Frugal Tips

9 Simple Meal Ideas for Your Family When You don’t Feel like cooking

Ever had one of those days when you just don’t feel like cooking? Maybe you feel like this over the weekend after schlepping many homemade meals on weekdays? Or you had a long day and just can’t motivate yourself enough to cook a meal?

Here are a few simple meal ideas to get you over those days. The goal is to eat a healthy meal as much as possible with minimal effort while on a budget. Sounds like a tall order? Here are a 9 ways you can achieve it insha Allah-

Cook once eat twice-

Cooking once eating twice is a life saver for me because it saves my family from eating out when I don’t feel like cooking or when I don’t have enough time to put a meal on the table. I try to make a little more whenever I cook and  then freeze the extra food while it’s fresh. I freeze them in stackable, transparent food containers. I prefer small containers, like the 3 cup containers since they thaw faster than the bigger containers. What foods do I freeze?

Uncooked foods- Hamburger patties, meatballs, cookie dough, chopped up seasonal veggies, fruits etc.

Semi cooked foods- Vegetables patties, kabab mix etc.

Cooked food- Fried meats, kababs, meat curry, garlic bread, cakes, cookies, rice, roasted chicken, fish fry, chicken fry etc.

Simple and easy meals-

Casseroles and crock pot meals are two simple and convenient ways to make easy meals. I make roasted chicken in crock pot that takes 10 minutes to prep and the house smells divine while the crock pot is doing all the work. The leftovers can be used in another meal to make sandwich or in pasta. The bones and gravy add great flavors to any soup.

If I have a little more time, I put together a chicken casserole with potatoes with a side of grilled carrots. Both are cooked in the oven. Another favorite is Shepherds’ pie or chicken pot pie.

You can also make grilled vegetables, baked potatoes in the oven. Make mixed vegetables in a curry sauce that can be served with rice or couscous.

Pasta+ meat/vegetable+ olive oil and seasoning= Healthy and easy meal

Left over meals-

Scavenge your fridge for left overs and make a quesadilla or panini with the leftovers and some cheese. I make paninis on our Breadman panini maker. If you’re short on counter space then you can use a cast iron grill press or a sandwich maker as well.

You can also use your leftovers to whip up a batch of fried rice. Be generous with spices and seasoning to add layers of flavors.

Soups are a great way to use up leftovers. Just add pasta or your favorite grains and season it well. Serve hot with a side of garlic croutons.

Semi homemade meals-

Semi homemade meals are created with the help of some store prepared food. It’s not the healthiest but you get to control some of the ingredients in your food.

Fish burrito-

Prepare fish sticks as directed until golden brown and crispy, chop into small chunks. Roll up refried beans, lettuce, tomato, and fish on a soft tortilla. Pan friend fish makes a great and healthier alternative.

Rotisserie chicken-

Get a takeout rotisserie chicken from your favorite store. Make pilaf, couscous or quinoa. Serve with a simple salad drizzled with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Slice the rotisserie chicken into small pieces. Spread on a bun, add lettuce, tomato and make a chicken burger.

Fry chicken slices in a little bit oil. Add cooked pasta, broccoli and artichoke. Add grated cheese and seasonings.

Make soup with cut up chicken, pasta and sliced carrot. Add seasonings to your taste.

Frozen mixed vegetables-

Frozen mixed vegetables are already sorted, cleaned and cut up for you. Make vegetable curry and serve with rice on naan.

Eggs go a long way-

There are so many ways you can use eggs. Eggs are usually simple and easy and go a long way too. You can make french toasts, Frittata, Omelette, Quiche, egg salad etc.

Potatoes go a long way as well. Hash brown served with tortilla, naan or rice takes less than 20 minutes to make. So do potato curries.

Breakfast for dinner-

Breakfast for dinner takes less time and pleases the crowd. You can serve waffles, pancakes or crepes with maple syrup, butter, heavy creme and jam. Don’t forget to add fruits.

Meals from a box-

Mac n Cheese are a good go to option that’s fast, easy and don’t cost much. Our favorite is Trader Joe’s organic Mac n cheese.

Frozen pizzas are another good choice that’s frugal and fast and easy on your guts if you opt for a healthier version.. We love Trader Joe’s frozen vegetable  pizza.

Snacks as meal-

Snack items can serve as a make do meal. All you have to do is to mix and match a few of the snack items and serve at once- cheese, fresh fruits, dried fruits, bread, nuts, dates, smoothie, steamed or fresh vegetables, hash brown, oven fried potatoes, grilled vegetables, salad, cut up bread with hummus or salsa etc. Forage your fridge and pantry and make do with what you have on hand.

Extend takeouts-

If you have exhausted all of the above and must get takeout then extend it with homemade rice or bread and a side of salad or steamed/grilled vegetables.

Extra Tips-

  • Keep a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer so you can whip up something in a few minutes.
  • Make and save a few freezer friendly meals for rainy days.
  • Learn to make simple and easy meals.
  • Find out which restaurants offer better quality foods in your area.
  • Develop the habit of loving leftovers.

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