One thing I will offer before I get started is the following: I learned to do pot roasts, chicken and dumplings, meat loaf, turkeys, hams, ribs, and my baked stew on the weekend. I also learned to buy in bulk, it is cheaper. We had lovely family dinners on Saturdays and Sundays and the leftovers were great for other things during the week! A turkey or ham on Sunday means leftovers that can be sliced up, shredded, diced, and frozen for other meals during the week and saved on lunch meat! My kids loved to eat a cold meat loaf sandwich! Sliced turkey or chicken layered with even Stove Top dressing and left over gravy in a casserole dish topped with bread crumbs makes a nice casserole during the week, and so does a bag of noodles, two cans of cream of chicken, cream of mushroom or cream of onion soup with the meat added and sprinkle bread crumbs on the top, (you can add chopped veggies or peas to it) too. A round steak cut into one inch stips and browned will make for great strogenoff and mexican meals during the week as well!
I also learned to chop of veggies like celery, green pepper and onion and put it in freezer containers or baggies in half cup or one cup measurements and kept them in the freezer so all I had to do was grab them out to add to my quick recipes like meatloaf, chili, stew, etc. Kept the stuff from going bad in the frig and cut down on the throw aways!
We always had things like fresh fruit, cut up veggies, and plenty of cheese slices and pickles. My children got those for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks from the time they were little and so they would walk by the fruit bowl and grab an apple or a bunch of grapes, a box of raisens or a couple of pickles to munch on when they got older. It was great because they enjoyed a variety of veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, zuchinni, cooked or raw! And popcorn and an air popper for in the microwave! My children would take popcorn over chips every time. We had a variety of toppings for the popcorn, grated cheese, cinnamon sugar, etc in shaker containers.
For inexpensive meals that are quick I can offer the following:
Chicken or Tuna salad. I boil up chicken for this and bone it myself, but you can use the canned stuff. There are several ways to go with this but it works. Take the meat, dice up some celery, green pepper, onion and egg, boil up macaroni, mix all of them together with Miracle Whip and chill it. Sometimes I use a can of sweet peas in it too. You can serve it on a lettuce leaf to dress it up. Since you have older children in the house they can help you chop the veggies and can peel the eggs. You can do it the night before while fixing something else and use the next night. You can use turkey instead.
A bag of frozen ravoli and two jars of sauce make a really fast meal. It is ready in half an hour. A $1.00 bag of salad from Aldi's and you are done!
Take two boxes of Kraft type macaroni and cheese, a can of peas, boned chicken or tuna and some onion for additional flavoring if desired. Cook up the macaroni and cheese add the peas and meat. Put in a flatter casserole dish, sprinkle on a little grated cheese and or bread crumbs. You can also cook this up and put in diced ham, brown up ground beef or use turkey. Unfortunately I prefer to make macaroni and cheese from scratch a box of macaroni, two pounds of cheese sliced and layered in the dish makes me happier but it takes a lot longer to fix!
You can make up scalloped potatoes, potatoes au grautin, etc. (and can used boxed ones if desired) and add cubed ham, boned chicken, or turkey.
You can take ramen noodles, cook up, brown up a tube of sausage and ground beef mixed, a bag of frozen mixed veggies, dump them in a dish and mix.
You can use rice in a lot of dishes with chicken, turkey, tuna, ham, or beef (they even have the flavored rice packets like gumbo). The cheesey rice and chicken casserole is good because again you can cook it up in like 20 minutes, add the meat (and veggies if you want, we like broccoli in ours) and throw in the microwave for a few minutes together to heat the meat if it is cold because it was leftover and melt the cheese topping down a little. Left over rice makes a nice rice pudding which is good for breakfast or dessert. You can always throw in a little applesauce and raisens for a different flavor! My kids loved it hot or cold.
Stir fry is quick and filling too and you can get a bag of chinese noodles or use ramen noodles instead of rice.
It doesn't take long to make tacos and you can chop up the onions, green pepper, and tomato, we like chopped olives on ours as well, shred the lettuce and use the bags of cheeses while the meat is cooking. We used to just put the veggies and cheeses in bowls and you could help yourself to what ones you wanted and it was easy to put the leftovers in sandwich bags afterwards for quick clean up. Use the left over meat (and beans if you like them on your tacos) with corn chips the next day for a "walking Taco salad" for lunches and you can add the veggies from the bags.
Another fun type dinner, lunch, is to make up a casserole dish of browned hamburger meat, velveta cheese, and a jar of salsa, heat in the microwave and stir every couple of minutes until the cheese has melted and serve with tostido chips. I usually put a dollop of sour cream on the top.
My kids liked "Gravy Train" a simple dish of ground beef with a little onion (I used to drop in green pepper too chopped really fine so they didn't see it but the taste was there!) browned, milk gravy with corn starch for thickening, over mashed potatoes, rice, or bread. Makes up in about 20 minutes.
Baked potatoes (which cook up quickly in a mircowave) can be openned up, slightly mashed up and served with cheese, meat, and veggie toppings for a quick change of pace and make a nice meal. I know people who use chili on them too.
Suddenly Salad, cook up the salad mix, add boned chicken, turkey, or tuna. Serve a fresh salad for extra veggies.
If you have a freezer you need to purchase frozen pizzas and the extra cheese to sprinkle on for additional topping (which can also be frozen). This is a lot cheaper than purchasing take out pizza and frankly it doesn't take any longer to heat the oven than it does to order the pizza and it is cooked in about the same amount of time as it takes to deliver it. When they have pizza on sale like 3 for ten dollars it is really a lot cheaper!
Chili is great because you can have chili one night, chili dogs for lunch, and chili mac another night, or serve it over a baked potato (not my favorite but the husband liked it and so did the son).
Chicken can be cooked in a covered dish in the microwave in like 20 minutes, make sure to put some water in the bottom of the dish and turn after the first 10 minutes. This chicken can be used with any of the above recipes or can be used with spaghetti noodles (which cook up fast) and can be served with spaghetti sauce or you can get the Alfredo noodles in the packets for like a dollar each and cook these up while the chicken is cooking. You can use the Alfredo kind with frozen broccoli and can add diced tomatoes to really dress it up!
While stew and chili can take time to make originally they can be divided down into serving containers and freeze well.
Crock pots are good for many things as well and since it simmers all day you don't have to worry when you get home. I just don't like roasts cooked that way or pork chops.
Grilled cheese sandwiches, and there are a variety of ways to make a grilled cheese sandwich, and a can of soup are always quick and nice. One sandwich is white American cheese and orange American cheese, break down the cheese slices in half and layer on the one slice of bread then sprinkle on some garlic powder, oregeno flacks, and red pepper flakes then put the second slice of bread on it and cook in the sandwich maker and serve with tomato soup, tastes like a good cheese pizza sandwich!
Hamburger helper (and you can use ground turkey or chicken in them instead of beef and it is cheaper if you purchase the tubes of ground turkey or chicken (frozen kind) than beef, is always quick and filling.
Instead of lunch meat slices make up chicken salad, turkey salad, egg salad, or ham salad yourself. Yes, it takes about half and hour to make up if you have to bone the chicken but you can get cans of it at places like Aldi for cheaper and when you add the pickle relish and Miracle Whip it makes up into a good sandwich for cheaper than the lunch meat. I used to buy bulk bologna and have the meat counter grind it up, take it home add pickle relish and Miracle Whip and make "sandwich spread". It goes a lot farther than a slice of bologna! You can do the same with ham, chicken or turkey.
Hope some of this will help you with quick and maybe a few healthy types of meals.
We have a lot of potatoe salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, and three bean salad in the summer with our hamburgers, chicken patties, chicken nuggets, or sandwiches instead of chips. Yes, it can take an hour to make originally but I make big bowls so it lasts a couple of days. Again the older children aren't to young to learn to help by chopping veggies, peeling potatoes, and peeling eggs. We do it together and since I dice the potatoes before I cook them they only need to boil for about 20 minutes, it takes longer to hard boil the eggs! Deviled eggs are a good side dish with any meal and leftover makes great egg salad (if you add a little relish) for sandwiches.
We also have a lot of jello and jello type salad and pudding in the summer months. Jello squares are easy to make and a good snack item since it won't matter if they are at room temperature and don't melt. You can always add fruit to the jello for a quick and easy desert that isn't all that unhealthy.
We also learned to take a rainy weekend day or a really cold day in the winter to bake up cookies and make things like Amish Friendship bread and freeze them for the month. It is a fun afternoon together and believe it or not my son is a better cook than my daughter is!
Hope some of this will come in handy and it didn't make you crazy reading it!