Prepackaged Meals that You Can Make Yourself

Image via iStock

Prepackaged meals. I try to avoid them, but I actually have a few in my cupboard right now, just because sometimes they sound good for some reason. While they aren’t too pricy—most around a dollar, and some around three—I find their ingredient list a little concerning. Hydrogenated this, hydrolyzed that. And the sodium content? Sheesh. I’m looking at the nutrition label of a popular boxed meal, and one serving of the stuff will give you 770mg of sodium. An adult’s daily intake is usually more than sufficient at 1,500mg—most of us don’t even need that much. I don’t know if it bothers you, but it bothers me. (Sorry for the tangent.)

At any rate, I try to always make my own meals from ingredients that I have in my pantry because in the long run it’s less expensive for my family and I feel a little better about the kind of nourishment they are receiving. Besides, when I make it myself, I feel as if our meals last a little longer—more for your money. But because my life rarely goes as planned, I sometimes run out of the things I need, and because I’m imperfect, and sometimes a little desperate, I’ll compromise my family’s nutrition, and budget with a one-dollar box of prepackaged something, just to get us through until we can make it to a real grocery store.

So, if you’re in search of a way to steer clear of putting your money towards meals that come in a box and don’t last very long, here are a few that you can make yourself. 

bread dough
Image via Anonymous friend of ElinorD, Wikimedia

You can buy it in a tiny package—one of those heart-stopping tubes that you have to unravel while you hold your breath as you anticipate the pop—or you can make your own. If you master simple recipe, you will never have to buy one of these things again.

My family refers to this recipe as “Breadsticks,” and while it does make amazing breadsticks, I also use it to make pizza, calzones, dinner braids, or a quick loaf of bread.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.


Combine 1 tablespoon yeast, 1 ½ cup warm water, ½ teaspoon sugar. Let them rise and set on top of your stove; it’s getting warm, which makes for an ideal place for the yeast to get going.

Once the yeast is bubbly, add 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and about 3 cups of flour—or a little more if needed—just enough to make a nice, soft dough. (It shouldn’t be sticking to the bowl or your hands.)

Take your ball of dough out of your mixing bowl, grease the bowl, and put the dough back in. Cover the bowl with a damp towel, and place it back on the stove.

Let it rise for ten minutes.

Now, on a floured surface, roll the dough out until it’s about ½ inch thick. With a pizza cutter, cut into 4×2-inch strips. Dip the strips into melted butter, then place them on a baking sheet. Let them rise for 15 minutes, then bake them for 12-14 minutes. 

Image via dichohecho, Wikimedia

No need to buy a mix when you’ve got cocoa powder on hand. You can make several batches of brownies for the cost of one mix. And what kind of person would I be if I didn’t share some chocolate with you? Here’s how to make your own brownies:


Mix together:
1 cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

After those are mixed well, add:
1 ½ cup flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 13×9 pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

pasta salad
Image via Selena N. B. H., Wikimedia

For just my family of four, cutting the recipe in half is just about perfect; there’s enough for dinner and for a few leftovers for the next day, and we can save the rest of the ingredients for another batch later on.

Chicken Pasta Salad

Stir together:
12 oz. package bowtie pasta, cooked
12 oz. package rainbow pasta, cooked
6 chicken breasts (cooked and shredded or cubed)
1 can crushed pineapple, lightly drained
2 cups celery, finely chopped
2 cups red grapes, quartered
1 cup mayonnaise
1 bottle coleslaw dressing


This is just what the recipe calls for. It makes a lot, so it’s perfect for when you have to serve a lot of people. I love salads like this because I'm able to use whatever I have on hand: apples instead of grapes, cucumbers instead of celery, canned chicken, more mayo if you don’t have dressing, etc. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. 

Image via Ewan Munro, Wikimedia

My kids love hummus—especially the roasted red pepper kind. Every time we go to town, we always get a treat for the ride home, and my kids always choose red pepper hummus and crackers. I can’t complain, it’s a healthy choice, and it’s my favorite snack, too. It’s expensive though—more than $3 for a 10 oz. container.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

My sister is an amazing cook, and while I was visiting her, she taught me how to make my own, so I’m going to share it with you.

In a food processor, blend the following:
1 can chickpeas
2 heaping tablespoons tahini
Juice of one freshly squeezed lemon; or 2 tablespoons of the bottled kind
½ teaspoons salt
1 roasted red pepper (you can use a small jar of roasted red peppers)
2 cloves of chopped garlic sauteed in 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Blend ingredients together for a few minutes, and serve with crackers, veggies, or use it as a sandwich spread.

Just a note, while throwing everything into the blender makes a good hummus, mixing everything else – the tahini, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and oil — and then blending it in with the beans makes it even better.

Image via Quadell, Wikimedia

I mentioned before that my sister was an excellent cook, and this recipe that I’m giving you now for cheese and broccoli soup is from the recipe book she compiled when she was barely in high school, if that. Ten years later, I still refer back to it on a weekly basis.

Cheese and Broccoli Soup

In a large microwavable bowl, melt 6 tablespoons butter, then add 4 tablespoons flour and 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon; stir well.
Return to microwave for 1 minute, then whisk in 4 cups milk.
Return to microwave for 18 minutes or until thick; stop and stir every 4 minutes.
Add one jar of Cheez Wiz and stir until it melts into the soup.
Add 2 large bunches of chopped, cooked broccoli.


Let me know how these go for you.
Do you forego prepackaged meals? What is your favorite thing to make?

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Prepackaged Meals that You Can Make Yourself

Melanie Denney lives in the smallest of towns, with her two little darlings. She has a Bachelor's degree and happily works as a full-time mother and a freelance writer, specializing in sociology and recreation leadership. ... More

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1 comment

  1. Amelia says:

    Seriously, cheez wiz? And a microwave? No, thanks.

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