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Quick, Cheap, and Easy

post #1 of 72
Thread Starter 
This is the time of year when I can get pretty busy, and this morning, facing an empty fridge and a desire for something hot and fast, I stopped in at the local TJ's and picked up some canned soup and chile, some beans, and a few similar odds and ends. I made some franks and beans for lunch - certainly fit the quick, cheap, and easy requirement, although, even with adding a bunch of flavor to the beans, the results were still low-tier for taste. Maybe the canned soup, with the addition of some fresh veggies, would be better.

So, what would you suggest for some quick, cheap, and easy meals, dishes in which there's little or no cooking involved, heat and eat stuff, ideally one pot or skillet prep, for those times when a person is working 14 hours a day, or is on a tight budget at the end of the month?

Maybe some frozen dinners that can be zapped in the microwave would be acceptabe. Any suggestions for those?

post #2 of 72
My favorite canned lunch - Braised Steak and Onion. Zap in microwave, have with toast or make some instant mashed potato (I can hear the groans now hehe) but it takes like 2 mins tops and I love it.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #3 of 72
If one is on a tight budget, frozen dinners is probably the worst way to go! Those things are !@#$%^&*()_+ expensive, especially in relation to the nutrition you get from them. Fresh food is just sooooo much less expensive, not to mention tastier and better for you.

When I'm really stuck, I can always put on a big pot of water for whole-wheat pasta, and while that's coming to a boil, wash and chop up some vegetables and sauté them in a little olive oil with garlic. Even if I only have celery and carrots and onions, that can be tasty. And goodness knows, the prep work is relaxing. Then when the pasta is cooked, I just drain it and toss it with the vegs. Add a little grated cheese (I pretty much always have Parmesan, Romano, cotija, feta, and/or Cheddar :o) and bingo!

Then of course, there's always spaghetti carbonara, if I have bacon and eggs.

And don't forget cooking up a big pot of dried beans, then adding flavorings to the part you reheat, and serving them over rice. Quick (once you have them cooked, and even that doesn't require much active time), delicious, and healthy.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #4 of 72
I like buckwheat noodles with raw garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil. :D
post #5 of 72
Thread Starter 
Braised steak and onions comes in a can?

I've often made what I call a vegetable smoosh - instant mashed potatoes mixed with steamed veggies like broccoli, zucchini, carrots - whatever is handy. I like 'em with corn as well - a favorite is broccoli, corn, maybe some squash, and the 'taters. Add a little olive oil, pepper, and I'm good to go. Totally forgot about the instant 'taters. There are some decent brands here, free of chemicals and additives. Make 'em with water, or milk, or butternilk.

Thanks for reminding me.

post #6 of 72
Thread Starter 
There are a few frozen dinners I've tried that are pretty decent. Not the standard supermarket stuff. True, they can be a little spendy, but they definitely qualify as fast and easy. There are some decent ones made by Amy's, a local company, organic, good ingredients, and I can often get a $1.00 off coupon for 'em.

And egg dishes ... scrambled, omelets, fritatas ... forgot about them

Yep, the ww pasta thing works pretty well. There's usually some veggies here, even if only frozen, and I try to have a few cans of tomato sauce on hand. In fact, I made a ww pasta and veggie tomato sauce dish a few days ago.

Often there's frozen brown rice in the freezer. I make up a big batch and freeze the rice in 1-gallon size freezer bages, laid flat on the floor of the freezer. I just break off a chunk, add some fresh, or even frozen, veggies, zap it in the microwave, add soy sauce, oyster sauce, seasoning, whatever and there y'go.

Hmm, I can nuke some taters and add frozen or fresh veggies, some olive oil or butter, and there y'go. Quick, fast, and cheap.

I've got to try making beans. Have only done so once, and the results were pretty good. Beans with rice is a nice combo, again, add some veggies, and bada-bing.

Thanks, Suzanne, you helped get my brain in gear!

post #7 of 72
quesadillas....refrieds and cheese...onions etc
gyro bread aka non pocket pitas with veg/cheese for quick pizza
winter squash soup takes about 25 minutes, from start to finish.....cheap, good eats and leftovers can be nuked

my sister in law makes spaghetti sauce (jarred) and adds veg, serves on rice/noodles......

nachos.....made some with makeshift salsa last week, in the mood for rotele and only had scraps of cheese + cream cheese, canned tomatoes, chili flakes, onion, granulated garlic (love you Penzeys).....
well and canned beef from a local coop that went assunder, good meat....no seasoning just chunks of cooked beef.....so meaty, cheesey, spicy tomatoey goo with tortillas....not only took care of odds and ends in the fridge but also the pantry.

Shel, you have farmers in the bay area raising gigianti beans.....I got some fresh at Ferry Plaza in Jan a couple years ago. There's a larger variety of dried bean grower selling at Santa Monica market, I'll see if I've still got their contact info. It's a joy to see fresh shell beans at a market, they are hard to raise....just so dang labor intensive, that most farmers go with bush varieties.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #8 of 72
Thread Starter 
Your ideas are good ones, but some are a liitle labor intensive for the times when I'm swamped. I like the quesadilla concept - it should be easy to make some variations with ww or other tortillas and some veggies - maybe something pizza-like as well. I'm trying to cut down on cheese this year. I'll buy a big chunk and then, by the time I get around to making something with it, there's hardly any cheese left - nibble, nibble, nibble

I've been looking for a good source for lima beans to make a traditional sort of succatash. That's a real comfort food for me.

post #9 of 72
No sympathy from me here. :D
post #10 of 72
Thread Starter 
Bought 1/2 wheel of reblochon before the weekend to use in making tartiflette, and also bought a BIG chunk of gruyere for sandwiches, fritatas, and grating. The gruyere never even made it home! It was sooo good, though.

post #11 of 72
Fresh Gigiantis are like limas on steriods......

Cheese,......it just seems to multiply in my fridges.....we do a ton of cheese platters, courses at events/dinners....so manchengo, parmesan, guyere, always Chevre (freezes exceptionally well), cream, are around.....then the odd rounds of brie, st. nectaire, or st brillion appear....all of a sudden it's cheese overload....the British have a cool way of dealing with odds and ends of dry cheeses....grate, mix with butter and good dry sherry, a pinch of dry mustard and you have yumminess.
Well and there's always "house" mac and cheese....never the same mix of cheeses twice :)
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #12 of 72
Thread Starter 
Boy, they sound great! We used to have succotash every now and then in my grade school cafeteria - I may have been the only kid going back for seconds <LOL>

Alton Brown has a recipe that's similar: Fromage Fort Recipe It lends itself to a lot of flexibility. The only chance I have of making it is to get lots of bits and pieces of cheese from the Chhese Board in berkeley, and use 'em to make the concoction.

post #13 of 72

Fast,Hot, Cheap, and Easy

Happy Holidays!!

How about....
  • Shepards Pie
  • Mac n' Cheese
  • Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
  • Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
All freeze OK, and can be prep'd with minimal time and effort.

You'll find the time to do these, and the results will be worth the effort.

Take Care

post #14 of 72
The fastest thing I know of is creamed tuna on toast. Take one can drained tuna and mix with 1/2 can mushroom soup and about two tablespoons milk. Zap in nuke 90 sec. while your bread is toasting. Butter your toast and voila! Hot meal in 90 sec. For those of you who are going get snooty about the mushroom soup, just remember, it's the duct tape of the kitchen.
post #15 of 72
Leftovers are the first line of defense. Most of my meals serve us twice.

Macaroni and cheese. As well as pastas of most sorts. In the time it takes to cook pasta, many different sauces can be made.

But in just a bit more time, I can make biscuits and sausage gravy from scratch.

The chef salad is perhaps one of the quickest.

If you're willing to consider canned goods, you can create an acceptable red flannel hash from two cans of corned beef hash and a can of shoe string beets. Some extra seasonings and maybe some eggs. Not the best version, but pretty good and very quick.

Similarly, some good canned black beans, some chicken stock, a little garlic and onion sweated in olive oil lemon juice and you're on your way to a black bean soup. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream. Not deeply nuanced in flavor but pleasant all the same.

Hummus with toasted pita. Canned goods help out here too.
post #16 of 72
Several years ago when my son and I were working in his cabinet shop, we wanted frozen entrees for lunch - just in a microwave - and we found that Safeway's Safeway Select brand were the only ones at all fit to eat. Some of them were actually pretty good. We tried most of the other brands - once. :mad:

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #17 of 72
I would look at the thread about crock-pot meals from last week...lots of stuff there that would fit the bill...
post #18 of 72
Oh, and I really like the Amy's Organic brand of frozen food (in the organic section of your grocer). My fave thing to heat up on the run is her No-Cheese veggie pizza with sweet onions, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers on a whole wheat crust with a balsamic vinegar sauce instead of the normal tomato. I sprinkle some fresh grated parmesan or asiago on it before cooking and it's soooo good (and healthy, too).
post #19 of 72
My favourite quick meal would be to knock up a quick tomato sauce (sorry, I just can't buy the jarred stuff!) then throw in a top quality tin of tuna (Spanish if possible) and serve over pasta. Delicious, nutritious, filling, cheap(ish) and very easy!:smiles:
post #20 of 72
If you add some chopped olives to that, plus some chili flakes, I'll join you for lunch!
post #21 of 72
Thread Starter 
I like many of Amy's products and can often get coupons for $1.00 off. About eight months ago I wrote them with a quaestion about a couple of their products. Within hours I received two replies from different departments, fully answering the questions, and then, as a bonus, the offered to send me some coupons. I got four coupons for free products, about the same for $1.00 off frozen products, and four or six fifty-cent off coupons.

I sometimes enjoy their mac and soy cheese, some of their canned siups are pretty good, especially when pumped up with some fresh ingredients.

Their ciupons got me to try some new products, like the canned soups. Oh, yeah, they also sent me a brochure that listed every item they make.

Amy's is a great company, local to the San Francisco area, privately and family owned. I believe they are really trying to put out a good product, and a lot of what they produce is good tasting and healthy.

post #22 of 72
Thread Starter 
Interesting idea ... esp with the addition of olives and chili flakes. There's a jarred sauce I sometimes get, Don Pomodoro, that would make this a very workable idea. Thks!

post #23 of 72
Thread Starter 
Don't have a slow cooker now- anyway, food cooked that way takes hours to prepare and requires some pre-planning I'm really looking to prepare some fast, last minute dishes.

I do like slow cooker cooking, however. I had the original Rival Crockpot, and made some nice meals in it. One was a low fat, low salt, "Greek" stew that was a fairly common meal here for a while. I'd like to get a new slow cooker some day.

post #24 of 72
Yes, I think the story of the company is what got me to start buying their products. I'm going to have to watch for coupons, LOL.

I would love to find a way to make that no-cheese veggie pizza myself and have the balsamic vinegar sauce taste half as good as theirs.

One of the very, very few frozen foods that actually surpasses my expectations -- you can even taste the olive oil in the pizza crust.
post #25 of 72
I posted one there that I did again this week and it literally takes 5 minutes of your morning (if you ever get a crockpot again, LOL)...

Dump a pork tenderloin (or two), a large sliced sweet onion, (you can even toss in a couple of granny smith sliced apples), and a bottle of Stubbs Chicken Marinade. Cook for the day and serve with Jim Beam BarBQ (low cal and low sugar by coincidence, not by design, but very rich flavor) and fresh cole slaw. (I buy the cabbage already shredded and add rice wine vinegar, a little turbanado (sp?) sugar, pepper, tiny bit of mayo, and if I have the time, some shredded apples. You can eat it on a bun, but I like mine just plated with no bread. The cold slaw with the pork is just right for a cold winter evening. :)
post #26 of 72
Thread Starter 
I'm going to have to look for that one. I don't recall having ever seen it. Amy's has a very extensive line of products, and it's a rare store (around here) that carries even half their line.

BTW, there really is an Amy ... it's not just a made up company name. Here's a recent pic from the Amy's Kitchen web site.

post #27 of 72
I have yet to manage a scratch-made sauce that I like, and there are very few jarred sauces that do it for me either, but the two I DO like are Trader Joe's Trader Giotto's brand Artichoke Marinara (this is my kids' absolute fave) and I think it's Mom's Pasta Sauce (very creative name, LOL) Artichoke, Basil and Asiago (in the organic aisle of my grocer and pricey, but worth it -- this is a staple in my house) since we don't have a Trader Joe's near anymore. I chop marinated artichoke hearts into it (Pastene are the ones that taste best to me) and serve it with fresh asiago over pasta or spaghetti squash. Yum!
post #28 of 72
LOL...I know...I used to love reading the side of the boxes while I was waiting for my food to cook (I actually believe what I read, he he).

This is one that I've never had trouble finding...Even here in Farmington, Maine. (My Hannaford grocery store just added a HUGE organic aisle a month or so ago -- I literally did a little happy dance when I walked in -- then I caught the looks of the Mainers around me and went on my way. But I caught other women doing the same thing that week, LOL.)

My old grocery store in No. VA carried very few of her products, but even they carried this pizza. Hope you find it. :)
post #29 of 72
Thread Starter 
That does sound good. Y'know, I bet I can cook "crock pot" meals in the oven just by keeping the heat real low. I'm gonna save this little recipe of yours.

I've done something of my own that's quite similar, made with chicken thighs and drumsticks. Cooked it in a sauté pan in the oven, and it turned out great. Set the temp very low and cooked the chicken for a couple of hours. I love pork, which would be a nice change from chicken.

post #30 of 72
Well, after I posted it on the other thread, I had a huge craving for it and then couldn't find my crock pot anywhere, so your idea is actually what my friend (who had popped in late afternoon and was staying for the evening) and I were going to do. Then I just went to Walmart instead and bought the same one I had just bought before I moved and never opened, instead. (I just know I'm going to find it in my barn this spring buried under the few boxes I haven't unpacked yet!)

Low heat in the oven should work well. Enjoy!
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