Quick Meal Ideas for Busy Families

Category Time Savers
Between school, work, fitness, sports and clubs, getting meals on the table can be a chore. Find ways to make quick healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners. This is a page about quick meal ideas for busy families.


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December 28, 2004

A recipe list of quick to fix meals with the ingredients stocked in the cupboard make it easier to avoid buying mixes and visiting fast food drive-thrus.

By Lynn

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The I HATE TO COOK book! Imagine seeing a title like that! I found this little book, published in 1960, and was curious with what kind of recipes it would have from 50 years ago, a time I thought all women loved to cook! It's really a book about "quick" dishes or meals. I didn't find many that would be suitable for the "healthy choices" we're all trying to make these days, but here are a couple I thought ThriftyFun friends would enjoy - I do!


(I'm printing the titles of the recipes, the wording of the instructions, and the author's comments just as they are in the book!)

Cheese Wedges

Cut each biscuit into 4 little wedges, roll them in melted butter and the grated cheese; then toast them in a 400 degree F oven about 12 minutes.

Betty's Cocktail Cookies

Mix together:

Now shape it into a neat roll, wrap it in waxed paper, and refrigerate it. When it's firm, slice it as you would cookies, and bake them at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. (Don't bother to grease the pan.)

Apple Cream

Grate 3/4 of a cup of raw red apple with skin on, using the medium grater. Then combine it with:

Now put it in an ice-cube tray (with divider removed) and freeze it until it's solid. If you happen to think of it, beat it once, an hour or so later. Serve it in sherbet glasses.

Cockeyed Cake

(This is a famous recipe, I believe, but I haven't the faintest idea who invented it. I saw it in a newspaper years ago, meant to clip it, didn't, and finally bumped into the cake myself in the apartment of a friend of mine. It was dark, rich, moist, and chocolatey, and she said it took no more than 5 minutes to mix it up. So I tried it, and, oddly enough, mine, too, was dark, rich, moist, and chocolatey. My own timing was 5 1/2 minutes, but that includes hunting for the vinegar!)

Put your sifted flour back in the sifter, add to it the cocoa, soda, sugar, and salt, and sift this right into a greased square cake pan, about 9x9x2 inches. Now you make three grooves, or holes, in this dry mixture. Into one, pour the oil; into the next, the vinegar; into the next, the vanilla. Now pour the cold water over it all. You'll feel like you're making mud pies now, but beat it with a spoon until it's nearly smooth and you can't see the flour. Bake it at 350 degrees F for half an hour. Then frost. Here are some easy frostings.

Good Old Confectioners' Sugar Frosting

Sift 2 cups of confectioners' sugar with a dash of salt. Then add a tsp. of vanilla and beat in enough cream to make it the right consistency to spread.

Jelly Frosting

In the top of your double boiler, over boiling water, put 1/2 cup any of jelly, 1 unbeaten egg white, and a dash of salt and beat this with a rotary beater for about 5 minutes, or until the jelly has disappeared. Now take it off the heat and keep beating until it stands in stiff peaks, then spread it on the cake.

Maggie's Sugar Topping

Bake your cake 5 minutes less than the recipe says to. Take it out of the oven, but don't turn the oven off. Let the cake cool just a bit. Then on it spread this mixture:

Set the cake back in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the frosting bubbles.

Easier still, you can put chocolate-covered peppermints on top of a hot cake, put it back in the oven until they melt a bit, then spread the melted mints around with a knife.

Hope you enjoy!

By Caseye from Plano, TX

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November 1, 2011

This recipe is fast, easy to make and delicious, especially great for those of you who have young children to feed and are pressed for time. The adults in our family like it as well.

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May 10, 2010

I have found a quick and healthy meal solution that is better for you than processed foods or take out. When you are grocery shopping pick up a package or two of fresh chicken tenders that can easily be cooked up for a speedy meal.

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August 17, 2006

I save the black microwave containers that frozen packaged food comes in. When I am making casseroles, chili, etc., I fill them.


I use Glad Press and Seal and make my own instant food for my teenage son.

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March 4, 2004

Making meals ahead and freezing them in single-serve sizes can save you time and money. And, homemade freezer meals will be lower in fat and sodium than store bought ones.

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Cyndi Roberts
March 10, 2005

Do you ever have difficulty deciding what to make for supper? And then having it all ready at the same time?

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March 8, 2005

Make your own quick meals by making a large batch of soup or casserole and freezing meal-size portions for later. You will save on high-priced last minute fast food purchases.

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Sandy Baker
May 14, 2006

You are tired after spending the day working. But, the age old question is, "What's for dinner?" Do you have an option for dinner tonight? Here is a quick dinner that you can make that is satisfying and easy to do.

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This is a great quickie recipe. Mix partially-drained green beans with mushroom soup. Add corned beef hash. Pour into casserole.

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January 11, 2007

Busy Mother's Casserole. Combine all ingredients and place in refrigerator overnight in a covered casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

September 30, 2010

What is the cheapest meal you have and how is it prepared? I need the required ingredients and a description of the taste. I am a Nigerian in Michigan, U.S.A. I arrived 5 weeks ago. Thanks for your urgent response.



September 30, 20100 found this helpful

I don't eat meat, and my food budget is very small, my favorite cheap meal is rice and peas. You can make a big pot or a little pot depending on how many you need to feed. You use a serving of peas for every serving of rice, I wish I could be more exact with the amount of ingredients. I cook my rice with a couple of veggie broth cubes, I add onions, garlic, or basically any aromatic vegetable I have. Sometimes I only have garlic, sometimes I have peppers and tomatoes, but you can use whatever you have on hand. I cook everything together and I add some oil or butter and a little more salt or pepper if it needs it. Its so simple, but it fills your body with warm, good food. If that doesn't sound tasty, I find a lot of ideas on this website. www.hillbillyhousewife.com/.../recipes It contains many low cost and tasty recipes. Welcome to America, :) I used to live in Michigan, it's a beautiful place.

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October 1, 20100 found this helpful

The easiest meal I make is using my crock pot. Put chicken breasts in the pot, pour a can of cream of celery or cream of mushroom on top and let it cook throughout the day on low or high if you want it cooked a bit sooner. The chicken is always fall apart moist and delicious. You can add some onion soup mix in, some vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower and serve over rice or egg noodles. My family loves it with corn muffins.

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October 1, 20100 found this helpful

Peanut butter sandwiches are a cheap source of protein, no cooking needed. Eggs can be made any way you like. Rice and beans make a complete protein. Cook a large pot and eat for days. I don't eat red meat. Chicken is versatile and inexpensive when on sale. What did you eat in Nigeria? Can you make similar things here?

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October 1, 20100 found this helpful

Tuna Noodle Recipe
Cook a bag of noodles in pot of water and drain.
Add two cans cream of mushroom soup to the noodles in pan.
Add three cans tuna drained of liquid.
Add a can of peas drained or half bag of frozen peas.
Add half a jar of mushrooms(no juice) as an option.
Add one half stick of margarine.
Cook until all is hot and stir to mix well.
Serve. Lots of leftovers for other meals.
Description: All soft food and creamy

Vegetable Soup
one bag of mixed frozen vegetables
one can tomato juice
one pound of browned and drained ground beef
one onion diced up
two cans seasoned diced tomatoes
Add hot sauce to broth if desired.
Cook altogether in large pan until onions are clear and soft stirring often to prevent sticking to pan.
Pour into soup bowl and serve with saltines or peanut butter sandwich. Lots of leftovers for other meals.
Description: Can be mild or spicy depending on taste. Full of flavor and good on a wintery day. Healthy eating.

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October 2, 20100 found this helpful

I understand a budget. Here are some ideas I do.
Homemade sushi. The Noris is cheap and you can fill it with whatever you wish. I use brown rice instead of sushi rice (healthier and cheaper. I buy in bulk.) Fill it with shredded carrot, some avocado, cucumber, and fake crab. I also use left overs, shredded chicken, pork, stuff like that. Easy lunches and easy to roll too. Comes out to a couple of bucks per meal and has all the nutrients needed. Make all snacks. Granola bars, etc. You get triple the amount for 1/2 the price of store bought.
www.joyfulabode.com/.../ Buy over ripe bananas on sale at produce market and freeze to make banana bread/muffins. Can control sugar.
I don't use canned soups either for the same reasons. Homemade soups are easy and CHEAP!! Make vats of stocks and freeze, then you have a base. Freeze small ends, and bits of veggies. Collect enough to make a veggie stock. Buy chicken and beef bones from the butcher. Can get lots for very cheap. Healthy soups are easy and very affordable and you can use amount of salt you choose. Spaghetti and chili too can freeze. There are only 2 of us in the house, so make lots and take advantage of the freezer. Just a few ideas.

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September 11, 2011

You've ordered pizza, picked up subs 3 times this week, you're low on patience and are totally out of noodles. The kids are melting down because they are hungry, what are your top 3 "Make in a Flash" meal solutions outside of breakfast for dinner? I'm looking to spice up my 'in case of emergency' recipe file.

By mo from Madison, WI

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

September 30, 2010

I am looking for quick, easy, inexpensive dinner ideas.

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December 29, 2008

Poor Mans Stroganof

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • 1 can of cream of soup

Saute beef and onions, then drain off the grease. Add 1 can cream of mushroom soup. Add seasoning to taste. Cook 1 bag egg noodles and add that. Mix together.

This is really good and cheap.

By Anna

Turkey Bacon

An inexpensive and quick meal I make for my family that can also be low carb breakfast. Turkey bacon and eggs. You can also add biscuits and potatoes if your not worried about carbs or any of that. Turkey bacon is low in fat and carbs and cooks very quickly.

You can also make a quick casserole by precooking the bacon and then scrambling about 6-8 eggs. Then add green peppers, onions and the bacon pour, into a casserole dish and add cheese to the top. Cook till golden. Add biscuits to the bottom of the casserole dish first if your not watching carbs. You can have a quick inexpensive quick meal with everyday ingredients you probably have around the house.

By kim

Cube Steak

Another idea on the stroganoff vein, use cubed steak and slice it thinly. There are times you will find 2 cubed steaks cheaper than a pound of hamburger. Use the recipe already submitted, but add a tablespoon of catsup and 2 tablespoons of worchestshire sauce. Brown the cubed steak in butter and then continue with the recipe. Tossing in a can of mushrooms with the broth is great too! (03/07/2005)

By Jackie Martin

Mom's Hamburger Helper

My son calls this Mom's Hamburger Helper.

  • 1 lb. ground beef, browned
  • 1 jar of brown gravy
  • small can of slice mushrooms, drained (if desired)

Brown hamburger, add gravy, salt and pepper and mushrooms. Serve over egg noodles. Cheap, good and filling.

By ALONG37264.

Chicken Wraps

I call these chicken wraps. It's very inexpensive especially if you consider how many you can make. My family loves them and thinks they are fun and you can make them in under 5 minutes, so they're great if you've been working all day.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Frozen chicken patties
  • 1 package of flour tortillas
  • 1 package of your favorite shredded cheese
  • 1 package of sliced ham
  • 1 bottle of ranch dressing
  • 1 head of lettuce

Here's what you do:

Cook the chicken patties in the microwave for specified time per patty
Cut up the chicken patties and distribute approximately 1 per tortilla
On top of the chicken, add sliced ham and shredded cheese.
Place back in the microwave for 45 seconds ( the cheese may not be completely melted but will when the wrap is folded. You don't want to over heat the tortilla because it will become too hard to fold.)
Add ranch dressing and lettuce to the tortilla
Fold into burrito.

My boyfriend raves about these to his friends and they ask me to make them when they are over for any game. Also, the kids love them and one will usually fill my boyfriend up, so there really are no side dishes needed. Unless you'd like a nice salad with it, and in that case the ham, cheese, lettuce and ranch dressing will work nicely as well. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Bolognaise

What about Spaghetti Bolognaise? My recipe takes a long time to simmer but once you've thrown it all together it's done.

Chop up your onion and garlic, put in frypan with your beef mince (about 500g), brown the mince then put in 500g tinned chopped tomatoes, 500ml beef stock and a slosh of red wine. Throw in some fresh or dried herbs and let it simmer away till the sauce is reduced. It looks really awful and liquidy to start with but ends up quite nice!

By Sonya

Pizza Night

We love to make pizza at home, but I don't always have time to make my own dough. So I buy store brand pizza dough in a can next to the can biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Then we us ragu pizza sauce for $0.99 located next to the jar beef gravy, etc. We top ours with cheese and ham lunch meat both of these are always staples in our house. You just follow the directions on the can for baking and enjoy.

By Michelle

Cheap Chicken and Tortillas

This is one my family loves! Quick, Easy & Cheap!

  • 9x13 pan
  • 1 package flour tortillias (10 count)
  • 3 bone in chicken breasts
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups grated cheese (1 pkg)
  • 3 tbs salsa or taco sauce
  1. Boil chicken breasts & take off bone then shread
  2. Put back in pot - stir in salsa or taco sauce - mix well so chicken is coated
  3. Put 2 spoonful of chicken in tortilla and sprinkle with grated cheese then roll and put in pan.
  4. Continue until all tortillas are filled.
  5. In a bowl mix 1 can of cream of chicken soup and 1/2 can of water together to make a "gravy"
  6. Pour over the rolled chicken tortillas
  7. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top.
  8. Bake in 350 oven for about 30 minutes
  9. Let set for 5 minutes

I serve this with a lettuce salad, salsa and sour cream on the side. This also freezes well and for 2 people can be split and frozen for up to 2 weeks although the tortillas do have a tendency to get a little soggy.

By Chey

Scrambled Egg Stir Fry

  • 6 eggs scrambled and set aside
  • 2 bags frozen vegetables of your choice

Cook them in wok or large skillet till tender (I cook them frozen with a little water to steam) then add the eggs in and some garlic powder, onion powder, or however you want to season. Your done! Delicious and healthy.

By Lisa

Barbeque Cups

I make what we call Barbeque Cups, and kids love it!

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup barbeque sauce
  • 1 can of refrigerated biscuits
  • 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef; drain; remove from heat and mix in brown sugar and barbeque sauce; take can of bisuits and press into muffin pan to form cups; fill cups with meat mixture and top with a little shredded cheddar cheese; bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

By Anna

Chicken-and-Rice Casserole

Here's my mom's Chicken-and-Rice Casserole recipe:

  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (condensed)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (condensed)
  • 1 can cream of celery soup (condensed)
  • 2 cans of milk (just use on of the empty soup cans; less clean up!)
  • 1/3 cup of cooking oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)
  • 2 1/2 cups of Minute Rice
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix up everything but the chicken and cheese until it's relatively smooth. Spray a 9"x13" (2" or so deep) baking pan with non-stick spray, or grease with butter. Pour a bit of the soup and rice mixture to cover the bottom of the pan. Arrange chicken breasts flat in the pan, and then cover them with the rest of soup and rice mixture. Sprinkle as much Parmesan on top as desired. Cover loosely with tin foil, and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove tin foil, and bake for another 30 minutes (cheese should be lightly browned, and chicken very tender). Remove, let it cool for a few minutes and EAT!

The amount of chicken doesn't really matter, either. You can keep all of the other potions exactly the same and just add less chicken, and it turns out just the same (which can be great if you're on a super-tight budget and don't have a spare $5.00 for more chicken). It's also really easy to mix everything up, and then keep it in the 'fridge for a day or two until you're ready to cook it. I made this the other night for myself and four friends, using two chicken breast halves. With a green salad on the side, and some brown bread, everyone left the table stuffed, and I only spent about $10 on the whole dinner!

By Adam

More Answers:

Easy, Inexpensive and Quick Recipes

Chicken salsa

Buy chicken breasts or whatever kind of chicken you like cook thoroughly top with salsa and taco cheese till melted serve with simple salad and Spanish type of rice this entire meal cost me about eleven dollars and can feed a family of four or five. (10/09/2006)

By Jane

Easy, Inexpensive and Quick Recipes

Tomato Alfredo Pasta

Mix one jar of Alfredo Sauce and one can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained. Heat until warm.

Pour over your favorite pasta and you're done. I serve this with garlic bread and salad. You can also add chicken (cut into small pieces) to the alfredo sauce. (02/16/2007)

By Kayla

Easy, Inexpensive and Quick Recipes

The chicken and rice casserole could be easily dressed up a bit, if someone wanted to. Toss in some steamed chopped broccoli florets (drained), a few dashes of curry powder & 1/2 cup or so of sour cream, along with 1-2 cans of mushroom pieces, drained.

I've made the BBQ Cups before, they went over really well! (04/25/2007)

By badwater

Barbeque cups

I make a taco version of this. Put your biscuits in the muffin pan as described, brown hamburger meat in a frying pan, add a package of taco seasoning, spoon into the biscuits, and bake as directed on the biscuit label. A few minutes before it is done, sprinkle with cheese and voila....taco biscuits. And if you have any meat left over you can buy the scoop tortillas and place on a baking pan, fill with a small amount of meat and cheese and bake until cheese is melted. My family LOVES this! (10/05/2007)

By Laura

make your own pizza alternative

I buy the cheapest frozen pizzas and then add shredded mozzarella, pepperoni is cheap and some canned mushrooms, black olives, lunch meat ham, etc. I babysit for my friend a lot and she has 3 small children I have 2, so I get them each half of one and they dress it up themselves! I never have trouble getting them to eat it either. You could also put veggies out too. My 5 year old loves broccoli on his! We also make faces with the food on the pizza, that way they can remember which one is which when they come out of the oven. (12/18/2007)

By Lea

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