Wednesday, June 20, 2012

3 Weeks of Cheap Dinners, ready in under 15 minutes

Thanks to an insanely busy schedule, my husband and I had some really poor eating habits. We know that fast food barely qualifies as food, but ended up in the drive thru more often then is humanly acceptable. When we started making better life decisions, this became a glaringly obvious problem that needed to be corrected.

 We get up at 6:30am, and don't get home at night until 6pm. When we get home, we head straight to the gym and by the time we get back we're FAMISHED, and even 30 minutes is too long to wait for a meal. Once your that hungry and tired, you start making decisions with your stomach and not your head. A quick trip to Mcdonalds, Chickfila, Burker King, Taco Bell, Checkers or Chipotle, and you've ruined the workout you just did, spent money, and wasted the food that you had planned for dinner.

After a few phases of trial and error, trying to eat healthier and save time, we made it simple. There is a $100.00/week food budget and I pick my meals off of the following list. Of course, we could eat healthier, but this is a huge jump from where we were and it works with our schedule. We can get even healthier in the next phase. For now, we need food we want to eat, on the table in 15 minutes or less.

THE QUICK FOODS DATABASE:

We also buy a huge pack of mixed greens and a bottle of dressing from Wegmans each week and serve salad every night. ($5.99 for the club pack of mixed greens, and $1.29 for Wegmans salad dressing).

The totals are what it will cost you to buy all of the ingredients... Not per serving:)

1.    ITALIAN CHICKEN AND PASTA SALAD, WITH GREEN PEPPER, ONION, OLIVES, AND TOMATO
Take 2 breasts of Tyson's frozen grilled chicken and microwave them, boil a box of rotini, chop up onions, peppers, and a fleshy tomato, add sliced olives and a bottle of Wegmans Italian dressing. Chop up chicken and toss in.  Total Cost at Wegmans (enough for 2 plus leftovers): $9.98

2.   LASAGNA (FROM FREEZER):
I make pans of lasagna on the weekend or for parties, then cut it up and wrap each piece in wax paper and tin foil. The recipe that I use takes an hour, it's printed on the back of Sangiorgio Oven Ready Lasagna Package. One pan makes enough for 5 servings of 2 people. I normally grab a giant bag of salad each week and dish out a little each night. Total Cost at Wegmans: $10.86

3.   BOBOLI PIZZA:
I actually use Wegmans pizza crust since it's cheaper and tastes better, just slop on some pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, green pepper, onions, and pepperoni. Put your oven on 425, and stick pizza in right away, 15 minutes later... you're done! Serve with a side salad. Wrap leftovers in wax paper and foil, you can microwave later for a quick lunch or snack.  Total Cost at Wegmans: $9.56

4.   BREAKFAST BURRITOS- good for dinner too!
Stick cheap Banquet fully cooked sausage patties on stove top, scramble eggs on another burner, chop up sausage, green pepper, and onion. Microwave burrito tortillas for 30 seconds, fill with eggs, sausage, pepper, and onions, sprinkle with cheese. You can add salsa or hot sauce if you would like. Serve with a can of mandarin oranges. This will make about 6 servings, wrap leftover burritos in wax paper and tin foil, then freeze. When you want to reheat, remove foil, and microwave. Total Cost at Wegmans: $7.26

5.   HOT DOGS, HAMBURGERS, KIELBASA:
If you have a grill- this is a great option! See my previous post for cheap BBQ's. We buy 6.5 pounds of ground beef at $1.99 pound and form our own patties, we buy 16 hamburger rolls for $1.99, wrap each bun in foil and freeze, we stick the buns right on the upper shelf of the grill still wrapped up, they end up delicious! Your entire meal is frozen ready, so it's an easy fill in meal. Total Cost at Wegman's per hamburger: $0.62

6.   GRILLED CHICKEN FILLET AND MACARONI AND CHEESE
Buy a bag of Tysons frozen grilled chicken fillet, and heat on stove top, meanwhile make macaroni and cheese on stove top. Serve with salad and topping of choice for chicken. Total Cost at Wegmans: $5.05 (assuming you have milk and butter in the house to make macaroni and cheese).

7.   ALFREDO PASTA, CHICKEN, AND BACON BITS
Boil a box of rotini, microwave 2 fillet's of Tyson's frozen chicken breast, drain pasta, stir in a bottle of Classico Alfredo Sauce, and diced up chicken. Sprinkle with bacon bits. Serve with salad. Total Cost at Wegmans: $3.51

8.   CHICKEN, CORN, TOMATO, AND CHEDDAR CHEESE WRAPS WITH RANCH DIP.
Microwave 2 breasts of Tyson's grilled chicken fillet's and dice up, chop up a beefsteak tomato, fill burrito tortillas with diced chicken, canned corn, diced tomato, and cheddar cheese. Serve with ranch dressing and a salad. Makes about 4 wraps. If you have leftovers, wrap in wax paper and foil and take to lunch the next day. Total Cost at Wegmans: $8.01 (but you'll have extra ranch dressing and burrito tortillas to use another day).

9.   CHICKEN WALDORF SALAD USING FROZEN GRILLED CHICKEN:
Microwave 2 breasts of Tyson's grilled chicken fillet's and dice up, chop up an apple, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup of halved seedless grapes, 2 stalks of diced celery. 1/2 cup of mayo (or more- to taste), and add salt and pepper. Mix up and serve.
Total Cost at Wegmans: $7.83

10.  HOT ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES:
Take 2 slices of bread and spray with cooking spray, place in pan on stove top, layer on roast beef luncheon meat, cheese, mayo, salt and pepper. top with more bread, cook and flip on stove top until melted, serve with salad.
Total Cost at Wegmans: (with leftover ingredients to make twice): $6.47 ($3.23 if you can make it twice in a week.)

11.   CHICKEN QUESADILLAS:
Microwave 2 fillets of Tyson's Frozen Grilled Chicken Breast and dice up, cook tortilla on pan on stove, fill with chicken, shredded cheese, salsa, green pepper, and onion, top with a second tortilla and apply weight (another frying pan?) flip and serve. Serve with salad. Cost at Wegmans: $8.01

12.  BLT SANDWICHES:
Start up the old George Foreman Grill to make quick work of that bacon, put bread in the toaster and slice up a beefsteak tomato and iceberg lettuce. Assemble, top with mayo, salt and pepper and serve with salad... viola! It's like your 12 again! :) Total Cost at Wegmans: (with plenty of leftover's to make this twice in a week) $7.98  (or $3.99 if you can serve twice in a week).

13.  CHICKEN PARMESAN USING FROZEN GRILLED CHICKEN:
Cook 2 fillets of Tyson's Frozen Grilled Chicken Breast on the stove top, top with a generous spoonful of spaghetti sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Boil thin Spaghetti, drain and mix with remaining pasta sauce, serve with salad.
Total Cost at Wegmans: $6.51

14.  CHICKEN PATTY SANDWICHES:
Microwave 2 chicken patties, add to hamburger rolls and top with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and lettuce. Serve with Salad and Baked Beans. Total Cost at Wegmans: $4.92

15.  SPAGHETTI AND MEAT SAUCE
Boil a box of spaghetti, mix in a jar of meat sauce, serve with salad and toast with butter) Total Cost at Wegmans: $3.38

16.  PIZZA BAGELS:
Or french bread pizza- grab a bagel, slice it open, and toast. Spoon on pizza sauce, sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with your favorite toppings, serve with salad) Total Cost at Wegmans: $4.99

18.  PANCAKES, FRENCH TOAST, OR WAFFLES:
Wegmans Buttermilk Pancake mix, just add water, or extra white bread soaked in milk, eggs, and vanilla, or toaster Waffles if your desperate, scramble up some eggs, heat up some fully cooked sausage and add a banana.) Total Cost at Wegmans: $3.97 with TONS of extra pancake mix, and extra sausage for leftovers.

19.  FRENCH BREAD PIZZA or PIZZA BAGELS:
Grab a loaf of french bread (remember you either want to use this the same day, the next day, or you'll want to freeze and thaw before use), or if you have extra bagels in the house, you can use them. Split, top with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese. You can add whatever you topping you like - Leftover ham lunch meat and canned pineapple, pepperoni, or my favorite onions and green peppers.), Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes) Total Cost at Wegmans: $5.93 for a large loaf (freeze the extras in wax paper and aluminum foil).

20. BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP WITH GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES:
This stuff is genius! Throw two cups of condensed cheddar cheese soup, three cups frozen chopped broccoli, three cups of milk, and one cup of frozen potatoes O'Brien in a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Done! Its delicious! Add toast and warm with butter and cheese to serve.)
Total Cost at Wegmans: $7.76, provided you have toast and lunch cheese in the house already, if not... add an extra two dollars. This also leaves half a bag of broccoli and half a bag of potatoes O'Brien to supplement another meal.

21.  TACO SALAD (MIXED ROMAINE, GROUND BEEF, TACO SEASONING, ICEBERG, CORN, CHEDDAR CHEESE, CHOPPED TOMATO, RANCH DRESSING, SOUTHWEST TOPPING), PLAIN CHEESE QUESADILLA ON THE SIDE. (Brown the ground beef, throw the lettuce in a bowl and chop up the tomato, add the tomato to the lettuce, add the can of corn on top, add the ground beef and mix up, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, serve in bowls and add ranch dressing and southwest salad topping to your preference.) Total Cost at Wegmans: $12.22, with extra ingredients that can be used to make the grilled chicken quesadilla for the next nights meal. **If you keep the beef and salad separate and serve together in bowls, you can wrap up leftovers and mix together when you're ready to eat again.


Want more? Check out Another 3 weeks of 15 minute meals by clicking HERE.

131 comments:

  1. As a single dad, this is gold! Thank you!

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  2. Going on a 2week RV trip with grandkids and this is a life saver!

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  3. You can also use canned biscuit dough for mini pizzas. Love twists on old favorites. Thank you.

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    1. english muffins and tortillas work for good the mini pizzas too!

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  4. Since you use so much of the Tyson's frozen chicken breasts, maybe do this on your own one weekend? Grill a bunch of chicken breasts and chop, slice or keep whole then freeze. Just as quick and easy to defrost with less sodium (added to pre-packaged chicken). Great list though!

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  5. I love these ideas. I suggest using the bags of frozen Tyson chicken that comes pre-diced and pre-cooked for a real time saver. It's so quick and delicious.

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  6. Just FYI - the name of the company is "Wegmans." No apostrophe.

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    1. For the quesadillas, use canned chicken (like canned tuna). No need to dice, pre-cook, etc. Also, instead of putting another tortilla on top, simply put filling on 1/2 of tortilla & fold the rest over for the top. Put 2 of these in your skillet at once. (That means there's one less side for the filling to spill out.) Can you tell this is a quick favorite of ours? :)

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    2. Great Idea! Thanks! I love using thecanned chicken as a pantry staple for when life doesnt go quite as planned. Thanks again!

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    3. I do mine on my pancake maker and just close the lid. Cook for 3 minutes and it's done. I also make pizza quesadillas and even do vegetarian by making black bean quesadillas (recipe t recipesplusmore.blogspot.com)

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    4. Nick...really? The name spelled wrong really bothered you enough to let her know she spelled it wrong. Rude.
      BTW..love the recipes. Great job!

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  7. Thanks for the feedback guys! We're going to try the biscuit dough this weekend for breakfast pizzas! Andrea- We've actially done that in the past on the weekends, lately life's been a little insane (hence the 15 min. meals), but making your own is a much cheaper (and healthier) option. Jennifer- We've done that too, I normally buy them in the breast style so they're versatile. (chicken parm one night, stir fry the next). This helps me stay within my budget. However, I'm a fan of anything that saves you 5 minutes and having to wash the cutting board!

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  8. Love this, right up my alley...I love easy, toss together meals! Try this one, can of shredded chicken, half can of corn, can of rotel, mexican rice (microwavable), cream cheese and/or sour cream, mix all together in one skillet until warm, roll it up in a tortilla or use tortilla chips. You can add mix cheese, jals, black beans, hot sauce, its endless...so good

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    1. yummy!! I'm definitely going to make this

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  9. Ashley, I just drooled while reading your post, I'm adding that into our menu next week!
    Mike- Great Idea! My husband has to wash the bacon pan and he will be forever grateful for your suggestion!

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  10. Hi Rosemarie, I was looking on pinterest and saw 3 weeks of cheap dinners...and I clicked on the site and then I saw your name why didnt you tell me that you had a blogspot? I love it. Esp with 4 kids and my schedule being almost like yours. Miss you at work!

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    1. Hey you! How random is that?!? Awesome! Glad you like it! This is my secret life:) Plus, let's face it... I work with all guys. I highly doubt they would be excited if I said "Guess what! I have a blog about how to save money and manage your home!" Now, if I said "Guess what! I have a blog about how to make any woman interested in you and a review site for call of duty!" They'd be putty in my hands.... Miss you too! I'll be back in November!

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  11. I love this! Thanks so much for all the ideas!!!

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    1. Thanks! The second list is coming next week!

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  12. If you make meatloaf in cupcake pans it cuts the time in third. I mix the hamburger, egg, and bread crumbs then scoop into each tin, I use a melon baller to press a hole in the center of each and put a spoon full of salsa inside the holes bake for like 10- 15 mins and then just melt cheddar cheese on each in the oven for like 5 more min. They are quick, cheap, and amazing!

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    1. What an awesome idea! I bet those would freeze great too for lunches!

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    2. As a fun addition to the cupcake meatloaf, you can pipe mashed potatoes on top and they really look like cupcakes and taste amazing... it's doesn't have to take too much extra time either, Bob Evans has heat and serve mashed potatoes in the refrigerated section at the grocery store... heat them up and put them in a ziplock, cut off a corner and swirl the potatoes on the meatloaf!

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  13. I love that you point out this isn't the healthiest plan out there. I love that you also recognize it is better than you were doing. Progress is what matters. Doing better than you did before is how we make changes. Way to go!

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    1. I couldn't agree more Angela. If we had started this 3 years ago instead of trying to "do it right", then giving up after a month and going back to chipotle, we would be eating tofu and veggies right now:) We'll get there though!

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  14. I randomly came across your 3 wks of cheap dinners on Pinterest. Thank you for sharing. I am a college student who is TRYING to eat better AND save some money...there's only so many ramen noodle dinners a person can take...no matter how cheap they are! lol.

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    1. Haha, I've been there Heather! I remember my college days fondly but the freshman 15 takes it's toll mostly from the lack of Mom's food and the abundance of take out. If you're a blogger, you should do a list of easy to make dorm room foods!

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  15. Man do I miss Wegmans. Thank you very much for this list. Having it down on (virtual) paper is awesome.

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    1. You're very welcome! I adore Wegmans! I have no idea how they get their store brand prices so low with the quality of the stores, but I'm glad they do!

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  16. have you tried beans and brown rice? very cheap and healthy.

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    1. I seem to have an aversion to black beans lately, but that reminded me of Santa Fe Rice and Beans. So I added it to the "More 15 minute meals list and named it after you!

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  17. Great quick meals! And oh how I miss Wegmans! I am now in Australia, and there is nothing like it here!

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    1. Lucky! Even without Wegmans, I would love to live in Australia! Or even visit!

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  18. My family always has a potato night. Baked potatos in the microwave for 10 minutes, plus some bacon or leftover pork/chicken with bbq sauce. One of our favorite quick dinners.

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    1. Awesome, awesome idea! Plus, I just found out you can "bake" a potato in the microwave? I was gobsmacked, who knew!?! I put this is the "More 15 minute dinners" that posts in the morning and mentioned you as the inspiration. Thanks again!

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    2. You can also put potatoes wrapped in foil in your crock pot, cook on low while you're at work and the potatoes are hot and ready when you walk in the door!

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  19. I love these ideas! I've read some terrible things about Tyson's farming practices and ethics though. I'm sure other brands are terrible as well, but I try to steer clear of Tyson.

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    1. I have to admit, I actually buy Wegmans frozen chicen breasts because they are much larger. Besides, Wegmans I'm pretty sure that Tyson's is the only company that makes them. I figured that most people don't have a Wegmans available so I tried to make it work for everyone. I agree about Tyson, I still feel sick when I think about Food, Inc. The only company I dislike more is Con Agra Foods, (they make Hunts Ketchup), check them out on wikipedia if your ever bored.

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  20. I wasn't going to comment on this, but I can't help it. Does anyone really consider the majority of these ideas to be "meals"? Throwing a side salad on the plate doesn't make it well-balanced. SO much processed food, sodium, etc. just for starters. I couldn't put this in front of my husband with a straight face. Doesn't anyone cook anymore?

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! I certainly understand where you're coming from. These ideas are really only appropriate for someone who is eating fast food or eating out all the time and has tried unsuccessfully to make healthy meals at home. Kind of like a 12 step program for fast food junkies. This is surely unhealthy compared to your meals, but eventually we'll get to those meals too.

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    2. I agree -- it's still better than eating out. However if you read the packages on some of these products, they're not healthy at all. There are still quick, recipes out there. I make Mac and cheese in the microwave from scratch and it only takes 10 minutes (recipesplusmore.blogspot.com). Stir fry is fairly quick and there is also fish which cooks fast and is healthy. I use the grill a lot even in the winter. So, you can still eat at home, eat healthier, save money and it can even be faster than going thru the drive thru.

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  21. Yes Anon, I hate to be critical but unfortunately most of this is not healthier than fast food- though it is cheaper.

    One thing I noticed is the rush to the gym after work leaving you starving and in a time crunch. In many ways, you'd be better off skipping the gym and using the time & money there to eat real food. There is research now showing that you can get the same benefits from a long workout by raising your heartrate as fast as possible for just a few minutes at a time (i.e. run up and down a stair as fast as you can). But if the gym is non-negotiable, maybe using the crock pot and freezer as a way to make healthier food more immediately available when you get home. Or having a whole food (nonGMO, non-chemical) protein shake before the gym could buy you some time hunger-wise when you get home to relax and cook at your leisure. But healthy food does not necessarily take more time. We had tacos tonight on whole wheat tortillas using store bought chicken strips (raised without antibiotics) with lettuce, tomato, avacado and sour cream.

    I'm sure your recipes do TASTE good and definitely save money over fast food...just maybe read something about factory farms, antibiotics and pesticides and most of these can be modified into really healthy dinners..don't mean to sound snobby or put you down, hope it doesn't come out that way.

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    1. Not at all! Feedback like this is just as important as the positive ones. I really appreciate you taking the time to tell me your thoughts. If blogging were one sided, it wouldn't be any fun! Our goal is to do exactly what you're talking about, but it's going to take us a bit. This certainly isn't meant for everyone, just some ideas to put out to those who might find it helpful. Thanks again!

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    2. I love that you are taking the steps in the right direction. It can be a very hard task to accomplish, so the simple fact that you're trying, deserves great points! I found your blog on Pintrist & as a fellow blogger about food, money, raising an autistic child while dealing with the loss of twins, among other things (I have various blogs), I found that ALTHOUGH yes many of your meals aren't any healthier then fast good, I think taking the right steps towards healthier meals for your hubby & yourself is very important! My meals take 15-30 minutes usually (unless I'm batch cooking)

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    3. Sorry, ran out of room before! When it comes to blogging we get the good with the bad! Overall I think your list is great & your always including veggies in same way which is AWESOME! I'm the master at super healthy 15-30 minute meals, so if you ever need any tips, tricks or suggestions, I'd be happy to help! BTW: there's some meals on your list I plan to change up to fit our health needs (allergies, autism, etc), but I will be using some for sure!!! I'd love to chat with you sometime about quick meals if you're interested!

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    4. Awesome! Our goal is certainly to creep our way towards healthier meals. I've learned from the past that when we go "all out", we end up in line at chipotle pretty quickly. We did an all home made, no preservative, all natural and organic menu for a month. Then we binged on fast food for the next month. This has been working much better because we're slowly giving up old habits and replacing new ones. I'm heading over to your blogs now.

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    5. The problem with crock pot meals is that she and her husband are gone for over 12 hours in a day. Most crock pot meals Max out at 8. The food would be ruined, along with most nutritional value it once had. I don't agree that these are worse than grease fried food.

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    6. Thanks! I actually keep meaning to mention that, but I kept forgetting. We did do a few crock pot meals (we did "savingdinner" through fly lady, which is where we came up with the 120.00/week budget). I'm kind of a germaphobe which leaks over into food safety paranoia (Yes, I'm the girl with a thermometer in the fridge to ensure proper temp. I found that either the food would get way over done by the time we got home, or I would be freaking out about whether the warm option really keeps it safe for 6 hours. Now that I'm home for a few months, crock pot is a valid option again (although I seem to like freezer meals better). Thanks for the support!

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    7. What about a crock pot with a delayed timer? I use my crock pot all the time to make sure we have dinner before we run out of the house at night for sports. I like several of these ideas for a quick meal. Thanks!!

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    8. Agreed, as a Registered Dietitian, these meals are extremely high in fat. Not a healthy list of meals, and the list uses a lot of processed foods.

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  22. I love your ideas!!! While you take it gracefully I do not believe the people who are using this as a sounding board are right...this is much better than the weekday takeout regimen and the potato chip dinners we usually eat. Thanks for the ideas!

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    1. Thanks for the support! It takes a lot to break out of bad habits. We've been through 7 different meal plans in two years. The hardest part is to keep trying something different until you find something that works. It's hard not to get discouraged. This works great for us and its something we can adapt over time.

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    2. i just now saw this on pinterest and I am interested for my daughter and son-in-law and their little 2-1/2 year old. They leave home often before 6:30 am and don't get back until 6 or later pm...The baby goes to bed around 8- doesn't leave much time for family time, dinner, etc. Too often getting take-out. This gives MANY ideas that are better than take-out...I think you've done a great thing and some people are going to find fault no matter what you say/do. I want to say that even with a timer on a crock pot, I don't think I want food sitting out on a counter in a crock pot for four hours before the time goes off to cook for 8 hours. Come on- Maybe if it were frozen, I still think it would be thawed in a couple of hours.

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  23. I love the recipe ideas, I have two toddlers and some nights I just need a quick meal they will eat!

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    1. Glad to be a help! I bet you have your hands full!

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  24. I agree that these meals are far better than fast food. Congrats on making the switch to cooking at home. You'll get to the healthier stuff. It's just so good that you are doing all of this at home!!

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    1. Thanks for the support! Comments like these are my favorite:)I gave up the idea of perfection a while ago and concentrate on small changes that lead to big changes.

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    2. Even for those who do cook at home, this is a great list to have on hand. Right now, we are all sick with colds and I just don't feel like cooking. Having ideas for quick meals saves us money and sanity. For those who want to make them healthier, go for it. Recipes are sort of like guildelines anyways.

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    3. Excellent point! I would never want to encourage someone to eat worse than they are, but for many people this may be an improvement. And, as you said... recipes can be easily adapted.

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  25. I totally get trying to save money and remember to eat. Most of the food on here looks great. However, I do agree with another comment about making your own chicken. You could grill/roast/bake a lot at once and freeze what you don't need for that week. You can also roast a whole chicken in a crock pot while you are at work. As for the going straight to the gym after work- props on working out, but you should definitely eat before hand. 5 hours (between lunch and gym) is too long to go without eating at least a snack.

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    1. You need a crockpot! Dinner will be ready when you get in. You can prepare stuff ahead of time (storing in either the fridge or freezer) and dump into the crock and switch it onto low when you get up....much healthier than a lot of these things, as yummy as they would be! Good list, but could be tweaked to make things even better....like not microwaving the chicken. ;)

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    2. Great advice! I finally got my schedule sorted out so that we can adjust many of those things. What we were doing was an extreme menu plan because our only other option was eating out. We just had no time. Now that we got through that rough patch, we can start phase two and get healthier. The crock Pot is an awesome idea! I'm checking into that this week!

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  26. Can you stand another recipe idea? My family loves this and it is fast:

    (To serve 2 adults and 2 kids)

    Boil 3 medium sized chicken breasts (or the equivalent amount of bone-in chicken if you prefer). While those are going, microwave 4 medium potatoes (usually 4-5 minutes, turn and repeat). When the chicken is finished cooking, shred and mix in BBQ sauce. Cut open the potatoes (dress with butter, salt and pepper if you like), and top with BBQ chicken. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese if desired. I usually serve this with some green beans or broccoli and it goes over very well. And it is fairly healthy, particularly if you go easy on the butter or use a light alternative. Thank you for the ideas!

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    1. Renee,
      We made this on Sunday (I posted it in this weeks menu post and named it after you). It was a huge hit! I even packed leftovers for work for two days. This will surely come up again in our menu! Thanks again for such a great recipe!

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  27. What a wonderful list of meals! I am printing this list out to keep in my kitchen. I used to live in Ashburn and loved going to Wegmans.

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    1. Thanks for the props! I adore Wegmans too:)

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  28. I love this list and may I say you manage this blog with an amazing amount of grace. :) I thought I would share my quick go to dinner that even my picky children love. Take burrito sized tortillas, open a can of refried beans, (we use black but since you have a recent aversion to black beans just use regular) spread the beans over the tortillas, top with grated mozzarella cheese. (or in my case pepper jack) Slice plum tomatoes to place over cheese. They look like pepperoni. Toast in a skillet over medium heat until cheese is melted. Slice with pizza cutter. They make the most wonderful crispy crust. We do use whole wheat tortillas as well. They seem to take the toasting a little better. All in all this takes maybe 10 minutes to make.

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    1. What an awesome thing to say! Thank you so much!
      Great recipe too! Baby is due tomorrow and I'm thinking my black bean aversion will disapear shortly after his arrival (in theory- this is my first one so I have no idea how this actually works).

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  29. Ahhh this post made me miss Wegmans more than I usually do!

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    1. I know exactly how you feel- It's amazing how much affection I can have for a grocery store. Our 5 year plan only has us staying in this area for another 2 years, and I'm already thinking I can't "break up" with Wegmans.

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  30. I am so glad I looked at this!! :) great ideas!

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  31. Great post but i wish there was a gluten free option! gluten free diet tends to make things more expensive or not so easy or tasty ):

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    1. Just a friendly FYI, I just saw a commercial today that Chex cereal is now made gluten free. Totally not dinner/meal related but maybe a safe option for breakfast. Just thought I'd pass along the info :)

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    2. I wish I could help Janae! I can only imagine how tough it would be to try to incorporate a diet like that into quick and cheap meals. If you get some good ideas, you should start a blog! Or if you don't have the time, feel free to email them to me and maybe you can do a guest blog here.

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  32. This is all EXTREMELY unhealthy! I commend you for giving up the fast food...but if you read the ingredients of the things you are eating, you would be disgusted. Tyson chicken and hotdogs alone have enough creepy things going on to fill your YEARLY quota of unhealthy.
    I work a full time job, work out every day, eat 100% vegan (but I swear up and down you wouldn't know it was vegan), commit less than 30min to every meal (sometimes 10min), satisfy my former meat eating boyfriend, and have time to relax and pinterest! Oh! and I'm a full time burlesque dancer!

    Now I know I'm an extreme case..and it took A LOT of hard work, but I am so much happier with my life now! You are on the right track....KEEP GOING!!! Start subbing in more veggies and less meat, dairy, and mystery ingredients...you will be happy you did!

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    1. That's a huge accomplishment! It's a bit like jumping over the Grand Canyon for me right now, but your right... small changes over time lead to big rewards.

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  33. Thanks for posting this! I'm always looking for for quick meals for the family! Do y'all a slow cooker? The Hubs throws in a cheap pork cut in the evening, and when you get back from work the next day: BBQ! Although we do end up doing lots of bbq for the week (bbq pizza, bbq sandwiches, etc) it's pretty quick and tasty!

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    1. My mom was just telling me she makes BBQ pulled pork like this! When I was working, we were out of the house 12-13 hours and my crock pot wasn't fancy enough for that. While I'm home for the baby transition time, I plan on pulling it out again. I'll let you know how it goes!

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  34. A quick, healthy option (for those bashing your list) is oven roasted broccoli. I do mine 20 min. so not quite in your 15 min. time limit but it's so delish. If you prefer it less done, 15 min would work. {Chop broccoli florets into smallish pieces. Spread single layer on a baking sheet drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Grind some sea salt over all and bake at 425* for 15 - 25 min. depending on how you like it. (I do 20 min.)}

    I applaud your efforts in the right direction and your grace toward the naysayers. :)

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    1. I'm super excited to try this! I adore broccoli in all of it's forms. I'll add this to a future 15 minute meals list (maybe a healthy list if I can get enough ideas) and name it after you.

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  35. Why do strangers care so much if YOUR meals are healthy or not. YOU'RE the one eating it, not them. I like your list and it IS better than fast food all the time. Keep it up!

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  36. I love your list and most of the items are things my extremely picky child will eat! Thank you! And in trade, here are a few of my family's favorite crock pot recipes. They feed about 2 people so adjust to fit your family.

    Mandarin Chicken: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 3 tbsp apricot jelly/preserve, about 6 tbsp Russian dressing (wishbone brand is the most prevalent), 1 can mandarin oranges. Throw everything in the crock pot except the mandarin oranges on low. Go to work and run all your errands. About 15 minutes before serving shred your chicken. (I just use two forks and don't take it out of the pot. Less messy that way) Place the lid back on and let it simmer on low a bit longer. 5 minutes before serving add mandarin oranges. Serve over rice. Trust me its delicious!

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    1. Thanks so much Joy! I'm going to take both of these recipes and put them in my slow cooker list to be posted at a later date and name them after you. I'm especially psyched about the tacos! I'm going to have to work that in as soon as we get back from vacation!

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  37. Sorry forgot to add the second recipe so here you go!

    Chicken Tacos: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, Salsa, Sour Cream, Tortillas, Tomatoes, Lettuce, Shredded Cheese, and any other taco toppings you like.

    Place chicken breasts in crock pot and cover with salsa. You don't need a lot but enough that the chicken won't dry out. Add 3-4 lg. scoops of sour cream 30 minutes before serving after shredding the chicken.

    Serve in tortilla shells with other taco toppings. Enjoy!

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  38. Great ideas! I have those crazy busy nights too and sometimes convenience is necessary! I love making bagel pizzas myself (so freaking quick and tasty), though I make mine on whole wheat english muffins (whole wheat whenever possible actually for everything) to make them a tad healthier and I am easy on the cheese or try to be then I omit the pepperoni :) Also, if you like solomon (buy it frozen), then grab some frozen Steam Fresh or Birds Eye veggies that take less than 5 minutes in the microwave and eat with whole grain toast or microwave a baked potato! Also, when it comes to adding meat to pasta or with breakfast dinners, I like to use ground turkey or turkey sausage. Then yet another quick meal in the same category as BLT's is egg salad sandwiches and bake some frozen sweet potato fries for the the side. Actually corn on the cob is an amazing side with BLT's (one of my favorites!)

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    1. Great ideas and healthy too! I'm not a fan of fish, but the egg salad is a great idea. Shockingly, I've never actually had an egg salad sandwich. I plan to correct this quickly:)

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  39. Burrito bake (preheat oven to 350 degrees)

    Microwave 6 frozen bean burritos until thawed.
    lay them side by side in an oven pan
    Layer with salsa, taco meat (using leftover taco meat from a taco night, I freeze mine so I can use it any night)
    then top with shredded cheese and bake for 15 minutes.
    Easy & delicious

    Hawaiian Chicken
    Shredded cooked chicken heated with bbq sauce and a can of pineapple topped over uncle ben's minute rice Mmmm...

    Last one
    Round Steak
    onion soup mix
    can of mushroom soup
    can of carrots & a can of green beans both drained
    cook all together in a crockpot or over the stove
    Cheap, easy, & delicious

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    1. Awesoem recipes! Thanks! Jon's going to freak when I make him the burrito bake.. That's his version of heaven on earth.

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  40. +1 from me on utilizing your freezer and your crock pot, especially coming into the colder months - soups, stews, pasta bakes and casseroles, etc. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks! I'm really into freezer meals right now, and I'm just starting to get back into crock pot meals.

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  41. You are doing great! I just happened upon your list on pinterest. These are way better than fast food. And I am sorry but a lot of people can't afford organic everything, I think the suggestion of that is rude. Just wanted to point out that you could do a variety of different eating options, don't have t

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  42. Sorry, don't have to be so strict, chipotle is actually very healthy in comparison to other take out. Thanks for the ideas I am going to use these for sure!

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    1. Thanks! Chipotle is my achille's heel. I swear it calls to me in my sleep. If I'm going to eat fast food, that's without a doubt where I head. Subway may be "healthier", but I try to rationalize that because most of it's organic with no additives it makes the 800 calorie burrito not so bad. Ugh... Now I have a Chipotle craving!

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  43. Did you know Wegmans just started doing Club Pack (vacuum-sealed, individual compartments) for chicken breasts?? I just noticed (and bought) some a few weeks ago. I also get their Club Packs of pork (stir fry, schnitzel, grilled, etc.) and ground beef and divide the beef into baggies and freeze them until I need it. But the plain, non marinated chicken breast are new, to me anyway. Thanks for the recipe ideas!

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    1. Isn't it great? I always buy the club packs and seperate them out when I get home. On ground beef alone, I save $2 per pound! They just came out with .59/pound turkeys too. I was so excited! (And a little dorky!)

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  44. Also, thinking more about our favorite grocery store, another quick meal is using their bags of frozen pastas like tortellini or ravioli. The cheese tortellini cook in 3 minutes from the time you dump them in boiling water. How's that for quick? :) if you happen to not have sauce, melt some butter and mix in seasonings like dried basil, oregano, some paprika, pepper, and grate some fresh Parmesan and mix. Top the pasta with that and enjoy your salad on the side.

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    1. That's one of my favorites! I also have a secret love of chef boyardee ravioli (I'm so embarrased to even admit that), I'm planning on trying to recreate an at home version using their frozen ravioli with meat.
      I'll add this to the next 15 minute meals list and name it after you. Thanks!

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  45. As a graduate student on a budget, this was like hitting the jack-pot! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!

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  46. so first off, i have to say i love all your ideas! and will be trying probably all of them in the near future!!
    secondly, i don't understand what people are not understanding about the point of this article!? it's about quick, inexpensive meals when you're too busy to cook right? i understand people wanting to eat HEALTHY too but you never claimed for it to be "vegan", "vegetarian", "200 calories or less" or ANY of that ..... most of your list is 10 times healthier than what i eat on a regular basis!! i love it Rosemarie!

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    1. Thanks for the support! I think we could all eat a little healthier, but I'm a firm believer in making small consistant changes towards that then trying to go from 0 to 60. For now, if we can cut out fast food, and get used to packing lunches and eating at home, we can gradually start replacing convenience foods with whole foods. I'm actually making all our food from scratch now since I'm home on maternity leave, and boy do I miss my 15 minute meals!

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  47. I loved this whole post! So many fabulous quick dinner ideas! Can't wait for my family to try so many of these!

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    1. Thanks Jessica! If you want more, theres another post with another two weeks of 15 minute meals. You can find it here: http://bornfreenorthernvirginia.blogspot.com/2012/07/another-3-weeks-of-cheap-dinners-ready.html

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  48. love this...making a grocery list right away

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  49. That's a great idea! That's now at the top of my christmas list! Thanks Jennifer!

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  50. I think this is awesome! I see things that could be tweeked a little but this blog is great for quick ideas. For the more "health conscience" simply take these ideas and use fresh/ organic foods instead of all the pre packaged stuff. Every recipe can be altered to fit individual preferences. I say keep on keepin' on and do what you do!

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  51. I sell Tupperware and we have a pasta maker, breakfast maker, and rice cooker....all go in the microwave...pasta is cooked 10 times faster, eggs are fluffy in 4 mins, and rice that doesnt stick to a pan lol i was sold once i tried these....love your list, you've got great ideas!

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  52. Wow! I have been looking all over the net and some of my mom’s books for recipes that could spare me more sleep. Just like you and your husband, I have a very hectic schedule since I work and go to school. Among the recipes you’ve suggested, I can say chicken quesadillas are my favourites. Staying in a budget and still coming up with good ideas for fast-cooking meals is truly helpful. We can go to our favorite restaurant Fort Lauderdale from time to time but when we do have to prepare home cooked meals, what you have shared here is indeed very helpful. Thanks for this information.

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  53. I never comment on things like this but just wanted to say I think your list is great. I will be implementing a few of these myself in the next few weeks. To all the negative comments: I plan on just adding veggies more often (to the pizza etc.) and less processed ingredients to make it work for me and my goals. I am going to use this as an outline and modify it to suit my needs. I am still very grateful for the ideas though. Also, if you compare the amount of fats and sodium in fast food to this meal plan, there is no way this is as bad as fast food. This is far from a perfect meal plan but have you looked at the nutritional value of fast food lately?? Thank you again.

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  54. A time-saving list; thank you!

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  55. One of our favorite quick meals is taco rice. Cook up some rice in your rice cooker. While rice is cooking, in a skillet brown a pound or two of ground beef. Add in a packet of taco seasoning and water, cooking as directed. Slice up a tomato or two, shred some lettuce, shred some cheese. When rice is done, plate up in following order. Rice, taco meat, some cheese, lettuce, tomato, some sour cream, guacamole or salsa, and some beans (refried, red, black, pinto, whatever you like). If you'd put it in a taco shell, put it on rice. Feeds a crowd, leftovers are fantabulous (just pack all the yummy extras separately from the rice and meat and beans, adding after reheating) and it can be very cheap.

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    1. The hospital where I work served "taco potato" a few years ago, it became such a favorite they have it every week--everyone loves it. (this is in the cafeteria..not on patient menus.) I've done it at home and also done it for large church gatherings, delicious. Start with a baked potato, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, whatever topping you want, and eat. It's fabulous. I am going to try this taco rice...sounds just as yummy!

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  56. Great post and lots of quick, smart affordable ideas. Well done!

    But....

    ...you're KILLING me with all the plurals listed as possessives. It's a epidemic everywhere, but leftovers has no apostrophe! Neither does fillets. (Written as leftover's and fillet's, respectively). Not to be a grammar Nazi but feel all writers/bloggers have to stay on our game. :)

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  57. Or you could use the crock pot. Lots of wonderful recipes out there.

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  58. Your intentions are good but none of these options (aside from fresh grilled meats) are any better for you than fast food...

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  59. I'm sorry but these meals are in no way healthier than fast food...The key is to read the nutrition labels- most of these are just as high, if not higher in calories and fat.

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  60. Your intentions are good but none of these options (aside from fresh grilled meats) are any better for you than fast food...

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  61. Amazing. Thanks so much for this list. I'm moving out to a big city, and needed cheap food ideas. You are a life-saver.

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  62. Super easy and healthy - in the morning, put trimmed chicken breast in crock pot (I usually use 2-3 pounds) with a jar of salsa. Put it on low and let it go all day! Makes a perfect filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or a topping for rice or nachos. Super easy, simple, delicious, and healthy!

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  63. I moved out of the mid-atlantic a few years ago, and it's so nice to hear someone talk about Wegmans! :)
    I'm a college student who has moved out of the dorms, and I long for the meal plan more than life itself sometimes. I eat out like twice a day! (Not a healthy thing. Ever. Then again, neither is the dining hall, but at least there was a salad bar.) Microwaves and not washing too many dishes is perfect for me. Thanks for posting this!

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  65. All I can say is wow. It is best to eat real food. Your heart will be grateful. It seems whole grains and fruit are missing. We eat real food at our house and does require more time and planning. I do like slot of ideas posted in the comments.

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  66. Another cheap and easy recipie: take 6 frozen chicken breqsts, a jar of your favorite salsa, I use 2 because my husband likes it extra saucy, and apack of taco seasoning. throw in the crockpot on low for 7 hrs or high for about 3 1/2. shred the chicken serve on tortillas with sour cream nd taco sauce. I usually make the chicken on a day off so it doesn't get too dry in the crockpot. you'll get a ton of leftovers that you can use for quesadillas or taco soup and can use low sodium seasoning and salsa.

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  67. Can someone explain to me how any of these "dinners" are healthy??? As an Italian...serving spaghetti with jar sauce and "toast with butter" WHAT?!? Thanks for getting my attention - briefly - after the second recipe I knew this wasn't for us. We eat healthy.

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