A Week of Cheap & Easy Dinners

- Food, Lifestyle

I have never been one to enjoy cooking or trying new recipes, but over the past year I have made it a top priority to plan meals and cook at least five times per weeks. Be aware, I use the definition of cook very loosely — basically anytime we use what we have at home and don’t spend money ordering in or eating out. While this takes a lot more preparation, time out of our evenings to cook and results in piled up, dirty dishes, it is totally worth it to help us reach our budget goals and our health goals.

Planning meals and cooking for two never seems as easy as it should, so I thought I would document a week’s worth of dinners to help anyone else looking for meal ideas that are cheap, easy and somewhat healthy (mind you, cooking usually means healthy for us because at least we are controlling the ingredients). I try to get a variety in our week between meats, seafood and vegetarian options (we both eat meat, but just as a way to get more veggies in our diets), so here it is, last week’s dinners:

A Week of Easy and Cheap Meals

I actually start planning our meals on Wednesday and plan through the following Tuesday night (because I go grocery shopping on Wednesdays… it is less crowded and every other Wednesday is pay day for me).

So here is the breakdown:

tacos

Tacos

We switch between using beef or chicken for tacos and this time around it was beef. One of the easiest meals to throw together! I also put on a little cheese, lettuce, verde salsa, hot sauce and top with a dab of sour cream. YUM!

meat loaf + green beans

Meatloaf (I follow this recipe)

My boyfriend absolutely LOVES this meatloaf recipe. I have tried a few others and last time I did that he said “Don’t mess with my meatloaf” lol! So if you have a picky eater in your life, this is an amazing, simple recipe! We have to cook it longer and at a higher temperature because our appliances are old. You might have to cook longer depending on what kind of oven you have and how old it is. I would stick with the recipe’s suggested temperature and cooking length and cook it longer if you need to!

chicken parmesan

Chicken Parmesan

This was our first time making Chicken Parmesan and it was really simple! We pan-seared the chicken while cooking the spaghetti noodles and the sauce. I just used a jar of our favorite spaghetti sauce and added some more spices. Once the chicken was done, we placed it on top of the spaghetti, added the sauce and topped with Parmesan and placed it back in the oven for just a couple minutes to melt the cheese and make sure all the ingredients were warm! It was delicious and extremely filling. We had leftovers for lunch the next day.

grilled cheese + spring salad

Grilled Cheese + Spring Salad

This is a simple meal to make during the week, and super cheap! I made a “gourmet” grilled cheese with cheddar and provolone slices. I washed the salad mix, adding a little bit of shredded cheese and tossed it in ranch (a VERY small amount). This might not be the healthiest meal ever, but you are getting your greens and it is SO easy. This is definitely a good meal on a night you don’t have a lot of time.

shrimp stir fry

Shrimp Stir Fry (I follow this recipe)

Every week, I try out a new recipe or meal concept we have never tried before. I have never cooked with shrimp before, so I wanted to give it a try. Usually, we cook tilapia or salmon if we are eating seafood, but I wanted to try to cook shrimp, and my boyfriend LOVES stir fry, so it was a win win. This recipe was definitely easy and the sauce had good flavor! I used white rice instead of brown (bad I know… ) but white rice is what we have on hand right now.

spinach alfredo pizza

Spinach Alfredo Pizza

We started cooking our own pizzas a little over a year ago because we realized they might be a little “better” for us if we control the ingredients. I meant to do a step-by-step recipe on this one, because I think we have made a really delicious version of this pizza that is light and not calorie-laden. So look for this recipe coming soon, I usually make this pizza every other week! For now, here is a similar recipe.

steak + baked potato

Grilled Steak + Baked Potatoes

This is a hearty meal and perfect for the weekends! We have two grills just outside of our balcony area, so we will be taking advantage of grilling more this summer. I also would usually serve a green vegetable, like green beans or broccoli, but to be honest, this by itself is so filling, we didn’t make anything else. That’s why we should start with the greens!

So there it is 7 meals for 7 days! While these are not the HEALTHIEST options, I believe in moderation and I feel like when we plan our meals and choose a veggie and seafood option, it is giving us a variety and I always try to pair it with vegetables and/or have some sort of fruit for dessert. This is a very simple look into how I meal plan, and doesn’t show our choices for breakfast or lunch. I tend to eat fruit for breakfast and a salad with fruit or extra vegetables for lunch. Cooking for two is hard, harder than it should be I feel, so I choose things that TASTE good and try to add veggies as a side or do a lighter version of the recipe.

As far as easy, fast and cheap, YES this is just that. I spent $90 at the grocery store that week (including things for breakfast, lunch and household items), so I felt great about that as I try to stay under $100 for the two of us. I shop at Target, so I also use Cartwheel and I started using Checkout51. If you haven’t heard of Checkout51, CHECK IT OUT now. Basically it is kind of like couponing without all the extra pre-shopping work. I shop, I check in at Checkout51 to see what the deals are that week, and if I purchased something on the list, I take a photo of my receipt and upload it. Offers tend to be valued between $0.75 and $1.00 and are good on household items too. I have used it twice and already have $7.75 (this is without ever preplanning what I’m buying). Of course, like couponing, you can see the deals that week and specifically buy those items to get money back. AND if you find a coupon for a certain item, you can still use that coupon and UPLOAD your receipt here. I am not being paid in any way to sponsor Checkout51, I just think it is a really cool concept and SO simple, why wouldn’t’ you do it. You can cash out at just $20, so I imagine in the next couple weeks I will have $20. $20 might be nothing to some people, but to me, it is a happy hour with a girlfriend, it is ordering pizza in on a Friday night with my boyfriend, it is a small bag of dog food…. the list goes on! After all, my mother did raise me and she is quite the penny pincher! :) Thanks mom!

Anyway, sorry for the crazy long post! I just wanted to try something new, like I said, I feel like I can never just find a list of dinner ideas for two, so wanted to share this. Please let me know if you liked this post, I would love to continue doing more like this if it is something people are interested in! If not, well I guess I practiced my food photography skills 😉

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    KizzyDoll
    June 16, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    All these dinners look super yummy doll, I love easy, but great tasting dinners & so do my girls.The shrimp stir fry looks great, might have to try that! Happy Monday doll x

  • Reply
    Alyssa
    June 16, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    You guys mix it up so much more than I do for dinner! I tend to be boring because I get home late from work…I pretty much have the same thing every day haha

    • Reply
      Rachel
      June 16, 2014 at 8:09 AM

      Honestly, if it was just me, I would probably do the same, but my boyfriend is very picky 😉 And gets sick of stuff fast, so we have an ongoing list of recipes we both like and kind of switch those out every week!

  • Reply
    Amy
    June 16, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    I make a lot of these dishes for dinner.

  • Reply
    Sharon
    June 16, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    I usually cook dinner 5 nights a week and then we eat out on the weekends. I’m always looking for new recipes to try since it can get boring to eat the same things, Thanks for the recipes!

    -Sharon
    The Tiny Heart
    Necklace Giveaway!

    • Reply
      Rachel
      June 16, 2014 at 8:36 AM

      Yeah, we usually don’t make 7 in a row, just wanting to push myself! 5 is usually tops for us (we usually go out once on the weekends and once in the week, just to give us a break with the other things we have going on)! Glad to help!

  • Reply
    Merritt
    June 16, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    the grilled cheese + shrimp stirfry sound delicious right now… Did I mention I’m on a juice cleanse all this week?!

    The Style Scribe

  • Reply
    maren anita
    June 16, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    oh it’s so interesting!
    thanks for sharing.
    lovely greets to you-
    happy monday!
    Maren Anita

    FASHION-MEETS-ART by Maren Anita

  • Reply
    Beth
    June 16, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    I need to get back into weekly meal planning, it always worked out so much better than trying to come up with things on the fly and we had more well rounded meals! All of your meal choices look and sound super yummy!

  • Reply
    Teresa
    June 16, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    This is awesome! That steak and potatoes….oh my gosh, looks like heaven! :) Can’t wait to try these! I need to start learning to cook! Haha

    xoxoTeresa
    theteresanicole.com

  • Reply
    amy
    June 16, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    i will take the grilled cheese right now please!! :) i never plan meals in advance…i rarely cook. i really should start doing this!

  • Reply
    Vanessa
    June 16, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    Such a yummy post. 😉
    Lovely greets Nessa

  • Reply
    two birds
    June 16, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Now that our kids are in soccer 4 days a week, I definitely have to plan meals ahead of time! These are great ideas!

  • Reply
    Jess Zimlich
    June 16, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    I’m TERRIBLE about cooking at home. We eat out more than I care to admit! It’s so hard to think of things that will feed just two, not to mention things we both like (I’m super picky). I go through spurts where we do really great and stay within budget, and then other weeks it’s like a free for all!

  • Reply
    Gina @ On the Daily Express
    June 16, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Love the meal planning inspiration! It really does save so much money (and time) when you plan in advance. I want to try your recipe for meatloaf and the shrimp stir fry!
    Gina — On the Daily Express

  • Reply
    The CHIC Insomniac
    June 16, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    It all looks delish!!!

    <a href="http://www.thechicinsomniac.com">The CHIC Insomniac</a>

  • Reply
    Nikki
    June 16, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    It all looks delicious! I love to cook and am always looking for new recipes. I spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for new recipes. That alfredo pizza sounds fab! I also plan our meals for the week. Usually I do Sunday – Thursday. Friday night is generally pizza night at our house, and Saturday night we either go out or grill if it is nice.

    Nikki
    thefashionablewife.com

  • Reply
    Taylor
    June 16, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    Oh, my god.For a version, it is simply a pyramid.Looks very tasty, I think I’m tempted to have a taste.

  • Reply
    Shannon
    June 16, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    Yum! All of this looks amazing! I always try to cook 5 days a week too! That alfredo pizza looks awesome!

    <3 Shannon
    upbeatsoles.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Jules
    June 17, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    Wow, everything looks delicious! Feeling kinda hungry now, haha :)

    Jules x

  • Reply
    Darcy
    June 17, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    For somebody who doesn’t like to cook you sure make delicious looking meals!! I am much more creative in the kitchen in the colder months. Maybe it’s because there is nothing else to do at night so I don’t mind making more complex meals, haha!?
    http://www.amemoryofus.blogspot.com

    • Reply
      Rachel
      June 17, 2014 at 8:44 AM

      Oh I completely agree! I have gotten pretty lazy about it again the past couple weeks when it’s been nice. We can just grill and throw on frozen pizza, right? :)

  • Reply
    Lady Lilith
    June 17, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Nice menu. I like how you are planning ahead.

  • Reply
    Ashleigh
    June 17, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    That’s so funny… I shop after work on Saturday nights, so about 3 am. I plan our meals too so I know exactly what to buy! Tonight it is chicken casserole, salad, and chocolate cake lol.

  • Reply
    helen
    June 17, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    ooh you’ve made some lovely things! it’s made me hungry!

    from helen at thelovecatsinc.com

  • Reply
    Leonor
    June 17, 2014 at 5:11 PM

    amazing dishes! they all look so yummy! :))

    Leonor
    http://www.thesparklinglemon.com

  • Reply
    Lisa - respect the shoes
    June 17, 2014 at 8:27 PM

    These look good! I have the same definition as you do of home cooking – I may be making pizza or burgers or tacos, but I control what’s going in/on everything!

  • Reply
    Brynn
    June 18, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    The chicken parmesan and spinach alfredo pizza looks DIVINE. Since we are finally home a little more and have time to cook, we have been able to make meals for ourselves lately, and it feels wonderful! I eat meat, but Kevin is a vegetarian, so our meals usually are vegetarian so we don’t have to cook two separate meals :)

  • Reply
    Denita
    May 13, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    Omg this is delicious! No it’s not fancy, but it sure is yummy! I took others advice and added more onion (medium diced), a dollop of mayo to the egg mixture. Plus I bought all white tuna $1.28 a can. So easy and really awesome. My mate and kids loved it. I loved it too :) Great Lenten meal. Thanks for sharing.

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