5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without

The five most versatile, most used kitchen tools that I can’t live without, plus tips for using and buying.

The post 5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without appeared first on Budget Bytes.

It’s always been my philosophy to keep my kitchen equipment basic, with as few single-purpose tools and appliances as possible. But there are a few kitchen tools that go above and beyond. They’re multi-purpose items that are absolutely invaluable in my kitchen, and they get used almost every day. I want to share this short list of essential items with you because they’re a great place to start when you’re a beginner cook, and if you’re an experienced cook with tons of kitchen tools and gadgets, maybe this will help you simplify. ;)

If you want to read the full post about all of my kitchen equipment, check out Kitchen Basics – Tools and Equipment for a Well Equipped Kitchen

This post contains affiliate links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Thumbnails of kitchen tools with article title overlay

P.S. I saved the best for last, so don’t skip the end! And make sure to share your most used, can’t-live-without kitchen tools in the comments below. Are you ready? Let’s dive right in!

1. Dutch Oven

Why I Love It

I was a little late to get on the Dutch Oven bus, but once on board I don’t know how I ever cooked without one! A Dutch Oven is a heavy duty pot with a tight fitting lid that can be used both on the stove top and in the oven. The thick walls, usually made with cast iron, make the vessel durable and provides super even heating for your food. Buy one Dutch Oven and you’ll have it for life!

How I Use It

Because this piece of cookware can be used both on the stove top and in the oven, it is probably one of my most widely used pieces of cookware. On the stove top it’s great as an all-purpose soup pot, but the super even heating it provides also makes it ideal for one-pot style meals. No more cooked rice in the center and crunchy rice around the outside! The superbly even heating also makes this pot a great choice for deep frying, where keeping a consistent oil temperature is key.

Dutch ovens are also great to use in the oven because of their size and, again, the amazingly even heat. They’re great to use for roasting and braising meat, like pot roasts or roasted chickens. The thick walls of the Dutch oven also mimic the thick crock of a slow cooker, so many slow cooker recipes can be converted to the oven by using a Dutch oven (here is a conversion chart). Dutch ovens also make the perfect steam-filled environment for baking fresh no-knead bread. You’ve got to try it!

Buying Tips

Dutch ovens are usually constructed of cast iron, but many are also coated in enamel for easy cleanup and care. While some fancier Dutch ovens can cost hundreds of dollars, there are definitely budget-friendly models available. I have this Amazon Basics Enameled Dutch Oven, which cost less than $50, and I love it so much that I bought a second one! Lodge also makes a really affordable non-enameled cast-iron Dutch oven that is very affordable, but the bare cast iron surface will require a little more care.

All three (!!) of my Dutch ovens are 6-quart size, which has worked out perfectly for the types of recipes I make—big batches of soup, beans, large roasts, and whole loafs of bread. Smaller Dutch ovens are available, but you can usually use the larger ovens for smaller recipes just as well.

2. Sheet Pans

Why I Love Them

Because roasting vegetables is my life! Haha, just kidding, sort of. Without sheet pans I wouldn’t be able to make at least half of the recipes that I cook. Baking things in the oven on a sheet pan is one of the easiest ways to cook, and even after you become a very experienced cook, you’ll return to your trusty sheet pan time and time again for its simplicity.

How I Use Them

Sheet pans, or baking sheets, are great for baking cookies, roasting vegetables, making entire “sheet pan dinners“, baking pizzas, freezing ingredients without clumping, baking fries or chicken nuggets, cooking bacon, making granola, baking bread, and the list only goes on from there. I’d seriously be lost with a set of sheet pans!

Buying Tips

Sheet pans can be made with several types of material, and it’s important to know the difference between them when buying.

  • Aluminum: aluminum baking sheets are lightweight and durable, but aluminum can react with some acidic ingredients, like tomatoes, so you’ll want to always be sure to use parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Stainless steel: stainless steel baking sheets are prized for their durability, non-toxic, and non-reactive material, but they are slow to heat and cool, and can weigh a bit more. This surface is also not non-stick, so again, make sure to use parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Non-stick: non-stick baking sheets are quite common for non-commercial use. The non-stick coating can scratch, so make sure to avoid using metal utensils with these baking sheets. The darker color of the non-stick coating also tends to brown the bottoms of cookies and other baked goods faster, so keep that in mind.
  • Enamel coated: enamel coated baking sheets have a glossy enamel coating, which is naturally non-stick. They’re lightweight, easy to clean, and can be visually appealing, but the enamel coating can scratch and crack if you tend to be rough with your bakeware.

Sheet pans also come in a variety of sizes. Commercial baking sheets are often listed as full (26″x18″), half (18″x13″), or quarter (13″x9″). A commercial half sheet pan would be considered a large sheet pan for home cooking. Sheet pans sold for home cooks often just have the dimensions listed alone. I highly suggest buying a set of three sizes when just starting out, so you can have a sheet pan for every need.

3. Cheese Grater

Why I Love It

Oh the humble cheese grater. So unassuming, but oh so very useful! I love this simple tool because it’s so versatile, yet so simple, so there are no complex mechanical parts to break. It saves me time with chopping and helps me sneak more vegetables into my meals.

How I Use It

I suppose I should stop calling it a “cheese” grater because I use it for so many more things than just cheese! Instead of finely chopping vegetables, just run the vegetables across the surface of your “cheese” grater to get an almost minced texture. I most often grate carrots, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets. Fine-holed graters are great for garlic and ginger. I also use my graters to zest citrus fruits, and grate frozen butter when making biscuits and other flakey baked goods.

Buying Tips

Graters come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but I suggest getting at least two sizes: large and small holes. You can either buy these as separate hand-held graters, or as one box grater than has multiple surfaces. I tend to like the single graters because I find them easier to clean, and if one is in the dishwasher, the other may still be clean and ready to use.

4. Small Blender

Why I Love It

My small, single-serving blender is a surprise winner in my kitchen. I originally bought my little single-serving blender for making smoothies, but over the years have pulled it out of my cabinet for so much more. It’s small, so it doesn’t take up a lot of cabinet or countertop space, it’s easy to clean (mine can go in the dishwasher), and it’s inexpensive.

While my small blender was a cheap-o $15 dollar model that definitely didn’t last forever, I love it so much and find it so useful that each time it wore out, I repurchased it (two times over about 8 years).

Funny story: one day I convinced myself that I needed a “real” blender so I went and bought a fancy and expensive Ninja. I used that thing maybe two times and then kept going back for my little $15 wonder. :)

How I Use It

My little mighty blender does just fine for smoothies, but don’t expect Blendtec or Vitamix level results. In addition to smoothies, I use my little blender for whipping up homemade salad dressings, dips (although it’s not great for super thick dips like hummus), sauces, and puréeing other ingredients, like beans. It’s just perfect for small jobs where you don’t want to deal with or clean a giant 9 cup blender with scary sharp blades.

Buying Tips

I can only vouch for the Hamilton Beach model that I have owned, which also doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon for its normal $15-$20 price. You can get this model at Target, Walmart, or probably any other major home goods store.

As an alternative to a small single-serving blender, an immersion blender will probably accomplish many of the same small tasks and can boast a few more uses (like blending soups right in the pot), but they do tend to be about double the price.

5. Chef’s Knife

Why I Love It

I saved the best for last! My chef’s knife is like an extension of my arm. It’s a general purpose kitchen utility knife that I use almost exclusively when cooking. In fact, I probably will never buy a full set of kitchen knives because this is practically the only knife I use (aside from a bread knife and the occasional paring knife). Chef’s knife are big and sturdy enough for large jobs, but small enough to be nimble and allow for a working at a quick pace. I absolutely, without a doubt, would not be able to function in my kitchen without it.

How I Use It

The long, broad, slightly tapered blade of a chef’s knife is great for slicing, chopping, mincing, julienning, carving, and more. If you’re not sure what type of knife to use for your task, a chef’s knife is a safe bet. Avoid chef’s knives for small jobs, like peeling or scoring, boning, or fileting.

Always make sure your chef’s knife is clean and sharp to avoid slips and injuries. Always wash by hand and avoid the dishwasher, where it can get dinged up and dulled. Keep your chef’s knife in some sort of knife holder or magnetic strip, again to avoid rubbing on other items and unintentionally damaging the blade.

Buying Tips

Much like Dutch ovens, chef’s knives can range in price from very cheap to very expensive. I’ve used the cheapest of the cheap chef’s knives up to some very pricey “fancy” knives, and I will say that they all get the job done. My favorite chef’s knife that is the perfect balance between budget and quality is the Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch Chef’s Knife, and this is what I am currently using daily in my kitchen. I also own a Shun 8-inch Chef’s Knife that I won in a raffle, and while it is very pretty and has superb craftsmanship, I don’t find that it performs any better than my Victorinox. In fact, I prefer the weight balance of my Victorinox.

Chef’s knives come in several different lengths, materials, and weights. It’s important to choose a length that is appropriate for your hand size. With my petite hands, an 8-inch knife is perfect and allows for great control and agility. If you have larger hands, you may prefer a 10 or even 12-inch chef’s knife. If you’re serious about your knives, I suggest visiting a cutlery store where you can pick up and feel the knives in your hand and choose one that feels comfortable and natural to you.


So that’s it! Those are the five most used items in my kitchen! What are yours? Share your favorite kitchen tools and gadgets, plus how you use them, in the comments below!

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The Bagel Lunch Box

Here’s another quick lunch box idea (or meal prep breakfast idea) for you! While this one isn’t completely no-cook because it contains a hard boiled egg, it is still a super easy no-reheat lunch box that you can take to work, school, or on the road. This Bagel Lunch Box includes a mini bagel, some […]

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Here’s another quick lunch box idea (or meal prep breakfast idea) for you! While this one isn’t completely no-cook because it contains a hard boiled egg, it is still a super easy no-reheat lunch box that you can take to work, school, or on the road. This Bagel Lunch Box includes a mini bagel, some of my favorite Scallion Herb Cream Cheese, a handful of vegetables that go oh so well with the flavored cream cheese, and a simple hard boiled egg. It’s super simple to put together, but it makes life so much easier when your mornings are busy. Just grab a lunch box and go!

Three glass meal prep containers in a diagonal line filled with the bagel lunch box items

About that Cream Cheese…

I included my Scallion Herb Cream Cheese in this bagel lunch box because it has so much flavor and really adds a nice element of interest to the meal. If you don’t want to make this cream cheese you can use plain cream cheese or use a store-bought flavored cream cheese. Another nice option is to use plain cream cheese, but then bring some Everything Bagel Seasoning with you to add some extra flavor.

Other Lunch Box Add-In Ideas

If you want to substitute any of the ingredients or add to this lunch box, here are some good ideas of things that would also match well:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Carrot sticks
  • An orange, tangerine, or cutie
  • Grapes
  • Deli ham
  • Alfalfa sprouts

Where Did You Get Those Containers?

The divided glass meal prep containers and the small metal cups were both purchased on Amazon (links in the bottom of the recipe card below). 

Three bagel lunch boxes lined up in a row

 
Three bagel lunch boxes lined up in a row

The Bagel Lunch Box

This Bagel Lunch Box is an easy and affordable grab and go breakfast or lunch idea, perfect for work or school.
Total Cost $5.32 recipe / $1.33 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 307.18kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Scallion Herb Cream Cheese

  • 4 oz. cream cheese $0.60
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley $0.06
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro $0.04
  • 1 green onion, sliced $0.11
  • 1/16 tsp garlic powder $0.01
  • 1/16 tsp salt $0.01
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice $0.02

Lunch Box Ingredients

  • 4 mini bagels $1.52
  • 4 large eggs $0.92
  • 1 cucumber, sliced $1.29
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes $0.75

Instructions

  • To hard boil the eggs, place the eggs in a sauce pot and add water until the eggs are covered by one inch. Place the pot over high heat and allow the water to come up to a full boil. When it reaches a full boil, turn off the heat, place a lid on the pot, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool.
  • To make the scallion herb cream cheese, combine the cream cheese, parsley, cilantro, green onion, garlic powder, salt, and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir together until evenly combined.
  • Place one bagel in each lunch box along with ¼ of the cucumber slices, ¼ of the grape tomatoes, ¼ of the cream cheese (1 oz.), and one hard boiled egg. Refrigerate up to five days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1lunch box | Calories: 307.18kcal | Carbohydrates: 30.6g | Protein: 12.98g | Fat: 15.1g | Sodium: 420.95mg | Fiber: 420.95g

How to Make the Bagel Lunch Box – Step by Step Photos

Place Eggs in Ice Bath

To hard boil the eggs, add the eggs to a sauce pot and add enough water to cover them by one inch. Place the pot over high heat and allow the water to come up to a full boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, transfer the eggs to an ice water bath to cool.

Scallion Herb Cream Cheese Spread mixed

To make the scallion herb cream cheese, combine 4 oz. cream cheese, 1 Tbsp chopped parsley, 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, one sliced green onion, 1/16 tsp (or one pinch) garlic powder, 1/16 tsp (one pinch) salt, and ½ Tbsp lemon juice in a bowl. Stir until everything is evenly combined.

One bagel lunch box in a glass meal prep container

Place one bagel, one hard boiled egg, ¼ of the sliced cucumbers, ¼ of the tomatoes, and ¼ of the cream cheese (1 oz.) in each lunch box. Refrigerate up to five days.

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How to Freeze Bananas

I was freezing some of our brown bananas the other day and decided to take a few snapshots of the process and do a quick little “How to Freeze Bananas” tutorial. Why? Because while a lot of people know you can make banana bread with brown bananas instead of letting them go to waste, you […]

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I was freezing some of our brown bananas the other day and decided to take a few snapshots of the process and do a quick little “How to Freeze Bananas” tutorial. Why? Because while a lot of people know you can make banana bread with brown bananas instead of letting them go to waste, you don’t always have time to make banana bread right when the bananas are ready, and sometimes you don’t have enough bananas all at one time. Freezing your overripe bananas will help you reduce your food waste even further, and makes sure you have ripe bananas on hand all the time for things like banana bread, smoothies, and more.

Two brown bananas on a marble surface with title text at the top

Can I Freeze the Bananas Whole?

You may be asking yourself, “Can I just toss the banana in the freezer, peel and all?” and the answer is yes, but that’s not the best way to do it, IMHO. While you can freeze a whole banana with the peel, the banana becomes very soft after thawing, making it very difficult to peel without making a mess. Just go ahead and peel it first and thank yourself later.

I also prefer to slice my bananas before freezing, instead of freezing the whole peeled banana, because it makes them easier to measure (thaw only what you need), faster to thaw, and easier to blend into a smoothie.

How Long do Frozen Bananas Last?

Frozen bananas will continue to brown in the freezer, just at a much slower rate than on the counter top. I find that they’re best when used within 3 months of freezing, but your milage may vary. To make sure you’ve got plenty of ways to use those frozen bananas before they get too brown and shriveled, I’ve got several recipe ideas for you listed below.

What Kind of Container Should I Use?

I like to use zip top freezer bags because they can hold a varying amount, I can remove as much air as possible, and it’s easy to write the contents and date on the front. If you prefer to not use plastic, you can freeze your bananas in glass meal prep containers or glass jars and simply add some freezer tape or a freezer label for writing the contents and date. Always write the contents and date on your frozen goods! :)

Frozen banana slices in a labeled freezer bag

How to Keep Frozen Bananas from Turning Brown

Bananas continue to turn brown in the freezer, just like they do at room temperature, but at a much slower rate. To slow the browning almost to a halt, you can dip the frozen banana slices into lemon juice before freezing, but that’s just waaaaay too much work, IMHO. Instead, I freeze the banana slices as-is, and just make sure to use them within a few months. Nothing lasts forever and you’re already extending their life a lot by freezing them.

How to Thaw Frozen Bananas

You can use the frozen bananas in recipes while still frozen (see list below) or thaw and mash them before adding to a recipe. To thaw the frozen bananas, simply leave them out at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Or, if you froze them in a freezer bag, you can drop the freezer bag (still tightly closed) in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. 

Thawed frozen bananas will let off some liquid. You’ll want to stir this liquid into the bananas as you mash them. Mashed bananas are often used in recipes to add moisture, so you don’t want to lose that liquid that seeps from the bananas as they thaw.

What Can You Make with Frozen Bananas?

You can make so many yummy things with your frozen bananas! Here are some ideas:

Uses for frozen bananas (not thawed):

Uses for frozen bananas (thawed and mashed)

 

How to Freeze Bananas

A simple, step by step tutorial on how to freeze bananas for user later in banana bread, smoothies, muffins, and more.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Freeze Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 brown banana or more
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet
  • freezer safe containers

Instructions

  • Peel the banana(s) and cut them into ½-inch thick slices.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the banana slices on the lined baking sheet in a single layer. Freezing the bananas individually first helps prevent them from sticking together in one large clump when frozen.
  • Freeze the bananas for 1-2 hours, or until solid, then transfer to an air-tight, freezer-safe container, like a freezer bag, glass meal prep container, or glass jar. Label the container with the contents and date.
  • For best results, use within three months.

How to Freeze Bananas – Step by Step Photos

Sliced bananas on a cutting board next to banana peels

Peel your banana(s) and slice into ½-inch thick slices.

banana slices on a parchment lined baking sheet

Line a baking sheet with parchment, then lay the banana slices on the lined baking sheet in a single layer. Freezing them individually like this first prevents them from sticking together in one large clump in your container later. Transfer the banana slices to the freezer and freeze for 1-2 hours, or until the slices are solid.

Frozen banana slices in a labeled freezer bag

Once solid, transfer the banana slices from the baking sheet to an air-tight, freezer-safe container, like a freezer bag, glass meal prep container, or glass jar. Keep frozen up to 3 months for the best quality.

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The Peanut Butter Lunch Box

Continuing on with the series of no-cook lunch boxes, I bring you The Peanut Butter Lunch Box! This one is so simple, yet I may have enjoyed this one the most out of all the lunch boxes I’ve prepared so far. I don’t know if it was the sweet-salty combo, or maybe it was just […]

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Continuing on with the series of no-cook lunch boxes, I bring you The Peanut Butter Lunch Box! This one is so simple, yet I may have enjoyed this one the most out of all the lunch boxes I’ve prepared so far. I don’t know if it was the sweet-salty combo, or maybe it was just nostalgia (for about two years straight in elementary school I ate peanut butter apple sandwiches for lunch), but every day I looked forward to this lunch box! So, if you’re a fan of peanut butter sandwiches, but want to change things up, give this peanut butter lunch box a try!

Three glass containers lined up with peanut butter apples, celery, pretzels and dates.

What’s in the Peanut Butter Lunch Box

Peanut butter is the focus of this lunch box, with both sweet and savory side items that are all delicious dipped into the creamy peanut butter. For my peanut butter lunch box I added pretzels, apple slices, celery, and dates. If you can’t eat peanut butter, this lunch box would be just as good with any other nut butter you prefer (almond, cashew, sunflower, etc.).

About Those Dates…

If you’ve never eaten dates with peanut butter before, prepare for your mind to be blown! Medjool dates are rich, sweet, sticky, and taste a little bit like caramel, so it tastes like you’re eating caramel with peanut butter! It’s the perfectly rich and sweet natural dessert.

You’ll find Medjool dates in the produce department of most major grocery stores (scroll down to the photos below the recipe card to see what type of container they come in). They usually have a small pit inside, but they are easily pulled open with your fingers, and then you can simply remove the pit before smearing that creamy peanut butter all over the date.

How to Keep the Apple Slices Fresh

As most people know, apples begin to brown after they are sliced in response to exposure to oxygen. This brown color is a simple chemical reaction and does not indicate that the apple has gone “bad.” To help slow the browning, keep the apple slices bunched closely together to reduce the exposure to oxygen on the cut surfaces (see photos). You can also sprinkle a little lemon juice over your apple slices to further slow the browning, if you prefer. Even without lemon juice, my apple slices only browned a very small amount over four days in the refrigerator.

What Containers Do You Use?

For this lunch box I used a set of divided glass containers that I purchased on Amazon (linked below in the bottom of the recipe card). The dividers don’t go all the way up to the lid, so they don’t keep liquid items separate, but for solids or super thick stuff like peanut butter, it works just fine. 

A single peanut butter lunch box with peanut butter on a Medjool date and a pretzel dipping into the peanut butter

 
Three glass containers of the peanut butter lunch box lined up in a row

The Peanut Butter Lunch Box

This peanut butter lunch box is an easy no-cook lunch idea for school, work, picnics, or road trips! No reheating needed!
Total Cost $4.57 recipe / $1.14 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 572.68kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup peanut butter* $1.49
  • 60 mini pretzels $0.26
  • 2 apples $0.78
  • 8 Medjool dates $1.33
  • 4 ribs celery $0.70
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional) $0.01

Instructions

  • Wash and slice the celery into sticks. Slice each apple in half, remove the core, then cut into slices. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the apple slices to slow browning, if desired.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of peanut butter to each container. Add about 15 pretzels to each container, along with ½ an apple, some celery sticks, and two dates. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate up to five days.

Notes

I used natural style peanut butter, but you can use whichever type you prefer, or another type of nut butter.

Nutrition

Serving: 1lunch box | Calories: 572.68kcal | Carbohydrates: 80.15g | Protein: 14.53g | Fat: 25.65g | Sodium: 517.13mg | Fiber: 9.93g

The Peanut Butter Lunch Box – Extra Notes

Cored and sliced apples

I used Granny Smith Apples for this lunch box, but you can use any variety of apples you like. I included ½ an apple with each box. Slice the apples in half, then remove the core (I used a sharp measuring spoon, but you could use something like a melon baller as well). Slice each apple half into slices. Keeping the slices close together prevents oxygen exposure, which will slow the browning. You can also sprinkle a little lemon juice over the slices to further help slow the browning.

Medjool date container

Medjool dates are usually sold in a container like this, but sometimes I see them sold loose by the pound, which is really nice when you only need a few! I see them at just about every grocery store now, so they are widely available. You’ll find them in the produce department, usually not refrigerated.

Open Medjool date

To eat the dates, simply pull them open with your hands. They are soft and sticky, so they pull open very easily. You’ll find a small pit in the center (you can see the pit on the left side). Remove the pit.

Date half with peanut butter

Smear a little peanut butter on each half of the date and enjoy! This combo is super rich and sweet, so you’ll only need one or two! Enjoy!

Three peanut butter lunch boxes in glass containers

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The Cheese Board Lunch Box

Continuing on with my no-cook lunch box series, today I bring you The Cheese Board Lunch Box! This one goes out to everyone who is perfectly happy nibbling on a charcuterie board for dinner, instead of as an appetizer to dinner. 😉 Just be careful, this lunch box is going to tempt you to drink […]

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Continuing on with my no-cook lunch box series, today I bring you The Cheese Board Lunch Box! This one goes out to everyone who is perfectly happy nibbling on a charcuterie board for dinner, instead of as an appetizer to dinner. ;) Just be careful, this lunch box is going to tempt you to drink a glass of wine with lunch!

Four glass meal prep containers filled with the cheese board lunch box

Where Are the Vegetables??

I know, I know. I’m usually a vegetable-with-every meal type of person, but I think it’s entirely possible to have a cheese board lunch box and still keep balance in your day. Try eating a veggie heavy breakfast bowl, like my Vegetable Breakfast Scrambles, and make sure you include a veggie heavy dinner, like a stir fry, soup, or meal-worthy salad. Or hey, you can always just pack a side salad to go with this box for lunch. :)

What Else Can I Add to My Cheese Board Lunch Box?

As with all of these no-cook lunch box ideas, this Cheese Board Lunch Box is very flexible! Here are some other items you can include with or in place of any of the ingredients I put into my box:

  • Pickles
  • Grapes
  • Apple slices
  • A small container of your favorite jam
  • A small container of jam
  • A small container of pesto
  • Olives
  • Almonds
  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Sliced bell peppers

Other Meat Options

I used salami in my cheese board lunch box, but there are so many options with this one. You can use other cured meats, like prosciutto, capicola, soppressata. If all of that is too fancy or too hard to find, regular deli meat is just as great in this box! Roll up the slices into little “cigars” to make the presentation extra pretty and you’ll still feel like you’re eating an extra special lunch.

Wrap the Crackers for Freshness

To keep your crackers nice and crunchy, you’ll probably want to wrap the crackers in an extra fold-top sandwich bag or waxed paper to keep the moisture from the other ingredients out. I didn’t do this (because I’m lazy) and my crackers got a little soft, but I still enjoyed the box quite a bit over the next four days.

What Containers Do You Use?

These containers are made by Pyrex and are my favorite meal prep containers. While they’re not divided, the single compartment makes them very versatile. Also, the lid is simple, snaps on, and has no moving parts to break. There is a link to these containers in the bottom of the recipe card below. 

Overhead view of one Cheese board Lunch Box with a cracker stacked with cheese and salami.

 
Four cheese board lunch boxes lined up in a row

The Cheese Board Lunch Box

This easy no-cook lunch idea is perfect for the cheese lovers of the world! The Cheese Board Lunch Box makes a meal out of savory nibbles.
Total Cost $7.45 recipe / $1.86 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 638.5kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. cheese $2.12
  • 4 oz. salami $1.99
  • 20 crackers $0.74
  • 16 dried apricots $1.40
  • 1 cup walnuts $1.20

Instructions

  • Slice the cheese. Wrap sets of 5 crackers in fold-top sandwich bags or waxed paper.
  • Divide the cheese salami, wrapped crackers, dried apricots, and walnuts between four containers. Refrigerate until ready to eat, or up to five days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1box | Calories: 638.5kcal | Carbohydrates: 24.63g | Protein: 26.95g | Fat: 48.95g | Sodium: 901mg | Fiber: 4.03g

How to Make The Cheese Board Lunch Box

Packages of ingredients for the cheese board lunch box

These are all the ingredients I used for the cheese board lunch box (this is all from ALDI). You can use whatever type of cheese or crackers that you like. I chose sharp cheddar and got a box of assorted crackers. Check the list earlier in the post if you want ideas for other items to include.

Four cheese board lunch boxes lined up in a row

Slice the cheese and wrap groups of five crackers in a sandwich baggie or waxed paper (I skipped wrapping my crackers). Divide all the ingredients between four containers.

Four glass containers of the cheese board lunch box staggered

Refrigerate your cheese board lunch boxes until you’re ready to eat, or up to five days! Enjoy!

The post The Cheese Board Lunch Box appeared first on Budget Bytes.

5 Templates for Easy Vegan Dinners

The older I get the more I love meals where I can just throw whatever I have into one pot, bowl, or skillet. I’ve noticed that these “easy dinners” usually fall into five distinct categories: stir fries, bowl meals, curries, soups and stews, or salads. It doesn’t matter what ingredients you have on hand or […]

The post 5 Templates for Easy Vegan Dinners appeared first on Budget Bytes.

The older I get the more I love meals where I can just throw whatever I have into one pot, bowl, or skillet. I’ve noticed that these “easy dinners” usually fall into five distinct categories: stir fries, bowl meals, curries, soups and stews, or salads. It doesn’t matter what ingredients you have on hand or what you happened to get at the farmer’s market or in your CSA that week, you can usually toss just about anything into one of these easy vegan dinners.

And guess what? If you have some family members who are vegan and some that aren’t, it’s super easy to cook a meat on the side and add it to individual portions of any of these meals!

Collage of six easy vegan dinners with title box in the center

 

Stir Fry

Stir fry is the ultimate use-whatever-you-have meal. All you need is a hot pan, a few handfuls of vegetables or proteins, a simple sauce, and some noodles or rice to spoon to soak up all that delciousness. Ultimately, the stir fry is all about the stir fry sauce. Check out these simple vegan stir fry recipes to explore some different simple stir fry sauces: 

A bowl of Spicy Coconut Vegetable Stir Fry ready to be eaten.

Spicy Coconut Vegetable Stir Fry

This rich and spicy coconut vegetable stir fry is adaptable to whatever vegetables are lingering in your fridge, making it a great sweep the kitchen recipe!
Go to the recipe >>>

Spicy Coconut Vegetable Stir Fry

Eating a large plate of Salad Bar Vegetable Lo Mein

Salad Bar Vegetable Lo Mein

When you need dinner to be fast, easy, and satisfying, this Salad Bar Vegetable Lo Mein is your answer. It's as simple and satisfying as it gets!
Go to the recipe >>>

Salad Bar Vegetable Lo Mein

With just a few ingredients you can make these easy and delicious Mushroom Broccoli Stir Fry Noodles for a fast weeknight dinner. BudgetBytes.com

Simple Mushroom Broccoli Stir Fry Noodles

With just a few ingredients you can make these easy and delicious Mushroom Broccoli Stir Fry Noodles for a fast weeknight dinner.
Go to the recipe >>>

Simple Mushroom Broccoli Stir Fry Noodles

Pan Fried Sesame Tofu with Broccoli

This Pan Fried Sesame Tofu is seriously crispy and drenched in a tangy sesame sauce. Broccoli florets and cooked rice make it a meal.
Go to the recipe >>>

Pan Fried Sesame Tofu with Broccoli

Vegetable Stir Fry Noodle Bowls - Budget Bytes

SNAP Challenge: Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles

This colorful vegetable stir fry with noodles is packed with vegetables and drenched in a salty sweet sauce. Fast, easy, and customizable.
Go to the recipe >>>

Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles

 

Bowl Meals

The “bowl meal” formula is easy. Base (grain or greens) + protein + vegetable(s) + sauce. Every bowl is a complete meal, no need to plan side dishes. And an added bonus: bowl meals are great for meal prepping, so tomorrow’s lunch is covered! Here are some of my favorite vegan bowl meals:

Sweet Chili Stir Fried Tofu Bowls

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls are an easy, fresh, and flavorful vegan weeknight dinner, packed with vibrant colors and flavors. Perfect for meal prep!
Go to the recipe >>>

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls

These rich and spicy Coconut Jerk Peas are super simple to make and pair brilliantly with a sweet and vibrant pineapple salsa. BudgetBytes.com

Coconut Jerk Peas with Pineapple Salsa

These rich and spicy Coconut Jerk Peas are super simple to make and pair brilliantly with a sweet and vibrant pineapple salsa. 
Go to the recipe >>>

Coconut Jerk Peas with Pineapple Salsa

Sesame Tempeh Bowls being eaten with chopsticks

Sesame Tempeh Bowls

These Sesame Tempeh Bowls are a great vegan alternative to sesame chicken and only take about 20 minutes to make. An easy fast vegan meal prep! 
Go to the recipe >>>

Sesame Tempeh Bowls

Broiled Balsamic Vegetables with Lemon Parsley Rice

Broiled balsamic vegetables top a vibrant and fresh lemon parsley rice to make this light and healthy dish. Works great as a side or a light meal. 
Go to the recipe >>>

Broiled Balsamic Vegetables with Lemon Parsley Rice

These vegan Soy Marinated Tofu Bowls are full of rich flavors and plenty of texture to keep your taste buds happy and your belly full. BudgetBytes.com

Soy Marinated Tofu Bowls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

These vegan Soy Marinated Tofu Bowls are full of rich flavors and plenty of texture to keep your taste buds happy and your belly full. 
Go to the recipe >>>

Soy Marinated Tofu Bowls

Chili Garlic Tofu Bowls

Chili Garlic Tofu Bowls are a fiber and flavor filled healthy lunch that you can pre-pack for your week ahead
Go to the recipe >>>

Chili Garlic Tofu Bowls

These Sweet Potato Grain Bowls with Green Tahini Sauce are prefect for meal prep and bursting with color, texture, and flavor! BudgetBytes.com

Sweet Potato Grain Bowls with Green Tahini Sauce

These Sweet Potato Grain Bowls with Green Tahini Sauce are prefect for meal prep and bursting with color, texture, and flavor!
Go to the recipe >>>

Sweet Potato Grain Bowls with Green Tahini Sauce

 

Curry

Curries are another “it’s all about the sauce” meal. As long as you have a delicious curry sauce, you can pour it over any vegetable or protein and your meal is going to be awesome. I like to make my curries with either a tomato based sauce or a creamy coconut based sauce. Both varieties are super easy, flavorful, and versatile! Try these simple vegan curries:

A hand dipping a piece of naan into the Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with Spinach on a plate with curry roasted carrots

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach

These rich, creamy, and earthy Coconut Curry Lentils are an easy and delicious vegan option for dinner or weekly meal prep!
Go to the recipe >>>

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach

These super fast Curried Chickpeas with spinach are packed with flavor and nutrients, vegan, gluten-free, and filling! Plus they freeze great! BudgetBytes.com

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach

These super fast Curried Chickpeas with spinach are packed with flavor and nutrients, vegan, gluten-free, and filling! Plus they freeze great!
Go to the recipe >>>

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach

Two bowls of chana saag with rice, next to the skillet and a piece of torn naan

Chana Saag

Chana saag is a creamy chickpea and spinach curry that comes together quickly, is full of warm spices, filling, and vegan! Perfect for meal prep!
Go to the recipe >>>

Chana Saag – Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Lentils

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Lentils are an easy, hands-off, fiber filled, freezer friendly vegan dinner. 
Go to the recipe >>>

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Lentils

 

Salad

Salads aren’t just for side dishes! Pile ’em high with lots of vegetables and whatever protein you prefer, and you’ve got a filling meal with more color, flavor, and texture than most people get in one day. Get creative with your salad greens, too. In addition to the traditional mixed greens, spinach, or Romaine, you can also build a great salad on kale, cabbage, or parsley. Beef up your salad by adding a grain or a handful of nuts for extra filling power. Try these meal-worthy vegan salads: 

Four glass containers with Roasted Vegetable Salad and three dressing containers

Roasted Vegetable Salad Meal Prep

These Roasted Vegetable Salad Meal Prep boxes are an easy, no-reheat, plan-ahead lunch option that will help you get your daily vegetables!
Go to the recipe >>>

Roasted Vegetable Salad Meal Prep

Overhead view of Lemony Artichoke and Quinoa Salad in a bowl with lemon wedges and a fork.

Lemony Artichoke and Quinoa Salad

This Lemony Artichoke and Quinoa Salad is a light and refreshing summer salad that holds up well in the refrigerator and is perfect for meal prep!
Go to the recipe >>>

Lemony Artichoke and Quinoa Salad

Peanut Lime Dressing being poured onto a bowl of Cold Peanut Noodle Salad

Cold Peanut Noodle Salad

This Cold Peanut Noodle Salad with homemade peanut lime dressing is the perfect meal prep for summer! No reheating necessary.
Go to the recipe >>>

Cold Peanut Noodle Salad

This Roasted Cauliflower Salad combines sweet roasted red onions, spiced chickpeas, tender cauliflower, and a tangy lemon tahini dressing. BudgetBytes.com

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

This Roasted Cauliflower Salad combines sweet roasted red onions, spiced chickpeas, tender cauliflower, and a tangy lemon tahini dressing.
Go to the recipe >>>

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

This Apple Dijon Kale Salad is tangy, sweet, and crunchy with Granny Smith apples, walnuts, raisins, and a homemade Dijon vinaigrette. BudgetBytes.com

Apple Dijon Kale Salad

This Apple Dijon Kale Salad is tangy, sweet, and crunchy with Granny Smith apples, walnuts, raisins, and a homemade Dijon vinaigrette.
Go to the recipe >>>

Apple Dijon Kale Salad

A bowl of Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad on a teal napkin.

Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad

This Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad holds up well in the refrigerator for days, making it perfect for meal prep or brown bagging your lunch. 
Go to the recipe >>>

Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad

 

Soup & Stew

Soups and stews are the cold-weather counterpart to my big ol’ summer salads. They’re always very quick and easy to make, they don’t require any difficult cooking skills, and they are so flexible. Plus, because they’re usually large-batch recipes, they’re great for busy people. Soups and stews make great leftovers and often freeze well. So if you’re a busy bee but want to still eat meals full of flavor and texture, check out some of these vegan soups and stews:

Overhead view of a pot full of vegetable barley soup with bread on the side

Vegetable Barley Soup

Loaded with colorful vegetables and filling pearled barley, this Vegetable Barley Soup is a healthy, freezer-friendly staple recipe for winter!
Go to the recipe >>>

Vegetable Barley Soup 

A hand scooping up a spoonful of Vegan West African Peanut Stew with Rice

Vegan Peanut Stew

With a rich peanut and tomato sauce, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and crunchy peanuts, this Vegan Peanut Stew is comfort in a bowl! 
Go to the recipe >>>

Vean Peanut Stew

Overhead view of secret ingredient tomato soup in a white bowl with black rim, and a black spoon.

Secret Ingredient Tomato Soup

This super thick, warm, and comforting tomato soup has two secret ingredients that make it rich and delicious without any dairy. 100% vegan!
Go to the recipe >>>

Secret Ingredient Tomato Soup

Close up overhead view of a bowl full of vegan creamy mushroom ramen with chopsticks lifting some noodles

Vegan Creamy Mushroom Ramen

This incredibly simple Vegan Creamy Mushroom Ramen is a rich and flavorful 15 minute meal that only requires a handful of ingredients! 
Go to the recipe >>>

Vegan Creamy Mushroom Ramen

A bowl of Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup with two pieces of toasted bread and a black spoon in the middle.

Easy Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup

This incredibly easy Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup takes only eight simple ingredients to deliver a bowl full of rich, bold flavor.
Go to the recipe >>>

Easy Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup

A rich and hearty medley of vegetables, lentils, and herbs makes this freezer-friendly Vegan Winter Lentil Stew the perfect cold-weather comfort food. Budgetbytes.com

Vegan Winter Lentil Stew

A rich and hearty medley of vegetables, lentils, and herbs makes this freezer-friendly Vegan Winter Lentil Stew the perfect cold-weather comfort food. 
Go to the recipe >>>

Vegan Winter Lentil Stew

This Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili makes a huge batch, is packed with flavor and nutrients, and can be made for only about 5 dollars! Budgetbytes.com

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili

This Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili makes a huge batch, is packed with flavor and nutrients, and can be made for only about 5 dollars! 
Go to the recipe >>>

Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetarian Chili

Chunky Lentil and Vegetable Soup

This Chunky Lentil and Vegetable Soup is packed with hearty flavor, texture, and good-for-you vegetables! 
Go to the recipe >>>

Chunky Lentil and Vegetable Soup

The post 5 Templates for Easy Vegan Dinners appeared first on Budget Bytes.

The Hummus Lunch Box

Are y’all ready for the next installment in the no-cook lunch box series? The Hummus Lunch Box is a classic, one that I’m sure many of you have made before, but it definitely deserves its own mention in the series because it is flexible and always a pleaser. I’ve got a few different ways you […]

The post The Hummus Lunch Box appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Are y’all ready for the next installment in the no-cook lunch box series? The Hummus Lunch Box is a classic, one that I’m sure many of you have made before, but it definitely deserves its own mention in the series because it is flexible and always a pleaser. I’ve got a few different ways you can eat or serve this lunch box listed below, so even if you’ve made this before, make sure to go check out the alternate ideas!

Hummus Lunch Box packed in divided glass containers

What’s in the Hummus Lunch Box:

Hummus (of course), kalamata olives, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and pita bread. I love this lunch box because of its simplicity, it requires so little prep, and I just like “snacky” finger foods. The only prep work I had to do was slicing the cucumber and draining the jar of olives! For the sake of convenience, and because ALDI has very inexpensive hummus, I used store bought hummus this time. But if you want to make your own hummus or want to experiment with different hummus flavors, try my homemade hummus recipe (four flavors).

Serving Options

As I mentioned in intro, there are a few different ways you can eat this lunch box. The obvious way is to eat it in a “snacky” fashion, eating a little of this, a little of that, etc. But here are a couple other options:

  • Make it into a pita sandwich. Instead of cutting the pita bread into triangles like in my photos, leave your pita cut in half, then when you sit down for lunch smear the hummus inside, add some cucumber slices, olives, and tomatoes, and eat it like a sandwich!
  • Make it into a salad. Pack a separate bowl of mixed greens, then when you sit down to lunch, add the vegetables and hummus on top and eat it as a giant sandwich! You might also want to some dressing on the side (I suggest a vinaigrette, like Greek dressing, Italian, or Caesar dressing).

Alternate Ingredient Ideas

Just like all the no-cook lunch boxes in this series, this hummus lunch box is very flexible. If you don’t like some of the ingredients I included in mine, here are a few other ideas:

  • Pita chips or pretzel crackers in place of the pita bread
  • Feta cheese cubes
  • Marinated white beans
  • Celery or carrot sticks
  • Bell peppers
  • Sliced grilled chicken

How Long Does the Lunch Box Keep?

This lunch box holds up very well to refrigeration, so it will probably keep about 5 days in the refrigerator, depending on the freshness of your ingredients when the boxes are made and the conditions inside your refrigerator.

What Containers Do You Use?

I got these divided glass meal prep containers on Amazon. You can find a link to the product in the bottom of the recipe card below. (P.S. these containers came three to a set and this recipe makes FOUR lunch boxes, so I ate the fourth portion on a plate the day that I packed them. 😄)

Three glass containers filled with hummus lunch box ingredients

 
Three glass containers filled with hummus lunch box ingredients

The Hummus Lunch Box

This Hummus Lunch Box is a cold lunch classic. With almost zero prep work, this is the fastest, easiest no-cook lunch around.
Total Cost $8.04 recipe / $2.01 serving
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Calories 362.55kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber $1.29
  • 2 pita breads $0.66
  • 1 cup hummus $1.95
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes $1.99
  • 1 6oz. jar kalamata olives $2.15

Instructions

  • Slice the cucumber and cut the pita bread into triangles.
  • Divide the hummus, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and pita triangles between four containers. Refrigerate up to 5 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1box | Calories: 362.55kcal | Carbohydrates: 36.28g | Protein: 8.58g | Fat: 22.95g | Sodium: 1155.63mg | Fiber: 9.1g

More No-Cook Lunch Ideas:

Overhead view of one hummus lunch box.

The post The Hummus Lunch Box appeared first on Budget Bytes.

The Pizza Roll Up Lunch Box

The heat is getting to me, y’all! So last week I sat down and brainstormed some no-cook lunch boxes, or meal preps that I can keep in the fridge for quick meals over the next couple of months. I’ll be posting these lunch box ideas over the next few weeks, the first being this Pizza […]

The post The Pizza Roll Up Lunch Box appeared first on Budget Bytes.

The heat is getting to me, y’all! So last week I sat down and brainstormed some no-cook lunch boxes, or meal preps that I can keep in the fridge for quick meals over the next couple of months. I’ll be posting these lunch box ideas over the next few weeks, the first being this Pizza Roll Up Lunch Box. These easy no-cook lunch boxes make great “brown bag” lunches for the work week, especially for those of you who don’t have access to a refrigerator or microwave during your work day. Just pop one of these in an insulated lunch pack and you’re good to go!

This one goes out to everyone who grew up eating those pizza lunchables. ;)

Four rectangular glass containers with pizza roll ups, green bell pepper, and a dipping cup of pizza sauce.

There is no “one size fits all” lunch box

We all need different amounts of food, so make sure you flex your lunch box up or down to fit your appetite. Here are some other things you can add to this pizza roll up lunch box to beef it up, if you need more!

  • Add an apple, orange, or yogurt cup on the side for dessert
  • Add an extra layer of turkey, ham, or salami sliced deli meat to the roll up
  • Add a layer of caramelized onions to the wrap
  • Spread ricotta cheese on the tortilla in place of pesto (option drizzle pesto on the ricotta and have both!)
  • Add a few banana pepper rings inside the roll up
  • Pack a simple green salad on the side

There are an endless number of toppings you could add to your roll up, but just be careful with “chunky” ingredients that may make it hard to keep the roll up closed.

How long do the lunch boxes last?

You can keep these lunch boxes in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Longevity may vary depending on the conditions inside your refrigerator and freshness of your ingredients.

What containers do you use?

These are Pyrex glass containers, and small metal dipping cups (both are linked in the bottom of the recipe card below). I have the dipping cups in the glass containers in the photos, but they are actually taller than the container and would need to be packed outside the glass container for it to be closed properly.

Three pizza roll up lunch boxes lined up in a row

 
Three pizza roll up lunch boxes lined up in a row

The Pizza Roll Up Lunch Box

These easy pizza roll up lunch boxes are a great no-cook lunch idea for your work week. No reheating required for this lunch meal prep!
Total Cost $5.64 recipe / $1.41 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 598.05kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 4 large tortillas (burrito size) $0.65
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto $0.55
  • 8 slices provolone cheese $1.19
  • 36 slices pepperoni $0.97
  • 4 cups fresh spinach $0.32
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce $0.43
  • 2 green bell peppers $1.53

Instructions

  • Spread 1 Tbsp pesto over the surface of each tortilla (it does not need to cover the entire surface. Lay two slices of provolone over one half of each tortilla, followed by about 9 pepperoni. Lastly, add one handful of fresh spinach to each tortilla.
  • Roll each tortilla up, trying to keep the roll as tight as possible. With the seams facing down, slice the rolls into one-inch sections. Place the sliced roll-ups in your meal prep container. Pack them closely together to keep them from coming unrolled.
  • Slice the green bell peppers into strips. Divide the bell pepper strips between the four containers.
  • Fill four small containers with 2 Tbsp pizza sauce each. Refrigerate your roll ups, bell peppers, and pizza sauce for up to five days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1box | Calories: 598.05kcal | Carbohydrates: 44.18g | Protein: 26.3g | Fat: 35.15g | Sodium: 1509.63mg | Fiber: 5.08g

Want more cold lunch ideas? Check out our No-Reheat Meal Prep category!

A pizza roll up being dipped into a small cup full of pizza sauce

How to Make Pizza Roll Up Lunch Boxes – Step by Step Photos

pesto, provolone, and pepperoni on a tortilla

Spread 1 Tbsp of pesto over each tortilla. Lay two pieces of provolone and about 9 pepperoni on one half of the tortilla.

spinach added to the tortilla

Sprinkle one handful of spinach over each tortilla.

Rolled up and sliced tortilla on a cutting board with a knife

Roll up the tortilla, making sure to roll as tightly as possible. Slice the roll into one-inch sections. The two end pieces might not stay rolled, but as long as the roll is seam-side down, the rest should stay rolled.

Finished pizza roll up lunch boxes

Place the sliced roll-ups in your containers. Cut two green bell peppers into strips and divide them among the four containers. Place 2 Tbsp pizza sauce into four small containers. Pack up your boxes and refrigerate up to 5 days!

The post The Pizza Roll Up Lunch Box appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes

Whether you call it a “make-ahead breakfast” or “breakfast meal prep,” having breakfast already made and ready to be eaten on busy mornings is a lifesaver. Start your week off right by taking a few moments to prepare one of these make-ahead breakfast recipes on Sunday night, so you can have a fast, satisfying breakfast […]

The post Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Whether you call it a “make-ahead breakfast” or “breakfast meal prep,” having breakfast already made and ready to be eaten on busy mornings is a lifesaver. Start your week off right by taking a few moments to prepare one of these make-ahead breakfast recipes on Sunday night, so you can have a fast, satisfying breakfast all week long! 

Bonus: some of these recipes are freezer-friendly, so you can prep more than just 4-5 days worth at a time!

collage of breakfast recipe photos with a title box in the center

 

Grab and go breakfast ideas for busy mornings:


One Country Breakfast Bowl in a glass container being eaten with a black fork next to a newspaper, coffee mug, and apple

Country Breakfast Bowls

Country breakfast bowls combine roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, salsa, and cheese for an easy freezer-friendly make ahead breakfast meal prep!
Go to the recipe >>>

1. Country Breakfast Bowls

These hearty bowls are freezer-friendly and are the perfect BIG breakfast for when you have a BIG day ahead and no time! Just pop one in the microwave or take it with you to reheat at work.


"Oatmeal Cookie" Baked Oatmeal

This freezable Oatmeal Cookie Baked Oatmeal tastes like an oatmeal cookie's older, more healthful sibling. Perfect for breakfast meal prep. 
Go to the recipe >>>

2. “Oatmeal Cookie” Baked Oatmeal

Tastes like you’re eating a cookie for breakfast, but really it’s hearty oats with a lot less sugar than a cookie. You can freeze or refrigerate your portions of baked oatmeal, and it can be eaten reheated or cold!


Layer ingredients in container for Make Ahead Microwave Breakfast Scrambles.

Make Ahead Microwave Breakfast Scrambles

Make Ahead Microwave Breakfast Scrambles make a fast, easy, and healthy breakfast when you’re short on time! 
Go to the recipe >>>

3. Make-Ahead Microwave Breakfast Scrambles

These are basically the homemade version of those little “just add an egg” cups that you can find at the grocery store. Make them with your favorite meat and vegetables, then just add a fresh egg, stir, and microwave each morning!


Cottage cheese, blueberries, sliced almonds, and honey in a glass meal prep container

Blueberry Almond Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl

Creamy cottage cheese, juicy blueberries, crunchy almonds, and a little drizzle of honey make a breakfast bowl that tastes surprisingly like blueberry cheesecake!
Go to the recipe >>>

4. Blueberry Almond Cottage Cheese Bowls

When you want something sweet, but you also want a lot of protein, these Blueberry Almond Cottage Cheese Bowls are it. They taste like a cheese danish, but without the sugar crash later.


Preparing individual oat packs with seeds, seasoning, and other add-ins, like these Make Ahead Seeded Oats, makes having a healthy breakfast fast and easy. BudgetBytes.com

Make Ahead Seeded Oats

Preparing individual oat packs with seeds, seasoning, and other add-ins, like these Make Ahead Seeded Oats, makes having a healthy breakfast fast and easy. 
Go to the recipe >>>

5. Make Ahead Seeded Oats

If you like your oatmeal full of lots of nuts, seeds, and other add-ins, you’ll love these make-ahead seeded oats. Just add water and microwave every morning for a hot bowl of oaty goodness.


A hand holding half of a breakfast burrito with the open cut side facing the camera.

Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Make ahead breakfast burritos are an easy reheatable and portable breakfast meal prep idea. Including options for vegetarian or other add-ins! BudgetBytes.com
Go to the recipe >>>

6. Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Who doesn’t love a breakfast burrito?? A totally customizable, super filling, no-utensils-need breakfast big enough to fill up even the most active individuals.


These Blueberry Almond Overnight Oats are naturally sweet without any added sugar, and provide plenty of flavor and texture to keep you happy and full all morning. BudgetBytes.com

No Sugar Added Blueberry Almond Overnight Oats

These Blueberry Almond Overnight Oats are naturally sweet without any added sugar, and provide plenty of flavor and texture to keep you happy and full all morning. 
Go to the recipe >>>

7. No Sugar Added Blueberry Almond Overnight Oats

Naturally sweet applesauce and frozen blueberries provide all the sweetness you need in these cold and refreshing overnight oats. Just add your favorite milk and refrigerate overnight or up to four days!


A glass bowl with cottage cheese, hard boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper.

Savory Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl

Creamy cottage cheese, fresh crunchy vegetables, an extra shot of protein from a hard boiled egg, and a little black pepper to kick things up make this easy, protein-filled breakfast!
Go to the recipe >>>

8. Savory Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowls

If you’re looking for a lower carb make-ahead breakfast, these savory cottage cheese bowls fit the bill. Loaded with vegetables, creamy cottage cheese, and an optional hard boiled egg. 


Stir Mango Coconut Chia Pudding

Mango Coconut Chia Pudding

These Mango Coconut Chia Pudding cups are a fast and easy make-ahead breakfast with tons of fiber and protein.
Go to the recipe >>>

9. Mango Coconut Chia Pudding

This creamy vegan breakfast is packed with fiber from chia seeds and tropical mango-coconut flavor! This is a great breakfast to get you through those hot mornings of summer.


Veggie Packed Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches

Meal prep six days of breakfast at once with these Veggie Packed Freezer Ready Breakfast Sandwiches to stay on track on those busy mornings!
Go to the recipe >>>

10. Veggie Packed Freezer-Ready Breakfast Sandwiches

It’s like an Egg McMuffin, but with a lot more vegetables! This is another great handheld breakfast option for those who never stop moving in the morning!


No Sugar Added Apple Pie Overnight Oats

No Sugar Added Apple Pie Overnight Oats are an easy, healthy, and delicious make-ahead breakfast that you can eat either hot or cold.
Go to the recipe >>>

11. No Sugar Added Apple Pie Overnight Oats

If you’ve ever wanted to eat apple pie for breakfast, you’ve got to try these overnight oats. They seriously taste like apple pie, but they have no added sugar whatsoever. And you can eat them hot or cold, your choice!


Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal

Fresh fruit and rich, custardy oats make this baked oatmeal a filling and flavorful "fix ahead" breakfast. Just heat and eat each morning!
Go to the recipe >>>

12. Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal

Another great, basic baked oatmeal recipe full of bananas and dotted with blueberries. After baking just divide and refrigerate or freeze your portions for later! 


Tropical Yogurt Parfaits

Tropical Yogurt Parfaits are the perfect healthy summer breakfast when you're short on time. Prepare them on the weekend and eat good all week. 
Go to the recipe >>>

13. Tropical Yogurt Parfaits

Cold and refreshing layers of creamy yogurt, soft soaked oats, juicy tropical fruit, and a light sprinkle of coconut. Grab a spoon and a jar as you pass through the kitchen on your way to work, and you’re good to go!


What are your favorite make-ahead breakfast recipes? Share yours in the comments below!

The post Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes appeared first on Budget Bytes.

How To Calculate Recipe Cost

The recipe cost breakdowns are a big part of Budget Bytes. And while you’re not likely to have the exact same food costs as me (prices vary quite a bit from location to location, day to day, and even store to store), I think it’s helpful to see how each ingredient can impact the overall […]

The post How To Calculate Recipe Cost appeared first on Budget Bytes.

The recipe cost breakdowns are a big part of Budget Bytes. And while you’re not likely to have the exact same food costs as me (prices vary quite a bit from location to location, day to day, and even store to store), I think it’s helpful to see how each ingredient can impact the overall cost of a recipe. So now I’d like to dive a little deeper to show you how I make these calculations, and teach you how to calculate recipe costs yourself. Because even if you do it once, I promise you’ll learn a lot!

Originally posted 6-30-2013, updated 5-21-2020.

 

A notebook with a recipe cost calculation surrounded by various ingredients

Why Calculate Recipe Costs?

My big “Ah-ha!” moment came when I calculated the cost of my first few recipes. I was always very mindful of the total amount I spent at the grocery store every week, but seeing the breakdown of each ingredient and the total recipe cost that truly revolutionized my way of cooking.

Seeing this breakdown helped me learn how to tweak recipes to make them more filling for less money, while maintaining maximum flavor. I learned that scaling back just a little on the most expensive ingredients (nuts, cheese, meat, etc.) dramatically reduced recipe costs, but didn’t have a huge impact on flavor. Likewise, I learned which inexpensive ingredients helped give my food a big flavor kick for pennies (green onions, cilantro, freshly cracked pepper, dried herbs, etc.), and which ingredients I could use to bulk up a recipe without greatly increasing the total cost (rice, pasta, beans, lentils, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc.).

What Method Do You Use?

Here on Budget Bytes I use the same method of calculating recipe costs used by commercial food service operations—adding the costs of each ingredient used, in the amount used, rather than adding the full price of items purchased. Some argue that you can’t just buy 2 Tbsp of olive oil, so the recipe actually costs more to make. The counter argument to that is that you don’t buy an entire bottle of olive oil every time you make a recipe, nor do I consider an ingredient “free” if I already have it in my kitchen and didn’t need to buy it for that recipe. Both methods have their caveats, but I find the method used here to be the most representative of the recipe’s true cost.

What Do I Need to Calculate the Cost of a Recipe?

The process is simple and doesn’t require a lot of time or “equipment.” It’s so simple, in fact, that I do this, by hand, for every single recipe on this website (well over 1000 recipe at this point). To calculate recipe costs you’ll need:

  • Your receipts
  • Original ingredient packages
  • Pen and paper
  • Calculator
  • Grocery store website (as a backup for sourcing prices)

How To Calculate Recipe Costs – Step by Step Tutorial

Okay, so let’s walk through, step by step, what I do to calculate the cost of a recipe on Budget Bytes. For this tutorial, we’ll be using the Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta recipe as an example.

Step 1: Write down the recipe ingredients and quantities

Notebook with ingredients listed

If you like to print your recipes, you can do the calculations right on the printed version of the recipe. I always do my calculations in my recipe development notebook. You’ll fill out the prices in the right hand column as you do the calculations.

Step 2: Fill in prices for ingredients that were used “whole”.

Two Grocery Receipts

Gather your receipts and record the prices for any ingredient that you used in the “whole” form. This could be ingredients like a can of tomatoes, a cucumber, maybe a jar of pasta sauce, a single bell pepper, etc. In this Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta there was only one ingredient that I used in the full volume purchased—diced tomatoes. You can see this item listed as “kro tomatoes $0.59” on the Kroger receipt. Record the price next to this item on your recipe ingredient list.

Note: If you don’t have your receipts, check your grocery store’s website. Some larger stores, like Kroger, allow you to look up items online and the price will be displayed.

Step 3: Calculate Bulk Produce Items

Bag of Onions

For bulk produce items, take the total price listed on the receipt and divide by the number of items purchase. The total price for this bag of yellow onions listed on the receipt was $1.69 and there are six onions in the bag, so each onion is approximately $0.28. Record this price on your recipe ingredient list.

This method works good for other bagged produce, like apples, carrots, oranges, lemons, potatoes, etc. and also things like packages of chicken thighs or breasts.

Garlic Cloves in a bowl

For garlic, each head is usually around $0.60-$0.65 and I get on average about 8 good sized cloves from each head, so I just estimate about $0.08 per clove.

Step 4: Use Package Labels to Calculate Partial Ingredient Costs

For most ingredients you’ll need to use the information listed on the ingredient packages to determine the cost of the amount used in the recipe. Here are some examples:

Penne pasta box

This recipe used 1/2 lb. of penne pasta. The whole box (1 lb.) cost $1.49. Since I used half the box, the cost of the amount used is $1.49 ÷ 2 = $0.75.

Bag of Spinach

The same method was used for this bag of spinach. The full 8 oz. bag cost $1.29, so the cost of the 4 oz. used is $1.29 ÷ 2 = $0.65.
Cream Cheese Package

Sometimes the manufacturers are nice and provide helpful guides for measuring. This full 8 oz. package of cream cheese cost $0.79, so the cost of the 2 oz. used in the recipe is $0.79 ÷ 4 = $0.20.

Can of tomato paste nutrition label

Sometimes the calculations can get a little more involved. The cost of this 6 oz. can of tomato paste was $0.39. We can see on the nutrition label that there are 5 servings of 2 Tbsp in the can, or a total of 10 Tbsp per can. We used 2 Tbsp for the recipe, so the cost of what we used is $0.39 ÷ 5 = $0.08.

Bottle of Olive Oil

I bought this bottle of olive oil a while back, so I had to refer to Kroger.com to get the price. The total price for this bottle was $5.95. We can see on the nutrition label that there are 66 servings of 1 Tbsp in the whole bottle. We used 1 Tbsp for the recipe, so the cost of what we used is $5.95 ÷ 66 = $0.09.

Parmesan bottle nutrition label

This Parmesan cheese is about as complicated as the calculations usually get because we’re converting between unit types. We see on the label that there are 45 servings of 2 tsp in the whole bottle. We used 1/4 cup in the recipe. So first I calculated the cost per tsp: $2.29 (total bottle price) ÷ 45 ÷ 2 = $0.025 per tsp. I know there are 3 tsp per tablespoon, and 4 tablespoons per 1/4 cup, so I calculated a little further: $0.025 x 3 x 4 = $0.31 per ¼ cup.

Step 5: Estimate Costs for Herbs and Spices

A measuring spoon in a bottle of dried basil

Herbs and spices don’t have nutrition labels with serving sizes to work with, and often the entire container only weighs less than 2 oz. Unfortunately I don’t have a kitchen scale that is sensitive enough to weigh something as light as a 1/2 tsp of a dry herb. So, for my purposes I use a generic (and generous) allotment of $0.10 per tsp for most dried herbs and spices. For salt and pepper I estimate a little less and for any rare herbs or spices I double the generic estimation. So, for this recipe: 1/2 tsp dried basil = $0.05, 1/2 tsp dried oregano = $0.05, 1 pinch crushed red pepper = $0.02, 1/2 tsp salt = $0.02, freshly cracked pepper = $0.03

Step 4: Add it all together!

So finally, we have all of the prices of the ingredients filled in on the recipe ingredient list. Now just simply add them all together and then divide by the number of servings and you’ve got the price per serving. So for this recipe, the total cost was $3.28 and with four servings that’s $3.28 ÷ 4 = $0.82 per serving.

A notebook with a recipe written down and prices listed for each ingredient

As you can see, it’s not an exact science, but it will definitely shed some light on where your money is really going. I hope you try it out at least once just to see how it goes. If you want to do it on a regular basis, you can start a spreadsheet with price per unit information for your pantry staples. This way you’ll have a record of the price for items that you may only buy a few times per year (and probably won’t have the receipt handy). Luckily, my blog acts as a “record” of these prices, so I can quickly refer back to my last purchase price.

What About Electricity, Gas, and Water?

Every now and then I get a question about how utilities add to my recipe costs. Unfortunately I don’t have a way to measure the amount and cost of the most of the utilities used in the recipes, but I’m confident that it would be a very small amount. For instance, in this recipe I used 1/2 cup water in the sauce. After checking my last water bill, I paid $0.003 per gallon of water. I round to the nearest cent for these calculations, so the cost of the 1/2 cup water in this recipe is negligible. Water is easy to measure, but I don’t think I could measure the amount of gas or electricity used to heat the oven.

Handy Conversions for Calculating:

  • 3 tsp = 1 Tbsp
  • 4 Tbsp = 1/4 cup
  • 2 Tbsp = 1 fluid ounce
  • 16 Tbsp = 1 cup
  • 2 fluid ounces = 1/4 cup
  • 8 fluid ounces = 1 cup
  • 16 weight ounces = 1 pound

NOTE: “fluid ounces” are a volume unit, weight ounces are a measurement of mass. Solid ingredients are usually listed as weight ounces, liquid ingredients are usually listed in fluid ounces. 8 fluid ounces of one ingredient may not equal 8 weight ounces of that same ingredient. That will depend on the individual density of the ingredient. Cheese is a great example. 4 oz. (weight) of cheese is equal to about one cup (volume) of shredded cheese. One cup is 8 fluid ounces in volume, but only 4 weight ounces of shredded cheese.

Try It Yourself!

I hope I didn’t scare you off with all these calculations! It really is quite simple, especially after you do it a few times. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, start with a simple recipe that only has 3-5 ingredients and see how you do! Then, let me know how it worked out in the comments below. :)

P.S. Did you know you can browse our recipes by Cost per Recipe and Cost per Serving

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