Planning Convenience Meals - An End of April Challenge

I've been reading a lot about the food services that now box up produce, meat and fruit for a home and sell it at an average of $20/meal for 3 meals.  Not saying it isn't a great idea, especially if you happen to be in a big city with limited access to shopping and must walk or transport food without a car.  I'm pretty sure under those circumstances I'd be utilizing the same services myself!

I can't help, however, recall that in one of my vintage women's magazines a woman made a suggestion for 'shoe box meals' and these services remind me of that and have made my brain wheels turn.

Now this woman happened to be paid once a month.  In those months in which there was a fifth week she struggled to make her grocery budget stretch.  So she settled down with the calendar, noted when the fifth weeks occurred (twice a year usually in May and November) and then she made out a menu list of meals that she could make from canned foods and basic pantry items only.  She purchased a few extra items during the four week months.  She set up seven shoe boxes with a menu card on the front and into each box she put the components for those meals.   Personally I thought it was a great way to insure a few convenience meals were on hand.

And so this week I'm challenging myself to put aside a week's worth of convenience meals set up in shoeboxes.  I've already started my list and bought my first few items.  I'd love to indulge in purchasing a few of those lidded clear shoe boxes to install my foodstuffs in but I need to make a trip to the dollar store for that.  In the meantime, I'm using my shoeboxes!  I've put them all in a big storage tub with a lid.  I have several items in each box already but only one or two are complete at the moment.  I'll fill them up over the next pay period or two.  Then I'll have something to pull off the shelf on those days when I'm ailing or too tired to think or simply need an emergency meal.

I don't think I'd want to eat a full week of these boxed meals but I do think they'd be might handy to have on my pantry shelf for those days when I'm unwell or simply feeling I need a break.

I've included a list of possible menus below and am also including all of the items needed to make the meal except what is meant to be served fresh, usually the salad.  I figure the convenience part of these boxes is not to have to go to the store for anything but lettuce!  However, there's is another convenience in that the salad is not necessary, just a nice to have additional item. 

Here is my list thus far of possible menus:

Chicken Pot Pie
Cranberry Sauce
Green Beans
I bought a big can of chicken meat (12 ounces I think it said), a can of carrots and another of potatoes and a can of cream of chicken soup which is what I use in my pot pie anyway.  I have green beans and cranberry sauce on the shelf.  I'm considering whether I will buy one of those boxed pie crust mixes to add to this box.  The only item I'd need to serve this meal would be a green salad.  Lettuce is cheap enough to buy fresh, agreed?

BBQ'd Spam
Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
Green Peas
In my war years issues I see Spam used a lot.  We like the turkey spam rather well. I think it would be rather tasty cooked with a bbq sauce glaze.  I bought a packet of instant potatoes for this meal but you know a can of sweet potatoes would be nice as well. I'll check at the grocery for those little envelope mixes for a biscuit mix but may end substituting a plain muffin mix instead. 

Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Creamy Tomato Soup
Fruit Cocktail
This menu could be a little bit tricky.  Ideally I'd have all the components for making the tuna salad in my shoe box (ie pickle relish and mayonnaise) and I will see if I can find small convenience packets of those in the store.  That would mean I'd just need to have bread on hand, but I might pop in a single sleeve box of saltines as a just in case.  A tin of evaporated milk could go in this box and serve a dual purpose.  Well chilled it can be whipped to make a whipped cream.  I can also use a portion in the soup to make it a creamy soup rather than use just water.  Or I can skip that and put in a packet of dry skim milk.

Spaghetti Dinner
A can of spaghetti sauce with meat or vegetables included, a box of pasta.  Powdered Parmesan cheese.  In this kit I'd include a box of vanilla wafers, a box of vanilla pudding and a little bottle of coffee liqueur, as well as a chocolate bar to grate over the top.  Naturally I'd need milk but a box of skim milk could serve that purpose.  I believe a store near me has packets of powdered milk which is also a lovely convenience item isn't it? 

Pizza Dinner
3 Bean Salad
Remember the Chef Boy Ardee pizzas in a box?  Well they still make those and it comes with all the needed ingredients. I like to keep a few cans of three bean salad on my shelf in the warmer months. I usually have one chilling in the fridge because it can be such a refreshing side dish on a hot day. 

Potatoes and Ham au Gratin
Green Beans
A box of potatoes au gratin and a can of Spam can make the main dish.  You can, if you eat ham, buy little cans of ham meat just like you can of tuna or chicken and these would certainly be acceptable.  My biggest issue with this meal would be the overall sodium content of the potato dish and the meat, so I'm not sure I'd actually make this meal but it's an idea of what might be done.

Tuna Casserole
Fruit Salad
Tuna,  canned milk, boxed mac and cheese and perhaps some dried onion flakes to be reconstituted in warm water.  I used to add Green Peas to this dish when I made it for my first husband, so I might buy some of those to go into it as well.  Some dried bread crumbs would be nice as a topping for the casserole.  I'd do a can of fruit cocktail and add in a small bag of miniature marshmallows to mix in with the cocktail and perhaps a small packet of walnuts or almonds.

Chicken with Stuffing
Sweet Potatoes
Collard Greens
Make the stuffing as a casserole dish with a drained can of  chicken underneath the stuffing.  Heating is all that is required after you make the stuffing mix.

Chili with Rice
Cinnamon Mocha Pudding
Pineapple Slices
You know I like chili and rice.  I find it a tasty combination and I happen to have bought some vegetarian type chili at Aldi when we were eating meatless.  That and rice are in my shoe box and I've added in a box of chocolate pudding.  When I get those packets of milk I'll add in some of that too and perhaps some corn chips if I find the expiration date is long enough on them.

There's nine meal plans just off the top of my head.  I mean to look around at the grocery and determine if there are other options for these shoe box meals.  In the meantime, I have a nice start on two or three of these just combining things from my pantry shelf.  What meal plans can you think of that use mostly canned items?


Anonymous said...

Those are really pretty brilliant. I'm going to make up a few index cards for my brother and a shopping list to go with it. He's on disability and gets money once a month. He said the last week before he gets paid is the hardest because he's always missing this or that to make a decent meal. He usually gets a ride to shop twice a month so I'm going to suggest he put some of these together for that last week. I know he already keeps canned milk around so he has that.

As for us, I'd use them more as an emergency throwittogether dinner!
I have a couple of back-ups, but this would ensure that I absolutely have something ready to go. I'm going to try putting 3 together with my existing pantry supply and see how it works.

Thanks for posting that! I also plan to share with a couple of friends.

Debby in KS

Lana said...

These would be great for college kids, too! I would add the taco soup recipe that is made up of 5 cans of food and a cornbread mix.

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Fantastic ideas.. It would be great to have , when those bad days come or even unexpected company that you need to make a fast meal from.
I would maybe add--Chicken/Dorito casserole..[ Using can chicken breast,cream of chicken soup, dorito chips,Can of cheese whiz. Dried pepper/onion flakes. ]
Green beans, Pineapple slices.
Have a great day.

Lana said...

Southern Plate has a section of these
I thinks she calls the bag dinners because she puts it all in a Zip local bag.

Michele said...

Just a quick thought about tuna salad. We like ours a little on the dry side so we use mustard instead of mayo.
Also, there is a delicious recipe for chicken barley chili on the back of the Quaker Quick Barley package. I make it with all canned goods. I usual!y make it in the slow cooker, but it is fast and easy on the stove top as well.

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

I love this idea Terri! I am inspired to see what we already have in the pantry so I can get started today haha!
I didn't realize they still made those Chef boyardee pizza kits! When I was young, Friday night was pizza night for our family. When we moved to Japan for several years takeout pizza was unavailable to us, so my folks would use the Chef Boyardee pizza kits to make our Friday pizza dinner! I still recall the dough rising in a metal bowl on a shelf above the stove. It was a bit magical watching the tea towel covering the bowl puff up over the dough!

Terri Cheney said...

I have fond memories of this product too Tracey. I was wondering if it would/could possibly taste as good still as it did so many years ago? They are still quite reasonable in price.

Laura Lane said...

This is a thought provoking idea. I'll be having surgery in a couple months. This might be a way to prepare.

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