Healthy, Inexpensive Foods for People Who Don’t Cook

I feel like a fraud. As someone with a weekly food post, you may be surprised that I lack any ability to prepare a meal. While the Food Finances Friday Feature often shares tips on saving money by preparing meals at home, as someone who lacks the skill I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how one can prepare meals for home or work that require little if any preparation. Here are some healthy and inexpensive foods you can eat even if you don’t cook.

I cannot cook. I have made inedible ramen noodles for my children and grossly overcooked pasta. One day when my husband was away, I wondered if I should call my mother to come over to make us lunch. As a grown woman and mother of 3, I should have basic skills to not starve without my husband. 

While I enjoy going out to eat, even fast food is more expensive than food from the store. And the truth is, I’ve been eating out too often lately and it’s taken a toll on my budget and my weight. Getting back into shape is one of my priorities this year.

This has gotten me thinking more about how I would eat healthy if my wonderful husband didn’t cook for me. Would I starve? Would I resort to pre-packaged foods or take out?

No, there are plenty of ways for humans who cannot cook to eat real food. Here are a few. Some of these require some preparation. I am setting the bar really low here and using the guide that if I can make it, I included it on this list.

Cheese Wrap

Okay, this actually requires putting something in the microwave. But if I can handle it, you can too.

Take a tortilla and add cheese. Wrap it like a burrito or fold it over like a quesadilla. Microwave it for 37 seconds (just enough for the cheese to melt).

Consider adding salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, and/or onions. But of course, these are not necessary.

cost

Cheddar cheese: 2 pounds for $8.86

Tortillas: 12 for $2.65 (there are usually 10 in a pack but the brand we use is celebrating their 30th anniversary  and have bumped up the number of tortillas per pack)

Salads

Rather than cutting lettuce, I buy pre-washed baby spinach.

Grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes not only taste better in salads, but they also don’t require any cutting.

I found that I am still hungry after eating a salad without cheese, which I usually have on hand for other meals as well.

Diced onions and shredded carrots are also nice to add for a little crunch. But of course we’re trying to keep things simple here, so whatever works for you.

cost

Spinach: $3.46

Tomatoes: $2.52

Onion: $1.91

Carrots: 2 pound bag for $1.88

Cheddar cheese: 2 lbs for $8.86

Photo by Vitchakorn Koonyosying

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

There’s a whole song about this meal! Luckily for me, my children ask for this every day for lunch. Don’t worry Mom, my children won’t starve if my husband’s gone for a few hours. Even though my daughter will still get upset like she did with you when her crusts were not trimmed properly.

My oldest is even able to make his own sandwiches, so I can have him make some for the little ones too.

cost

Peanut Butter: $5.39

Jelly: $2.98

Bread: $3.19

Almonds, Nuts, or Trail Mix

I always keep trail mix at work. Just one serving of Trail Mix or Almonds can keep me full for hours. Walnuts, Cashews, Sunflower seeds, Pecans, and Peanuts are also great to keep around.

Nuts can be expensive, so stock up when you find a good sale!

cost

Trail mix: 40 oz bag (39 servings) for $7.98

Peanuts: $4.35 often times BOGO at grocery stores

Photo by Rachael Gorjestani

Scrambled Eggs

You may remember from How to Save Time in the Kitchen the tip for microwaving eggs.

I love scrambled eggs, but am not about to cook anything that requires use of a stove. Crack one egg into a coffee mug. Add a little milk and pinch of salt. Give it a quick mix with a fork. Microwave for 40 seconds. Done!

cost

Eggs: 18 for $4.12

Photo by Annie Spratt. If you look closely you will see this photo is of actually chocolate mini eggs. These are also easy to eat, but are neither healthy nor inexpensive

Apple with Peanut Butter

This is another great food to keep on hand both at home and at the office.

cost

Apples: 3 lb bag $4.46

Peanut Butter: $5.39

Photo by Brooke Lark

 

Fruit, Yogurt, or Smoothies

Fresh fruits such as apples, bananas, strawberries, and grapes are some of the  most delicious foods on this earth, and easiest to eat. 

Peel a banana, take the lid off the yogurt, and you’re good to go.

You can also throw fruit and yogurt into a blender for a smoothie to take on the go.

Cost

Yogurt: 6 cups for $3.68

Bananas: 1 bunch for $1.35

Photo by Brooke Lark
Photo by Element5

Veggies and Humus or Dip

Carrots, celery, grape-sized tomatoes, broccoli, or cauliflower with dip or humus is another healthy and affordable yet easy to prepare food.

Carrots and celery can last a long time before spoiling, reducing food waste.

cost

Carrots: 2 pound bag for $1.88

Humus: $4.50

Photo by Dan Gold

Cheese and Crackers

If you haven’t noticed, there is always cheese in my house. We typically get a block of cheddar cheese and use it in most of our meals and snacks. Yes, buying pre-shredded cheese is simpler, but if you’ve read They Put What In Cheese? you may recall that we prefer our cheese without wood pulp.

cost

Cheddar cheese: 2 pounds for $8.86

Crackers: box for $2.75

Tuna

My best friend is a flight attendant. Because she is trilingual, she is always sent on international flights. I text her nearly every day to ask where she is in the world.

While in Switzerland, she and a friend ordered 2 burgers and 2 fries for lunch. The bill came to $100 American. Needless to say that was the last meal she ever ate in Switzerland. She spent the rest of her days there eating the packages of tuna that she always carries with her.

COST

Tuna: 1 pouch for $1.69

Baked Potato

I love a good baked potato. Yes, my husband makes it fancy by rubbing each potato with oil then coating the peel with Kosher salt before cooking it in the oven for an hour. Then he carefully and completely removes each peel (using tongs and a fork because it’s burning hot coming out of the oven). Finally he adds the desired toppings.

No, no, no. When I make a baked potato, I take a fork, poke some holes in it, throw it in the microwave for 5-7 minutes. Then, I place it in the oven at 425F for 30 minutes. When it’s done, I cut it in half, smear butter on each half, and add salt pepper (and if I have some, chives and of course cheese). Done.

Cost

Potatoes: 5 pound bag for $4.40

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Take Away

We all have to eat. But few of us have the time, energy, skill, and/or desire to cook. Contrary to popular belief, the culinary impaired don’t need to resort to the drive-thru, vending machine, or boxed/frozen/pre-packaged meals.

Many of the healthiest foods require little-to-no preparation. As a bonus, these bright, beautiful, and nutrition-packed foods are really affordable.

 

What are some of your favorite foods that require little to no preparation?

 

You May Also Like:

9 Ways to Upcycle Boring Leftovers

Don’t Throw That Out, I’ll Eat It

How to Start Decluttering: Pantry Clutter

How to Spend $100 Per Person Per Month on Food

2 thoughts on “Healthy, Inexpensive Foods for People Who Don’t Cook”

  1. It’s official. I’m famous. 😎. Amazing post. People often forget these delicious, cheap basics!! I had forgotten a few of these myself… like trail mix!!!!!! Goin’ shoppin’ tomorrow!!!

    1. Hi Jillian! Yes, I love your story about tuna!!! As someone yourself who wants to eat healthy but is on the go and trying to save money, I’m so glad that your found these tips helpful. Thanks for the comment, dear friend!

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