These 3 ingredient meals take minimal time to prepare, and are healthy & cheap, too!

Between a tight budget and a busy schedule, eating full meals that you’ve made yourself can often be pushed lower and lower on the priorities list.  But never fear!  Your fast food and protein bar diet days are over with help from these quick and easy three-ingredient meals.

I’ve learned there are two things that are essential for the frugal twenty-something’s pantry: crescent roll dough (the flaky, godly goodness pastries that come in the colorful tube) and various spices – with the basics including garlic powder, pepper, salt and maybe some red pepper flakes to add some kick if you’re feeling particularly saucy.  With these relatively cheap ingredients always on hand, you can take on the world.

These 3 ingredient meals give you variety, nutrition, and do wonders for your budget, too.


1. Ham and Cheese Crescent Rolls

These delicacies are sure to please and are easy to make. I consider them to be a staple meal because of the cost and the little amount of time they take.

You’ll need:

  • Pre-sliced deli ham
  • Shredded cheese of your choice
  • Crescent rolls

How-to:

1. To make these, preheat your oven as directed on the packaging and crack open the roll.  Lay out two at a time, joining them on a long edge to make a bigger triangle. The dough will stick to itself and bake together, so no worries about your rolls falling apart on you.

2. Next, you’ll want to sprinkle on some shredded cheese and place a slice of ham down the middle. Insider: thinly sliced deli ham is easiest to work with.  

3. Finally, roll it all up and place on a cookie sheet. If you want, sprinkle some spices on top or within the roll for a little extra flavor – I usually use garlic and a touch of pepper. Repeat this for the rest of the dough and pop in the oven until baked through.

2. Simple Teriyaki Chicken and Rice

Ingredients for one person:

  • 4 oz Chicken per person
  • 2-3 tbsp of teriyaki sauce
  • Rice of your choice

The method:

1. First, you’ll want to start the rice; it can be a little fickle sometimes and you don’t want to be waiting around for it to be done way after your chicken is done. I recommend getting the cheap, 10-minute rice because it’s fast (strangely, 10 minutes exactly), easy to make and tastes lovely. Following the exact formula on the box, measure out the proper water-to-rice ratio, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat for the specified time.  Set it aside while you make the chicken.

2. For the chicken: slice into small strips (about two inches long by one inch or so thick) and pop onto a skillet with a touch of oil in it. Always remember to wash your hands after handling raw meat to ward off bacteria and avoid cross-contamination. Keep the chicken cooking on low heat to avoid charring the outside while the inside is still raw. Move it around with a spatula so it all cooks evenly.

3. After this has been going for a little while, dump your teriyaki sauce into the skillet and make sure the chicken is coated with the sauce so it all gets absorbed together as it cooks. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked throughout.

4. Plate out your rice and chicken with sauce however you like and voila! Another easy three-ingredient meal completed.

To expand: throw in some sugar snap peas, carrots or onions for a simple stir-fry.

3. Tortilla Cheese Pizzas

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • tortillas
  • pre-made tomato sauce
  • shredded cheese.

Instructions:

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Lay out the tortilla on a cookie sheet and spoon the sauce onto it, spreading it around (until about half an inch from the edge) with the back of the spoon.

3. Sprinkle on the cheese to the thickness and coverage you desire and pop it in the oven for five to eight minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is crispy.

Expansion ideas: add meat or veggies to make it more balanced. Sprinkle on Italian seasonings for some zing.


With these mastered, you can meet your budget and survive on more than energy drinks and granola bars. These are also quick to make, so you can squeeze them in between your classes, your career, and your canine.

Happy cooking!

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