5-Ingredient Meals for When You Just Can’t

There’s something liberating and empowering about being able to whip up a home-cooked meal by yourself. But even if you’re a pro in the kitchen, it’s not always easy to pull off a DIY dish when you’ve got a jam-packed schedule and committed fitness routine. Whether you’re taking early-morning classes or sneaking in a heavy sweat session after work, setting aside enough time to shop for groceries, select and prepare the right ingredients, and actually follow the steps necessary to bring a meal to fruition is challenging.

But good news: We’re about to make it a whole lot easier for you, thanks to these meals you can make in a cinch–all of which require just five ingredients or less.

Lemon Chicken With Asparagus

When you’re in need of a quick protein fix but want something hearty and fulfilling, cook up this Instagram-worthy dish. Believe it or not, the sliced lemons and chopped parsley aren’t only for looks—they also add a giant flavor boost that turns this light, low-fat and calorie meal into a weekday staple.
What you’ll need: 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, ¼ cup flour, 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 lemons sliced, 1-2 cups chopped asparagus
Recipe: Pinch of Yum

Sausage Hash Brown Casserole

If you’re a breakfast person, you’ll be excited to enjoy this meal for breakfast, brunch or dinner. (It’s also great for leftovers.). The eggs pack in serious nutrition, giving you a hefty dose of protein, zinc, and vitamins D, B6, B12 and more. For a lighter version with less fat, sub regular breakfast pork sausage for turkey sausage or bacon.
What you’ll need: 2 lb. sausage, 1 bag frozen shredded hash browns, 2 cups shredded cheddar, 8 eggs, 2 cups milk
Recipe: Recipe Diaries

Spinach Quinoa Vegetarian Patty

Why buy store-bought, pre-packaged veggie burgers when you can make your own? This version is preservative-free and requires only a handful of ingredients. Once you’re done dicing, slicing and cracking the ingredients, simply toss them altogether and shape the combination into patties with your hands. Bake and eat up!
What you’ll need: ⅔ cups spinach, 3 cups cooked quinoa, 2 eggs, 1 cup panko crumbs, 1-2 small brown onions, grated cheese (optional)
Recipe: Sweet as Honey

Slow Cooker Maple Dijon Ham

Yes, it’s possible to make something this decadent with only a few measly (but delicious) ingredients. How, you ask? By using the almighty slow cooker. Prep time takes about 10 minutes, so you can get dinner started even before you head out the door for work in the morning. By the time you’re home from your boot camp, dinner will be ready to serve.
What you’ll need: ½ boneless ham, ¼ cup pure maple syrup, 2 tablespoons course ground Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Recipe: Rachel Cooks

Butternut Squash Pasta

There’s no doubt that mac and cheese is a crowd pleaser, but it’s usually not healthy. That is, unless you toss in a hearty, nutrient-rich vegetable. Butternut squash is an excellent choice—it’s loaded with potassium and vitamin B6, which nourishes your bones and boosts your immune system. Plus, it brings a tangy sweetness that pairs perfectly (in color and in taste!) with the sharp cheddar cheese.
What you’ll need: 1 ½ cups macaroni noodles, 3-4 cups cubed butternut squash, ½ cup vegetable broth, ¾ cup 1% milk, 1 ¼ cup cheese
Recipe: The Recipe Critic

Chicken Guacamole Taquitos

Craving Mexican food? Instead of calling your favorite take-out spot, why not save some money (and calories!) by making your own version with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen? Did we mention it takes just over a half hour to prep and cook? You’re welcome!
What you’ll need: 2 packages flour tortillas, 2 cans refried beans, 3 cups guacamole, 2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
Recipe: Gimme Some Oven

Jenn Sinrich is an editor in New York City, a self-proclaimed foodie always looking for the healthier version of all recipes, a passionate lover of all things cheese, a friendly New Yorker, Bostonian at heart and proud Red Sox fan. Love cats? Cheese? Mac n' Cheese? Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.