OFF THE RACK
Whether you don't have access to an oven and stovetop or simply don't want to heat up your house in the summer, you can prepare diverse and satisfying recipes without those conveniences. Instead, rely on smaller appliances such as a microwave, slow cooker, a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, or a blender — or just a bowl, a fridge, and a little time. Here are 35 morning-to-night recipes to get you started.
Oats are one of the cheapest grains available and a true superfood, containing tons of beneficial fiber to keep you full for a long time. Let oats soak up moisture in a bowl in the fridge overnight, so a fresh portion is ready to enjoy in the morning with your favorite toppings.
Recipe: Kath Eats Real Food
This cheap and nutritious alternative to rice pudding tastes like dessert for breakfast. It requires only three ingredients and takes just five minutes of active prep time to make a batch that could last all week — just soak and refrigerate.
Recipe: Oh She Glows
A yogurt parfait is a quick and easy way to assemble breakfast, dessert, or a snack for yourself or a crowd. Simply layer yogurt with favorite fruits, preserves, nuts, or cereal.
Smoothies can be enjoyed any time of day or act as a meal replacement. There are endless variations on blender smoothies that are cheap to make at home using seasonal ingredients as well as freezer and pantry staples.
SMOKED FISH SPREAD
Turn a no-cook salad into a hearty meal by adding plenty of lean protein. A traditional chef's salad contains ham, but you can try any combination of cooked meats, beans, and cheese. Use what's on sale at the local deli counter to keep the cost low.
Layering fully cooked ingredients and finishing in the microwave allows for a complex casserole. Adapt the ingredients any way you like, using frozen veggies and a can of refried beans instead of meat and cheese, for example.
Recipe: Southern Plate
Keep ingredients such as deli meat and cheese, mustard and mayonnaise, and sliced bread on hand to allow you to whip up a sandwich when hunger strikes with no kitchen appliances needed.
A welcome side dish at just about any gathering, these beans cook up fast in an Instant Pot, which is another handy kitchen accessory if you’re looking to keep the heat down. This recipe combines inexpensive beans with rich pork flavor. The Instant Pot makes beans taste as if they had been cooking for 12 hours over an open hearth.
Recipe: This Old Gal
Sometimes a dish of hot, bubbly enchiladas is the kind of comfort food you need. This recipe uses the microwave for every step of the cooking. Proteins such as eggs, tofu, beans, or mushrooms can stand in for beef.
Recipe: Genius Kitchen
What can be cooler in the kitchen than sushi? While sushi is often expensive at restaurants and for takeout, it can be incredibly cheap to make at home from small amounts of rice, seaweed, and fillings. Stick to vegetable fillings to keep costs low and eliminate health risks.
Recipe: The Green Plate
CAJUN DIRTY RICE
A hearty mix of vegetables, sausage, and rice, this pressure-cooker meal yields perfectly cooked rice in a saucy blend of spices. The (optional) chicken livers in this recipe give the dish a distinct, authentic flavor. To ensure proper cooking time, be sure to use long-grain rice, which holds up better than short-grain varieties.
Recipe: Hip Pressure Cooking
This classic can be made in a blender from inexpensive pantry staples and enjoyed at room temperature, chilled, or warmed in a microwave on cold nights.
Recipe: Serious Eats
The microwave actually does a great job of cooking salmon. It's super quick and easy and comes out consistently each time, taking the guesswork out of stovetop or oven cooking times.
Recipe: Joy Bauer
MAC AND CHEESE
You might think that, without a stove, the only option for mac and cheese is the packet of yellow powder and microwaved noodles, but there's a better way: A slow cooker recipe that turns out rich and creamy with the press of a button. Starting from scratch saves money compared with the box version.
Ravioli makes an inexpensive yet complete meal — even in a microwave. A mix of ripe tomato and herbs complements the pasta well.
SPLIT PEA SOUP
This soup can be whipped up with a blender until smooth and creamy and enjoyed cold or warmed in a microwave. Using frozen peas keeps the cost low.
Couscous is one of those magical foods that seems to tick all the right boxes: nutritious, inexpensive, versatile, and quick and easy to prepare. All that's needed is boiling water, so a microwave works as well as any stovetop.
Recipe: The Kitchn
This dinner party dish is elegant and indulgent — and made entirely in a slow cooker. Add mushrooms and spinach as suggested for a nutritionally rounded meal.
Recipe: Taste of Home
Just five ingredients and eight to 10 hands-off hours of slow cooking makes piping-hot and indulgent pulled pork.
Recipe: Southern Living
To make popsicles, just blend fruit, yogurt, and sugar and pour into paper cups to freeze. Homemade popsicles have the benefit of being healthier and cheaper than store-bought and, of course, can be customized.
NO-BAKE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE BALLS
These treats are an ideal stand-in for freshly baked cookies. They have a similar shape, size, and texture and can be customized in similar ways. Try using other nut butters or a combination of many.
Recipe: Recipe Girl
Chocolate bark tends to be expensive to buy but is so easy to make. The microwave melts the chocolate; the freezer sets trail mix into it.
Recipe: PBS Kitchen Explorers