“I Can’t Cook” Handbook

“I Can’t Cook” Handbook

Cooking. It’s one skill that while I’ve dabbled in it here and there (I make some amazing scrambled eggs), it’s not something that I’ve mastered. Like anything else, the only way that you get better at it is by failing, learning, trying, and adapting. However, I find no pleasure or joy in it, and honestly, really dislike it.

Thankfully, my wonderful wife is an amazing cook and enjoys it. However, as time is our most precious resource, sometimes cooking is our last priority. Well, how do you feed a family of four when you often can’t prioritize cooking, while still maintaining the lifestyle changes that have made lasting weight loss possible? I’m glad you asked!

Batch Cooking

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When it comes to not being skilled at cooking, disliking cooking, or simply not being able to prioritize it in your busy day, the one thing that I HIGHLY recommend is cooking things in batches and freezing them. The more simple you make the meals, the easier this will be for you. You can find variety by alternating meals, as well as with what you add to them/top them with.

So even though I rarely cook and if someone asked me to rate my cooking skill from 1-10, I’d pick “burns toast”, I can at least “cook” these batch meals without catching my house on fire or making the food inedible. Like I said, it’s a skill. And there is someone out there worse than you. A good friend and former roommate nearly burned down the house while heating up a chicken patty in the toaster oven.

Oh, and one last thing. Batch cooking saves a bunch of time, both in prep and cleanup. You simply heat up your meal and you only have the dishes from the initial batch cooking session, plus whatever container you store those meals in!

For our family, our main batch cooked items are listed below. But if you just want to get to the no-cook options, skip this section. I’d recommend you NOT do that, though!

Meat Slop

Yeah, that sounds really appealing. In fact, it looks GROSS (pun intended). But it’s delicious, freezes, and reheats well, and it’s filling! The recipe: http://www.silverhydra.com/2011/10/meat-slop/ An Idiot’s Guide to Making Meat Slop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBKix8rqFxQ

“Bodybuilder” Chili

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jamie-easons-livefit-recipes-3-bean-turkey-chili.html
Chuck’s secret tip: Add lentils. Lentils are high in protein and fiber, they soak up whatever flavors/spices/whatever you put in your chili, and will help keep you full from the meal. You also don’t need to go with the turkey, you can use ground chicken, leaner beef, etc. You can also top with a lower fat cheese and/or use greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Oh, and I like hot stuff so I add sriracha after the fact since I’m the only one in the family that can tolerate any level of spice. My kids think pepper is spicy.

Chicken and Salsa (crockpot)

Throw some fat trimmed chicken breast into the crock pot with stewed tomatoes or salsa, and leave it on for 8 hours. Portion them into individual servings (like for lunches), or into one giant container. Hey, you got to cook this one while at work! Great job!

Hard Boiled Eggs

Even though I’m not one for cooking, Alton Brown is the dude that goes into the science behind it, which is interesting enough that I’ll watch it. Check out how he makes hard boiled eggs (in the oven!) http://altonbrown.com/baked-eggs

90/10 Ground Beef

Or any ground meat really. Pan fry it as crumbles (just salt and pepper while cooking), freeze in individual servings / meal sized servings for the whole family. Add to salads, wraps, etc. So rather than preparing entire meals in advance, you are preparing individual ingredients that you can combine in different ways. For our family we usually do containers of 12 – 16 oz cooked weight that we freeze for dinners. This is especially useful if you prefer to change things up day to day, even though personally I could eat the same meals every single day on weekdays.

A Giant Bag of Frozen Broccoli.

  1. Buy giant bag of frozen broccoli from Sam’s/Costco.
  2. Put all of the broccoli on a baking sheet.
  3. Salt to taste.
  4. Broil it until tops begin to brown, usually about 20 minutes.
  5. Profit.

I used to hate broccoli when it was steamed or mushy, but broiling it makes it edible, and actually enjoyable! We usually cook up entire bags, and portion it out for the week’s lunches and dinners.

No-Cook Food Sources

swedish-chef-ramsay-1
If you can microwave it, or cook it in a rice cooker, I’m including it. I burn toast and I can make microwave stuff, and use a rice cooker, so you have no excuses.

That means even if Gordon Ramsey would yell at you for how bad your cooking is, you can still do this.

I have listed below some of the sources for the various macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs). I am only going to go into details with the protein sources as I feel the others are rather self-explanatory. If that’s not the case, please ask me!

Protein sources

Dannon Lite and Fit Greek Yogurt

I buy the giant quarts of vanilla from Sam’s Club and we go through like 8 of these a week!

Cottage Cheese

I’m not a fan of the texture even though everyone else in my family loves it. I can eat it when it’s part of the cheesecake recipe below, though!

Rotisserie Chicken from Sam’s Club or Costco

This is your most cost effective method for getting protein source (other than maybe protein powder) because it’s a loss leader for the stores. That means they take a loss on this item to get you into the store so you buy other things. You can actually buy a bunch of these chickens, remove all of the meat/skin/bones and freeze it. Boom, never cook again. I recommend Sam’s Club or Costco as I’ve found they usually have larger chickens for less money that the other grocery chains.

Sam’s Club Mesquite Grilled Chicken

This is a much more expensive option, but you are essentially trading convenience for money here. The taste is really good, although sometimes you get some fatty or burnt pieces. A life saver when time is short, though! The macros that they provide are probably a bit off, but not worth worrying about too much, as due to the law of averages, this works out over time.
http://www.samsclub.com/sams/daily-chef-mesquite-grilled-chicken-fillet-2-9-lbs/prod4210220.ip

Light/Low Fat Cheese Sticks

These are a great, on the go snack, that are rather filling. Aldi has a Fit&Active brand with a great price.

Protein Shake

Protein shakes alone, especially if they are whey, aren’t very filling. However, you can have them with a piece of fruit, or make a smoothie type shake. I use MyProtein brand and usually stick with vanilla, although I hear the coffee based flavors are great. This is a great guide to making shakes: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/super-shake-creation

Canned/Bagged Chicken or Tuna

These are cheap options and you can buy them in bulk. I generally only like tuna if it’s on a sandwich, but don’t regularly eat it. If you don’t have any issues with chicken/tuna in a can, this is a great cheap option. Heck, you could go with sardines in a can, but when I think about that myself, my inner, picky-eating fat kid just keeps saying “nope, nope, nope.”

Shrimp Cocktail Ring

This is a bit more expensive, but if you don’t go hog wild on the cocktail sauce, then shrimp is a great protein source.

Deli Meat

We buy the preservative free stuff, which used to be hard to find and expensive, but thankfully our Sam’s Club now carries this! And it tastes great! http://www.oscarmayer.com/natural

Protein Source Comparison

Item Serving Size Calories Protein Cal/g
Dannon Lite and Fit Greek Yogurt 225g 130 18g 1.73
1% Cottage Cheese 226g 163 28g 1.39
Rotisserie Chicken Breast 85g/3oz 140 19g 0.61
Sam’s Mesquite Chicken 85g/3oz 110 20g 0.77
Light Cheese Stick 24g 50 7g 0.48
MyProtein Vanilla Whey 25g 100 18g 0.25
Tuna in Water 85g 70 16g 1.21
Shrimp 84g 90 17.3g 0.93
Deli Turkey Breast 56g 60 10g 0.93

Fat Sources

  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocadoes

Veggies

  • Organic, Unpasteurized Sauerkraut
  • Broccoli Slaw
  • Shredded Cabbage
  • Pre-Bagged Salads (way better deal at Sam’s/Costco)
  • Stir Fry Mix (frozen)
  • Cucumbers
  • Single serving Steamer bags of veggies

Carbs

  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes/Sweet Potato -just microwave them potatoes (white and sweet/yams) are the #1 filling food you’ll find (if you load them down with salt, sour cream, cheese, etc they aren’t going to be AS filling), and they are highly nutritious and can just be nuked in the microwave. I tend to just eat sweet potatoes with garlic salt and they are delicious!
  • Baby carrots
  • Rice (use a rice cooker)
  • Almonds/Peanuts (got to be careful with nuts — serving size is small)
  • Amy’s Organic Soups – Lentil Soup
  • Amy’s Organic Soups – etc – high volume food, super filling
  • Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans in can
  • Black beans in can
  • Fat-free refried beans in a can
  • Lentils
  • Low calorie, high fiber bread – I buy Nickels 35, 35 cals a slice
  • Frozen strawberries and blueberries
  • Rice Cakes
  • Tortillas (high fiber, high protein)
  • Popcorn kernels (make air popped popcorn)

Awesome Condiments

sriracha

  • Sriracha
  • Garlic Salt
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (used as salad dressing)
  • Pickles

Sometimes Foods

  • Beef Jerky (iffy with preservatives, high sodium)
  • Protein Bar (Quest Bar – cookie dough is the best)
  • Protein Chips (Quest – I sneak these into the movies when I don’t want to blow 1000+ cals on popcorn)
  • turkey pepperoni sticks

I have these as sometimes foods. There is nothing wrong with salt (in general) for most people but all of the above things are SUPER high in sodium. Beef jerky uses lots of preservatives and while that wouldn’t stop me from eating it now and then, I’d hesitate to eat it every day.

As far as the protein bars/chips, they are great snacks here and there, but I wouldn’t view them as daily dietary staples. Personally, I find them to be hyper-palatable, meaning despite the high protein and fiber content, I can overeat them much easier than any of the other protein sources. If you don’t have that issue, then go for it!

Mixed Sources

  • PB2 – Regular peanut butter can be a binge trigger for me, and the serving size is SO small for 190 calories. Really, go measure it. It’s bad. I could eat a jar with no problems. PB2 mixed with water, and some Fiber One cereal makes a great high protein, high fiber dessert type snack!

Bite-Sized Tips: Examples of Meals Made From The No-Cook Options Only!

Here are some example meals that I’ve created using the above items. And as always, you can view my public MyFitnessPal diary here: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/diary/chuckgross

As of writing this, I’m about to hit an 870 streak, good days and bad both included!

One of the perks of working with me is access to a huge library of recipes and meal ideas that others are eating as part of our community!

My Everyday Lunch

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Chicken breast from Sam’s Club, Salad with broccoli slaw, chick peas, baby carrots, and a pre-workout banana.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

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PB&J was a staple of my life all the way through high school. Outside of when they had Mexican pizza at my Catholic grade school, I ate PB&J every day. Always grape jelly. This is our go-to meal when we literally have no time to do anything else. PB2, low sugar/calorie jelly, and low calorie/high fiber bread.

Greek Yogurt + Frozen Berries

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This is my usual bedtime snack (since I skip breakfast). Yeah, it’s lots of food (high protein and carb) right before bed, but I found that it really helps me sleep and it feels like I’m eating dessert every night. I usually add some sugar-free jello on top as well! Pictured with some PB2 also.

Taco Salad

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This is a staple of my diet. I sometimes eat it meatless if I’m at my protein goals. This is a great way to feel full and get some fiber in! Beans, avocado, sour cream, cheese, salsa, etc
You can alternatively put it in some high fiber wraps to change it up a bit

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A great high fiber, high protein option is Joseph’s Lavash wraps. They are huge, 100 calories, and they sell them at Walmart.
https://www.josephsbakery.com/shop/flax-oat-bran-whole-wheat-square-lavash.html

No Bake Cheesecake

This was a lifesaver for me, and it’s the only way I eat cottage cheese. This is shamelessly lifted from Lyle McDonald’s recipe forums.

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla (depending on preference)
2 packets worth sweetener of choice
1 TBSP coconut flour

Mix well. When you think you’re good, mix some more. (food processor)
You can also add egg beaters or egg whites for more protein. You can puree and then leave in the fridge.

Coconut flour is mostly fiber. (1tbsp, Bob’s Red Mill brand is 1g fat, 1g protein, 4g carbs, 2.5g fiber). It’s gritty until you mix it well. The combination of coconut and vanilla really make this taste like cheesecake IMO.

Cucumbers salad

Slice up cucumbers thin, salt them, add either sour cream & dill, vinegar, or a light Italian dressing.

Proatmeal

Oatmeal (add some protein powder to make proats, aim for 20-30g of protein per meal!)

Turkey Breast Sandwich

Combine the nickels bread, some lower fat swiss, some lettuce, and some deli turkey breast, and boom, easy!

Cereal

Whaaaat? Yeah. Mix protein powder + water or almond milk or whatever, and eat some cereal. If you want to optimize low calorie but filling try FiberOne mixed with puffed rice or puffed Kamut (both from Arrowhead mills). You can get a HUGE bowl of cereal with a nice amount of protein.

Got More?

If you have any other ideas that I haven’t thought of, please email me (chuck@chuckgrossfitness.com) and let me know what they are. I’ll include them in a version two of this handbook.