T Nation

Quick Off-the-Shelf Meals?


There are a lot of great articles on this site about nutrition, when and what to eat, and even recipes for great meals. However, for some of us, this just wont happen the majority of the time.

For example, I am currently in school, mechanical engineering major, taking 19 credit/hours, married, and I give up one weekend a month to drill with the Air National Guard unit that I am in (it may not sound like a busy schedule, but it is very demanding). I know that if I planned and made out my meals at the beginning of each week, then I could eat great all day every day. The fact is, sometimes that is just too difficult for me to handle.

What I want to know is, when I cant "plan" my meals, what are some good, off the shelf, quick fix meals that you could classify as a decent meal, mainly for someone interested in muscle gain? I know I could stand in wal-mart and stare at the back of each label, but I would eventually kill someone because I hate wal-mart.

Right now I pretty much rely on tuna and canned chili, which are both cheap, quick and easy, and seem to be fairly decent choices from my perspective.

I find that it is easy for me to give in to fast food because of its convenience, so I am looking for some substitute foods that are convenient that way when all hell breaks loose I can still get a "decent" meal. A lot of times I eat fast food, I dont even want it, but I feel almost forced to eat it because I dont have a lot of time and didnt have a meal planned.

So, what are some quick, off the shelf type meals that would be good choices. I am looking for some that require as little effort as possible. I figure with all the people on this site, I could probably get some pretty good ideas.


I had the same problem at first.

Solution for me:

Bought food.
Cooked all of it.
Froze each meal in a baggie.
Woke up a little early to dethaw the meals I needed to eat at work.
Put it in a little tupperware container.

Access to a microwave? Heat and serve.
Eat it cold.


Work 8 hours, so I need 2-3 meals.

Meal 1:
8oz chicken breast.
Cup broccoli.
Tbsp EVOO (Bring a small bottle)

Meal 2:
12oz Whole Milk (Available at my work)
Protein Bar / Almonds
1/2 Avacado

Meal 3:
6oz Salmon
1/2 cup corn (Not green, but I love corn)
1/2 cup green beans

I could fit all of this in 2 small tupperware containers. Bring a fork, and you're set. Between heating and eating, we're talking 5-6 minutes per meal.

Or, you could go to McDonalds and fuck everything up. :slight_smile:

Good luck.


This is a convenient, decent tasting meal that you can get a Walmart and keep around for a while. Medium size container of Hormel Chilli with "no beans" and a 3 oz can of chicken. Mix them up and you'll get around 50 grams of protein at about 500-600 calories with around 30 carbs and less then 20 grams of fat.

As far as canned soups go, Chunky has the highest protein content but still not enough. Buy any of their chicken based soups and add a can of Swanson or Hormel chicken breast. If you add the small sized canned chicken to a chicken noodle, you'll get around 40g of protein for less than 500 calories. I like it.

I also use Met-rx protein plus bars. The 3 oz ones have 32 grams of protein at 310 calories. Amazon.com sells a case of 12 for $25. At $2 a bar, is a decent value.


My schedule is busy too (although probably not as busy as yours from the sounds of it). I find meal replacement shakes to be pretty darn convenient and you can easily dial in the number of calories, protein, carbs and fat that you want.

Here's a recipe I stole from Dave Tate's infamous diet program found on www.johnberardi.com

Turtle Supershake:

1/2 cup water
2 scoops chocolate flavored Metabolic Drive
1 oz pecan halves, chopped
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 serving Greens plus
1 cup egg whites
1/2 cup ice cubes

You can add a tbsp of olive oil if you want more calories

I can make this shake in about 2 minutes. Tough to beat the convenience and nutrition

I'd recommend staying away from canned chili because it is typically LOADED with sodium



Grilled Chicken Strips from Jack in the Box 24g Protein
Grilled Chicken Sandwich order double meat 35g Protein

Try the southbeach diet frozen foods. the peperoni pizza has 30g protein and 11g fiber.


Yeah, the chili I use has about 2 grams of sodium per container so I wouldn't recommend eating it everyday. But if you use it for a quick hot meal from time to time, its not gonna kill ya.

You can always make a shitload of your own chili at the beginning of the week, but it won't be as convenient.


Buy a bunch of turkey, cheese, and a head of lettuce. Pull off a big leaf and make a wrap of turkey and cheese with the lettuce as the wrap.


That sounds like a good idea.

I was in Trader Joes the other week, and they have individually wrapped stuffed salmon patties for like 3 bucks. I even found one stuffed with shrimp, which is extremely tasty, and low carb. I use the oven to heat them, but aside from waiting 20 minutes, they're ready made and indivdually wrapped excellent meal.

I'm sure they've got other stuff I didnt find, too.


you can keep hard boiled eggs out of refrigeration for a few hours so depending on how long you have to wait, those could be an option.

there are all kinds of jerky now. Lot's of flavors, meats and calories.

peanut butter on whole grain sandwich is wonderfulness for me

fruit is good

they also have the pouches of chicken as well as tuna