This. Plus alfredo sauce is much simpler/quicker from scratch to make than marinara. Saute butter and garlic, add cream and cheese. Depending on how much cheese maybe some flour to thicken. 10 mins tops. Mariana takes at least an hour of cooking.
Yup. The base for any form of white sauce is super easy to make. From there it's just adding stuff (like cheese) to make a specific flavor. I could see using a premade sauce if you're really in a hurry, but it's like 10 minutes to make the base sauce tops. Also, since it's one of the base sauces that can be used in a huge number of dishes, learning how to make it is a good skill to have. With really only minor variations, the same base is used for everything from Pasta Alfredo, to Beef Stroganoff, to Scalloped Potatoes.
Speaking of which:
I thought of another good, cheap, easy meal solution to offer as well. Hashbrowns. If you have a cheese grater (or find one for prob 99 cents), you can get a giant bag of potatoes and make it into a hundred meals. You can always jazz it up with some onion, since onions are nice and cheap and can go a long way, but really, I just crave hashbrowns with ketchup. You can variate how you prepare the potatoes before you cook them, like cubing them, but fried potatoes are easy and quick. Might take a bit of time (~30 mins), but that's with very little attention. You can always just boil the potatoes first so you can quick fry them in the pan.
Another option is cubed potatoes on a cookie sheet, sprinkled with olive oil and lowry's or some other seasoning. Roast on 350 for like 30 minutes. Little attention required, cheap, filling.
Whenever I make scalloped potatoes, I usually have some left over slices of potato (better to have too much than too little, right?). I bag those puppies up and then fry them with eggs for a yummy breakfast. When sliced thin, they do tend to change color, but they also cook up really fast. Totally agree that potatoes are another food (like rice and beans) that are cheap for the volume and can be used in a bunch of easy/fast ways.