I have a soft spot in my heart for 15 minute meals. We started making 15 minute meals for every single dinner when we reduced our spending by over $23,000 a year and then paid off all our debt so I can stay home with the kids.
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Thanks to these cheap and easy dinners, my family broke our addiction to fast food, learned to cook and eat at home and kept improving our way of eating until we made most foods from scratch.
By keeping it simple and only serving 15 minute meals on work days (for almost a whole year!), we were able to exceed our budget goals as well as learn the building blocks of what would soon be an ability to meal plan and eat healthy at home.
Many of our favorites are in this list of two weeks of 15 minute meals you can make from scratch, without convenience foods. These are perfect for a busy night to keep you out of the drive-thru. You can find more 15-minute meals by clicking here.
Few of these “recipes” actually need a recipe. Most, you already know how to throw together. Let this be your guide, and feel free to substitute at will.
Cheap and Easy 15 Minute Meals from Scratch!
1. Canadian Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich:
Throw a skillet over medium heat. Spray skillet with cooking spray (or oil). Heat each side of bacon on medium for two minutes, and lay on paper towel to drain (these instructions are for Canadian bacon sold in the US only- Canadian bacon sold in the US is only sold pre-cooked. In Canada, it’s sold uncooked and would require longer cooking times). Break an egg into the pan from the bacon (Yay! Less dishes!) and fry as desired. I’m lazy so I normally just scramble. While the egg is cooking, throw two slices of toast in the toaster. When they pop up, layer with bacon, add eggs, and top with any cheese you have available. Cheddar? Mozzarella? Monterey? Swiss? All delicious. I’m convinced any cheese makes this better.
Break an egg into the pan from the bacon (Yay! Less dishes!) and fry as desired. I’m lazy so I normally just scramble. While the egg is cooking, throw two slices of toast in the toaster. When they pop up, layer with bacon, add eggs, and top with any cheese you have available. Cheddar? Mozzarella? Monterey? Swiss? All delicious. I’m convinced any cheese makes this better.
P.S. When they came out with these microwave sandwich egg cookers a few years ago, we switched to this method and never looked back. Now this is like a 2 minute breakfast.
2. Shrimp Tossed Pasta:
This one came from my mom and sister. I couldn’t try it out because the idea of eating seafood makes me gag… but I grew up watching them devour this stuff so it must be good. Boil water in a pot. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a separate pan and heat shrimp over medium heat until pink and curled. Add 2 cans of minced clams with the juice and heat. While shrimp is cooking, add pasta to boiling water and cook as directed (8-11 minutes). Drain Pasta, toss with shrimp/clams/ oil mixture. Enjoy! (Or gag if you’re me).
3. Turkey Rueben Sandwiches:
This is a great way to use up leftover turkey! You may also be able to buy “off the bone turkey” from your local deli (Wegmans has it- but really, Wegmans has everything), which is just carved turkey slices. Add turkey to Rye Bread, pile on sauerkraut, drizzle on Russian dressing and top with swiss cheese. Broil under low heat for about 1 minute if you’d like it to be melted and warm.
Variation- Every winter Wegmans sells a cranberry orange spread that I mix with mayonnaise that tastes amazing! You can just add it to any turkey sandwich- It’s pretty delicious. If you don’t live near a Wegmans, this one is supposed to be amazing and ships everywhere.
4. Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken:
If you spend one of your days off grilling up a pack of chicken breasts – you can freeze the chicken breast (I wrap in waxed paper, and then seal in a freezer bag, removing all air.) When you need one- microwave for about 2 minutes or heat in a skillet. For Caesar Salad, I chop up romaine lettuce, heat the chicken and slice up, lay the chicken on top, add random extras that I have around – black olives, feta or parmesan cheese, diced cucumbers etc. Then just drizzle with Greek dressing.
5. Chicken Salad on Pita Bread:
If you spend one of your days off grilling up a pack of chicken breasts – you can freeze the chicken breast (I wrap in waxed paper, and then seal in a freezer bag, removing all air.) When you need one- microwave for about 2 minutes or heat in a skillet. For Chicken Salad, heat chicken, then dice up and mix with mayonnaise (add mayonnaise until it reaches the desired consistency, then add a little mustard (any type you have is fine), salt, and pepper. You can also use up any extra leftovers you have around- Dice up and add carrots, celery, onion, green pepper, or even apples (though I wouldn’t add apples to the onion!)
6. Home Made Sloppy Joe’s:
I’m actually not a fan of canned Sloppy Joe’s, so it was clearly divine intervention when I was trying to use up some extra ground beef and found this recipe. Since I had all of the ingredients, I cooked it up and OH MY GOSH!!! Amazing!! Since it’s not my recipe, I’ll include the link here, but it took less than 15 minutes to make.
Update: We still have these about once a month!
Heat ground beef with taco seasoning over medium heat until brown. In a pan over medium heat, grease a pan, lay down flour tortilla, add ground beef, top with cheese, and add another tortilla. Heat for about three minutes and then flip. Heat for another three minutes. Since all of your ingredients are already cooked, you’re just melting them and crisping the tortilla. Pro tip: Buy ground beef in bulk and season and cook all at once. Then package in 1 pound servings (or less if you are a smaller family) so you can just reheat when needed.
8. Easiest Chili Ever:
Heat ground beef in a covered pot over medium heat- stir often to break up and brown all sides. Add a can of tomato soup (or tomato paste and diced tomatoes- you really can’t mess this up), and a can of kidney (red) beans. That is a very basic mild chili recipe. You can eat it just like that, or add anything you want. Have extra onions from yesterday’s recipe? Dice them up and throw them in! You can add corn, olives, green pepper, spices, chillies, carrots etc. Again, you can’t screw this up… Experiment a little. I simmer the chili for 15 minutes, and then serve it with a hunk of cheddar cheese and bread.
9. Broiled Steak:
This seems to be my favorite lately. Heat your oven to a low broil and move your oven rack to the highest or next to highest level. Take any steak (This works best for well done lovers if it’s thin cut – if it’s a thick cut, don’t stress you can just reduce the oven heat to 350 and shut the door after broiling, cook it another 5-10 minutes and you’re in well done territory) and lay on your broiling pan. Add spices or a salt and pepper rub if you would like, then broil with the door propped open an inch or two for 2 minutes per side. Take it out and slice through it- too pink? Broil in the same way for another two minutes per side. Enjoy!
10. Greek Pasta Salad:
Boil shell pasta as directed. While pasta is cooking, slice up fresh basil, carrots, green pepper, and red onion. Dice up pepperoni. Drain pasta and mix with veggies and pepperoni. Add feta cheese (I buy Mediterranean feta cheese with sundried tomatoes and spices). Toss with Greek dressing and serve.
Need more easy dinners?
If you struggle with getting super easy and cheap dinners on the table, I can tell you what’s worked for us.
You can see our favorite 15-minute meals here and then we found out about this freezer cooking service that cut our grocery budget in half.
Neither require much cooking skill and you can save a fortune on your grocery budget!
P.S. If you LOVE 15 minute meals… Check out the original 3 Weeks of Cheap dinners, ready in less than 15 minutes.
Update: Do you spend too much on groceries? Do you end up calling for pizza or going through the drive-thru line more nights than you care to admit? I’ve totally been there! But the 90 Day Budget Bootcamp changed my entire life. You can now get immediate access to the 90 Day Budget Bootcamp for FREE (limited time only!) through this link. You’ll learn how to create a *realistic* budget that you can actually stick to, create a meal plan of simple 15 minute meals (like this one!) that take less time than the drive-thru, and even get your spouse on board with the budget. Grab it here for free before it’s gone!
What’s your favorite quick and easy 15 minute meal?
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My favorite (and my family’s) 15 min meal is what we call “leftover fried rice.” It basically helps me clean out my fridge. We always have little bits of meat, half bowls of veggies and a bit of rice so I chop up the meat and throw everything in a pan with a bit of oil. Heat everything through and then mix up and egg or two and pour it into the pan. Mix it up and flavor however you’d like. We ate this last night with some duck sauce. So yummy!!!
Becki Q says
These are quick lunches, not meals.
meal [meel] noun
1. the food served and eaten especially at one of the customary, regular occasions for taking food during the day, as breakfast, lunch, or supper
candy Dunn says
Totally agree Becki
Seriously? It’s either a snack or a meal, in my book. If it’s substantial enough to fill up my kids’ bellies…it’s a meal. Jeesh.
I love these meals!
Used to make homemade beanie weanies and mac & cheese when I had kids at home. Slice hot dogs in a skillet. Heat and brown a little. Add couple of cans of pork and beans, a few spoons of brown sugar, onion powder, ketchup, BBQ sauce. We used to make the Mac & cheese with leftover spaghetti pasta, milk, butter and a few slices of sandwich cheese. Mmm- good!
Another of my favs is pizza boats using oven toasted stale buns, then add sauce, (tomato sauce sprinkled with salt, garlic powder and oregano), toppings, cheese and in the oven again until cheese melts. Super fast and so good!
Gina recently posted…Pumpkin Bread – NO EGGS – Delicious, frugal, & VEGAN!
She already said in another blog post that her 15 minute meals are not healthy, but were a lifesaving stepping stone between fast food and healthy homemade food while her family adjusted to cooking at home.
You’ve got some great recipes on here! I will be trying a few and sharing them all with my Facebook group. Thank you!
This is a good list! They make good leftovers too!
Bonus tip make extra taco meat for the quesadillas and throw that into your chili!
The Busy Budgeter says
Not only are these dinners cheap and easy, but they’re also pretty healthy! I am constantly searching for meals I can get on the table super quick because my days are really hectic. I made the homemade sloppy joes last night and the kids ate the entire pan. I have the 3 more meals on the schedule for next week!
Jenn recently posted…Take Back Your Life From Cancer.
A quick recipe that my roommate and I both enjoy is my homemade nacho dip, which is great with tortilla chips or poured over crispy tater tots.
In a large pan, (pasta pot-sized), combine a 14-oz can of evaporated milk, two cans cream of chicken soup, an 8-oz. bag of shredded cheese (sharp cheddar doesn’t work well, for some reason. I recommend mild cheddar, Jack, or colby), one or two packets of taco seasoning, depending on your seasoning preference, and two/three cups of cooked meat. (I’ve made this with ground beef, shredded chicken, and chopped-up steak, and they’re all good. If you’re not so much into meat, you can use an equal amount of veggies, like onions, jalapenos, black beans, etc.) Heat on stovetop, stirring frequently, until cheese is completely melted, and serve.
A bonus to this is that it also freezes quite well, so you can make up individual portions to freeze for later, and thaw them for snacks, or for brown-bagging it at work.
I always smile when I see “Canadian Bacon”. We don’t actually have “Canadian Bacon” in Canada…what Americans call “Canadian Bacon”, Canadians call “back bacon”–cured slices from the pork loin. Our every-day bacon is the same as the strips of bacon in the U.S. and we just call it “bacon.” M <.