True confession- I had never really cooked anything until we got married a few years ago. It’s funny how I barely remember what I survived on in the years preceding up to that event…although my roommate post-college can attest to the fact that I often would simply heat up a small package of frozen vegetables covered with grated Parmesan cheese in the microwave for dinner. (Disclaimer: I do not stand behind that as a healthy, balanced meal!).
However, upon getting engaged I came to the realization that I now bore responsibility for keeping someone else’s stomach full in addition to my own, and that it was time to learn how to cook more than frozen vegetables.
Thanks to the world of Pinterest, there are (literally) billions of recipes out there for nearly every culinary idea imaginable. This helped me in my endeavor of learning to cook immensely, and also made it more fun.
Our menu has adapted greatly since our early days of marriage, and we now rotate through approximately 30ish meals, in addition to trying new recipes occasionally.
I’m hesitant to say that I’m an amazing cook, although I know that I can cook (thanks to clearly written directions). In fact, in addition to the reality that we are on a budget, I enjoy cooking so much now that we’ve gotten to the point where I cook a new meal nearly every night. We rarely eat out unless planned in advance. However I have to admit, I would never be able to cook as much as I currently do if I didn’t have a few quick and easy recipes to fall back on for busy nights/days I don’t feel like cooking. More posts to come about meal planning, repurposing leftovers, and freezing everything imaginable to save money, but for now…without further ado, I present you with these gems:
5 cheap meals you can get on the table in 30 minutes (or less!)
1. Taco Soup
This recipe by Shrinking Kitchen is one my husband’s favorites. It actually reminds me of a chili recipe my mom used when I was growing up. If you don’t like spicy, I would sub out the Rotel for some regular diced tomatoes. We also don’t use black-eyed peas, but rather just a can of black beans. We love adding sour cream (or plain greek yogurt) and cheese as garnishes. This recipe also makes about 8 cups, which is a lot. Sometimes I even double the recipe (since it’s so stinkin’ easy and cheap to make) and freeze half for future use.
Cheap and easy side ideas: Tortilla chips or cornbread (we LOVE this recipe)
Get the recipe HERE
2. 5 Ingredient Broccoli Cheddar Soup
This recipe is from Gimme Some Oven and is another one of my husband’s favorites (ok, truthfully I could probably state that about every one of these recipes, so I’ll stop mentioning this now). Also, only 5 ingredients?! This one is incredibly simple and costs less than $7-8 to make if you shop smart, especially if you’re able to use an app like ibotta for cash back. We personally use microwavable frozen broccoli florets, as opposed to fresh.
As a side note, in the recipe, the author adds that some shredded cheese melts easier than others. We use the Aldi Happy Farms brand and have had no issues. It always turns out perfectly!
This one makes less than the Taco Soup recipe, so I usually always double it so that I can freeze a decent amount for later. Yum!
Cheap and easy side ideas: some nice, warm, crusty bread (obviously!) or muffins, salad
Get the recipe HERE.
3. Spicy Shrimp and Tomato Pasta
This recipe from Budget Bytes is one of the first “real” recipes I ever made and it’s one that we still like a lot today. If you don’t like spicy, leave out the crushed red pepper flakes. Also, we usually just use frozen shrimp (thawed) and aren’t too “strict” about the shrimp size (the recipe calls for 41/50 size). When we don’t have fresh parsley, I just sub dried parsley. Still turns out wonderfully!
This makes 2 very large servings, or a few moderate-sized servings. If you are feeding a family larger than 4, I would double the recipe. This is one dish that I do not freeze.
Cheap easy side ideas: something light like a salad, oven roasted carrots, or bread
Get the recipe HERE.
4. Sriacha chicken quesadillas
I posted about these the other day on my Instagram, but these will for sure be a new go-to recipe. We always keep bags of shredded chicken in the freezer for recipes like this (I usually triple a batch of a variation of this recipe in the crockpot [we like this programmable one that’s only $40] to freeze and then divide into 2 cup portions). Because this allows us to always have shredded chicken on hand, this recipe from Buzzfeed took only about 10 minutes for us to make and it was seriously so delicious!
Cheap easy side ideas: chips and salsa, Mexican corn
Get the recipe HERE.
5. Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is a newer one for us as well, but it was a hit and we will for sure be making it again. This recipe is from Averie Cooks. We took her advice in using pre-cooked/shredded chicken (again, we used from our freezer stash). We kept out the jalapeño (to make sure it was toddler friendly), and also added some extra water and spices to make a larger pot. This recipe made 4 large servings and 6 cups to freeze for future use. We enjoyed cheese and sour cream/greek yogurt garnishes on top.
Cheap easy side ideas: Mexican rice (we use this super easy/quick Mexican rice recipe)
Get the soup recipe HERE.
Well, there you have it, folks- 5 cheap recipes you can get on the table in 30 minutes or less. For more ideas, check out my Pinterest board “Cheap and Easy Eats (tried and true)”. I consistently add recipes to the board as we try them (that is… if they qualify for “cheap and easy”!).
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you enjoy some of these budget-friendly, hassle-free dishes sometime soon!