6 More Easy Meals to Make When There’s “Nothing” to Eat

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Here are 6 ideas to get you cooking when there’s “nothing” to eat. They call for simple pantry ingredients that are easy on the budget.

6 More Easy Meals to Make When There's "Nothing" to Eat

Last year, I shared my list of stand-by meals to turn to when Plan A fails. Oh, Plan A fails a lot around here. I get distracted. I forget to thaw. Time gets away from me.

I called it my 12 Easy Meals to Make When There’s “Nothing” to Eat. The list has served me well. I’m back today with 6 more easy meals to make when you think you should go get take-out. No, no, no!

Chances are if there’s food in your house, you can probably pull together something. If you truly don’t have much on hand, these 1-meal grocery lists can guide you to pick up a few things at the store to make a great dinner for much cheaper than take-out.

Here are 6 ideas to get you cooking. They call for simple pantry ingredients, nothing too exotic for your average 21st century household:


6 More Easy Meals to Make When There's "Nothing" to Eat


I try to keep a package of tortillas in the freezer at all times. I buy them in 2-dozen packs at Costco for super cheap (around $3 for the 24 burrito-size tortillas). We can make quesadillas, tortilla pizzas, or burritos and chimichangas.

I read a book last year that said burritos were too expensive and complicated to make on your own. Say what? I don’t get that. Burritos are easy peasy. Shred some cheese, open a can of beans (bonus points if you’ve got some homecooked beans frozen in the freezer), add shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa, and you’re good to go.

(Confession: I have a box of Taco Bell taco sauce packets in the pantry that we rely on in times such as this. Someday the supply will dwindle, but for now, if I’m too lazy to make salsa, it works in a pinch.)

If you want to get fancy, heat your burritos on a hot griddle to make them all toasty, low-fat chimichangas.

Ingredients to keep on hand: flour tortillas, beans, shredded cheese, optional extras like shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, salsa, and sour cream.

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Bread and Cheese

6 More Easy Meals to Make When There's "Nothing" to Eat

Easy and Elegant Cheese and Bread Tray

Last weekend after a day of working on projects, I noticed the clock was ticking rapidly toward dinnertime. It was just a matter of seconds before someone started badgering me about a dinner plan. I pulled out salami, cheese, and bread, as well as some grapes and pears. Voila! Dinner is served.

Our family is happy to subsist on bread and cheese. At least I think we are. That meal prompted me to ask: Can you guys eat this meal every day during our vacation in France? We shall see.

You can store French bread and baguettes, wrapped well in foil, in the freezer, so that you can bust out the cheese course anytime. Packaged cheeses should store well in the deli locker of your fridge. Serve with seasonal fruit.

Ingredients to keep on hand: baguette, assorted cheeses and charcuterie, seasonal fruit

Cherry Berry Banana Smoothie


Some people don’t count smoothies as a dinner. That’s fine. Let’s call it fuel, if you’d rather. Packed with yogurt, fruit, milk, and maybe even greens, smoothies can hold all the nutrients you need. Add popcorn for a side dish if you really want something to munch on with your drink.

Did I just say smoothies and popcorn were dinner?!

Why yes, yes, I did. Add a straw. Dinner is served.

Set up a DIY Smoothie Bar so your people can create their own concoctions. Or try one of these:

Ingredients to keep on hand: yogurt, milk, juice, frozen fruit, baby greens

6 More Easy Meals to Make When There's "Nothing" to Eat


It’s amazing what an omelet can be… cheap, easy, filling, and a great vehicle for extra flavors. Two eggs and a little water and oil will get you an egg disk that you can fill with whatever tidbits you have in the fridge: shredded cheese, cooked meats, and leftover vegetables. Lay out an array of fillings and let your diners create their own flavor combinations.

Ingredients to keep on hand: eggs, butter or oil, fillings like shredded cheese, meats, vegetables.

6 More Easy Meals to Make When There's "Nothing" to Eat

Sloppy Joe’s

Flour, water, and a few other things combine to make the best hamburger buns you ever ate. Use storebought hamburger or hot dog buns, too. Fill them with cooked ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, and a few tablespoons of Jamie’s Spice Mix. Add a little brown sugar if you like your Joe’s on the sweeter side. Top with shredded cheese and pickles for extra flavor.

Ingredients to keep on hand: ground meat, hamburger buns (or ingredients to make your own), spices, tomato sauce, optional extras like pickles and cheese.

6 More Easy Meals to Make When There's "Nothing" to Eat

Mac and Cheese

Who needs a box when you can make a better mac and cheese with just a few household staples. Melt butter, add flour and create a roux. Whisk in milk for a thick white sauce, stir in cheese. Add cooked and drained pasta and your mac and cheese is ready to go. Cheap, delicious, and pretty much as easy as opening a box. Without all the Yellow #5, too.

This Stovetop Mac and Cheese is pretty fab.

Ingredients to keep on hand: tube pasta, flour, butter, milk, cheese

What’s one of YOUR go-to meals?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Tamara says

    Fish is my go to meal. I buy a large pkg of tilapia or salmon from sams.They are individually shrink wrapped which maked them easy to grab and thaw. I lightly oil and sprinkle with lemon pepper with herbs if I don’t have real lemons. Steam a frozen veg and bake a potato and dinner is served. I am blessed that both my kids love fish. Ingred to have on hand: frozen fish, lemon pepper, frozen veggies, potatoes. Dinner ready in 20 to 30 min

    • Jessica says

      Yep, that does thaw quickly. Since I had shrink wrapped poached chicken in the freezer, I was able to thaw that really quickly, too.

  2. tammy r says

    One of our meals is chips and chili.I just add a can of tomatoes to the chili top with cheese.easy. Another is 2 boxes mac & cheese made add a can tuna,can of mixed veg & mix.Add a pinch of cheese on top each plate.easy. Grilled cheese is another and burritos .

  3. This list is awesome! I make tortilla pizzas too – they’re lifesavers!

  4. Janet says

    I always have 1 lb bags of browned ground beef in the freezer. A minute or two to defrost in the microwave and there is a variety of meals to make quickly with a few pantry staples including spaghetti and meat sauce; pizza (almost any topping will work as long as I have a handful of cheese to toss on top); and tacos or burritos.
    I usually have 1 lb bags of cooked cubed and/or shredded chicken. Again a few minutes to defrost in the microwave and there are numerous options. Our favorites include chicken noodle soup; chicken enchiladas; and mini chicken pot pies. When all else fails grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit works.

  5. Alllisa says

    Tuna/cream cheese on crackers

  6. Claire says

    Pancakes! My 7 love them!

  7. Salmon patties or frozen fish. Both can be ready in a short time and I usually have canned salmon or bags of fish on hand.

    I also love freezing the chicken gravy from your cookbook. I add some diced chicken which I always have on hand and serve the gravy over rice or toast. Makes a yummy quick and frugal meal!

    • Jessica says

      Gravy is wonderful. Love.

  8. Tiffany says

    Soup!! An easy soup can be made with leftover or canned poultry (chicken or turkey), rice or noodles, water, bouillon and frozen vegetables. Just add a side of bread and butter or crackers!

    Another easy one is Potato Soup. Any kind of pork can be used for the base (bacon, sausage, ham), and in a pinch I have even just used bacon grease. Cook it in a pot, then add garlic (powder, if that is all you have), onion (again, powder is good enough), salt, pepper and any other spices that sound good (Emril’s, Mrs. Dash, etc.). Then add peeled, diced potatoes and water or milk, and cook down until the potatoes are cooked and the soup is thickened (about 30 min). Soup is very forgiving, and easy to taste as you go the add flavors as needed!!

    Buttered noodles is also a staple at my house with 4 kids under age 8. I just cook any kind of noodle, add butter and garlic (powder, usually) and they are happy campers. Veggies and meat can also be added right to the mix for a complete meal (we like already cooked shrimp and peas). Parmesan cheese is also good with this 🙂

  9. Danielle says

    Shrimp scampi is one of my back-up/last minute meals. I usually try and keep a bag of frozen Costco shrimp in the freezer, it defrosts super fast in cold water. I almost always have spaghetti or linguine in the pantry as well as garlic, butter and oil. Its one of those meals I can pull together in less than 30 minutes from the time I pull the shrimp out of the freezer. Another last minute favorite around here is tortas. I always have corn tortillas in the freezer and cheddar cheese in the fridge. I’ll make them with whatever frozen protein I happen to have around, ground beef, leftover frozen shredded chicken, etc.

    • Shrimp scampi sounds yummy! I’m curious what your tortas are. I’ve only had sandwiches called tortas.

  10. brittany says

    Brown chicken rice and lettuce add Italian dressing and chicken grilled or whatever u like easy meal and very yummy trust me!

  11. We tend to keep tortillas on hand (or the ingredients to make tortillas) for tacos, burritos, or wraps. We also tend to keep sandwich fixins. Or any variety of breakfast for dinner (omelets, pancakes, waffles–we usually have either pancakes or waffles or both in the freezer). Fried rice is another staple. Or use up the veg that are almost no go anymore soup. Nachos of various kinds. (I have been guilty of this more than once–hot dogs) With any of these, as you mentioned, turning it into a “bar” or a customized experience has always worked for me–participatory dining!

  12. Jakey says

    One of my go to meals is grilled cheese, It’s simple and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients! 😀

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