As a former non-meal planner, I have really embraced planning my weekly meals around what's on sale. Every week I challenge myself to see how much under budget I can be, and I'm happy to report that most weeks I put a few extra dollars back in my pocket.
On the perfect week, I happily make my meals as scheduled and no food goes to waste. Of course, we all know how often we experience the perfect week! There is always something that goes topsy turvy. Or we're just simply tired and hungry after a hard day at work. The thought of waiting an hour or more to eat, plus washing dishes afterwards, causes many of us to pick up dinner instead.
I should know. I did this for years and to the tune of about $800 a month. Oops.
Now I work from home, which you would assume means this isn't an issue anymore. Unfortunately, that's not true. There are still days when I only realize it's dinner time because my cat, Max, is bellowing for his kibble.
Be Prepared for those Chaotic Days with Easy Meals
So what's a frugal and now starving girl to do? Be prepared. If you want to avoid eating out every time life gets busy, you need some easily prepared meals at your fingertips.
Freezer Friendly Meals
It's definitely worth taking a few hours to prepare a bunch of freezer-friendly meals or make super-sized meals, so you can freeze leftovers. Soups (not cream based - leave out dairy when freezing and add when reheating), pasta dishes and casseroles generally freeze well.
Tip: Consider freezing some items in individual or smaller portions. Also, be sure to label and date your frozen meals.
Crock Pot Meals
Your crock pot or slow cooker is the unsung hero of your kitchen. These guys are cheap and last forever. The best part is most crock pot meals only take minutes to prepare so it's easy to do before you leave for work. Nothing beats coming home to a delicious and ready-to-eat meal.
30 Minute Meals
Search Pinterest or google 30 minute meals and you'll discover a ton of great recipes that will suit your family's taste buds and are fast. I have several go-to recipes that I love and can make very quickly on those crazy days. These meals can be real lifesavers and help you avoid ordering takeout or pizza.
30 Minute White Chicken Enchiladas
I'll be sharing a crockpot meal that converts into multiple meals and a freezer meal in my upcoming posts. But today, I'm sharing White Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce that can be made in about 30 minutes.
I'll admit this probably took me closer to about 40 minutes, but it's also entirely (absolutely) possible that I was also watching TV at the same time. So I might have been distracted. :) This is a great meal and the sauce is divine. It is easily adaptable and reheats well too. For those of you who like things spicy, I suggest replacing at least half (all if you're brave!) of the monterey jack cheese with pepper jack cheese.
Please Note: This does require leftover cooked chicken or you will need to bake a chicken breast or two in advance. I cooked mine in advance and pre-shredded it. Remember, you can bake chicken breasts and freeze them too. Next time I'll also make the cheese mixture the night before, so it's even faster!
- 10 small corn or flour tortillas
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 2 cups monterey jack cheese or pepper jack, shredded
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 ounce can diced green chillies (mild to spicy—pick your heat level)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9x13 pan with Pam or non-stick spray.
- In a microwaveable bowl, microwave cream cheese for 20 seconds to soften. Stir in green chilies, garlic powder, cumin and shredded or cubed chicken. Salt and pepper to taste (if your chicken is already seasoned, you may need less salt and pepper than you normally would). If you want it extra spicy, add a 1/2 cup of pepper jack cheese to the mixture as well.
- If your tortillas are not very malleable, wrap them in a paper towel and microwave for a few seconds, so you can fold them without tearing the tortillas.
- Fill tortillas with chicken mixture, about 3-4 Tablespoons each, and roll each tortilla. Place in prepared pan.
- In a medium pan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and whisk for 1 minute.
- While still stirring, slowly add chicken broth. Cook until the sauce thickens and begins bubbling.
- Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. If you got distracted, and your sauce is rapidly boiling, let it cool for a minute or two, so the sour cream doesn't curdle when mixed in. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour sour cream sauce evenly over enchiladas and top with shredded cheese. Bake for 20-23 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.
Makes 10 enchiladas
If you're really on top of things, you can pretty much make everything the night before. You can make the sauce the night before, then lightly reheat it while you assemble the enchiladas. Prep time can go even faster if you have a few extra helpers who can either assemble the enchiladas for you or make the sauce too. :) While it bakes, prepare a nice dinner salad, open up a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa and dinner is served! Recipe adapted from Raining Hot Coupons.
Tanya is a freelance writer and web designer. She blogs at Eat Laugh Purr where she enjoys simple pleasures every day. Her life is ruled by a ginger tabby named Max who also meows about his awesomeness on their blog.