15 Cheap Meals You Can Make At The Last Minute

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I have 15 cheap meals you can make at the last minute if your pantry is stocked with a few things. Yesterday, Mark was coming down with something and didn’t feel well. First of all, he never gets sick, I think he has been sick maybe three times in all our married life.

Well, you know how grandma used to make chicken noodle soup if we had cold or flu symptoms, right? Well, I grabbed the soup pot and filled it with water, then some cans of chicken, freeze-dried celery, carrots from the refrigerator that were on their last legs, so to speak, and some freeze-dried onions.

Sweet Basil

If you add the spice Sweet Basil (spice jar) to soup, it’s fabulous. Here’s the deal, if you have just a few items in your pantry, refrigerator, freezer or veggies fresh from the garden you can make several cheap meals at the last minute.

No Special Cookbook Needed

Please remember, you don’t need to buy a special cookbook to use your food storage. If you have some cookbooks in the cupboard, pull them out and use your favorite recipes using freeze-dried vegetables or dehydrated veggies.

Dehydrated food needs more water to hydrate it, but they work great in soups. I’m not going to lie to you and say freeze-dried foods taste great when hydrated in a fresh salad, nope, it’s not going to work for me. Let’s be real here, they are great for some dips, soups, stews and we can sneak them in a few chicken salad recipes.

Yesterday, I must admit I thought I was out of freeze-dried celery, you know to make the chicken soup. I swear I’m OCD with my food storage. It has to be in alphabetical order so I can look at a glance what I have stored.  Luckily I saw three #10 cans of the freeze-dried celery.

After I made the soup, I ordered two cases of #10 cans of freeze-dried celery to refill the pantry. I absolutely hate going grocery shopping, although I did go the other day and picked up some case lot sale items. Here are some items I suggest you store, and I will tell you the cheap meals you can make if these are in your pantry.

Gardens Are Awesome

Now, if you have a large garden and you produce enough to pressure can or water bath your food that’s awesome. Now that I just have two to cook for, it’s more economical to purchase a case or two of canned vegetables, plus a few #10 cans of freeze-dried vegetables or dehydrated vegetables, whichever fits my budget.

Yes, freeze-dried vegetables are more expensive than dehydrated, but they typically have a longer shelf-life and you can eat them right out of the can if you had to. Plus, they use less fuel to cook them. Please remember we need to store water in order to be prepared for the unexpected and to make soups, for instance.

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Who loves the smell of soup simmering on the stove or in the slow cooker, I know I sure do. I could totally be a vegetarian, but Mark loves meat in just about every soup, chili, stew or casserole.

Cheap Meals In The Pantry

Spices-My Favorites

Chili powder, Sweet basil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, parsley, Cayenne pepper, cinnamon, to name a few.

Freeze-Dried Cheese

Of course, freshly grated cheese tastes better, but in a casserole, you can’t tell the difference. I buy the Colby Freeze-dried cheese, but all of them are great in casseroles. Hydrated freeze-dried Mozzarella is great on pizza as well.

Freeze-Dried Onions

These are great added to any soup, chili, stew or casserole.

Freeze-Dried Celery

These are great added to any soup, chili, stew or casserole.

Dehydrated Carrots

These are great added to any soup, chili, stew or casserole.

Dehydrated Potatoes

I hydrate these and fry them. I make potato soup with all of the vegetables I can put in the pot.

Canned Corn

These are great in soups or as a side dish.

Cans of Green Beans

These are great in soups or as a side dish.

Cans of Your Favorite Fruits

I used to can and preserve so many bushels of fruits, it’s not in the cards these days. I buy canned peaches, fruit cocktail, Mandarin oranges, to name a few. I keep a few cans in the refrigerator because they taste better cold. Do I love fresh fruits, oh yes, but I have to keep within my budget and case lot sales save me trips to the store. I still buy fresh fruits, but I need my pantry stocked, it’s who I am.

Cream of Chicken Soup

I still buy this soup because I have tried every recipe that is “healthy” and homemade and I don’t like any of them. I have to have the cream of chicken soup even if I can’t pronounce some of the words. It’s how I roll.

Cans of Chicken

Great for soups, white chili, sandwiches, and casseroles.

Cans of Tuna

Great pantry item for sandwiches, salads, and casseroles.

Cans of Roast Beef

Great for stews, soups, chili, sandwiches, and casseroles.

Cans of Cooked Ground Beef

Great for tacos, soups, stews, and casseroles.

Cans of Cooked Ham

I like cans of ham over the freeze-dried ham because once you open a can of freeze-dried ham it has to be used within two weeks, or at least the brand I bought in a #10 can have to be used within that time period. So I buy smaller cans.

Tomato Powder-Tomato Sauce-Tomato Paste-Diced Tomatoes

I have every type of canned, or freeze-dried tomatoes you can buy. I love fresh tomatoes from my garden in the summer, but I have to have some cans of different tomato products to make soups, casseroles or chili throughout the year. Add some spices, veggies and you are good to go.

Better than Bouillon-Vegetable-Chicken-Beef

I add a spoonful of this awesome stuff to all my soups and stews. They sell it at the grocery store and even at Costco.

Boxes of Chicken Broth-Beef Broth-Vegetable Broth

These are easy to grab from the pantry to make soups and stews.

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Beans-Navy Beans

These are great for soups and stews or as a side dish.

Beans-Pinto Beans

These are great for soups and stews or as a side dish.

Beans-Kidney Beans

These are great for soups and stews or as a side dish.

Beans-Garbanzo Beans

These are great for soups and stews or as a side dish.

Beans-Refried Beans

I eat a bean burrito every day, no cheese, but I love salsa with them.

Tortillas-Make them or freeze them

I buy corn tortillas and flour tortillas and freeze them. I love to make homemade ones, but I don’t always have time to make them.


I used to make salsa, but now I buy it and I have 12 jars in the pantry at all times. I could eat salsa on just about everything.

Spaghetti Sauce

I used to bottle my own spaghetti sauce, now I buy it. It’s fairly inexpensive and I love having several jars on hand ready to open and serve with pasta. I can make spaghetti sauce from scratch with my tomato products, but sometimes I have very little time to do this.

Enchilada Sauce

My favorite is green enchilada sauce, mild.


I love pasta, I buy all types, like vermicelli, lasagna, elbow, you name it, I have it.


I could eat beans and rice every day, I love sticky rice.

Cheap Meals

  1. Spaghetti sauce, cooked pasta, and green beans.
  2. Lasagna with canned cooked ground beef, pasta, spaghetti sauce, and cheese. I never use Ricotta because I never have it on hand.
  3. Tortillas with refried beans and hydrated freeze-dried cheese or no cheese.
  4. Red Chili, all you need is a soup pot, some beans, and tomatoes with some spices, and onions.
  5. White chicken chili, cans of cooked chicken, freeze-dried onions, white navy beans, and freeze-dried Mozzarella cheese Linda’s White Chili
  6. Chicken noodle soup, freeze-dried celery, dehydrated carrots, freeze-dried onions, cans of cooked chicken and seasonings. Linda’s Chicken Soup
  7. Beef stew with cans of cooked roast beef or cooked ground beef, diced tomatoes, freeze-dried onions, freeze-dried celery, dehydrated carrots, and your favorite spices.
  8. Canned ham with navy beans, freeze-dried onions, dehydrated carrots, and freeze-dried celery make a great pot of soup.
  9. Bean burritos, tortillas with refried beans, hydrated freeze-dried onions, freeze-dried cheese, and salsa.
  10. Scalloped potatoes and ham, using cans of cooked ham, freeze-dried onions, cream of chicken soup and dehydrated potatoes (after soaking in water, then drain and cook).
  11. Chicken and rice casserole, using cooked chicken, rice, celery, onions and cream of chicken soup. Linda’s Casserole
  12. Tuna noodle casserole, tuna, cooked pasta and cream of chicken soup. Brings back memories, right? I grew up on this stuff.
  13. Tacos with cans of roast beef, cans of chicken, or cans of cooked ground beef. Add some freeze-dried cheese, salsa and you have dinner.
  14. Bean soup, grab a soup pot and add your favorite beans that you like with some cooked rice and vegetables. Soups by Linda
  15. Macaroni and cheese, boil your favorite pasta, add some freeze-dried cheese with a little butter and milk and you have a family favorite. Linda’s Mac and Cheese

Final Word

I hope my list inspires you to keep your pantry stocked so you can make some cheap meals and survive any disaster, and save money at the same time.

Linda’s Frugal Recipes

My Favorite Soup Pot

10 thoughts on “15 Cheap Meals You Can Make At The Last Minute

  • May 28, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Cheap and quick… my favorites for when I get home from work after a long shift! You know how much I love to cook and bake from scratch, but sometimes you just want to have something quick, so you can kick back. Thanks for sharing your ideas, Linda.

    So, did you and Mark have the kids down for Memorial Day Weekend? It snowed, here, most of the weekend. The sun did come out for most of the morning and early afternoon Sunday, but it was still on the chilly side. Then we got about 3-inches of snow! I drove home from work Monday morning in 4-wheel drive because the roads were so slick. It was pretty much a blizzard up at Bryce, but it tapered off by the time I got to Red Canyon.

    I hope you and Mark are doing well. Take care and big hugs, Mare

    • May 28, 2019 at 10:33 am

      Hi Mare, Oh my gosh, how are you??? Some of our kids came down on Friday but left Sunday night due to weather. We could see a storm coming in so I’m glad they took off. I’m so glad you have a 4-wheel drive car! I bet the snow was beautiful to look at where you live, but I’m glad you got home safely! Huge hugs, Linda

      • May 28, 2019 at 2:44 pm

        I’m glad you got to spend some time with the kids, even though your long weekend ended a little early. It’s probably a good thing they left when they did, though. That was a pretty big storm that came in overnight Sunday night/Monday morning. What’s weird is these are all northern storms. I wonder what’s going to happen when monsoon settles in?

        We’ve been really busy up at Bryce, in spite of the continuous snow storms. It just started snowing again, but by Wednesday it’s supposed to warm up enough to turn to all rain/thunderstorms. I’ve been working 11 to 12 hour shifts. Good thing I only work 4 days a week! I got a couple of extra days off a couple of weeks ago… unfortunately, it was due to a stomach bug. *G* Other than that, I’m doing pretty well. I’m training a couple of back ups for the graveyard shift, so maybe by this time next month I can take a few days off. All I really need right now is to get some sleep, but I have a package being delivered by UPS and I don’t want to leave it out on the porch, in the storm, so I’m waiting for them to show up.

        I decided since I wasn’t going to get to go to bed when I got home I would bake some bread, which should be about ready to bake, so I’m going to go now. Sorry I haven’t taken the time to reply to your posts and keep in touch recently. I do check each and every one out, though. *G* Huge hugs, back.

  • May 28, 2019 at 7:47 am

    Great list of quick meals out of the LTS pantry. Thanks!

    My family had a slightly different tuna noodle recipe. We used cream of mushroom soup instead of cream of chicken, and we added baby peas and a can of cut mushroom stems and pieces. All of them are canned goods except the egg noodles are bagged since I prefer the No Yolk brand since it tends to last longer in storage.

    And while I love a good red sauce on my pasta, my wife prefers alfredo, so I have powdered alfredo sauce in pantry sized cans in my storage as well as the regular powdered cheese for that classic Mac and Cheese flavor. I figure having options will keep things interesting, don’t want to get palate fatigue if the situation lasts more than a week or so…

    • May 28, 2019 at 10:35 am

      Hi Dmwalsh, you know I think my mom used cream of mushroom in her tuna noodle casserole. Wow, I guess I probably substituted it one year and then only used cream of chicken!! LOL! It sounds good adding mushrooms and baby peas! It’s so awesome to have items in our pantry to fix meals any time or day! Linda

  • May 28, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Our favorite quick meal is 7 can soup. 3 cans beans, 1 can corn, 1 can rotel, 1 can chili and 1 can diced tomatoes. Dump everything in a soup pot. Do not drained any of the cans. Heat and serve

    • May 28, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Dorothy, wow that’s my kind of soup! Open a can and dump, I love it! Thank you!!! Linda

  • May 28, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Dorothy, 7 cans of soup–what kind of soup and do you add water to it if its a condensed soup?

  • May 31, 2019 at 11:00 am

    I have home canned soups, also meats and veggies. I can make soup anytime. Some I just add pasta, rice or dehydrated potatoes to make a tummy filling soup. I prefer homemade over store bought any day.Add a slice of home baked bread or cornbread and I’m in heaven. I also keep pasta sauce and a variety of pasta shapes on hand. I have cheese powder and bega cheese for a quick mac n cheese,to which I sometimes add my canned ground beef and rotel tomatoes. The possibilities are endless . Thanks for the great meal ideas. God Bless


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