Cheap and Easy Dinners

I already showed you how I organize my fridge to be as efficient as possible, and how I use prepared meals on the super busy weeks to help keep things under control.  But what about the times you don't want to shell out for those prepared meals?  You probably already know that breakfast and lunch can be quick and inexpensive (oatmeal, salad), but what about dinners?  Well don't worry, I still got you: enter cheap and easy dinners!  And I promise you, my level of easy is kiddie level.  If it takes long to cook, involves multiple pans, or has more than 7 ingredients, I automatically file it as difficult in my head and therefore not an option for busy evenings when dinner needs to get on the table quickly.  At the same time, I try to keep them as cost effective as possible.

Now, I don't think you have to eat ramen or peanut butter sandwiches for every meal to save money on your groceries.  (Although, given the option, I'd eat a peanut butter sandwich everyday if I could.)  And I don't think that easy meals have to taste boring.  I may use minimal ingredients, but it's never lacking in flavor.  So I gathered up the meals I regularly turn to when I'm keeping costs low and trying to put food on the table quickly.  You probably already know that skipping meat altogether will save tons of money, and really is infinitely easier to cook!  But that seemed too simple, saying just throw broth and veggies in a pot and simmer until you have soup (it really is that easy.)  I decided to focus on the meals that still include meat, since John wants meat with every dinner.

I should note that I'm a big fan of crockpot cooking and freezer meals, but those things need to be prepared ahead.  I'm just talking 'get home at 6 pm and need something hot in 15-30 minutes meals.'  I find all my recipes on Pinterest, but since we know that can be hit or miss, here's the top tested go to easy dinners we turn to on busy nights, and none of them break the bank:

Ground Turkey and Peppers

This is one of John's favorites, and I really thought it was going to be lacking in flavor the first time I made it but nope.  I make the recipe mostly as stated except I use less oil, no green onions or parsley/cilantro, I'm less picky about the type of peppers, and I always use the chipotle powder over chili powder, it has more flavor.  To help make this quicker, I chop all peppers and onions on Sundays after grocery shopping (and try to pick other recipes that use these ingredients as well!)  Green peppers are the cheapest and often on sale, but you'll find sales on the other colors as well.  Ground turkey is healthier than ground beef, but go with what's on sale if finances are a concern.  The recipe says it serves 4 but John usually eats it in 2, maybe 3 meals, but I do take out some of the meat to give to Hawkeye.  I generally serve it with rice, though it's fine on it's own.

Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas

I use more salt and less cumin in this recipe and I just eyeball the spices (like my girl Tara) because I like going a bit overboard so I can use more peppers and onions and still have enough seasoning for everything.  There's also been plenty of times I've made this with just a packet of taco or fajita seasoning instead of all the separate seasonings.  Now I know these seasoning packets are insanely simple to make in large batches at home and store, so you can use as needed, and I highly recommend that!  But even measuring out the ingredients the night of, this recipe is still quick and easy.  I drain the tomatoes or use fresh, otherwise it's too wet.  Other than that, I follow the recipe.  I usually don't need to make any side dishes with this, it's got everything.

Chicken Bruschetta Bake

This literally has 4 ingredients and cooks in 25 minutes.   Obviously I follow the recipe exactly, how could you not?!  I've made it for John and his grandpa and they love it, though they think it tastes more like Thanksgiving dinner than bruschetta.  Maybe because I go lighter on the cheese?  Regardless, it's super simple and quick. The thinner your chicken breasts, the faster it cooks, of course.  I try to add some other veggies on the side, like Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
I stick mostly to the recipe although I definitely don't bother with fresh ginger, I just use a shake or two of the powder.  And I know the recipe says 'don't skip this!' about the green onions, but we totally do.  Use just the 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  I serve this with rice and steamed vegetables; we always have the steamer bags of broccoli on hand, just in case, but usually I try to cook up broccoli on the weekends and just get it done, because I know it'll get eaten.  John prefers to use beef strips instead of ground beef with this recipe, but we only ever get those if there's a good sale.  I would say this is his most requested meal.

Those are my go-tos!  I hope it's helpful, I tried to make sure the flavor profiles were all different.  To round out a top 5, our other ideal meal would be pasta, but my dad makes homemade pasta sauce for us so we have it particularly easy and and that wouldn't be fair to add in.  But a box of noodles and a jar of sauce is equally cheap, simple, and quick as anything else on this list.  I splurge for the deli counter pre-made meatballs for John when we do this.  Meatballs are a pain in the butt to make.

Do you make any of the ones on my list, or want to try them?  Let me know in the comments what your go to cheap and easy meals are, I'm always looking for more!

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