Here are some tips that will save you time as well money. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, working late, or busy driving the kids around town all day, let these quick meal ideas help you get dinner on the table in a hurry. You will also save money by cutting back on takeout or fast food drive-ins, planning and using leftovers, and stocking up on staples when they’re on sale.
#1 – Soup du Jour
Make a pot of soup for dinner. If you are using leftovers or canned items, soup can be ready in 15 to 20 minutes. Simply add a sandwich or make a batch of biscuits and you have a filling meal. Here are some quick soup ideas to get you started. What soup? Here are some of my favorites.
• Beef and Vegetable Soup
Brown some hamburger meat and onion in a little butter or olive oil. Once the meat is completely cooked add any canned vegetables you like. Add chopped canned tomatoes, green beans, white beans and stewed canned tomatoes chopped into bite size pieces. The quantity of each ingredient isn’t critical. Just throw the meal together and season to your taste. You’ll have a hearty soup.
• Chicken and Rice Soup
Bring some chicken broth to a boil and add a handful of quick cooking rice. When the rice is almost done, add a drained can of carrots and some cooked chicken. You can use either leftover chicken or use one of the roasted chickens found at almost every grocery store. You can easily adapt this for chicken noodle soup by using any kind of noodle you prefer instead of the rice.
• Bean Soup
Heat chicken stock and water. Drop in a can of diced tomatoes and any combination of canned beans. First drain and rinse the beans. Season the soup with your favorite soup spices. Dry lentils and split peas cook rather quickly (especially compared to dry beans). With either one of them, start by sautéing an onion and some garlic in oil, and then add water and the dry lentils or peas along with some bouillon cubes and bring it to a boil. If you have ham or bacon in the fridge, you may want to throw a bit of that in for flavor as well. Let the soup cook until everything is tender.
• Look up one of our other soup recipes on Recipes Mania.
#2 – Salad Plate
Salads are great for lunch or dinner almost any day of the week, but especially in the summer when it’s just too hot to cook. You can easily customize salads to adjust to your family’s taste and of course they are quick and easy to throw together. Here’s how you turn this side dish into a filling meal.
• Caesar Salad
Chop romaine lettuce. Top it with croutons, Parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing and any of the following: grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, smoked or cooked salmon or any other cooked fish you have handy.
• Pasta Salad
Make your favorite pasta salad and add cooked chicken or diced ham to it. Simply combine noodles and fresh chopped veggies with Italian dressing and let it sit for as much time as you can. That’s how easy pasta salad is to make.
• Chef Salad
Start with lettuce, then add carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced hard boiled eggs, grated cheese and ham or turkey. Top with your favorite salad dressing.
• Mediterranean Salad
Combine dark leafy lettuce with baby spinach. Top with diced tomatoes, olives, drained chickpeas, and crumbled feta cheese. Serve with a vinaigrette or Italian dressing. Serve with toasted pita bread on the side.
• Potato Salad
Make your favorite potato salad. Add chopped ham, cooked kielbasa sausage or sliced hot dogs.
• You will find more salad recipes on this website.
#3 – Breakfast? Brunch? Yes!
Have you ever thought of serving breakfast or brunch foods for dinner? Many of the really good dishes, like omelets, for example, take a bit too much time in the morning, but are perfect for a quick and easy dinner. Here are some favorite breakfast and brunch dinners.
• Scrambled eggs with toast
• Cheese or ham and cheese omelet with toast or home fries
• Frittata with a side salad
• Farmer’s pan. Cut up a batch of potatoes and fry them in a little butter with some onions. Add ham or bacon and then crack a few eggs in the pan and cook until the eggs are done. Sprinkle with cheese and serve with a salad.
• Eggs Benedict
• Fix a big stack of pancakes and serve them with crispy bacon or breakfast sausage on the side.
• Make your favorite pancakes then serve them with fruit topping and whipped cream. Warm up a can of apple pie filling or chunky apple sauce and spread it on the pancakes. You can also add variety by topping pancakes with sliced bananas or fresh berries. You may want to make extra pancakes to refrigerate or freeze. Just heat and serve them for another quick meal.
• Make a batch of biscuits (or bake frozen ones) and serve them with ham, cooked chicken patties or eggs.
• Brown bulk sausage into patties and serve them on the biscuits with mustard.
• Cook breakfast sausage, take out of the pan and break into small pieces. Brown a bit of flour in the grease left in the pan, then slowly add milk and bring to a slow simmer to make sausage gravy. Add the sausage pieces back into the gravy and serve over biscuits or toast.
• You will find more breakfast, brunch and biscuit recipes at Recipes Mania.
#4 – More than Leftovers
The basic idea is to cook something once and then make at least two meals out of it. The trick is to turn what you cook on day one into a different meal on day two so you’re not eating the same thing two days in a row.
• Chicken Breast
Day one place chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour some Italian dressing over them and bake until done. Take out a few of the chicken breasts for tomorrow, and then serve the rest with rice and veggies for dinner.
Day two grab the leftover baked chicken breast from the fridge and turn it into a chicken Caesar salad or make chicken salad sandwiches.
• Boiled Chicken
Day one boil a whole chicken in a large stockpot with celery, onion and carrots. Take the chicken out when it is completely done and remove all of the meat from the bones. Turn the stock into chicken and noodle soup or chicken and dumplings. Set some of the meat aside for tomorrow.
Day two use the rest of the chicken meat to make chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, or add it to tomato sauce and serve it over rice or pasta.
• Meat Loaf
Day one make a batch of your favorite meat loaf recipe and serve it with mashed potatoes and green beans the first day. Set aside a few slices of the meatloaf for tomorrow.
Day two cook spaghetti and heat the meat loaf in tomato sauce. Pour the meatloaf pieces over the cooked pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Day one cook rice, making extra for the next day. For example, day one serve the rice with steamed broccoli and tomato sauce.
Day two use leftover rice to make fried rice. Start by sautéing some onion and garlic in a little butter. Add 2 cups of cooked rice and heat it in the onion mixture. Meanwhile scramble a few eggs and pour them into the rice mixture. Cook until the egg is done. For an Asian version, add soy sauce to this mixture. If you have leftover pork sitting in the fridge, chop it up and add it for pork fried rice.
#5 – Plan Ahead and Freeze
When you have extra time, try to cook an extra batch of food, stick it in the freezer and then just grab a meal that’s ready to be heated and served out of the freezer on the days when you’re really busy. Here is a list of things to either cook in batches, or cook while you are working on that day’s regular dinner and then freeze for later.
Anything from regular meat versions to vegetarian ones. Just assemble and freeze, then bake as usual straight from the freezer.
• Soups or Stews
Almost any type of soup or stew freezes well. Always cook these in double batches and freeze one. The only exception is chicken and dumplings. The dumplings just don’t turn out well when they are frozen. Some soups with chunks of potatoes can also get mushy, so test a small batch first.
You can make any type of chili. Just double your favorite recipe, remove one half before you serve it and freeze it. When you’re ready to eat your frozen leftovers, let the chili defrost in the fridge throughout the day before heating. Otherwise add the frozen chili to a pot with a bit of warm water and slowly heat it up. Better yet, freeze individual portions which can go straight to the microwave to defrost and cook.
Almost any casserole freezes well. Keep a few of these in the freezer to eat for dinner or to take to potlucks or a sick friend or family member. Take some time this week or over the weekend to stock your freezer with a few ready to heat and serve meals. You’ll appreciate these convenient meals after a long day. Plus they taste much better, and are healthier and cheaper than the stuff you buy in the freezer section of your grocery store.
• You will find a variety of recipes that freeze well on our list of recipes.
#6 – Pantry Raid
When all else fails, make do with what is sitting in your fridge and pantry. Make a list of your favorite staples for quick meals and stock up when they’re on sale.
• Mediterranean Spaghetti
Heat a can of drained tuna with some onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add some tomato sauce from a jar and a few olives or leftover veggies and serve over cooked pasta.
• Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Instead of tuna, drain a can of chicken and mix with a little mayonnaise, season to taste and serve as sandwiches or add to a leafy salad.
• Crackers Deluxe
Get out some crackers plus any cold cuts, cheeses, fruits and raw veggies you have sitting around. Arrange everything on a platter and call it dinner.
• Baked Potato Bar
Microwave or bake whole potatoes until they are cooked through. Set out butter, sour cream, grated cheese, chopped sandwich meat such as salami, ham or pepperoni, cooked leftover veggies, chili heated from a can and anything else your family might like on a baked potato. Let everyone make their own loaded baked potato.
• Rice and Beans
Cook a batch of rice, and then add some canned beans. Add your favorite seasonings along with tomato sauce if you like. A can of Spanish black bean soup is especially good over rice and makes a hearty meal.
• Pasta with Beans
Cook whatever type of pasta you have available. Heat your favorite pasta sauce or a can of chili while the noodles cook. Add some drained and rinsed beans into the pasta sauce. Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta. Top with cheese.
I hope these tips have given you some ideas on how to save money and time while still eating well. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or just too busy you can still prepare healthy meals quickly. I hope you will share these ideas by liking us on your favorite social media. Please share these ideas with your friends. You may want to use our on-site contact form to send us your feedback and comments, including your own tips to share.