One of the many many crappy things about being sick a lot is that sometimes I just don’t have the energy to cook. It’s especially been the case in winter, where it’s been too cold for easy things like salads (my summer staple) and just staying warm seems to use up extra energy. I usually have enough energy on the weekends to cook a big pot of curry or soup or something to last through the week, but some weeks it just doesn’t happen (last weekend for example– I used that energy to give the bathroom a clean, and today I used it to do heaps and heaps of laundry while the sun is out). During the week, I don’t have a lot of spare energy in the evenings to cook anything fussy, and if I’m really tired, chopping and cutting foods can make me more achey. So I have definitely been relying on convenience foods far, far more than I used to (though thankfully not all the time! Still been able to cook some good things every now and then). I also was lucky enough to get a microwave given to me earlier this year (I haven’t owned one for years and years and years), which has opened up doors to more fatigue-friendly options.
So I present to you a list of convenience foods I have found at Coles and Woolworths that are not too terrible. I can’t say this is the most cost-effective way to eat, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s the chronically fatigued guide to eating with minimal sadness about eating sad food and minimal energy depletion.
Veggies without any effort. And they are always there in the freezer, for whenever you have been too tired to either go to the supermarket or organise online shopping in time. Unless you have already eaten them all, then you are screwed and you better hope you have some of these other things kicking around.
Steamfresh Plus: Pearl Couscous with Chickpeas or Quinoa with Brown Rice
Once again, veggies that are always there, but with carbs included. These are a good little meal or side. I like the Pearl Couscous one best, and I add cheese or extra veg (like baby spinach) to make it more of a meal.
Woolworths Frozen Tropical Fruit or Mango
This is a really good snack for when you can’t be arsed to chop up a pineapple.
McCain Healthy Choice Wholegrain (Woolworths)
Microwave meals are always a bit sad, but at least these ones appear to have a low GI and are made with wholegrains. The ones I like best are the Beef & Chia Meatballs with Wholemeal Spaghetti or the Malaysian Beef Curry with Brown and Wild Rice.
SuperNature frozen meals (Coles)
Again, frozen meals are pretty high on the sad scale, and they only get a play when I’m super tired, but these ones are the best ones I’ve had–they taste good and seem reasonably healthy. They aren’t cheap though ($6+) and never seem to be on sale. My favourites are the Steam Malay Yellow Chicken Curry with Brown Rice; Chicken, Asparagus and Pearl Barley Risotto; and the Beef, Kale and Red Quinoa Lasagne. Oh, and the salmon miso noodle one. Oh, and the Mediterranean Polenta one. Actually they are all pretty good.
Frozen salmon/fish that can be microwaved
There’s a couple of brands of frozen salmon fillets that come in steam/microwave bags, some with marinades. Easy protein, to go with some easy veggies.
Other microwavable or non-cooking options
Coles Gluten Free Quinoa and Brown Rice Cups – Moroccan and Mexican flavours
These are an easy snack, lunch or side and are fairly tasty, and low GI. Add some steamed vegetables, or a bit of grated cheese, or a bit of sour cream, and you’ve got a reasonably balanced meal, I think. That’s what I tell myself anyway. There’s also plain pre-cooked quinoa cups, which are a good alternative to rice with curries etc.
Little bags of broccoli/beans/cauliflower they sell in the veggie part of Coles
These little bags of fresh veggies steam in the microwave in 90 seconds. You can then just eat them with whatever you want on them. Super easy, the only guilty thing I feel about them is the plastic waste, but that applies to basically everything on this list.
Baby brussel sprouts
At Woolies, they sell trays of baby brussel sprouts. The baby ones are great for microwaving (I used a microwave steamer like this one), and you don’t even have to cut them in half like with the bigger brussel sprouts, which when you are having an achey or dizzy day is a big bonus. I like to eat them tossed in some Nuttelex, with a splash of Kewpie Roasted Sesame Dressing (the dressing is totally unhealthy, but it tastes really good, and you can totally justify it by eating a big bowl of brussel sprouts though, right?).
Another extremely low-effort vegetable that can be quickly steamed in the microwave and doesn’t need chopping.
I hate standard tinned baked beans–I have made my own beautiful baked beans at home before, and so it saddens me to return to the supermarket offerings. Plus they are often wayyyyy too salty and don’t even taste like they’ve ever encountered an actual tomato. But, Heinz Spanish Style Beanz are pretty good for supermarket ones. With some sautéed baby spinach and toast, they don’t make me too food-sad.
The staple of students everywhere, it goes on anything and with anything. But I go through tuna phases, and then forget about it as an option for ages, and then am like… that’s right, tuna would go with this! And then I eat tuna on everything for two weeks and then get over it again. Tuna with sriracha sauce on Woolworths Select Brown Rice Crackers may not be the most balanced of meals, but it is there for you if things get really tough. There’s also the packets that are tuna mixed with beans, they are kind of OK too if you put some veggies with them.
Chobani yoghurt with steel cut oats
For the days when putting some muesli in a bowl and then putting yoghurt on top of it seems too hard, Chobani has put the yoghurt and some steel cut oats in a little squeezy bag all together that you don’t even need a spoon to eat (lets be real… if I have been sick for a week, sometimes all the cutlery in the house is dirty). Coconut flavour is my favourite, but all of them taste OK and are easy for days when even toast seems hard, or are good for on-the-go breakfast.
Pitango or Momo’s Meals soups
They have a good variety of these upmarket ready-soups at my local IGA (Ainslie). They taste pretty nice and are easy and are not too unhealthy.
Other foods that can be made with minimal effort
Pre-sliced mushrooms, baby spinach
Saute, eat on toast. Add an egg perhaps.
Seriously a lifesaver. Among supermarket breads, I like either Burgen Rye, or Bill’s Organic Bakery Ancient Grains Sourdough (Woolworths). For things to go on the bread, beyond Vegemite, I really like the Mayver’s range of spreads, especially the peanut and coconut butter.
Put it on toast with cream cheese, baby spinach or sliced cucumbers. Or with some steamed asparagus and an egg.
Turning Coles veggies that are already chopped into things
At Coles, they have bags of shredded kale, and diced pumpkin. Add a can of chickpeas, chop up an onion, and add curry spices, and you’ve got yourself a curry with minimal exertion. (Microwavable brown rice bags are your friend if you can’t even deal with a rice cooker–at Coles they have a nice one that has Ancient Grains). There’s also stir fry veggies at Coles and Woolies that just need to be stir fried with some sort of flavour.
Already chopped soup
At Coles, they have pre-diced vegetables for making vegetable soups, some with a soup base included. It’s very easy to make and tastes significantly better than soup from a can. Add a can of four bean mix to the chopped veggies for more protein, or add a bit of harissa or other spice to the soup to give it some kick.
Jamie Oliver meats at Woolworths that already have flavours on them
Good if you have the energy to cook some chicken or meat, yet not enough energy to do anything interesting to it.
Sometimes you haven’t stocked up the larder before a fatigue smash. And sometimes you are just sad and annoyed about being sick and want takeaway that is naughty or yummy. For delivery in Canberra, EatNow is very convenient. My favourite places to order from are the Lao/Thai Two Sisters restaurant, or 7 Village Indian. I really wish my favourite Vietnamese place, favourite dumpling place and favourite Laksa place would get on board with this site though!
Also, I’ve ordered delivery from Coles and Woolworths when I’ve been too tired to do a big shop, and it is quite convenient. It saves a lot of energy, especially as they bring the bags right into your kitchen. Though I have to say, they have each stuffed up my order once– Coles forgetting all my frozen things, Woolworths trying to deliver me 20 bottles of flavoured Pump water (eww, did not want) in addition to my groceries. But generally pretty good. Other options include services like Hello Fresh, or health food grocers like Doorstep Organics.
Anyway, that’s my list. Obviously I’m not doing paleo/super low carb right now… my next point of call since I have had no improvement in my condition might be more alternative therapies (though I am hugely skeptical), but if they tell me to do some crazy restrictive diet then most of these things won’t work. But at the moment, these are my not-too-terrible lazy options.