Cheap, Nutritious, and Easy to Make Meals

I’ve recently moved into my very first apartment and have fallen into the rut of eating stereotypical bachelor fare… lots of cereal, hot dogs, Chef Boyardee, and so on. I’d like to get out of that for a number of reasons (weight loss and cost saving chief amongst them) but don’t really know where to start since I’ve never had to cook for myself.

Does anyone have some favorite meals that’re both cheap and nutritious that they’d like to share with a novice? I’m willing to try most anything aside from seafood (clams and shrimp are okay though) and offal. And no green beans. I hate green beans.

Thanks in advance.

I’ve filched these recipes from various websites (except for the second sweet potato soup recipe, that’s my own) and my commentary is between the asterisks.

Thai Peanut Pasta
8 ozs. uncooked spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 carrot shredded
Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, blend peanut butter, soy sauce and red pepper flakes in medium bowl until smooth. Drain pasta, reserving 5 Tablespoons water. Mix hot pasta water with peanut butter mixture until smooth; toss pasta with sauce. Stir in green onions and carrot. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings

This sauce is also good for stir-fry and for grilling. It also adds a lot to the dish to scramble an egg and put in and/or add a bit of leftover meat. If you want to go low-carb, this is also really great with spaghetti squash.

Caesar Chicken Sandwiches
These are incredibly good, and the other night I unloaded groceries, made these and the garlic fries, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, and wiped down the counters–with about 45 minutes from the time I hit the door till I parked myself at the table. They’re just that fast and easy, and the recipe cuts down really well, so you can make two or three instead of a whole batch.

Serves 6

4 1/2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if the breasts are too big, cut one in half)
cooking spray (I use my own pump filled with oil)
9 tablespoons lemon juice
6 cloves garlic – minced
6 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco sauce I skip this one, since I think Tobasco’s yucky
3 tablespoons walnuts – toasted and chopped (optional) I skip this too, since we never have walnuts around and I never think to get them
6 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
6 whole wheat sandwich rolls-- sliced
lengthwise (or your choice) 6 Romaine lettuce leaves

Combine flour and pepper. Coat chicken with flour mixture, shaking off excess.

Spray a 10-inch skillet with cooking spray for 2 seconds; over medium heat, lightly brown chicken on both sides. Combine lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce; pour over chicken. Cover; simmer for 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Sprinkle walnuts and cheese over chicken.

Arrange lettuce on Hearty Wheat Sandwich Rolls; top with chicken. Serve immediately.

Per Serving: 484 Calories; 10g Fat (18.4% calories from fat); 40g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 101mg Cholesterol; 648mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

Baked Garlic-y Steak Fries
Serves 6

8 russet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder I think garlic salt works better, but that’s just me.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes well, then cut into steak fry shapes. In a large bowl, toss raw steak fries with olive oil and garlic powder, tossing till well-coated. On a cookie sheet, lay flat steak fries (not overlapping) and bake for 15 minutes, turn fries, then finish baking another 15 or so minutes (depending on how thick you cut them).

Per serving: 162 Calories (kcal); 9g Total Fat; (49% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 6mg Sodium Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

COOKING HINTS: Get your potatoes in the oven BEFORE you start on the sandwiches…they truly don’t take long.

SERVING HINTS: Serve a little salad if you like with this or do what we do: skip the salad and serve a bowl of baby carrots right in the middle of the table.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Smoked Sausage Soup
I haven’t made this one yet, but I’m going for it when Jonathan makes his next batch of chicken stock. (He won’t get around to it till cooler weather, I’m sure.) If you don’t have the patience or freezer space to make and store your own stock, you can buy it canned. You might even could use boullion cubes, I don’t know.

Serves 6

12 ounces smoked sausage – diced (optional if you want to go veggie)
3/4 cup onion – diced
3/4 cup celery
1 teaspoon cayenne (give or take, depending on how spicy you like it or omit)
4 1/2 cups sweet potatoes – peeled and large-diced
3 tablespoons flour
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Saute sausage in a large sauce pan for 5 minutes over medium heat; add vegetables and continue to saute for an additional 5 minutes; add flour and cook for 2 more minutes; add stock, salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Give it a good stir and serve.

Per Serving: 336 Calories; 18g Fat (48.9% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 2439mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 3 Fat

Tamara’s Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup

This is an eyeball recipe, and I tweak the ratios and seasonings as the mood strikes me, so just play around with it.

Peel 2 large sweet potatoes and pop in the microwave for about five minutes, then chop them up. Put them into a large pot of water with a pat of butter, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer till potatoes are tender. Sautee red onion (with or without smoked sausage), then add it to soup along with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste. Simmer uncovered until soup is desired consistency. Can be served hot or cold.

You can also toss everything in a crockpot in the morning and then tweak the seasonings when you get home.

Garlic Lime Chicken
Serves 6

I’ve never made this one either, but it looks yummy and can apparently be veggied up, so I thought I’d toss it in.

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons lime juice
In a bowl, mix together first 7 ingredients. Sprinkle mixture on both sides of chicken breasts.

In a skillet heat butter and olive oil together over medium high heat. Saute chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Turn down the heat, remove the chicken (keeping warm) and add the lime juice and chicken broth to the pan, whisking up the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Keep cooking until sauce has reduced slightly. Add chicken back to the pan to thoroughly coat and serve.

Per Serving: 343 Calories; 11g Fat (31.1% calories from fat); 55g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 612mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 7 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Roasted asparagus (preheat oven to 400 degrees, lay your asparagus in a baking dish or pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and a smidge of thyme, bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagi), baked potatoes (try Yukon Gold potatoes?delicious!) and steamed baby carrots (add a little butter after steaming and sprinkle some nutmeg on top before serving).

VEGETARIANS: Skip the chicken and use Boca Chikin patties instead. Dip the chikin patty in the melted butter/olive oil mixture before adding seasoning though (so it will stick).

After trying to figure out why these recipes looked so familiar, I just popped in my disk that I have various things saved on and found them staring me back in the face.

You’ve apparently given me these before… probably in my apartment thread. They still look delicious though. :slight_smile:

Fry one chopped chilli in olive oil for five minutes. Add a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped. 30 secs later, add a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half. Cook for a few more minutes, adding salt, pepper, and any herbs you have handy. Serve with pasta (which cooks in about the same time as the recipe :slight_smile: )

Really Cheap Chicken Pie- basic recipe

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the crust:

Jiffy pie crust mix. Just make according to the package directions for a two-crust pie. You’ll need flour for rolling it out, but it’s not hard to do.

For the filling:

1 cup of cooked chicken, diced
1 package chicken gravy, mixed according to directions but not cooked
About 1 and a half cups frozen veggies, any kind you like
Dash of salt and pepper (it will need it)

Mix crust mix, roll bottom crust and place in pie pan, fill with filling, roll top crust and place over pie. Remove extra dough up to about an inch, then roll under or pinch the edge all around. Cut a few vents in the center. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy.

That’s basically it. Once you get some confidence you can dress it up however you like. It’s a very flexible recipe. Oh, and don’t worry about the Jiffy crust tasting sweet, like dessert pie crust. It doesn’t. Also, Aveguy’s mom makes chicken pie with cream of chicken soup instead of gravy, I don’t recommend it. Yech. But Taco Pie is really good.

Some things you just can’t do. Mine is piecrust. After my last pitiful attempt at homemade piecrust I just gave up and said, I will not be ashamed of instant pie crust mix! It’s cheap, fast, and easy, and it tastes good to us!

I swear I don’t work for them.

You should also roast a whole chicken sometime. It can seem a bit intimidating, but it’s incredibly simple, and it’s so very nummy. Besides, a whole chicken will often cost you about the same as a pound of boneless skinless breast, so it saves you a lot of money. (If you must buy boneless, skinless breast, find a sale on the bags of individually frozen ones and stock up.) Preheat the oven to 350, clean out your bird if needed (Perdue’s Tender n Tasty’s don’t have the gunk in them), and rinse it off. Take a pair of kitchen shears (they’re worth investing a few bucks in, trust me, they’ll more than pay for themselves with the money you save cutting up your own chickens) and cut out the backbone. Then slice out the keelbone, the sort of triangular bone that runs down the center of the bird’s front. Rub chickie’s skin with some mayo and sprinkle liberally with your choice of seasonings (I’m specially fond of Emeril’s Southwest essence or Joe’s Stuff), pop him on a roasting pan (you can use a cooling rack on a cookie sheet), and toss his birdie butt in the oven for an hour and a half to two hours. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can use the leg test to see when the chicken is done. Grasp a drumstick and try to rotate the leg; when the entire leg twists easily, the chicken is done.

The prep for this reads like a lot of work, but it’s really about five minutes or so, and you’ve got several meals. You can eat the roast chicken straight up, cut it up for sandwiches or to put on salads, or make chicken salad or soup out of it. If you get bored eating the same stuff for days in a row, cook half a bird and freeze the other half.

You can also beer or soda roast a chicken. Take the top rack out of your oven and preheat to 350. Rinse the bird and do the mayo and spice thing, then open a can of beer or soda and punch some extra holes in the top of the can. Toss some of your spices into the can. Put the can on a cookie sheet and slide the chicken down over the can. The drumsticks and the can up the butt make a tripod, so your chicken is standing up. Pop it into the oven for a couple hours. (This is more commonly done on the grill, but most apartment dwellers don’t have those.)

I like to serve roast chicken with mashed potatoes, which are also cheap and easy. Cut up potatoes (you can skin them or not, according to personal preference) and boil them until tender. Smush them with a potato masher or a fork, then add butter, milk, and salt to taste and stir it all up.

Chicken, taters, steamed carrots, a green salad, and corn muffins. Mmmm.

You might also enjoy chicken rollups. Take a chicken breast and pound it thin and flat (use a can if you don’t have a mallet). Lay a piece of ham on top of the chicken, then add a slice of cheese. Roll it all up and secure with toothpicks. Dip chicken roll in a bit of milk, then roll in crushed cereal. Bake at 375 for approximately thirty minutes. It cooks up tender and juicy and crunchy on the outside and cheesy-gooey on the inside, and pounding the chicken can be terribly therapeutic if you’ve had a bad day.


Quickest, easiest, cheapest thing I know.

All you do is cook up whatever meat you want in a little bit of oil, around a tablespoon, I use corn oil. Chicken, turkey, pork or beef it doesn’t matter. If you buy some of the cheap cuts it won’t matter here either. eg buy chicken legs and take the meat off or cheap steaks or pork chops and cut it up into pieces.

Chop up veggies before or while it’s cooking. Just use whatever you have on hand or buy stuff for it. At the very least my stirfry’s have carrots and onions, I also add red and/or green peppers, brocolli, cauliflower, pea pods, bean shoots, cabbage (I’ve even used some of the bagged coleslaw sans dressing of course), celery, garlic… just whatever veggies you have on hand work

Add the veggies in when the meat is cooked and cook until the carrots are how you like them. If you put a lid on it it cooks faster, and kinda steams the veggies I find.

When the veggies are almost cooked, add a little bit of soy sauce and some oyster sauce (my preference, you can try different sauces to find which you like) to coat everything. Cook for a little longer to make sure it’s heated through and put on top of rice.

If you are using regular, not minute rice, start cooking the rice before you start the stir-fry otherwise it won’t be ready when the stirfry is. And if you don’t have any meat or poultry, or don’t feel like it, meat is optional. It works out just fine when it’s just vegetables as well.

Ave, have you tried making your chicken pot pie with biscuit dough instead of pie crust dough? That’s how my mom always did it, adding little extra shortening to make it flakier. I find it much simpler than trying to make decent pie crust. We also just boil up some leg quarters, then add Veg-all and butter to the resulting broth, with a dusting of flour to thicken it slightly.

Orange Chicekn Fiesta (got me through college – it’s cheap too)

About 12 chicken thighs (or equivalent)
1 can of frozen concentrated orange juice
1 envelope of onion soup mix
1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning (optional, I rarely bother can’t taste a difference)

Thaw the frozen juice – do NOT dilute it. Dump the onion soup mix in the OJ, add the poultry seasoning (if you want to bother). Mix your “sauce” throughly.

Cook in a roasting pan covered for a half hour at 400 F. Uncover it and give it a final ten minutes.

Very savoury, cheap and effortless. Good on rice. Make sure you have lots of napkins. Not good if your tummy is senstitive to acidic foods.

Yup, I do this most Sundays, and it feeds me for almost a week.

My roasting method: peel onions and chop them, put them across the bottom of a pan, and rest the chicken on top of them. Follow the cooking guide, but it’s usually about 90Chop parsnips and carrots, smother them in olive oil and herbs, and roast for about an hour in the same oven, only turning once towards the end. When the chicken is done, take out the onions and put them with the rest of the roast veg, move the chicken to a plate to rest, spoon off the fat from the juices. Then add stock and/or gravy mix to make a really tasty onion gravy.

Once you have eaten your chicken dinner, and the bird has cooled, use two forks to pull every last bit of meat and skin off the bones. Reserve larger meat strips from the breast for use in fajitas later in the week.

The little misshapen bits, put them into a bowl and mash it up with a fork, adding mayo, herbs, salt and pepper. Put it in a tupperware tub and keep for sandwich fillings for the rest of the week.

Then throw the bones into a pot and simmer for about three hours. Strain to remove the bones, then add left-over veggies and gravy, and simmer again. Whizz in a blender - bada bing, chicken soup.

Total cost, well, I dunno about the US of A, but in some stores here I can pick up a chicken for less than €4 (about $5). The veggies come in at around €3. Will make about 5 or 6 meals if you count sandwiches. Not bad for less than €10!

Ooops. “90 minutes. Chop…”

If you haven’t already, invest in a crock pot. (I got mine at a thrift store for two bucks, it’s smallish but perfect for one person.)

You can throw in a couple chicken breasts or a turkey breast in the morning and set it on low, and you’ll have them done by dinner.

My favorite thing in the crock pot is ‘crockpot lasagna’ (which I think, I got the recipe from someone around here) :

Cook your lasagna noodles (or macaroni noodles work well) as if you were making regular lasagna - don’t cook them quite done. Start with a layer of sauce in the crock pot, layer on noodles, cheese, and sauce (or whatever YOU like in your lasagna) and finish with a layer of cheese. Set on low and leave it for a bit (an hour? two? doesn’t take too long) and it’s done.

Something that is handy is buying some containers and freezing portions of food for later. I often found when I lived alone that I had TOO MUCH food and got bored with eating the same thing for a week in order to not waste it. Again, check out your thrift stores for some containers, and keep an eye out for a few decent pots and pans to cook with. (I found some nice T-Fal pots at goodwill a while back and those are certainly good enough for me!)

Here are some recipe threads you might find useful:

Low Fat Recipes

The odd beauty of insomniac crock pot cooking

What are some “I don’t really cook” decent dinners?

Crockpot recipes…

Kitchen tips for bachelors

Your favorite recipes (only the cheap, simple and quick ones, please)

My George Foreman grill comes in handy.

Occassionally I’ll take a (turkey) burger or a piece of boneless/skinless chicken out of the freezer and defrost it. Throw spinach or brocolli on the stove, a red potato in the microwave and the burger on George. Dinner is done in 11-14 minutes and easy to clean up. Just wipe the grill with a damp towel.

Chicken and Rice

4 chicken breasts
1 can tomatoes with roasted garlic (I think Hunt’s makes it)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 box chopped broccoli, thawed
garlic powder
olive or vegetable oil
2 cups cooked instant rice

Season chicken breasts and brown on all sides in 1-2 tbs vegetable or olive oil. Set aside. Add tomatoes and soup to skillet, stirring up browned bits. Add broccoli and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over rice.

Don’t really have a name for this, but it goes great with tortilla chips or rolled up in a tortilla.

Over medium heat, toss a little (tbs or less) olive or vegetable oil in a pan. Throw in some minced garlic, one chopped onion, and one chopped red pepper. Fry that up until veggies are tender. Add one can of black beans, one small can of corn (drain juice) and one can of diced tomatoes. If you’d like to spice it up, season with black and/or red pepper, cumin and/or hot sauce. Stir, cover and bring to boil. Then reduce heat and remove lid. Simmer another 10-15 minutes. If it seems too runny to use for a burrito filling, you can reduce it by simmering a longer period of time or add a little cornstarch to thicken it up.

I second the crock pot idea.

Pick up a couple of cookbooks, or subscribe to an e-mail service for recipes. (Worldwide Recipes is a good one.)

If you like salads, you can pick up pre-mixed greens in the produce section. Add in veggies, maybe some chopped turkey or ham from the deli, some grated mozzerella cheese, and you’ve got a salad that’s a meal.

The ticket is to plan ahead. If you’re going to cook hamburgers, make sure they’re thawing when you leave in the morning. Otherwise, you’ll come home to a sterile kitchen, and will end up staring morosely in the fridge or the pantry, waiting for something to strike your interest.

Fried Noodle stuff

Almost mindless in its simplicity, can be done with frozen ingredients, yummy, and quite filling.

1 Package Ramen noodles (any flavor, really, but I prefer the pork)
1/4 lb popcorn shrimp
I usually pick up a few packages of frozen, toss into a freezer bag, and take what I need for dinner, leaving the rest in the freezer.
1/4 cup frozen peas
Random Spices[sup]TM[/sup]
I’m a “scrounge around spice cupboard, throw in what looks good” kind of guy. Garlic, minced onions, ginger, etc all work well.
Tablespoon or so of Soy sauce
(optional) Hot sauce. I’ve got…Asian Hot Sauce (Can’t remember the actual name right now) that has a nice kick.

Cook noodles as per directions. Just before “done”, throw shrimp and peas into pot, heat back to boiling. A bit after you add the shrimp and peas, put a frying pan on medium-high heat with about a tablespoon of oil (olive or peanut work well). Once noodles are boiling, drain all the water, dump noodles/shrimp/peas into frying pan. At this point I toss in Random Spices (usually including the Ramen flavor pack). Basically stir fry for a minute or two, get some of the ramen noodles a little crunchy. Add Soy Sauce and hot sauce, stir up, heat a bit more, dump onto plates. Serves one really hungry person, or 2-3 normal people.

Goes great topped with dry Chow Mein noodles for some more crunchiness.

Adjust meat/veggies/spices as desired. I like the popcorn shrimp and frozen peas since no defrosting or prep is necessary.

You mean eating like you are perpetually 21 is not good.
Did I miss the memo?

Green Beans and Offal a la Manduck

1 tbsp fish oil
1 lb. offal
1 cup fish stock
8 oz green beans, trimmed and sliced
1/2 dozen oysters (optional)

Cook offal in oil until well browned. Add stock and simmer until offal is tender; about 1 hour. Add green beans and simmer 10 minutes longer. Add oysters, if desired, and warm through.

Serve with Chef Boy-ar-dee ravioli and cereal.

Do you use the biscuit dough for the bottom crust too? I’ve seen the southern dish that has the basic chicken pie filling with biscuits baked onto the top, but I haven’t ever been able to find a recipe for it. I always like to read up on a dish before I try it, just to get a better idea of what I’m doing. Once I saw a cheap cookbook with that dish on the cover and bought it, only to find that it didn’t have the recipe inside. :smack:

So are you talking homemade biscuits? A mix? The kind that comes in a can? Please, tell me more, I’d like to try it.

Aesiron I just remembered the name of a cookbook that might be useful to you. It’s called “Help! My apartment has a kitchen.” A guy in the exact same situation that you are in wrote a novice cookbook (once he learned how to cook, that is). I thought it was pretty good, and it had some good recipes. It also had some cooking tips that his mom gave him, it was kind of cute. Sorry I can’t recall his name, but it should be easy to find by the title.