24 Days of CHEAP & EASY Meals – Breakdown

Before I dive into the meals, let me first say: First, I follow my rule of cooking from the fridge, pantry and freezer first. If a dish requires more than two ingredients that I don’t already have, I won’t make it. Second, I basically cook for three adults. My kids sometimes eat what I fix, but not every time. Sometimes I’ll serve them chicken nuggets, corn dogs, pizza, mac and cheese, ramen, etc. Usually my son eats a big bowl of fruit and is set until his bedtime snack. We’re real over here. I don’t want there to be any illusions that my children are star eaters, they’re not. My dad works out of town a lot and I live across the street from my parents house (yes, I’ve lived on the same street for 27 years!!), so about 3 or 4 nights a week my mom comes over and eats with us. Let’s take a look at my meals!

BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich

Often, when I have leftover money in the grocery budget, I will buy a whole chicken and roast it.  I just season it with salt and pepper to keep the meat versatile.  Then I freeze the chicken in proportioned bags and throw the carcass in a Crock-Pot to make my own stock (which I also freeze).

So for the pulled chicken sandwiches, I used cooked chicken from the freezer.  I tossed it in a pan with barbecue rub, brown sugar and barbecue sauce (I’m LOVING this sauce: https://amzn.to/3y4HSvj ).  I assembled the sandwich with caramelized onions, mozzarella cheese and a toasted bun. 


For our Valentine’s Day dinner, we cooked at home.  We are watching our spending so we weren’t able to go out to a fancy restaurant.  Plus, it was a school night so those pesky kids were hanging around.  HA!  My husband often buys whole strip loin from our local wholesale distributor.  Then he slices the steaks himself, wraps and freezes them.  It really cuts down on the cost of meat to process them on the back end himself. To finish off this meal I roasted some asparagus, made some garlic mashed potatoes and then the real star is my garlic bread cheese dip. That’s another dish I make often for parties. People RAVE about it. I got the recipe from Kristin at Yellow Bliss Road. It’s linked here:

Pork Loin Sandwich

This was another quick freezer meal.  My husband had bought a loin at the beginning of fall and smoked it.  We sliced the leftovers and froze them.  They thawed really well.  I put them in a pan with some water to defrost.  Then I threw barbecue sauce and brown sugar in the pan at the end.  It kind of caramelized the edges.  DELISH! To keep the meal light, I served it with my cold pasta salad. For that I combine cooked tri-colored Rotini, halved grape (or cherry) tomatoes, halved mini cucumbers, part of a finely chopped bell pepper, spinach, ranch dressing, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar. Very simple ingredients, but it tastes so fresh. I like it for spring and summer especially.

Chipotle Shrimp

This is a crowd favorite!  I make it a lot for parties.  The recipe for the chipotle marinade is linked here: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/grilled-chipotle-shrimp/.  I used frozen green beans to serve on the side.  I tossed them in the chipotle marinade to compliment the shrimp flavor.  This meal was quick and SUPER low calorie.

Pot Roast

I made this meal right after our Valentine’s meal.  I had garlic mashed potatoes leftover.  So, I tossed chuck roast in a crock pot and added carrots and mushrooms at the end.  Then all I had to do was warm up the potatoes and make the gravy.  When I make beef gravy I use the drippings from the Crock-Pot.  I pour the liquid into this AMAZINGLY handy fat separator.  https://amzn.to/3SGJogE

Then I dispense the liquid into a pan and heat it to boiling.  I add a cornstarch slurry and lower the heat.  Once it’s thickened, it’s ready to go!

Stuffed Shells

This has been a family favorite for years.  My mom and brother have always made it.  This is a great meal to add into the rotation for several reasons:  It’s customizable, it’s make ahead friendly and it’s loved by all.  I cook jumbo pasta shells. https://amzn.to/3ILPlnQ Then fill them with a cheese mixture made from mozzarella, egg and cottage cheese or ricotta.  I layer them in a pan with pasta sauce and some type of meat.  I prefer ground beef.  My brother likes to add ground sausage and pepperoni.  Like I said, it’s completely customizable.  Top it with cheese and bake.  You could assemble it on Sunday and then stick it in the oven to bake at a later date. 

Dijon Chicken Crunch

This is a recipe I learned from HelloFresh.  We used to get a meal plan like once a month from them.  It’s so good and low calorie!  Here’s the recipe:  https://www.hellofresh.com/recipes/sheet-pan-dijon-onion-crunch-chicken-621e7f79fda2615c364c54b2

Chicken Tacos

My brother made these for me once and I immediately fell in love.  3 ingredients and a Crock-Pot is all you need!  I had thawed out chicken breast for a dinner and then we ended up eating dinner out that night.  So, I had chicken breast that needed cooked just sitting in the fridge.  So, I tossed it in a Crock-Pot and once it finished cooking I froze it.  When it was time to eat, I thawed it in the microwave.  Another make ahead, easy meal!  Here’s a recipe I found online for you can reference for measurements. https://www.themagicalslowcooker.com/salsa-chicken/#recipe

Bonus points if you use the cheesy Old El Paso taco shells. https://amzn.to/3Zd7Ngn

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I make this when I’ve got my cooked, roasted chicken sitting in the freezer.  My chicken salad recipe is really basic.  Chicken, halved grapes, salt, pepper, sugar, mayo, a dash of mustard and chopped cucumbers.  We like crunch in our chicken salad, but my husband HATES the flavor of celery in there, so we sub cucumber.  I serve it either over croissants, romaine lettuce or with crackers.

Beef and Broccoli

I had sirloin tip sitting in my freezer and I wasn’t sure what to cook with it.  I didn’t want roast so I found this Crock-Pot beef and broccoli recipe.  It turned out great! Very savory tasting!  I cooked some Minute Rice to go with it.  Recipe here: https://tasty.co/recipe/slow-cooker-beef-and-broccoli

Boursin Pasta

This was soooo good for how easy it was.  I’m counting down the days to have it again.  I put Boursin in a pan with cherry tomatoes.  I drizzled with olive oil and salt.  While that baked in the oven, I cooked pasta.  Once the pasta was cooked and the cheese was melted, I mixed it all together.  YUM!  Next time I want to add chicken and spinach.


Are these healthy?  Nope.  Are they delicious? Yep.  Like I had Taco Bell delivered (even though that’s impossible since I’m very rural).

Chicken Parmesan over Pappardelle

I love a good chicken cutlet.  Stick it on pasta and top it with huge chunks of mozzarella and that’s a meal made in heaven.  I didn’t have a recipe for this one.  I had pappardelle nests https://amzn.to/3Zaftjo that I needed to use, a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry and chicken in the freezer.  What was I to do!?  LOL.  I just halved my chicken breasts lengthwise.  Then tenderized them to thin them out.  I always double bread my cutlets.  Flour then egg then panko.  I always make my own pasta sauce.  It’s cheaper if I buy cans of tomatoes and then blend them at home with seasonings.  My mom said this meal had too much cheese.  TOO MUCH CHEESE.  Is there really such a thing???


We are trying to limit our fried food, but every once in a while a tenderloin is necessary.  My husband makes the BEST ones.  These were especially yummy.

Broccoli Cheese Gnocchi Soup

Look, I don’t want to lie to you.  We didn’t eat this.  We had never had gnocchi before and didn’t know what to expect.  It was far too gummy for our taste.  We’ve never done this before.  But we actually cooked it, tried it, hated it and gave it to our dogs.  So they ate like kings and queens this night.  HAHA!!!  We ordered from our local restaurant, instead.  Failures!!  This is the soup recipe I was following. https://www.thecookierookie.com/broccoli-cheese-soup-gnocchi-soup/  The soup was not the issue, the gnocchi was.

Fish Tacos

This is one of our favorite dishes, TOP FIVE for sure!  Here’s the recipe we loosely follow. https://gimmedelicious.com/quick-and-healthy-fish-tacos/#recipe  The key is chipotles in adobo (I talked about it above).  I had never tried that ingredient before making these tacos a few years ago.  It packs so much depth of flavor.  And it’s only in the crema!!!  Try them, you won’t be disappointed.  Even if you don’t like fish, you’ll LOVE these.  They have NO fishy taste.

Chili Mac

This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes.  I just use my chili seasoning recipe with a can of tomato sauce and mix it with cooked macaroni then top with shredded cheese and bake.  Sooo good.


My husband is a magician with his smoker.  His ribs are ALWAYS fall apart tender.  He makes the best rub and sauce.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.  We buy the ribs in a case from our local wholesale distributor.  I know it seems excessive to have a case of ribs in the freezer, but you have no idea how often we whip those things out.  Impromptu dinner parties, random cravings— having ribs on standby is a thing of beauty.  People always request them!

 Lemon Chicken

A lot of you know I’m a huge Everybody Loves Raymond fan.  So having lemon chicken gives me a chuckle.  I needed something low calorie and had lemons in the fridge.  I used Natasha’s recipe. https://natashaskitchen.com/lemon-chicken-recipe/

Hot Beef Plate

As strange as it sounds, hot beef plate has been my all-time favorite dinner since childhood.  I cook chuck roast in a Crock-Pot like you would any other roast.  Then I serve it up with thick white bread, mashed potatoes and beef gravy.  My mouth is watering… such a comfort meal for me.

Orange Chicken

THIS is definitely in my top 5.  Where are we at?  Hot Beef Plate, Fish Tacos, Orange Chicken… not sure what the other two would be.  Maybe tenderloins and ribs???  I digress.  I LOVE orange chicken from our local Chinese restaurant, but I am VERY picky about the texture of my chicken.  So, I always make it myself.  I found this recipe on Tasty and it’s perfection.  It only uses ingredients you have on hand! We make it often! https://tasty.co/recipe/chinese-takeaway-style-orange-chicken

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

I had pizza crusts in the pantry so I decided to make mini pizzas for everyone.  My husband LOVES barbecue chicken pizza so that’s what I made him.  He LOVED it. I put chicken, caramelized onions, barbecue sauce, bacon and cheese on it.


Doesn’t everyone love a good BLT.  Here’s the secret.  Use this Sara Lee Artesano Bread https://amzn.to/3y6jglY and candy your bacon with brown sugar.  PERFECT.

Chicken Lo Mein

This was made with frozen veggies, frozen chicken from one I had roasted.  I grabbed Lo Mein from the pantry and used this sauce. It’s my favorite for stir fry, Lo Mein, etc. https://amzn.to/3KOepNO .  We cheated and bought egg rolls from our local Chinese restaurant. 

There you go! 24 days worth of meals. All of my meals are quick, cheap and easy, but always delicious. Remember, you don’t need to break the bank buying tons of food to cook with. See what you have and go from there. I will link my Grocery and Meal Prep series here once it’s finished. Until then, follow me on my socials for more budget friendly meals.

Talk soon!


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