Money Saving Tip: Fast Healthy Meals

Ingredients to Have on Hand for Fast Healthy Meals.

The need for fast healthy meals is real. If you ask most people why they eat out multiple times a week, they will usually say that they need food that is fast, cheap, convenient or just doesn’t take any effort because they’re too tired to cook. I get it! We all have those days at least every now and then. While planning for busy days ahead of time is ideal, it’s simply not always possible. That’s why it’s so important to have the ingredients for fast healthy meals on hand so that you can pull something together right in your own kitchen quicker and more cheaply than you can go through the drive-thru. 

Photo of taco fixings in bowls and two tacos on a plate as an example of fast, healthy meals

Basic Convenience Ingredients

Here’s a look at some of what I call “basic convenience ingredients” that I always try to keep around. Having these items on standby makes fast healthy meals a snap.

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  • Amy’s Organic Refried Black Beans – (affiliate link) After having tried many different brands of refried black beans, I firmly believe that these are the best canned version out there. 
  • Tortillas – I highly recommend Mission Foods Carb Balance Tortillas (Flour, Whole Wheat or Spinach Herb)
  • Frozen vegetables – Especially corn, peas and green beans
  • Fresh vegetables – Red peppers, spinach, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes (bake ahead of time and keep for when needed in the refrigerator)
  • Salad mix – Spring mix is my favorite
  • Salsa
  • Beans – Canned or pre-made and frozen (black, garbanzo and dark red kidney beans are my staples)
  • Quinoa – Pre-make and keep in the refrigerator
  • Brown rice – Pre-make and keep in the refrigerator
  • Guacamole single serving packs
  • Baked or grilled chicken – Pre-made 
  • Lentil or whole wheat pasta
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts
  • Green and/or kalamata olives

Examples of Fast Healthy Meals 

Here are ideas for some of the fast healthy meals that these basic convenience ingredients can make. 

Pre-Made Bowls (5 minutes) 

  • Pre-made brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Corn 
  • Protein (other than beans) – Baked or grilled chicken, tofu or sirloin steak
  • Salsa
  • Toppings – The sky is the limit! Possibilities include guacamole, sour cream or plain yogurt, shredded cheese and Chipotle Mayo Sauce

Pasta with Vegetables and a Protein (10 minutes) 

  • Lentil or whole wheat pasta
  • Stir-fried vegetables in olive oil – Possibilities include broccoli, mushrooms, red peppers, onions and carrots
  • Protein – Baked or grilled chicken or tofu (cooked with vegetables in olive oil)
  • Lemon juice and olive oil for flavoring
  • Pinch of sea salt

Vegetable and Protein Wrap (5 minutes)

  • Baked or grilled Chicken or tofu (cooked with vegetables in olive oil)
  • Stir-fried vegetables in olive oil – Possibilities include red peppers, mushrooms and wilted spinach
  • Tortilla
  • Green olives (added after everything has been put on tortilla)

Rice and Beans (Less than 5 minutes)

  • Pre-made brown rice
  • Red kidney or black beans

Salad with Protein (5 minutes)

  • Salad mix
  • Cucumber, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and carrots
  • Baked or grilled chicken, pan-fried tempeh, garbanzo beans (chickpeas) or kidney beans. ***Note, if I’m putting tempeh in a salad, I put it in the Delish Knowledge marinade from The Great Big Vegan Salad before pan-frying it. This can be cooked ahead of time. 
  • Lemon juice and olive oil dressing
  • Other potential toppings include pumpkin seeds, kalamata olives or sunflower seeds

Black Bean and Spinach Quesadilla (5 minutes)

  • Tortillas 
  • Refried black beans
  • Spinach
  • Guacamole to spread on top

Smothered Sweet Potato (5 minutes)

  • Pre-baked sweet potato (re-heated in microwave)
  • Black beans
  • Salsa

Warm Kale and Quinoa Salad (5 minutes)

  • Kale
  • Quinoa
  • Walnuts
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Bottom Line on Fast Healthy Meals

These are just a few examples of the healthy convenience ingredients that you can have on hand as well as the fast healthy meals they can make. All of the ingredients except the fresh vegetables and pre-cooked meat and grains can be kept for a while and used when needed. Since Thursday night is usually leftover night in my house, if I have any fresh vegetables, or pre-cooked meat or grains that haven’t been used by that point, we’ll use them then.  

The bottom line is that all of these meals can be made in less than 10 minutes, which is usually faster than you can drive to a fast-food restaurant and go through the drive-thru. On top of that, these healthy options taste delicious and cost much less. 

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