Make It and Save

7 legit meals you can make in a microwave that will save you time and money

The average American household spends $3,000 a year dining out. That's a lot of money that could go towards savings goals or a retirement fund.

There's an easy fix: Going homemade. The good news is, you don't need a lot of time to craft a balanced meal. You don't even need a stove or an oven.

In fact, just a few ingredients and a microwave can get you pretty far.

If you're time strapped, want to whip up a hot meal at work or simply don't want to deal with an oven, here are seven fantastic microwave meals, provided by Tasty.

1. Macaroni and cheese

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Ingredients for one serving:

  • ½ cup elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • fresh chive, to garnish, optional

Preparation:

  1. Mix the macaroni, water and salt in a microwaveable mug.
  2. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, then stir.
  3. Add the milk, cheese, salt and pepper, then stir.
  4. Microwave for another 30 seconds, stir and garnish with a sprinkle of chives.

2. Omelette in a mug

Preparation time: 3 minutes

Ingredients for one serving:

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ bell pepper, diced
  • 2 slices ham, diced
  • ¼ cup fresh spinach
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a microwaveable mug.
  2. Cook for 2-3 minutes, making sure the egg doesn't bubble over. Stir halfway through the cooking process.

3. Chicken quesadilla

Preparation time: 4 minutes

Ingredients for one serving:

  • 2 medium flour tortillas
  • ½ cup chicken strip, or shredded chicken, cooked
  • ½ bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation:

  1. Microwave the tortillas on a plate until slightly crispy. They will dry out a bit as they cool.
  2. Mix the chicken, peppers and taco seasoning in a bowl until evenly combined, then cook for about 1-2 minutes until the peppers are soft.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly on one tortilla, cover evenly with the cheese, then top with the other tortilla.
  4. Cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, slice, then serve.

4. Loaded baked potato

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients for one serving:

  • 1 russet potato, washed and scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 slices bacon
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream, to serve
  • fresh chive, to serve

Preparation:

  1. Poke holes in the potato with a fork, then rub with oil and salt.
  2. Place the bacon slices on the same plate as the potato, microwave for 7-9 minutes until the bacon is crispy and the potato is tender. Make sure the bacon does not burn.
  3. Crumble the bacon after it's cooled down.
  4. Slice the potato in half, then use a fork to fluff up the insides.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese on top, then microwave for another 30 seconds.
  6. Top with sour cream, the crushed bacon bits and the chives.

5. Spaghetti squash and meatballs

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Ingredients for two servings:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 12 meatballs, fully cooked
  • 2 cups pasta sauce
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve
  • fresh parsley, chopped, to serve

Preparation:

  1. Slice the spaghetti squash in half. If you're having difficulty, poke some holes with a knife and then microwave for 5 minutes.
  2. Scoop out the seeds and innards with a spoon, then rub oil, salt and pepper all over the surface.
  3. Microwave for about 10-15 minutes until the squash is tender and pulls away from the skin easily.
  4. Using a fork, shred the squash into noodle-like strands.
  5. Microwave the meatballs with the pasta sauce, covered, for about 2 minutes or until the meatballs are fully heated through.
  6. Spoon the meatballs and sauce on top of each spaghetti squash half, garnish with the Parmesan and parsley.

6. Egg 'fried' rice

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients for one serving:

  • ½ cup rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 strips bacon, chopped
  • ½ cup frozen pea and carrot
  • 2 eggs
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh scallion, to garnish

Preparation:

  1. In a bowl, combine the rice, water, soy sauce, sesame oil and bacon. Stir, then microwave, covered, for about 6-8 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked.
  2. Mix the frozen peas and carrots into the rice.
  3. In a microwaveable mug, beat the eggs with the salt.
  4. Microwave the eggs and the rice again for about 1-2 minutes, until the eggs are fully cooked.
  5. Break up the egg into small bits, then mix it in with the rice.
  6. Garnish with scallions, then serve!

7. BBQ chicken nachos

Preparation time: 4 minutes

Ingredients for two servings:

  • 1 cup rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons BBQ sauce
  • 2 large handfuls tortilla chip
  • ¼ cup pico de gallo
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup green onion, thinly sliced
  • guacamole, to serve
  • sour cream, to serve

Preparation:

  1. Mix the chicken with the barbecue sauce, then spread evenly over a bed of tortilla chips.
  2. Spread the pico de gallo, cheese, and green onions evenly on top, then microwave for about 1-2 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  3. Dollop with some guacamole and sour cream, then serve.

Bonus: Microwave cleaning hack!

Supplies:

  • Small bowl
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup water
  • Sponge

Instructions:

  1. Cut lemon in half, squeeze the juice into a bowl with ½ cup of water.
  2. Microwave for 3 minutes (or until the water boils).
  3. Let it stand in the microwave for 5 minutes to let the steam loosen up the gunk.
  4. Remove the bowl and the microwave turn-table. Wipe the inside clean with a sponge or paper towel.
  5. For hard-to-remove stains, dip the sponge into the hot lemon water and press it to the stain before thoroughly scrubbing.
  6. Enjoy your sparkly clean microwave!

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is a minority investor in BuzzFeed, the parent company of Tasty.

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