Cooking more meals at home is a great way to save money and eat healthier, but it can be challenging to plan, shop, and prepare meals every week. To help, we’ve come up with a budget-friendly meal plan featuring quick and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Plus, we’ve included some meal planning tips for reducing food waste and sticking to your budget.
Cooking at home doesn’t have to be complicated! Following a recipe, even a simple one, can feel like a chore, but you don’t always need a recipe. Sometimes all it takes is tossing together a few ingredients to make a satisfying meal. Here are 15 “non-recipes” for super simple snacks and meals to make “cooking” at home a breeze.
Cheese & Tomato Kebabs
Cut string cheese into coins, arrange on bamboo picks or reusable skewers with grape tomatoes, and drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar. Optional: Add fresh whole basil leaves onto the skewers.
Core a small apple and cut into 4 round slices, spread the top of 3 of the slices (not the top slice) with natural, unsweetened peanut butter, sprinkle cinnamon and no-sugar-added granola, and restack the slices into an apple shape.
Almost Cowboy Caviar
In a bowl, stir together equal amounts of canned, drained, no-salt-added black beans, canned or thawed frozen sweet corn, and pico de gallo or jarred chunky salsa. Optional: stir in diced avocado or chopped fresh cilantro, season with a sprinkle of cumin or chili powder.
LUNCH & DINNER
Chicken & Guacamole Taco
Stuff each soft or crispy corn tortilla with shredded rotisserie chicken breast and a big dollop of guacamole of choice. Optional additions: shredded lettuce or cabbage, salsa or hot sauce, shredded cheese
Latin Shrimp Stack
Add a few large dollops of warm refried black beans (from a can) to the center of a plate, top with a few dollops of guacamole of choice, and arrange cocktail-style shrimp on top. Optional: Splash with lime juice or garnish with fresh cilantro.
Black Bean Soup
Combine equal parts canned, rinsed, and drained black beans, canned diced tomatoes with chilies, and low-sodium chicken broth in a saucepan. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and serve as is or blended. Optional toppings: a dollop of plain low fat Greek yogurt, diced avocado.
Mac & Cheese & More
Combine equal parts warm macaroni and cheese (such as healthy frozen or boxed mac & cheese) with frozen steamed broccoli or cauliflower, fresh spinach, or pan-grilled zucchini. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Grilled Salsa Chicken & Beans
Grill or pan-grill boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs until well done, smother with salsa verde, and sprinkle with canned, drained, low-sodium black beans. Optional: Top with grilled cherry tomatoes or fresh cilantro.
Prepare whole-wheat noodles of choice, rinse with cold water to cool, toss with a drizzling of bottled natural Asian peanut sauce (or make your own by combing peanut butter, soy sauce and rice vinegar), and then toss in a large handful of fresh coleslaw mix. Optional: Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, shelled edamame, or peanuts.
Pulse Pasta Pesto
Boil red lentil or garbanzo bean/chickpea pasta until done. Drain, quickly rinse with cold water just to stop the cooking, and drain again. (If you can’t find red lentil or chickpea pasta, you could also make this with canned white beans.) Toss with a dollop of jarred pesto sauce and lots of grape tomatoes. Optional: Add lemon zest (grated lemon peel).
Cottage Cheese Parfait
Top 1 cup low fat cottage cheese with ½ cup frozen and thawed or canned fruit such as peaches, berries, or crushed pineapple. For crunch, top with chopped nuts (pistachios, almonds, pecans, walnuts) or seeds (sunflower seeds, chia seeds).
California English Muffin
Top half of a whole wheat English muffin with 1 tablespoon light cream cheese (Neufchatel), sliced or mashed avocado, and cucumber slices. Optional: Drizzle with olive oil and season with fresh ground black pepper.
Toss a large handful of salad greens with a couple teaspoons of olive oil and lemon juice. Top with an egg, prepared however you like it (hard-boiled, pan-fried, poached, etc). Season with a small pinch of salt and black pepper.
Savory Greek Yogurt
Top 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt with sliced cucumber, chopped fresh herbs (mint or dill work well), then drizzle with olive oil. Add something crunchy and salty like roasted chickpeas or pistachios.
Avocado and Egg Toast
Toast one slice of whole grain bread. Top with half of an avocado and one sliced hard-boiled egg. Optional: Drizzle the avocado with lemon juice before topping with the egg.
Find more easy recipes, “non-recipes,” and super simple meal plans in The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, by Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN