The scenario... You look at the clock and it is 5:15 already and you haven't even thought about what to make for dinner. You could order pizza or Chinese take-out, but you don't have to do that, because, *insert trumpet fanfare* - You've got Church Mouse's Desperation Dinner Plan!
What? You thought Church Mouse was too organized and on top of things to do such a thing? HA! Preacher Man is laughing very hard right now. Church Mouse is jabbing him with her elbow. ;)
Disclaimer: These are not the most spartan of my frugal recipes. They do, in fact, use convenience ingredients, and that is ok. These are the meals I keep in my back pocket for moments of true desperation - where I need a meal, and I need it quick, and I need to be able to make it with whatever we've got. They save us from spending unnecessary money on take-out, so the convenience is worth it!
Egg Drop or Chicken Soup - I got this idea from a friend of mine. She would reconstitute chicken bouillon in a pot - about 2 qts. (I recommend Better Than Bouillon, as it has ingredients I can pronounce.) She would grate a carrot into the pot and onion if she had time. (Grated vegetables will cook much faster.) If you have any random veggies in the fridge, dump them in. Once boiling, she would either add some pasta and boil until the pasta was cooked or drop in an egg or two. If you kept a can or two of chicken around, you could add it, particularly if your family needs the protein.
Keep on hand: Bouillon, pasta, eggs, canned chicken (opt.)
Tostadas - Our family's favorite! Wal-mart sells their Great Value canned refried beans for cheap. Look for the low-fat variety, as it has ingredients I can pronounce, and none of the bad hydrogenated oils. I dump a can or two of these in a microwave safe bowl, mix in a few Tbs. water and heat them up. Meanwhile, I brush corn tortillas on each side with olive oil, lay them on a cookie sheet, and pop them in a 450* oven for 10-12 minutes. We like ours nice and crispy. Spread each tortilla with refried beans, sprinkle with cheese, add hot sauce if you like it and enjoy!
Keep on hand: canned refried beans, corn tortillas, cheese
Grilled Cheese/Tomato Soup - I actually use Campbell's Tomato Soup. I love it. I know it has unpronounceable ingredients and corn syrup, but I still love it.
Keep on hand: canned tomato soup, bread, cheese (we are partial to cheddar and Monterey Jack)
Pancakes/Bacon/Applesauce - You could use some kind of pancake mix, but honestly, it is so fast to mix up a double batch from scratch. While I'm mixing up the pancakes, I have the bacon thawing in the sink in some warm water. I dump the entire pound of bacon into an iron skillet and cook it all at once in a big scramble. It works and is much less tedious than my old method of not overlapping any pieces. Just make sure you stir it frequently. Cooking pancakes on the griddle is FUN! Admittedly, this is the longest option I'm listing, but it is still relatively fast and easy, and who doesn't love breakfast for dinner?
Keep on hand: Bacon in the freezer, basic baking supplies, applesauce
Stir Fry/Rice - I like to buy the steam in the bag vegetables when they go on sale for around $1 per pound and save them for desperation dinners. There are some nice stir fry mixes, some even have sauce in them! You can make some white rice in about 20 minutes, or even microwave some frozen brown rice - they sell it right by the frozen vegetables now. We also like to sprinkle in some peanuts or cashews.
Keep on hand: Steam in the bag stir fry vegetables, rice
Keep on hand: canned black beans, eggs, cheese
And in the end... some days just require pizza or Chinese take-out. I DO understand! I just try to make those days once in a blue moon rather than a habit.