3 Quick and Frugal Alternatives to Fast Food Dinner

If you’re like me, you know what sort of day I’m talking about. The one that seems will never end, yet six o’clock rolls around too quickly; you’re left cranky from hunger and wondering what to make for dinner. Days like these are big budget busters for me as I’m often all too tempted to swing through the local fast food drive-in on my way home.

Here are three quick meals that are great alternatives to the over-processed, over-priced fast food dinner. They are my go to choices when I’m feeling tired or uninspired and the ingredients are easy to keep on hand for days when I get home twenty minutes before dinner time. Each dish has two choices: fast: pot to table in about ten minutes or fancy: dressed up for when there is a bit more time. Bon appetit!

Ramen Noodles

  • Fast: Use one package of noodles for every two people you’re feeding. Follow the cooking directions but before the water boils add one cup frozen mixed or julienned vegetables for every two people. When the liquid is at a rolling boil, crack two raw eggs into the pot and stir quickly. Cook for two to three more minutes, then serve. Instant delicious egg drop soup; pot to table time: ten minutes!
  • Fancy: Again, use one package of noodles for every two people, but cook the noodles in just enough water to cover. When cooked, drain the noodles (reserving the liquid) and set aside. While the noodles are cooking, dice one or two zucchinis and one half to one box of firm tofu into small pieces. Begin by sautéing the zucchini until it’s soft, about five minutes, then add the tofu. In a bowl mix 1/2 cup peanut butter with 1/4 cup soy sauce, add powdered ginger to taste. Add to the zucchini/tofu mix. If the sauce is too sticky, add some of the reserved liquid from the noodles. Serve the zucchini and tofu over the noodles; pot to table time: twenty minutes!

Chili Mac and Cheese

  • Fast: Cook one box of mac and cheese according to the directions. Add one can of your favorite chili (I like turkey). Serves four easily; pot to table time: less than ten minutes!
  • Fancy: Prepare as above, but while the mac and cheese is cooking, prepare the following and place into small bowls. Two tomatoes and one red pepper, chopped; a small can of corn; grated Monterey jack cheese; sour cream and salsa. Place bowls on the table, buffet style, and use to top the chili mac and cheese: pot to table time: fifteen minutes!

Breakfast for Dinner

  • Fast: two scrambled eggs per person served with sliced ham and toast. Couldn’t be easier: pot to table time: ten minutes!
  • Fancy: beat two eggs per person with milk, 1/2 cup defrosted drained frozen spinach or 1 cup chopped fresh spinach,and one teaspoon of dill. Add to a frying pan with one tablespoon of melted butter, swirl the pan so that the egg covers it entirely. While the egg is starting to cook, finely chop one slice of ham per person and add to the egg then add as much grated cheddar cheese as you like (the more the better in my opinion). Serve with buttered toast and sliced tomatoes on the side. Green Eggs and Ham: pot to table time: twenty minutes!

How about you? What are your favorite quick meals?

14 thoughts on “3 Quick and Frugal Alternatives to Fast Food Dinner”

  1. Nice ideas. We often have soup when time is short. Any sort of vegie soup (pumpkin is our favourite), you can use pretty much what you’ve got. Another one is pasta with a creamy pesto sauce – a jar of pesto and a cup of cream combined and heated through. Yummy

  2. Ooh I’ve got one to add. Take a bag of frozen cheese tortellini, some frozen spinach and canned tomatoes. I like to add some water to make it a bit soupy and then top it with some Parmesan cheese. It’s quick and cheap, and a nice way to get some spinach into your diet!

  3. Marci: our new “comfort” food dinner is soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – Trader Joe’s tomato soup, and cheeses are varied depending on what is on hand, our favorite is sourdough bread.

  4. I gotta try the one with peanut butter. I imagine it to be something like a Thai or Vietnamese noodle somethered with peanut sauce.

  5. I love these ideas! That egg drop soup is classic! I have a “leftovers night” every week as part of my weekly meal plan and these are the kinds of meals I think up. Last week I had leftover meatloaf and leftover meat sauce from spaghetti night. I chopped up the meatloaf piece, added it and the sauce to a pot along with a can of diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, pepper and a bit of cayenne and voila! Instant chili! We had a bag of tortilla chips and I cooked some frozen peas in the microwave while the chili simmered for 10 minutes. I also crunched up some chips and put it in the pot to thicken the chili. the whole meal took me a little over 10 minutes.

  6. Love the peanut butter/soy sauce mix! You can also take the bowl of ramen, poke a hole in it, put in a raw egg and bacon bits and ginger, and dried onion and garlic and then pour in the hot water! It makes a nice little stew…

    Also – just add canned tuna to bulk prepared cole slaw, like the kind they have at Smart & Final – and voila! very EZ tuna salad!

  7. Gonna try the egg soup – Thanks!

    My easy meals are also breakfast for dinner…omelets or a scramble with toast.
    My omelets are usually with cubed cheese,
    canned or fresh mushrooms, leftover meat or cubed spam (it’s a comfort food for me),and whatever leftover veggies sound good in an omelet or scramble that night. An omelet or scramble is pretty adaptable to what’s on hand.

    Sometimes its pancakes with fried eggs.

    My other easy meal is grilled cheese with canned soup.

  8. I’ve been making the fast ramen for a few years now. I’ll use very little of the seasoning (1/2 packet for 2-3 packages, cuts down on sodium), frozen corn, and top with grated cheddar once it’s in the bowl. I also let the eggs stay mostly whole by less vigorous stirring.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing these great ideas. Between work, my long commute and the other daily responsibilities (like cleaning, grocery shopping, taking care of the pets) there are days that I leave the house at 6:45 a.m. and am lucky to be home by 8 or 9 p.m. These will be great alternatives to frozen pizza!

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