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Best 5 Fast Recipes For Lunch On a Budget

Updated on November 10, 2013

Reducing Food Preparation Time and Costs

Here are four recipes, some with a Southwest or an Asian flavor. All of them are quick and less than 30 minutes in preparation and cooking time. One key to reducing costs, wastes, and prep time is to purchase on sale and in season, and cut and store vegetables in air tight containers in the refrigerator so that they are available for your dinners.

Sometimes, two families might go together and purchase a 25- or 50-pound bag of potatoes, for example, sharing the cost and reducing spoilage caused by the inability to use them all up fast enough. Rice can be purchased in large bags as well in big box stores, even in those that do not require a yearly paid membership. With the rise of Hispanic and Asian immigrants to the United States, we are seeing rice and ethnic staples becoming easier to find.

In the following recipes, feel free to substitute lo-salt, lo-sugar, and lo-fat products for any ingredients that do not already have an alternative listed. You may often substitute other ingredients you have on hand for some of the recipe items, reducing the costs of having to go out and buy something special.

Eat Healthy Food on a Budget

Another serving idea (Photos public domain)
Another serving idea (Photos public domain)

1) Fancy Ramen Noodles Romanoff

Makes 4-6 servings


  • 3 quarts of water, boiling
  • 4 packs ramen noodles, without seasoning packets
  • 2 cups (or one 16-ounce container) sour cream
  • 1 cup of small curd cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Paprika
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped parsley


  • Pre-heat oven to 350.
  • Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water.
  • Add noodles to the pot and cook al dente. Remove form heat and drain well with a colander.
  • Mix the noodles in a serving bowl with the sour cream, cottage cheese, onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Mix these ingredients well.
  • Pour the mixture into a 1.5 or 2 quart baking dish and sprinkle the top with paprika.
  • Bake the dish for 20 - 30 minutes and remove from the oven.
  • Serve the dish with Parmesan cheese, and chopped parsley as a garnish,

Faster than a speeding locomotive...
Faster than a speeding locomotive...

2) Spicy Ginger Noodles

Serves 4


  • 1 large zucchini squash
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 green onions or scallions
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 Tablespoons matchstick strips fresh gingerroot, divided into two portions
  • 3 teaspoons chopped garlic, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lo-salt soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, chunked
  • 4 packs ramen noodles, without seasoning packets
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts or cashews
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint


  • Cut the carrots, zucchini and green onions into matchstick strips.
  • Heat the oil in large skillet over high heat.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of the ginger strips and 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic to the pan and saute together until aroma is evident - just about 30 seconds.
  • Add the carrots, zucchini, half the green onions and the sesame oil; saute 2 minutes.
  • Add remaining ginger and garlic and saute until vegetables are crisp-tender for an additional minute.
  • Transfer the vegetables to a bowl with a slotted spoon to drain excess oil..
  • Reduce heat to medium.
  • With the same skillet, add water, coconut milk, soy sauce, and red curry paste. Stir until smooth.
  • Simmer curry sauce mixture until reduced to 1 1/4 cups - about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add sauteed vegetables to the pan with the remaining onions and the chicken.
  • Cook ramen noodles briefly in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender and drain them.
  • Transfer noodles to a large bowl.
  • Add the curry sauce/vegetable mixture on top of the noodles and toss together to coat.
  • Sprinkle with nuts and mint.


3) Spicy Asian Snow Pea Soup

Serve 4 - 6


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil 1 lb. boneless sirloin steak, cut into strips [for vegetation style, use strips of eggplant]
  • 1 cup baby carrots, cut into strips
  • 4 oz. fresh snow peas, cut into strips
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into half-slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon minced ginger root
  • 4 cups vegetable or beef broth
  • 1 Tablespoon lo-salt soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups cooked rice, Chinese noodles, or cooked ramen noodles.


  • Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok.
  • Add the beef (or eggplant) and stir-fry briefly until browned; remove the meat to a bowl.
  • Add the carrots, now peas, onion, garlic, and ginger root to the pan or wok and stir-fry until vegetables are tender-crisp.
  • Add the broth, soy sauce, red pepper and meat or eggplant and heat through.
  • Serve the soup over bowls of rice or noodles.


4) Southwest Salad In a Hurry

Serves 4

Ingredients 1 lb. ground chuck or turkey1 can of Campbell's® Condensed Southwest Style Pepper Jack or a similar cheese soup ½ cup water 1 packet of prepared taco seasoning mix 1 can light or dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained2 cups white corn tortilla chips 4 cups shredded lettuce 2/3 cup sour cream 1 medium tomato, chopped¼ cup black olives, chopped½ cup sliced green onions or scallions2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped


  • Brown the meat in a skillet until completely browned and then pour off any excess fat.
  • Add half of the can of soup, the water, taco seasoning mix, and beans to the skillet.
  • Heat the mixture while mixing completely.
  • Heat the other half of the soup in another pan.
  • Arrange the 2 cups of tortilla chips over a large serving platter.
  • Top the chips in layers, beginning with the lettuce, then the meat mixture, the other half of the soup (which should have thickened somewhat), and the sour cream, olives, tomato, onions, and cilantro.

5) Cooking on a Budget - 18 Meals at Once

Vegetable Parody - Store Wars


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    • aefrancisco profile image


      8 years ago from somewhere down the road

      Ouch! I am now SOOO HUNGRY ... ^^,

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I've been experimenting with ramen and will share some more of those soon!

    • marisuewrites profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      Patty, I am revisting some of my favorite hubbers. Again, I am finding these recipes useful for my grown boys who eat on dimes -- especially ramen noodles, their mainstay. LOL thanks again

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes - macaroni and Cheese - i will look at my recipes and post some of those. This can be quite filling and delicious in a variety of ways. Much fun!

    • esocial profile image


      10 years ago from California

      THanks for the tips! DOn't forget good old Mac & Cheese, a college favorite :)

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Great hub patty, As we are all looking for the cheaper quicker less heating options these days to counteract for the rise if fuel and grocery shopping.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Patty again a great hub. It will come in handy to many. Most of us are starting to feel the infation aches and pains already. If the economists are to be believed then we are going to be in this mess for the long haul.

      greetings Zsuzsy

    • marisuewrites profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      Patty -- you outdid yourself! This is fabulous and will help many as budgets get tighter. I'm trying not to frreak out over all the rising costs...

      thanks for great recipes and enjoyable hub AGAIN. =) Yours, Marisue

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 

      10 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Yummy. I especially like the Ramen recipe and would definitely substitute with egg noodles.


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