In light of the holiday season, some of us may find our budgets are a tad tighter than usual. Eating out is one area you can cut back on to slash spending, and you don’t have to sacrifice good food or slave over a hot stove for hours to do so.

Here are a few quick and easy dinner ideas that take less time to prepare than waiting on your food at a restaurant—and they’re probably tastier and healthier, too!

Check out the weekly sales at your local grocer, to help inspire your nightly meal (and satisfy your wallets craving to save money).


If you can boil noodles and use a microwave, this one may just be a new family favorite for busy nights. For a tasty twist on this traditional Italian dish, microwave a dozen or so fully-cooked Italian style meatballs, and combine with your preferred sauce and spaghetti noodles in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. If you’re feeling adventurous, make your own delicious, 10-minute marinara sauce for a fresher meal. Top the spaghetti with a generous amount of shredded mozzarella, and bake in the oven at 350° for about 20 minutes until the cheese is hot and bubbly. Put together a salad while the spaghetti bakes, and you’ll have a hearty, classic meal in less time than it would take to get a table at Olive Garden.


If you have any fish lovers in your family, baked salmon is an easy, healthy meal to add into your rotation—and it’s on the table in 20 minutes! Simply drizzle a little olive oil on a baking sheet and place fresh or frozen salmon filets skin-side down on the tray. Sprinkle each filet with salt, pepper and a generous amount of dried dill, and top with a pat of butter or another drizzle of olive oil. Bake in the oven at 450° until the fish flakes on your fork, about 12-15 minutes for fresh or 20 for frozen.


Craving Mexican food? What could be easier than seasoning and browning some ground beef or turkey? To create a delicious taco bar that will rival any Mexican restaurant for taste and freshness, season some browned meat with a packet of taco seasoning (or make your own!), and serve with warmed taco shells, flour tortillas or tortilla chips and plenty of delicious toppings. Diced tomatoes, green onions, black beans, lettuce, jalapenos and black olives are all yummy options. Don’t forget the cheese, sour cream, guacamole and your favorite fresh or prepared salsa!


Looking for some good home-style comfort food? This three-ingredient recipe is as easy as digging out your slow-cooker and tastes just like mom’s home cooking. Layer four boneless pork chops in your slow-cooker, and top with a packet of Ranch dressing and a can of cream of chicken soup mixed with about half a can of water. Cover and cook on low for about four hours until the pork chops are fork-tender. Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles with a side salad or veggie.


If Asian is what you’re cravin’, try a simple, healthy stir fry. Heat a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, and add your protein of choice to the pan. Cubed or sliced strip steak or boneless chicken breasts, shrimp and tofu are all delicious options. While your protein is cooking, warm another tablespoon of oil in a large wok or pan, and sauté your veggies. You can buy pre-packaged stir fry vegetables in the freezer section of your grocery store, or you can choose your own combination of broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, celery and snap peas. When the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, toss the two together in your wok with teriyaki or your favorite sweet and tangy stir fry sauce. Serve over rice for a meal that’s better than takeout.

This article was written by Emily Leisl, contributor for The Daily Clutch.