Easy, tasty, healthy meals that will keep you cooking at home

Can you keep it to no more than twice a week? Eating out that is. I know that means cooking more at home, yikes! But I will make it easier.

I remember well the dinner dread: trying to squeeze dinner in somewhere between getting home from work and the kids’ night activities.  Grocery shopping often happened right after church with the kids going every direction to help pick up the items on the list as we raced to see how fast we could get out of the store. That usually meant extra non-list items getting in the cart, ahem.

Back then my standard meals included mac and cheese with white pasta, chili, pigs and blanket, chicken cacciatore, various soups and meat loaf.

I wasn’t as comfortable with my cooking then and I didn’t realize how unhealthy some of my favorite recipes were. Knowing what I know now I would have used more whole grain pastas, added in more veggies and put a blanket for good on those pigs, lol!

If I had had access to some tasty, simple, healthy, yet cheap recipes it would have made the cooking process a whole lot easier. Just having the recipes would have eliminated the stress of coming up with a meal idea!

Alas, let me help you.

Eating out

A 2016 Gallup poll shows that Americans do love to eat out – 20% of the people between the ages of 18-54 dine out three or more times a week. And that number rises as income rises. The only decline in eating out was for people aged 55 or more, particularly as income dropped.

The good news is that Americans are eating dinner out less than they used to; a survey conducted for the online grocer, Peapod, by ORC International, showed that people are cooking more at home – at least 4 dinners a week. The use of their recipe inspiration website has increased 120% over the past year as people are looking for quick dinner ideas.

Cooking at home

Cooking your own dinner is healthier than going out. According to survey results on 437 people conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Public Health those who cooked more at home scored higher on the Healthy Eating Index. If home cooking is healthier, why aren’t more people doing it more often?

The biggest reason people give for not cooking at home is lack of time. I don’t believe that. People say it but I believe it’s due to a misperception of the time it really takes and not having the right recipes.

People think it takes a lot of time to plan, shop and prepare a meal but it doesn’t have to!! Heck, we spend more time watching someone else cook on TV than we do ourselves! There are time-saving shortcuts – like meal prep home delivery businesses, but they are expensive and you don’t need them if you develop a list of easy favorite recipes and follow my tips.

The recipes I found will take the planning out of it – just keep accumulating them and bring them with you when you go to the store. Most importantly, always keep certain nonperishables stocked in your house.

Easy, quick, healthy recipes

I explored lots of recipes looking for ones that met my criteria – healthy carbohydrates in the right amount, adequate protein and fiber and low in saturated fat. These are the essential elements for avoiding the after-meal sluggishness, nourishing your body and will help you lose any belly fat.

The recipes have no more than 5 ingredients, excluding salt and pepper, and able to be prepared in under 15-20 minutes. Some recipes will require time for cooking, but that will give you time for a walk or some other household chore. I also wanted the recipes to be inexpensive and contain beans since beans are one of the most nutritious foods out there for the money.

Salads that could be a meal or a side

All these salads contain adequate protein since they contain either beans, fish or chicken. Beans raise the fiber content which will keep you fuller longer and blood sugars more steady. Don’t be afraid to substitute certain ingredients for ones you prefer. Remember, a recipe is only a guideline.

Meal salad

Lemony White Bean and Arugula Salad. If you don’t like a cannelloni beans or arugula, switch them out for another bean like kidney beans or spinach. You could also use limes instead of lemons since they are cheaper by the bag.

Tortellini Salad with Zucchini and Peas. A healthy, low calorie balance meal all in one recipe!

Black Eyed Pea Salad. Have some fresh grilled corn and you have a scrumptious meal!

White Bean Salad With Tuna and Parsley. Ok, this is a lot of parsley. I would cut it in half and add arugula or spinach or even some chopped green cabbage.

Salmon, Asparagus and Orzo Salad with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette. This salad does require an extra step making the dressing, but if you double the recipe you can use it on other salads the rest of the week and you could substitute dried dill and still get the dill flavor.

Chicken, Bean and Blue Cheese Pasta Salad with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing. Again, you could double the recipe and keep extra around. You could also just substitute a light oil and vinegar dressing and just add chopped sun dried tomatoes.

Chick Pea Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Dressing. Again, the dressing increases the ingredients but can be made simpler by just mixing peanut butter, lime juice, a little hot sauce and salt. I skipped the fish sauce, but happened to have the sriracha sauce (got it at Reny’s -LOVE Reny’s). This recipe was delicious. It’s best on the first day but can be kept for a second and keep its crunch.


Southwestern Chicken and White Bean Soup. If you add a couple of boxes of frozen chopped spinach or broccoli, you have a complete meal!

Sausage and Barley Soup. I would make it easier by just adding a box or two of thawed, frozen chopped spinach.

Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup. Ok, guess what? I’m all about making soup a complete meal by adding veggies to the recipe. I think chopped cabbage would go perfectly with this.

Russian Tortellini Soup. It can’t get much easier than this. You can just add cole slaw mix instead of chopping your own cabbage (it takes two seconds, by the way….)

Meatless meals

Porcini Parmesan Frittata. Kind of sounds like Ace Ventura’s Shikaka, doesn’t it? Simple, but delicious and high in protein without all the extra cholesterol by substituting egg white for some of the whole eggs. Save yourself a step here by just buying a carton of egg whites.

Black Bean Quesadillas. This recipe works amazing in a George Foreman Grill. I just put one tortilla in, top it with the beans, cheese, and salsa and top it with another tortilla. I also add shredded green cabbage to get my dose of veggies.

Meated meals

Chicken Enchilada-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash. Ok, this takes a bit more time, but you could make up for it by making double the recipe and having it again the next day or two. This looks amazing and something I will try when the weather is cooler. And spaghetti squash is the coolest veggie around. How does a veggie turn into spaghetti so easily!!

Turkey Burgers With Mango Chutney. Ground turkey breast is so much healthier for you than beef and the chutney keeps the burger moist.

Roast Chicken and Sweet Potatoes. This is a one pan dinner, yay! Simple clean up and tasty. I would add fresh broccoli to the potatoes to add more veggies that are low in carbs.

Mexican Penne. Use ground turkey breast or 93% lean ground beef and use whole grain pasta. I would also mix in half a bag of fresh spinach with the other ingredients prior to baking to make it a complete meal or serve with a salad.

Keep these foods on your shopping list

If you always keep these foods stocked in your house you will be able to put together a healthy meal in minutes.

  • Frozen spinach and broccoli
  • Part-skim mozzarella cheese (and keep in your freezer)
  • Canned beans – cannellini, kidney, black beans
  • Diced tomatoes – I keep the 28 oz can
  • Tomato paste
  • Teddy Peanut Butter – great for snacking in the right portions and makes a great salad dressing.
  • 1 head of green cabbage – it’s cheap, cruciferous, crunchy and lasts long in the frig
  • A bag of organic carrots – it’s worth getting these organic – they are sweeter and healthier
  • A bag of limes – they will last for weeks and are a great addition to sauces and dressings
  • A container of Kalamata olives – they have so much flavor, last long in the frig and are great to add to salads and tomato sauce instead of salt.
  • Whole grain tortillas – keep in your freezer for several months
  • Whole grain pasta – spaghetti, rotini, elbow
  • A container of fresh tortellini – will last in your freezer for two months, in your frig for a week
  • Tuna fish – you can throw a pasta salad with carrots, cabbage, olives and tuna together in about 20 minutes and will make a large amount
  • 1 pound ground turkey – will last for 4 months in your freezer
  • 1 pound 93% ground beef
  • 1 pound boned chicken breasts and thighs – they will last in your freezer for 3 months.

You can make a good portion of the recipes listed if you just keep these ingredients stocked in your house. It will help you avoid the “I don’t have anything to cook” excuse or the “I don’t feel like cooking excuse”. At a minimum, you can throw together a meatless quesadilla in a matter of minutes. It’s time to get healthy by eating healthy with simple, easy recipes.

Barbara Groth

About Barbara Groth

I’m Barbara. I have always had a passion for helping people to feel good. As a nurse my early years were focused on getting sick people back to baseline. After becoming a diabetes educator and health coach my passion became raising that bar on the baseline – helping my clients to not only feel better but to look better and have a whole new outlook on life.