3 Easy, Quick and Affordable Meals to Help You Avoid Going for Fast Food

by Gina Blitstein · 2 comments

One of the most difficult parts of sticking to a budget when life is hectic is meals. Yes, fast food is, well, fast – but it’s also more expensive and less nutritious than most meals prepared at home. While you may think that cooking equals a lot of fuss and time, any effort it takes to put together a simple meal at home is easily offset by the savings in money and the boost in nutrition. In fact, I would venture to say that it actually takes less time to prepare certain dishes at home (even considering preparation and cleanup time) when you take into account the time you waste driving and waiting in line.

Overall, I try to be proactive by planning my meals days ahead. That way, I know each day how much time I need to schedule for meal preparation. While that’s a strong strategy by which I swear, life happens and throws off my best-laid plans from time to time.

The key to cooking quick at home is having certain staples on hand at all times. A thoughtfully-stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer provide numerous possibilities for a quick meal. My go-to quick meals include readily-available ingredients and a generous helping of creativity.

How do I cope when it seems it would just be simpler to succumb to convenience food? I pull out one of these ideas from my culinary bag of tricks. They’re tasty, satisfying, healthier than fast food and just as quick. They’re not home versions of fast food – they’re alternatives to it. Here’s a taste of three favorites:

Linguini with White Clam Sauce

(2 servings)

½ lb linguini (or any pasta)
1T salt for cooking water
6 oz canned chopped or minced clams
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2T olive oil
¼ t salt
2T white wine
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of water on the stove on high heat to boil.

While water is heating, chop onion and garlic. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. When onion is tender, add clams with their liquid, salt and wine. Simmer over low heat.

When water boils, add salt. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Drain cooked pasta. Return to pan, stir in sauce to coat pasta. Serve; sprinkle with Parmesan and pepper.

Raid-the-Refrigerator Omelette

(1 serving)

3 eggs
2t water
seasonings of your choice (parsley, garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, chives…)
fillings of your choice (chopped broccoli, spinach, peppers, onion, ham, cooked bacon, cheese…)
1T butter

Whisk eggs, water and salt in a bowl. Melt butter in a flat-bottomed frying pan. Add eggs, scraping them gently around the pan until they start to set. Add desired fillings over half the eggs. With a wide spatula, gently fold the other half of the eggs over fillings. Cook briefly to warm through. Ease omelette out of pan by tipping it, folding it onto plate.

Good ‘ol Grilled Cheese

(1 sandwich)

2 slices any type bread
several slices of your choice of cheese(s)
optional add-ons (sliced tomatoes, apples, basil leaves, cooked ham, turkey, bacon, salsa…)

Spread butter on bread, place buttered side down on griddle. Top bread with cheese slices (and any additions you choose). Top with second slice of bread and spread with butter. When bottom is golden brown, turn sandwich over to brown the second side.

These basic recipes can be the basis of a perfectly satisfying, easy and inexpensive meal when you’re too busy to fuss in the kitchen but want to avoid the same-old, low nutrition, high-priced drive-thru experience. You CAN eat healthy on a budget!

What are your “too busy to fuss” favorites?

Bonus Tip:

Another way to save on your monthly Internet and TV costs is to find a current ATT U-Verse coupon code or at least a promotion to knock down your home service bill.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristyl Sutter November 4, 2012 at 12:08 am

My favorite quick meal is pizza. I make my dough from scratch and always make extra pizza skins. By par baking them I can freeze them for later use. Pull one out and let it defrost, the top with your favorite toppings from the fridge. My fav is to mix plain fat free yogurt and garlic with blue cheese dressing for the “sauce” and top with left over roast chicken tossed with a tablespoon Franks hot sauce. Sprinkle a little mozzarella on top and bake 5-6 minutes on a pizza stone preheated to 550. Faster than waiting for delivery and tastier!

Kim Kenty March 13, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Try a bowl of soup and “Easy” Cheese Toast.

To make the Cheese Toast: Toast bread. Put on plate and top with cheese. Microwave for 20-25 seconds until cheese is melted. So Easy.

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