I've spent some time looking thru the site and it's full of great info! My situation is unique to anything I've found here-- I'm single, work away from home (cooking facilities) a lot, have limited funds and I don't eat any seafood at all. In looking at some of the menus I'm guessing that these are stay at home folks with a bigger budget. Anyone have any suggestions on what I can make & take with me in a cooler perhaps?
There are some valuable simple foods.
You could also supplement very cheap
If you eat those, foods and supplement you could provide many important nutrients and avoid cooking.
You can buy supplements for entire year at once.
I would recommend making a batch of chili and storing in single serving containers. The ingredients are cheap and it freezes well. If you don't have access to a microwave, maybe you could heat it at home before you leave and store it in an insulated container to keep it warm. The same could apply to some homemade hearty soup.
Buy meat that's on sale, then cook it in batches and freeze. Each night put one portion in the fridge--you can eat that cold for breakfast. When you leave home, put 1 piece of your frozen meat with fresh veggies, nuts, etc. in your insulated bag and a second portion in your fridge to thaw for that night.
The frozen meat you pack will gradually thaw and keep the other food cool. When you're ready, eat your meal and when you get home there's food in the fridge and you can also eat veggies you have on hand. Cold leftover meat is great!
As a real estate agent, is it possible sometimes to stop at home for lunch or is that out of the question?
What are you eating now?
I cook soups, stews, chili, etc, in bulk and keep in wide-mouth pint-sized glass Mason jars. I spent 17 dollars for a dozen jars, and I use them all.
Beef stew, pork and chorizo chili, chicken coconut curry, chicken + chorizo and kale soup, pumpkin sausage soup, pulled pork, are just some things that I make. You can prepare a few different ones at a time if you like variety like I do.
Also, meatballs (on shredded cabbage, quickly fried). Super meaty lettuce-free salads. They keep well in the fridge or in your car if it's cold like where I live :-)
Make sure you go heavy on fat and protein when you cook, you don't want to go hungry. Most gas stations have a microwave that you can come in and use. Remove the metal lid before microwaving.
If you're really in a tight budget, you'll need to batch-cook cheap cuts of meat, no way around it. The quick cooking cuts are the most expensive. Prioritize buying meat over vegetables, vegetables are way too expensive and they won't satisfy youu.
http://www.onlinecollege.org/2009/10/13/100-delicious-dirt-cheap-recipes-for-the-starving-student/ Look under one-pot category. http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/budget/ You'll have to cherry pick, but there's some good stuff there.
If you're ever in a money pinch, don't be afraid to stretch your meals with some white rice. Hope some of this helps :-)
You can get a chest freezer for between $100-200. They use very little electricity. They are relatively light. When I purchased one I had a friend with me that is physically limited and she was able to help me get mine on and off my truck. If my arms were just a tad longer, I could carry the sucker myself and then some.
Go to a $1 store and get containers.
Shop bulk. Cook big. Freeze. If you want get a vacuum freeze unit, but there are cheaper alternatives. If this were what it is now when I was young and single I cannot imagine the possibilities.
I'm not kidding that you could cook and freeze meals for yourself for 6 months in a day if you planned properly! REALLY!! Supplement with fresh or frozen veggies and you're golden.
Edit to add: You have a micro at work? No need for a cooler to transport - winter, spring, summer or fall.
Budget cuts of meat are where it's at. Pork shoulder costs about $1.29/lb (not pastured, but still). Dry rub it and roast it for 7-10 hours at 225, and that's a week's worth of delicious, tender, filling pork. Get familiar with slow-cooking methods like braising and slow-roasting. You do need to put in extra time with these cuts, but it's not active time—just time in which your oven or crockpot or stovetop does its thing unbothered.
This is a great Chowhound link about cheap cuts of meat, with lots of ideas: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668666
On-the-go cold Paleo meals? 5 Answers