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21 cheap and easy meals to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner


Burrito bowls are largely made of staples in the pantry and are suitable for any leftovers you have on hand.


The pandemic of coronavirus affected every aspect of life, from the way we do groceries and what we cook (witness only the rise of homemade bread and the resulting shortage of yeast and flour ). For many people, cheap and easy meals are always a priority – but even those who have the time, budget and inclination to cook multi-course parties regularly are probably looking for affordable and easy recipes.

Economic uncertainty and stress are even more of a factor for anyone without the happiness of working from home, including millions of restaurant workers and service workers who are currently unemployed.

We all cook from our pantries, minimizing groceries and doing what we can to reduce stress during quarantine, so straightforward, easy breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes are in order. Fortunately, food doesn't have to cost a lot of money or a lot of effort to be tasty.

To save big and keep things simple, rely heavily on pantry staples like canned or dried beans, rice, pasta, peanut butter, and canned tomatoes as the basis for most meals; add cheap fresh ingredients, such as ground beef or poultry and egg whites for egg whites, and a mix of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. If you use fresh herbs (or grow them yourself), use them or keep them before they spoil. Storing your products and frozen products in the right way extends the lifespan and ensures that you get the most out of it; so also with smart meal preparation strategies if you decide to cook in bulk and learn how to use leftover food.

With those tips in mind, here are some nutritious and delicious options for cheap and easy meals for any hour of the day (even if you don't remember exactly what day it is).

Easy Breakfast Recipes

Includes some preparatory options – in case working from home doesn't make mornings less hectic.

Fried Eggs

  Easy Fried Egg Recipe Chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/dpWh_JFfYPU83DfrnrpyIYo51Ts=/2020/04/29/b022f16f-7571 -41cf- 82a2-99aa2d607770 / easy-fried-egg-recipe-chowhound.jpg


Why we like them: Eggs are a great source of protein and don't necessarily require careful maintenance during cooking; this recipe can also be easily scaled up or down.

If that 18-pack of eggs per ounce is cheaper, go ahead and get it – eggs last for a while and are good for so many things. The beauty of this recipe is that you can easily crack your eggs in an ovenproof dish and let them cook undisturbed – without checking a skillet or swirling water for poached eggs.

They are enriched with some butter, cream and cheese (use what you have on hand and go a bit lighter on the dairy if it seems too rich) and are perfect with a crispy piece of toast. You can easily reduce or increase the amounts of the ingredient (and the size of your cooking pot) depending on how many mouths you need to feed. And you can even serve this for lunch or dinner with a simple salad. Get this easy fried egg recipe.

Homemade egg bite

  keto-egg-bites recipe "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/m1ZFNRJXoOwjwGVEZQb2eKh2PTo=/2020/04/29/ cb6c7076-8122-4ac0-a0d3- 9bbc58965ea0 / keto-egg-bites-recipe.jpg

James Stefiuk

Why We Like Them: They're another great protein-rich breakfast, don't need utensils, can be made ahead of time – and welcome any leftover meats and vegetables you want to use.

This keto-friendly egg bite recipe made in mini muffin pans (from the Dirty, Lazy, Keto Cookbook) is perfect for anyone who misses their morning run … to Starbucks. If you have a multicooker, a similar Instant Pot egg bite recipe will provide a jigglier texture. Enable the mix-ins depending on what you have; even a few dashes of your favorite herbs will induce them enough to wake you up all week.

Slow cooker steel cut oatmeal

  instant pot oatmeal recipe chowhound "data -original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/LVrVPCRH1fafQJu5z8B63qpmR4M=/2019/12/11/1044be5f-91b2- 4750-a4b7-78212f9ed41a / instant-pot-oatmeal-recipe-chowhound.jpg% 19659026 -pot-oatmeal-recipe-chowhound


Why we like it: Oats are a good plant-based form of protein and fiber to keep you full all morning – and if you have the option to buy in bulk, they'll cost a lot less than packaged oats or oatmeal.

If you really love oatmeal, you have a bunch of kids who also need breakfast every morning or just want to cook a meal by batch cooking, this Crock Pot oatmeal recipe makes six to eight servings and is a breeze to get together throw. You can use whole milk or coconut milk and top it off with whatever you have: fresh, frozen or dried fruit; nuts; grated coconut or even chocolate chips. If you prefer quick hits, Instant Pot oatmeal is a good idea. Either way, you can freeze individual servings in muffin cups for a simple future breakfast (just thaw in the microwave).

Chia pudding or overnight oats

 & # 39; night oats recipe chowhound "data-original =" https: //cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/ntN_tNPff87spvpMYqrZjHKOFaE=/2020/04/29/14a4c056-e30b-4df5-899e-9fe3b874fbb6/overnight-oats-recipe -chowhound.jpg-W19659032illaovernight-oats-advertisement] Chowhound
<p><strong>  Why we like them: </strong> Chia seeds are considered a superfood and although they can be expensive per pound depending on where you buy them, you don't have to use a lot at once; when they are off the table, you can prepare regular oats in the same way. </p>
<p>  Sure, smoothies are pretty straightforward, but overnight oats or chia pudding are even easier, because you mix things up the night before and just take it out of the fridge in the morning. This overnight oats recipe combines ½ cup of oatmeal with a tablespoon of chia seeds (plus Greek yogurt, honey, milk, and summer fruits). It's a good starting point, but you can use any flavor, fruit, and other toppings you like (or happen to have available). This nocturnal oats don't require chia and demonstrate the almost endless topping options. </p>
<h3>  Homemade muesli and yogurt </h3>
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<p><strong>  Why we like them: </strong> If you stick to a simple formula (and you already have certain things like vanilla and honey in your cupboard), you can buy oats, nuts and dried fruits from bulk bins Get the exact amounts and varieties you like at a cheaper price per pound than pre-made granola – and you can control how much sugar and oil is added. </p>
<p>  Not only is homemade granola usually much cheaper than store-bought, it is also healthier – you know exactly how much sugar (and what kind) is in the mix, and you can adjust the proportions of all ingredients to suit your specific taste. Skip the nuts if allergies are an issue. You don't even have to stick to oats, as this homemade granola recipe tutorial shows. Save it for a relatively healthy snack, or use it to serve your favorite yogurt for breakfast. (If your pressure cooker has a yogurt function, try this Instant Pot yogurt recipe to save even more money.) </p><div><script async src=

Chocolate banana crunch muffins

  vegan chocolate banana muffin recipe "data-original = "https: //cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/ipkRz4HFGCZTrgeNjsJkPJUQpfM=/2020/04/29/b204f625-bbc0-4061-bd64-a6c9cc9d0912/vegan-chocolate-banana-muffin-recip.jpgocol194991499 Chowhound
<p><strong>  Why we like them: </strong> Bananas are affordable (if you don't buy organic, they cost an average of 57 cents per pound) and have a high potassium content – and you can even use them if they're a little overripe instead throw them away (and waste money). This vegan recipe doesn't cancel out their benefits with tons of added sugar, either. </p>
<p>  Prefer baked goods for breakfast? There's no rule that says you shouldn't eat banana bread before the first meal of the day, but for a less sugary option that's also vegan and gluten-free, try this chocolate banana muffin recipe. Instead of adding butter, eggs, and refined sugar and flour to the batter, the mashed bananas mix with coconut oil, a chia egg, and oat and almond flour, plus cocoa powder for the chocolate boost. Sweetened with maple syrup and topped with granola, they're a real treat that will make you feel good about eating (and giving to your kids). They are also much easier than homemade bagels. </p>
<p>  <strong> Replacements: </strong> Don't you have coconut oil? Use another neutral vegetable oil instead. No chia seeds to make a chia egg? Substitute 2 tablespoons of water plus 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil – or just ¼ cup of carbonated water. Everything from maple syrup? Honey works equally well here. And if you have whole oats and almonds in your pantry, you can grind both into flour in a food processor (don't mix the almonds for too long or you'll get nut butter, which is also fun to make at home). However, if you don't want to think about swaps, these healthy banana muffins are similar, but call for more general ingredients (and you can use plain all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat if AP is all you have). [19659011] Bonus: do-it-yourself dalgona coffee </h3>
<figure class=  dalgonacoffee "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/rwpRFrpGsHu32bZRdHYJzWwqXLQ=/2020/04/21/1014bf5d-f1d5-4ef1 -a425-3b32e66cb9. jpg

Hana Asbrink

Why We Like It: Made from just three ingredients (including instant coffee grains, which are typically much cheaper than whole or ground beans), this is a real treat that costs much less than anything you've ever had at Starbucks (but we'll show you how to make Starbucks classics at home too).

Have you seen this soft coffee drink all over social media and immediately assumed you could never do it at home? It's actually very simple – and it only contains three ingredients (five if you include ice and water). Simply beat instant coffee granules or espresso powder with white sugar and hot water until it swells, then scoop it into a glass of ice milk (be it conventional dairy products or a plant-based alternative). You have a chic latte alternative that every barista would be proud of.

Easy Lunch Recipes

Here you will find (usually) recipes without cooking and some adult versions of childhood favorites (that real kids like too).

Adult tuna salad

  Adult tuna salad recipe chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/HnsTfLLPiCs15wfw2RvXvpugOE4=/2020/04/ 29 / 644d4aff-45db-4247-a836-4a7e / adult-tuna-salad-recipe-chowhound.jpg


Why We Like It: Canned Tuna is a consistently affordable source of lean, high-protein nutrition that contains all the essential amino acids you need.

There's no shame in tuna salad, especially when dressed with adult add-ons like fennel, parsley, Dijon, and lemon zest (that said, check out more tuna salad recipes if you're fresh from fresh produce). You can serve this on bread, scoop up with crackers and vegetables or stack it on fresh vegetables. And if you're feeding kids, mix a large batch of tuna with anything but the ingredients they object to and add those extras to what's left for your own lunch. Get an adult tuna salad recipe.

Grilled PB&J

  grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet3.cbsistatic.com/img/9ejv205- DVUL8CUi1fFLjgcqMdo = / 2020/04/29 / b4572ddb-532a -49ca-ad90-d058b8281823 / grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich chowhound.jpg


Why We Like It: Protein-packed peanut butter isn't usually expensive (although it depends on the brand you buy, of course) and a little goes a long way (unless you find yourself craving it with a spoon) several times a day)

If you've never tried applying heat to the classic peanut butter and jam sandwich, prepare to fall in love again. This grilled PB&J recipe is crunchy, mealy perfection – and easy to make with any other nut or seed butter, plus whatever jelly your jam is. Once you inevitably get charmed, try these grilled peanut butter sandwich combos for even more revealing lunches. Most children will also breathe these. They are particularly suitable for reviving frozen bread (ditto any other toasted or grilled sandwich). If you or your kids can't eat peanut butter, but you have a food processor, you will usually find it cheaper to make homemade nut butter instead of buying it in the store.

Pita pizza

  pita pizza recipe chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/2fjN9YfEvy1FQbWq3TwOGzA90WU=/2020/04/29/1a650ea0-c2cd-4efa-b263- 80b305e37379 / pita-pizza-recipe-chowhound. jpg


Why we like it: It prevents your bread from becoming stale and you can use all kinds of leftovers that would otherwise be thrown away (which means throwing money in the trash).

This pita pizza recipe is great for any meal. Just a store-bought pita bread or other flat bread with cheese and the toppings of your choice, including any leftover cooked meat or vegetables you may have. You can also add sauce if you like. Without cheese? Instead, try something like this chorizo ​​and olive flatbread recipe. And if you only have ordinary bread at home, this simple Italian toast recipe is in the same delicious wheelhouse.

Curry chicken salad

  curry chicken salad-chowhound "data-original =" https: // cnet2 .cbsistatic.com / img / AFolEKBHaFYhnOrhxZ0NTFAUSPM = / 2020/04/29 / 8a02c840-9668-472e-87fd-8fd73 / 8fd73 curry-chicken-salad-chowhound.jpg

Why we like it: It uses every last bit of meat on a roasted chicken.

Making a roast chicken for dinner is almost as easy as picking up a rotisserie bird – but however you get there, the chicken will usually make a lot of meat for lunch the next day, too. If you're lucky enough to have a wealth of leftover poultry, make it a vibrant curry chicken salad with almonds, apples, raisins and mango chutney (but it will still be delicious if you only have one or two of that fruity mix have) ins to contrast the mild spices and savory flavors). Or try another non-boring chicken salad recipe. As with tuna, you can make a sandwich out of it, top it with a green salad, or just scoop it up.


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Why we like it: Beans and legumes are another great vegetable protein; When it comes to cost, dried beans almost always cost less per serving than canned, but you may prefer to pay a little more for the convenience of pre-cooked. If you want to cook them from dried, remember to soak them overnight first.

This may seem simple, but hummus is always satisfying and quite healthy as long as you add plenty of fresh vegetables to dip your pita with. Homemade hummus is easy to make with canned chickpeas, but if you're fresh, try black bean hummus, white bean hummus, or even red lentil hummus. Do you have a little spinach or fresh herbs that are going to wilt? Toss them in too (as in the spinach and basil hummus recipe above). In addition to dipping things into any of the above for a grown-up lunch-style affair, you can use hummus as a sandwich or wrap spread, or even in place of mayo in egg salad.

Easy Dinner Recipes

Prepare with pantry staples.

Slow cooker beef chili

  chili "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/nURZ935-KHfM_A5vc7rH2K--tA8=/2018/01/30/2653026c -aec9-4438-b139- 122b1c21e14c / chili.png


Why we like it: Per serving, beans are much cheaper than meat (and depending on the type of meat, they can also be healthier). By combining beans with ground beef or turkey, you can use less meat and still have plenty of it.

Beans are a pantry powerhouse and we have a plethora of favorite bean recipes for all kinds of canned and dried beans. But one of the most iconic should be chili – and this easy Crock Pot chili recipe with ground beef and kidney beans is a favorite for the way it cooks itself. You can use ground turkey if you prefer; ditto other types of canned beans, depending on what you have. Canned tomatoes also go inside. Meat is not necessary if you don't eat it or just don't have it now. (In that case, this black bean chili pressure cooker recipe is another great opton.)

Read more: 15 quick and easy Instant Pot meals

Burrito bowls

  burrito -com-recipe -chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/O5KAnV-CNbYRhcY1glVtccNilFQ=/2020/04/29/fccab454-89b6-49bb-bf22-1cab228c28d8/burrito-bowl-recipe -chowhound.jpg


Why We Like It: Having strategies to use up leftovers is important in the fight against food (and money) waste; these bowls are versatile enough to handle anything like leftover meat and rice, frozen vegetables, cooked beans (canned or made from scratch) and more.

Canned beans (again) and frozen corn help bulk rice and lettuce in this versatile burrito bowl recipe. Boil the egg white you have on hand or leave it and cover it with the fried egg. Change the type of cheese and dollop of salsa on top if that's all you have. This is also a great way to dress up leftover meat or vegetable alternatives (such as tofu or jackfruit) for lunch the next day.

Spaghetti carbonara without bacon

  carbonara recipe without bacon chowhound "data- original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/Q1ocXp8avstjQcAmiPWP03NVuDs=/2020/04/29/52230dcb-3610- 42a4-8d8f-673528feceae / carbonara-recipe-without-bacon-chowhound.jpg% 1965910 recipe-without-bacon-chowhound


Why we like it: Dried pasta is usually quite cheap, especially if you buy the store brand – and it significantly increases in volume when cooked, so your dollar and change go a long way (if you doesn't like) t likes leftover pasta and it's just a few for dinner, don't cook the whole box but make sure to reduce the amount of the sauce ingredient accordingly). Sauces can be made from just a few staples in the pantry, so you get an entire meal without a lot more money.

An easy pantry pasta par excellence, this proves that simple ingredients can contribute to very satisfying dishes. All you need for this desperate spaghetti carbonara is pasta, butter, garlic, eggs, pepper and cheese – if you have bacon or pancetta, feel free to throw it in! (And if you have a huge supply of pasta, there are other great ways to dress it up, this canned tomato and butter sauce recipe, this spinach pesto recipe, or even tomato soup as a pasta sauce.)

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Why We Like It: Eggs contain a fair amount of protein, but cost much less per serving than other common sources such as chicken and beef. Like pasta, they can be dressed for dinner with just a few staples in the pantry.

This Israeli dish of eggs poached in simmering tomato sauce with onions and herbs is a great one-pan dinner that also works for brunch. You can add other vegetables if you have them, and it's just as tasty without the zhug (Yemeni spice sauce) on it. If you don't have eggs but can find silky smooth tofu, it adds a nice texture contrast to the dish. Get this shakshuka recipe from CNET sister site Chowhound.

Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

  easy-crock-pot-chicken soup-recipe-chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img / n9vGSqCEV0RYQydKKRf9I1Gb-OU = / 2020/04/29 / 10fad4ce -6531-4961-af06-745d3b2cc705 / easy-crock-pot-chicken-soup-recipe-chowhound.jpgerking19659116anyeas-crock-pot-chick-oup recipe-chowhound


Why We Like It: Buying a whole chicken is cheaper per pound than buying it already cut into pieces, and it gives you a lot more to work with, including the flavorful bones, which are here absolutely necessary

If you have a Crock Pot and a good chunk of meat, you're well on your way to pulling pork for days on end, but if you'd rather not have an endless stack of protein, try this slow cooker chicken soup recipe. You just put a whole chicken in the pot along with chopped vegetables, flavors and water – and after about eight hours you'll have a fragrant broth and plenty of tender meat to shred and toss back into the soup (but not too much to deal with) with). If you want to add rice or pasta, cook as much as you use for one meal and add it to your individual bowls so it doesn't get too mushy in the soup.

Peanut noodles

  easy peanut noodle recipe chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/0EJEvwJGks3UTieKyvFlK0Q74eo=/2020/04/29/96e40f23-8925-4141 -b383-46a138f31e93 / easy-peanut-noodle recipe-chowhound.jpg


Why We Like Them: Cheap yet protein-rich peanut butter is a surprisingly versatile ingredient, and noodles are almost always in the pantry – moreover, this recipe will work with almost any variety.

That peanut butter jar in your pantry is good for so much more than sandwiches. Fast peanut noodles are a favorite and can be easily adapted to the vegetables you have on hand, including frozen vegetables. If you omit the fish sauce in this easy Asian peanut noodle recipe, it's vegan – and if you're craving more protein, you can add everything from seared tofu cubes to shredded chicken. In no time, spaghetti or linguine can replace the udon noodles (if you have whole wheat pasta noodles all the better). You can even cook ramen noodles (without the flavor pack) and use them here.

Kimchi fried rice: meaty or vegetarian

  kimchi bacon fried rice recipe chowhound "data-original =" https: //cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/K9XNKR7vw0rhdMtLX-zst6K1uhM=/2020/04 /29/9398a5b7-29b0-4250-b2b4-7a083b6fbfd9/kimchi-bacon-fried-rice-recipe-chowhch8h8.jpg -fried-rice-recipe-chowhound

Hana Asbrink

Why we like it: Uncooked rice is generally quite cheap (especially if you buy bags labeled "medium grain" or "long grain" as opposed to varieties such as jasmine and basmati), especially if you buy larger sizes Bags; it also has a long shelf life, so don't worry about not going through it fast enough. While it may not provide the health benefits of whole grains, it is a filling and affordable way to boost many meals.

Rice is a really great grain and can do so much in the kitchen (including dessert) – but if you've made a relatively regular rice as a side dish, the leftovers turn into fried rice even better. The basic recipe is pre-eminently riffable, but Chowhound editor-in-chief Hana Asbrink & # 39; s heart belongs to this spicy bacon and kimchi fried rice recipe. Is it any wonder why? You can leave out the bacon if you don't eat meat (or don't have meat). If you're cutting carbs, try tweaking this cauliflower fried rice recipe with those key ingredients and it will be just as fantastic.

Whole roasted chicken

  easy roasted chicken recipe chowhound "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/OB3me4Yv2AsbCTGCiiUGiyrVKJE=/2020/04/29/0140c472-ad37-4169-bedb -6d2c8179f871 / easy-roasted-chicken-recipe-chowhound.jpg% 19659134 tabeasy-roasted-chicken-recipe-chowhound


Why We Like It: Buying a whole bird is the most economical option, and roasting it at home is not difficult; you can turn the meat into a few dinners or lunches, and the carcass can then be made into chicken stock (saving you even more money in the long run).

This is one of the most basic and the most versatile dishes you can (and should) learn to make. It is much cheaper than a rotisserie chicken and really not that difficult. There are many methods of roasting a whole bird, but this basic roast chicken recipe includes everything you need to know. You can serve this with potatoes in any form, a bread salad or green salad, rice, whole grains, beans, pasta or just about anything. And of course, the leftover meat can be used in just as many ways – here are some ideas.

Lentil Soup

  Easy Lentil Soup Recipe Chowhound "data-original =" https: // cnet2 .cbsistatic.com / img / mT4k8459nuqKjmm8QHQHCagKpS8 = / 2020/04/29 / a560a467-3447-421f-a93e-f22c3 / easy-lentil soup-recipe-chowhound.jpg

Why We Like It: Cooking just 1¼ cups of lentils in a six-serving meal – and these affordable little legumes are high in protein, so they'll keep you full until tomorrow.

This lentil soup recipe is healthy, filling, and completely vegetarian (although you can use chicken stock if that's what you have in your pantry – and if you don't have any stock at all, just use water and season with salt). You can also use frozen spinach if you don't have fresh or fresh kale if a bunch threatens to wilt in your vegetable drawer.

Need more help?

If you're new to all of this, see some more kitchen skills to master, 10 kitchen commandments that all chefs should follow, and an AZ ingredient replacement guide for everything you might be missing. (plus how you can help others during the COVID-19 crisis.)

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional if you have questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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