By the way, four hours time is way too long.  Don't make a separate trip - buy the food when you're out shopping anyway and have it ready Sunday afternoons. 

Lots of good ideas here - best of luck with it.  I used to eat Lean Cuisine type lunches every day.  I had enough to last me a lifetime and don't mind cooking at all now. 

Frugal_NYC

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #46 on: August 01, 2016, 12:17:48 PM »
My best lunch hack is simply rice

- I never get sick of it due to the variety you can impart on it (plain, mexican style, chinese style etc)
- Can be made in ~15 min in rice cooker (no need to pay attention to)
- Keeps well in fridge for the work week
- Mixes well with just about any protein/veggies
- Costs about 5 cents! per 35-40 g of carb (impossible to beat)
- White and brown are both healthy for you


Kwill

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #47 on: August 01, 2016, 01:09:51 PM »
I've gotten really bad about work lunches lately. If I haven't planned ahead to pack something, which is most days, I buy one of the cheapest sandwiches at the cafeteria (2), which tastes OK most of the time but isn't terribly filling. Today I rushed out to a supermarket and bought a package of cookies (60p) because I was still hungry. So I'm pretty much failing at lunch lately. But since I've been in the UK, I've been noticing that the people I meet from France, Belgium, and Spain often make super simple meals that seem nice. They'll have bread and cheese. Or bread and ham. And that's it. I think I'm just making it too complicated when I don't think I have enough time to make lunch.

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Re: Help me stop my lean cuisine addiction
« Reply #48 on: August 01, 2016, 02:33:44 PM »
I'll make a big pot of soup or porridge in the beginning of the week and take portions to work (not frozen) in Pyrex bowls.  Soup takes 10-20 minutes of active work (depending how much chopping), then just toss it all in the InstantPot and go do something else. Put 1 serving in a small Pyrex, then the rest in a big Pyrex, and portion the rest out as the week goes on. Then I'll just make a big salad in the morning (or night before if I'm feeling motivated).