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I have been a little caught up in 70 hour work weeks and I haven’t been writing nearly as much. It seems like I haven’t been home other than to sleep and eat, and I have been eating out a ton! I am finally getting back into a routine and figuring out my life, but it is still a little crazy.
After a few 70 hour work weeks, I know that I usually don’t want to cook after work. I have been there a million times and 9 times out of 10, I would end up going to get food or ordering pizza. I actually noticed a decent increase in eating out when I started working both jobs. When I noticed this, I started being more on purpose with my grocery shopping. I started preparing for nights where I didn’t want to cook and it saved me a TON on food costs in general.
Overall, I do try to eat healthy. When I actually prep and cook, my meals are a combination of meat, brown rice, and veggies almost 90% of the time. While most of these options aren’t the healthiest, it is still better and way cheaper than anything I would end up getting from eating out.
I attempt to make a habit of meal prepping every week. I do all of my cooking sometime on Sunday to make sure that I have food for the whole week instead of trying to figure it out and cook day by day. This does mean that I eat the same meal multiple days in a row, but I honestly don’t have a problem with that.
In the past, If I had gotten too busy to meal prep that week or just ran out of time, I would usually default to eating out.
Now, instead of eating out, I have one of these things at home:
1) Chicken Nuggets- $5-7 a bag
I am not even kidding with this one. I am such a 5 year old, but it is so great when it is easier to warm up a few chicken nuggets than it is to even go through a drive through. Sometimes chicken nuggets are actually my plan for my meal after work and there is no shame in that. In fact, chicken nuggets and tater tots were the first meal that I ever had in my current apartment. This meal has saved me from eating out so many times because it takes nothing to throw a few in the microwave.
2) Mac and Cheese- $.50 a box
This is so ridiculously cheap and it only takes about 15 minutes to make it. I know a lot of people who actually won’t eat it because they ate it so much when they didn’t have money. I used to have a bowl which makes a whole box of mac and cheese in the microwave in minutes! You can get one on Amazon for $7 bucks and it is so worth it because when I don’t want to cook, I can just throw it in the microwave. At less than 50 cents a box, this is probably my biggest go to.
3) Ramen- $.25 a package
Even cheaper than a box of Mac and cheese, I keep just a few things of ramen in my cabinet during the winter. I throw in a few extra frozen veggies when I cook it to spruce it up a little, but this is probably the cheapest and easiest solution. I have thrown in different things to make my ramen a little better. Throwing in meat, veggies, cheese, or pretty much anything else can be a good option to make it a little better. Another option is to serve over instant mashed potatoes (SUPPERR GOOOD). If you don’t like those ideas, you can get 101 Things to Do With Ramen Noodles and get some more great ideas! For $7.50, you could probably eat Ramen forever and never get bored!
4) Frozen Chicken Breast-$6 a bag
I ALWAYS have some kind of chicken in my freezer. While it usually isn’t for my back up food, I have definitely made it on the spot. I use my Pampered Chef “Crockpot on Steroids” and just throw some chicken in the microwave for 5-10 minutes. The Pampered Chef Covered Baker is an investment. It is a little expensive, but worth every penny for the amount of time you can save with it. I currently have my mom’s Instapot at home and I am excited to try that out. Even throwing a chicken breast on the grill is a pretty quick option. Once it is done, warming up some frozen veggies to go with it. Full meal in less than 10 minutes which is still faster than eating out.
5) Frozen Meals- $1-3 a meal
I am not a huge fan of convenience meals, but I usually have one or two in the freezer. These are actually my last option, but they are simple and usually pretty cheap. They usually come with a main meal and a side which makes my cooking super easy. If I find a good sale on them, I stock up on a few of them.
6) Eggs- $1 a dozen
This is probably a go to from my childhood because of my grandma. Every time I would spend the night, she would make me an omelet with lots of cheese. Before I was allowed to use the stove as a child, I learned to warm eggs up in the microwave. I ate scrambled eggs with cheese on them on the regular. They are usually so cheap and I always have them on hand for my breakfast. If I really don’t want to spend time in the kitchen, I will usually just whip up some eggs. This is similar to Ramen because you can throw pretty much anything into an omelet to make it more filling!
EDIT: A Few More foods!
Readers have added to this list making it a few more than 6, but they added a few favorites that I completely forgot about (even though they are in my cabinets)!
Pasta/Rice- $1-2 for a bag/box
Both of these starches are great for making about a million different meals. It could be as simple as pasta and tomatoes or something totally complex. There are a bunch of different combinations to make both of these super cheap and easy to throw something together! Pinterest has an endless amount of pasta and rice recipes or you can add it to almost any meat/veggie dish to stretch the meal a little bit farther!
Complete Pancakes: $2-3 a box
The just add water pancakes with a little syrup are the perfect meal to throw together when you can’t even imagine cooking. Even making pancake batter from scratch isn’t incredibly time consuming! Breakfast for dinner can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Pancakes can be a full meal or just throw an egg or two into the skillet and make a bigger meal out of it! I absolutely love pancakes with chocolate syrup on them!
Having meals at home that are ready to go or “emergency meals” for nights that cooking just isn’t an option is so essential for making sure you don’t fall into the trap of delivery pizza or Chinese!
I am not a huge fan of a giant meal every single night because it is just me at home. It takes way too much effort and I have no problem eating leftovers for a few days. These cheap meals don’t happen all that often. They are also great because other than eggs, I don’t have to worry about them expiring. I don’t throw them out and replace them all of the time if I don’t eat them!
I have recently started using Wal-mart Grocery Pick-Up for my groceries and it has made the shopping AND cooking part way easier. You can place your order online or using the app, set a pick up time, and then you just check in when you park in their designated “pick up” parking. There is no looking for parking, no impulse buying while browsing the store, and best of all, no dealing with crowds! You can pick up your groceries on your way home from work without getting out of the car! If you use my link, you will get $10 off your first order of $50 or more in groceries.
What are your favorite frugal meals?
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