Budget meals for non-cookers?

Does anyone have any tips on some cheap meals that don't require much cooking? Sometimes I work long hours and don't have time to prepare something. It would be nice to have a few things handy that I can quickly make or heat up without resorting to the taco bell next door :(

Any ideas?


  • Laurend224
    Laurend224 Posts: 1,781 Member
    Eggs, pasta e fagioli (beans and pasta) do a bulk cooking day when you have time and portion out single servings. I'm going to assume you eat meat, so buying (and roasting) a whole chicken (its easy, I promise) on the weekend, or non work day and eating from that.

    Buy a rotessire chicken from the grocery store, put the meat on a big salad.

    Learning to cook is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself, (and your budget)

    When in doubt, there is always PB&J. ;)
  • MynameisJerryB
    MynameisJerryB Posts: 168 Member
    Really, anything you like as long as it fits into your daily calorie limit. By the way, Taco Bell will make anything any way you want it. You can substitute beans for meat, ask for no cheese etc.
  • conqueringsquidlette
    conqueringsquidlette Posts: 383 Member
    El Pollo Loco has been a bit of a staple for me lately. They have a skinless chicken breast combo that's like 250 calories.

    It's not the cooking that gets me, it's the CLEANING. :tongue:
  • cpalumbo89
    cpalumbo89 Posts: 71 Member
    Soup is the bomb. I like making a big pot of 16 bean soup, freezing it, then throwing in whatever extra I have when I reheat a serving. Crock pots and rice cookers are awesome also.
  • Frequently_Fabulous
    Frequently_Fabulous Posts: 132 Member
    lintywaver wrote: »
    Does anyone have any tips on some cheap meals that don't require much cooking? Sometimes I work long hours and don't have time to prepare something. It would be nice to have a few things handy that I can quickly make or heat up without resorting to the taco bell next door :(

    Any ideas?

    *cracks knuckles* I GOT THIS.

    -Cheap carb sources: oatmeal, rice, spaghetti, bananas, canned corn, canned beans, and bulk raisins, potatoes
    -Cheap fat sources: sunflower kernals ($3 for a large bag that lasts at least a 1-2 weeks)
    -Protein sources (which will be the bulk of your cost): raw chicken at 1$1.99/lb, frozen chicken breasts ($2.49/lb), tuna ($1/can), egg whites (buy in bulk from costco- 6 pints at $10), protein powder ($20-40/can).
    -Veggies you can buy $1 steam bags of thinks of bulk $5 bags of green beans or brocolli.
    Probably worthwhile to invest a little into a "base" like spinach or kale ($5/bag)

    Ok, so- invest some time over the weekend in cooking up a pot of rice, cooking chicken in oven, and measuring snacks into portion controlled containers (ziplock bags or tiny plastic containers). Snack ideas can include raisins and sunflower seeds or bulk trail mix, if you feel you won't over eat it.

    When you get home from work, grab a carb source, protein source, and fat source, and you're good to go.
    Rice, chicken, sunflower kernals, green beans
    Oatmeal, protein powder, sunflower kernals
    Beans, Eggs, spinach, brocolli, sunflower kernals

    (Yes, I eat a lot of sunflower kernals. I suppose you could use butter but- ew- butter).

    In a pinch you can also buy $1 frozen meals (I like lean gourmet from Walmart at #1 apieces). Heat that up, plop it on a bed of lettuce. Eat with one serving of veggies and one serving of fruit.

    Good luck! Share your recipes with us!!!
  • kristydi
    kristydi Posts: 781 Member
    edited April 2015

    (Yes, I eat a lot of sunflower kernals. I suppose you could use butter but- ew- butter).


    I love butter!

    OP, Check out those rotisserie chickens at the grocery store. They are good as is or you can use the meat for other things like tacos or wraps.
  • Frequently_Fabulous
    Frequently_Fabulous Posts: 132 Member
    edited April 2015
    Ahaha, That's the face I give people who say they don't like chocolate.

    Really though- Butter is so oily! It doesn't keep well outside the fridge and doesn't add much flavor unless its been baked on something (like turkey) or in baked goods (like cookies and cakes). I have honestly just never seen the appeal . There was some guy on tv who liked to eat sticks of butter smothered with mayonnaise and wrapped in pieces of cheese...I always think of that whenever I see butter. :P
  • HeidiCooksSupper
    HeidiCooksSupper Posts: 3,830 Member
    Pre-cook, freeze, and microwave. For example. some evening when you are home make a full batch of brown rice using the Alton Brown oven method which is fool-proof and requires no watching while it sits in the oven for an hour. Divide it up into meal-sized portions and freeze. On a night you have no energy to cook, zip a portion of rice into the microwave and voila. You can do this with other stuff as well.

    Another lazy way to have a quick meal is to do a microwave-in-bag frozen veggie while cooking a Trader Joe's frozen turkey patty or scrambling an egg. "[Fill-in-the-blank protein] + frozen veg" is my go to when I don't feel like cooking. If I'm feeling energetic, I'll pour the hot veg in a bowl and toss a dressing on it like capers/mustard/butter on green beans or even just a bottled vinaigrette which is good on hot vegetables.

    You can do pre-cooking/freezing to have a good stock of the "fill-in-the-blank protein," too. For example, make a big batch of baked meatballs or falafel (chickpea patties), cook a family-sized tray of chicken parts and divide the meat into meal-sized portions, etc.

    All this can be done with just a little top-of-the-fridge freezer.
  • jetortola
    jetortola Posts: 198 Member
    I just made a BIG bean salad, and am eating it today for lunch over baby spinach (I also threw in a 1/2 chicken breast I had cooked earlier this week --- from frozen in the oven, so easy!). That bean salad will feed me for days (and I put chick peas in it to keep my husband out of it!), and I used canned beans bought on sale plus a fresh pepper, onion, zucchini so it was pretty inexpensive for the volume.
  • jhall260
    jhall260 Posts: 111 Member

    I always have frozen meals of this. I just use sweet potatoes. Sometimes I put lamb meat in it. It makes HUGE batch I usually get about 8-10 meals out of it.
  • BananasananaB
    BananasananaB Posts: 12 Member
    Sweet Potatoes! Sweet Potatoes! Sweet Potatoes! Really easy to clean and pop in the microwave. Also, a can of low-sodium black beans, frozen or canned corn, and the salsa of your choice. Put it all in a bowl, pop it in the microwave for a minute or two, and BAM! Awesome meal! You could eat the beans, corn, and a sweet potato and hit about the same calorie count as two bean burritos with no cheese from Taco Bell. You'll also be way under on the sodium intake (2200 mg in two bean burritos with no cheese).
  • norie92
    norie92 Posts: 115 Member
    Oatmeal x10
  • jwolford90
    jwolford90 Posts: 43 Member
    I read about doing a mass-cooking spree of chicken. You can boil it, bake it, or whatever, but once you finish making a bag or two (or three if you want to cook in advance hardcore) you can free it immediately in a sealed container and it will stay healthy to eat for a long time. I tried this, due to my work schedule, and I was able to eat chicken every day for two weeks because I had cooked so much. Also, the freezing didn't alter the flavor of the chicken at all. You just chip a piece of chicken breast (or a whole piece if you freeze it that way) and just heat it up however you want. I heated mine on the stove. Try this out and you will never look back :) You can do this with any type of meat by the way :)
  • jwolford90
    jwolford90 Posts: 43 Member
    Also, you can boil a lot of eggs and put them in the refrigerator and eat them whenever.
  • shadowfax_c11
    shadowfax_c11 Posts: 1,942 Member
    I keep hard boiled eggs, cheese, some fresh veggies like carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers avocado and fresh fruit and nuts (almonds) on hand for the quick go to. Use a food scale to pre-measure portions out into small storage containers or baggies.

    I have my meats pre packed into single meal sized freezer bags to quick thaw in the microwave and pan sear. You can precook larger meat portions I just prefer to cook mine to order most of the time.

    A bag of salad mix makes a great base for a great meal, Just cook a protein or have some pre-made chop up some tomatoes, avocado, cucumber a bit of freshly grated cheese, add your protein and/or a chopped hard boiled egg and an appropriate amount of dressing and you have a solid low cal meal that is ready in under 20 minutes.
  • Thanks everyone! These are some great ideas. Looks like I need to set a day to cook up a bunch of meals to freeze. Wish me luck.
  • blb85
    blb85 Posts: 187 Member
    I feel your pain OP! I am not a cook at all... I hate looking-up recipes and trying to buy ingredients and cooking all day. It's just not what I like to do. Some ideas I have been doing from a non-cook to another non-cook:

    -Protein smoothie (protein powder, almond milk, frozen fruit all in a blender)
    -Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin & laughing cow swiss cheese
    -whole oats, liquid eggs & whites (like Egg Beaters), almond milk, banana & cinnamon in the microwave for 3 min (while stirring every 45 sec -1 min)

    -Ezekiel sprout bread with laughing cow cheese (herb & garlic), turkey, & romaine & tomato (or tuna fish with greek yogurt and mustard is another option)
    -Flat-out wrap with chicken strips (you can buy bagged at store) hummus and salad mixture
    -Subway 6" wheat bread with turkey (if I've been too lazy to grocery shop)
    -Usually I take all the ingredients I need for lunches for the week and store at work in the fridge or my desk

    I usually buy the pre-marinated chicken or salmon etc. Or Sea Cuisine Salmon or Tilapia (in the freezer aisle)
    Green Giant or Bird's Eye Veggies (in the freezer aisle)
    One-minute wild rice (served in the individual cups)

    Dannon or Chobani or whatever flavored greek yogurt
    Quest, or Kind bars
    Baby Carrots & hummus
    Cottage cheese & blueberries/fruit
  • adamitri
    adamitri Posts: 614 Member
    I like the Campbell slow cooker sauces. I do it on Sunday and it lasts most of the week and I can put it on a sandwich or with a potato or just rice.
  • melimomTARDIS
    melimomTARDIS Posts: 1,953 Member
    sandwiches with a side of veggies/chips/or fruit. Pasta with marinara sauce (I dont eat mine with meat), and for funsies, look up the calorie counts at taco bell so you know what calories are before going. I get the bean burrito fresco style, with a side of rice for 500 calories or so.
  • kchezelle
    kchezelle Posts: 110 Member
    Breakfast :)
    2 ingredient pancakes! Eggs & banana