Fast Food Real Food Part 1 – Burt Family Brown Bags

Fast Food Real Food memeMost of us want to eat better.  We know that better nutrition equals better health.  And we have good intentions.  It is during the stressful, running late, busy, busy days that our good intentions take a drive . . . usually through the fast food take out.  If ordering pizza or picking up a burger is not an option, what do you feed the family on “those” days – the ones where everything that can go wrong does go wrong and you are exhausted by 7pm and you haven’t even thought about supper?  If we don’t have a real food plan for those situations, we will most certainly resort to an “anything to fill their tummies” mentality – and ruin our nutritional good intentions and our budget.

Most of what I have learned and what I do is driven by necessity.  Having a very limited budget, many mouths to feed, and living quite a distance from town has made creative solutions a necessity.  Although our real food journey has gone on for quite some time, I am going to take you back to the early days.  My first home solution to fast food was something that anyone can do easily that will allow the convenience of fast food with less cost and better nutrition.

Years ago, I collected 7 meals that could mostly be stored in paper bags and pulled out at a moments notice for a meal in minutes.  I always bought ground meat in bulk, cooked it, and froze it in 2 cup bags that equaled about 1 pound so I usually had a ready source for cooked ground beef.  These meals made use of that meat and some canned and processed foods which are not the healthiest.  (My later solutions solved some of these nutritional deficiencies.)  But, no matter how you look at it, these meals are better and cheaper than fast food burgers or delivered pizza and they are ready in minutes with very little effort.  They were each stored in brown paper bags in my pantry.  In Real Food Fast Food Part 2 I will share some healthier alternatives that evolved as our real food journey continued.  But for now . . .

My first solution:  Burt Family Brown Bags

 Cheesy Frito Pie


  • 2 cans Ranch Style Beans
  • 2 cans Whole Kernel Corn
  • 2 cans Rotel
  • 2 cans Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 pound Velveeta (gasp!! – The nutrition does get better in part 2.  I promise!)
  • 2 Tbsp. dry onion flakes
  • 1 large bag Fritos

Ingredients to have on hand: 2 pounds cooked ground beef

Add all the cans and the onion to the cooked ground beef in a large pot. Heat to a simmer. Add Velveeta broken into small pieces. Heat until cheese is melted. Serve over Fritos with a salad on the side.

Cowboy Stew


  • 2 cans Ranch Style Beans
  • 2 cans Mixed Vegetables
  • 2 cans Tomato Soup (or chopped tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp. dry onion flakes
  • 2 Sleeves of crackers

Ingredients to have on hand: 1 pound cooked ground beef

Add all the cans and the onion to the cooked ground beef in a large pot. Heat to a simmer. Add water if needed. Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Serve with dippin’ veggies and crackers.  Note: This can be expanded with 1 gallon cans and 3# of beef to feed a crowd.

It’s a Picnic


  • 1 summer sausage or large bag of jerky or cans of Vienna sausages (Vienna sausages – What was I thinking?)
  • 2 jars of squeeze cheese (I obviously wasn’t thinking)
  • 1 box of crackers
  • 12 individual canned fruits
  • 1 jar of peanut butter and jelly
  • 12 bottles of water
  • 12 plastic spoons
  • 2 plastic knives
  • 1 roll of paper towels
  • 1 package of cookies
  • ??Anything else??

Ingredients to have on hand: 1 loaf of bread and/or a box of crackers.

Grab your bag and your bread and head for the great outdoors. Don’t forget the diaper bag.  Serve with a smile and enjoy the time with your family. Try to use this bag every month.  (Some of the things in this bag seem gross to me now – like Vienna sausages and squeeze cheese, but I have treasured memories of eating these snack foods at the park and in the back yard under our big trees.  When the day had been rotten, a simple meal and a relaxing time with family was just what this tired mama needed.)

 Breakfast for Dinner


  • 2 boxes of cereal (This was really on my list and in my bags :-))

Ingredients to have on hand:   Milk

Set everything on the table and go to bed.  I used this “meal” when I was too sick or tired to even think.  And Daddyboy and the kids cleaned the kitchen.  We really didn’t eat boxed cereal even back then so this was such a treat.

Salsa Chicken


  • 2 cans of chicken
  • 1 small jar of mild salsa
  • 2 cans of corn with red/green peppers
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 1 large bag of tortilla chips

Ingredients to have on hand: 2 cups cheese

Add everything except the chips and cheese to a pan and heat thoroughly.  Serve with cheese, chips and a salad.

Note: Good to serve over lettuce as a chicken taco salad. Add avocados and sour cream for more special toppings.

Skillet Chicken and Rice


  • 3 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 Tbsp. dry onions
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 box minute brown rice
  • 2 cans chicken

Ingredients to have on hand: 3 cups water (more as needed) and maybe a bag of frozen broccoli.

Combine soup and water in a very large skillet. Add onions and pepper. Heat to boiling. Stir in minute rice and drained chicken. Cover and cook on low until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy. Add more water as needed.  Serve with salad and steamed broccoli.  (Sometimes I just added the broccoli to the skillet).

Tuna Noodle Casserole


  • 2 boxes macaroni and cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. dry onions
  • 2 cans tuna
  • 1 sleeve of Saltines

Ingredients to have on hand:

  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 1 cup Shredded Cheese

Boil 2 quarts water in large oven safe pot. Cook the pasta and drain.  Add butter to the hot pasta and let melt.  Add dry onions, drained tuna, milk and cheese packet. Cook until thickened a bit.  Crush about ½ the crackers. Top the casserole with cracker crumbs and cheese.  Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes.   Serve with extra crackers, salad, and steamed peas & carrots.

When we started this real food journey it was driven by budget even though improved nutrition was my goal.  We all have days when feeding the family is absolutely overwhelming (especially if you have little ones) and I decided then that these compromise meals were a better option for our family than fast food.  And they saved my sanity on more than one occasion.  In Fast Food Real Food Part 2 we will take these recipes and make some dramatic nutritional improvements.  But if this is where you are, please start here.

What are your compromises during crunch times?  What do you feed your family when time, fatigue, and budget are working against you?

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2 thoughts on “Fast Food Real Food Part 1 – Burt Family Brown Bags

  1. Ainslee

    My family’s favorite fast meal is one I never really thought they would like. I was big time preggo with #3 and was tired, not to mention I forgot to go shopping. I found an onion, tomato, pasta and Italian dressing. I made the pasta, the sauted the hopped onion and tomato in the dressing and tossed it all together with a whole bottle of dressing. (I may have had a thing for Italian dressing. Lol) My family still begs for that meal.

    1. Connie

      Serendipity!! Don’t you just love those happy accidents. Especially when they still like them years later 🙂

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