Getting a simple meal on the table even when you're not well

Dinner When You're Sick

by Tawra Kellam

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I have been disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia for 22 years. One of the hardest parts of living with this illness is dealing with food, buying it and making it. Because of the nausea, I don't feel like fixing food in the first place and then because of the brain fog I can't think of what to make. Because of the sheer exhaustion, I simply don't have the energy to shop or prepare food. This can lead to a lot of meals of cereal and toast. Because I have a husband and four kids who also have to eat, here are some ways I've come up with that can help you to cope and save while you're sick. These suggestions are useful if you just have the flu or a bad cold or if you are chronically ill like I am.

  • Make simple meals. Write a list of ten meals your family loves that you can make in 15 minutes or less. A few examples include fried ham slices, baked potatoes, apple salad, and peas. Or try lemon chicken, dinner rolls (pre-baked), broccoli and cheese, and orange slices. Another example is tacos, apple/orange slices, and sliced cucumbers, peppers and carrots.
  • Related: Super Frugal 7 Day Meal Plan

  • Use frozen foods in your simple meal. Frozen foods are very nutritionally sound so don't be afraid to use them. You can buy bags of already chopped onions, peppers and broccoli and there is no prep work on your part aside from dumping them in your pan or steamer.
  • Go shopping early in the morning or late in the evening. When there are no crowds, you get in and out quicker and you also get a parking spot closer to the door.
  • Time your shopping trip for about one to two hours after you take your medication. This way you won't be in as much pain and will be able to think more clearly while at the store.
  • Ask your husband to do the shopping. This may not work in all families, but now my husband does the big Aldi shopping trip for me. It is just a few blocks from his work and he can be in and out in 20 minutes with a huge shopping cart full of groceries. It is much easier for him to do this than to deal with a wife who is dead on the couch from one shopping trip. Now, I just make short trips to the store to catch sales during the month.
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  • Don't feel guilty if you can't use coupons. I've tried and, let me tell you, dealing with them expends more energy than just figuring out how to make our meals cheaper with other products. Because of the brain fog, I literally can't think most days. If you're like this, don't feel bad if you aren't able to shop with coupons every time (or at all).
  • Have kids clean up after your simple meal. My kids as young as three years old have always helped clean up. Each child takes his own place settings plus a certain number of items off the table (usually four to five additional items depending on how much is on the table). Then one child finishes clearing the last of the items on the table, one wipes the table and one loads the dishwasher. We rotate responsibilities each week. When clearing, they are required to put the things that go in the fridge or pantry back where they belong. Then all I have to do is clean the pots and pans.

Tawra Kellam is the author of Dining on a Dime Cookbook. In five years, Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 of personal debt on an average income of $22,000 per year. You can visit her at

Take the Next Step:

  • Use a few of these frugal home health remedies when cold and flu season gets you down.
  • No time for meal planning? Subscribe to Saving Dinner Premium Menu Mailer, your weekly road map to making daily family dinners a reality.
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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