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 meal 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. 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.

Please remember, you don’t need to buy a special cook book to use your food storage. If you have some cook books 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.

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.

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 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 #10 cans 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 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.

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

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

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