You know those days…the ones where you literally can’t deal with life anymore, and no matter how well you planned meals and prepped everything ahead of time to make it easy….it’s just not happening. Well…..I fully support the occasional take-out order or drive-thru run….but, in case that’s not an option either – read on for some ideas of easy meal ideas that will get dinner on the table quickly, meal plan or not, and you might even be able to convince your kids to make for you instead!
If you keep a bag of tortilla chips on the shelf, a jar of salsa and queso in the cabinet, and a few staple vegetables on hand, you’ll never be without a platter of nachos. Whether it’s for a last minute sports viewing party with unexpected company or a long day of work that leaves you spent.
- Turn on the broiler
- Place the tortilla chips on a sheet pan, spray lightly with cooking spray for extra crunch (once they come out of the oven)
- Broil for 2-3 minutes, toss chips and broil 1-2 more minutes to get all the chips warmed and a little bit golden brown (a few chips here and there, nothing crazy)
- While the chips are in the oven, chop a small amount of onion, and if you have tomatoes or avocado, chop those as well
- Top with the queso cheese (yes…the kind in the jar that is a shade of yellow that isn’t normal)
- Top with salsa and chopped onion, tomatoes and/or avocado (whatever you chose to chop during the broiling process!)
- Add protein if you have on hand (ground beef, chopped chicken, shrimp), but not required
- Place on the table and everyone can enjoy!
Spaghetti and Sauce –
Not much is easier than pasta with some tomato sauce. Weeknights (or busy weekends!) don’t require a sauce that simmers on the stove for hours. Grab a pound of pasta from the cabinet and a jar of sauce from the shelf and you’re set!
If you want to get a bit more creative, you can always add some additional spices to the jarred sauce, such as oregano, crushed red pepper, etc. If the sauce is acidic or bitter, just add a teaspoon of sugar or stevia and it’ll be set to stir into cooked pasta.
Not stocked with a jar of sauce? Grab a can or two of tomatoes. Add a few spices (oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper and a small amount of sugar/stevia) and warm it through before stirring with cooked pasta and you’ll have dinner on the table in minutes.
Breakfast for Dinner (or any time of day!) –
Whether you have a full breakfast spread on hand (and defrosted) or just a few items, you can make breakfast for dinner in minutes and any time! It might look different every time, but it’s always great comfort food when you just don’t want to look at 100 ingredients for a meal.
- Egg and Cheese Biscuits
- English muffin toasted with a piece of cheese and eggs anyway you like
- Refrigerator (like the pop-the-can type) biscuits with a piece of cheese and eggs any way you like
- Fried Egg Sandwich and fruit
- Fry and Egg
- Toast two pieces of sandwich bread
- Spread cream cheese, butter or mayonnaise on bread
- Add egg (cheese too, but optional)
- Serve with whatever fruit you have on hand
- Toaster Waffles with butter and syrup
- Yogurt with berries and granola (perfect for hot summer days)
- Avocado Toast (this is good for any/every meal!)
Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Corn –
This can be completely customized to whatever you have on hand, and scaled for as many or as few people as you need to feed! Don’t have corn? Use peas. Have half an onion that needs to be used? Toss it in. Random boxes of half used pasta? Add them all. Recipe below is for 4 people.
- Put a pot of water and 4 chicken sausage links (I prefer Aidell’s or Gilbert’s, but whatever you have you can use! And, it can be frozen) on the stove and bring to a boil.
- I recommend 1 link per person, but you do whatever works for you/your family!
- Start a large skillet with 2T olive oil and 2T butter (don’t have both? you can use all oil or all butter), once butter is melted or olive oil appears thinner, add the vegetables and turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting.
- I usually use corn, green beans (if I have left over), shallots and garlic, but again, use whatever is easiest!
- Once water comes to a boil, check chicken sausage, and if soft/heated through, remove from water and place on cutting board. If it needs an extra minute or two, keep in boiling water until ready, don’t add pasta until you remove the sausage.
- Once you remove the chicken sausage, add a pound of pasta (any shape works, or a combination of shapes if that’s what you have on hand!)
- Cook pasta as directed (if using a few different kinds of pasta, make sure you pay attention to cook times for each kind and adjust accordingly)
- Cut chicken sausage while pasta cooks and add to skillet with vegetables.
- Once pasta is cooked and drained, put back into pasta pot and add the vegetable and chicken sausage and “sauce”
- Stir, adding a bit more olive oil if needed), season with salt and pepper and top with some grated cheese.
Appetizers for Dinner –
Keep a variety of frozen foods on hand for fast dinners that are fun flavors, generally can be tossed in the oven and left to cook and it’s like going to a restaurant for happy hour – but you can enjoy your meal in your pajamas on the couch!
- Egg Rolls – I generally keep a few different kinds on hand: chicken, pork, cheesesteak, veggie…if you’re ambitious during some of your food prep days (or a rainy day!), you can always make a variety of egg rolls at home and freeze them before cooking them to use for meals like this
- Popcorn Shrimp – served with cocktail sauce or a cajun street taco, these are versatile, and everyone seems to love them! (if you like seafood)
- Pretzel Bites or Soft Pretzels – not up for a salty snack? You can bake them without a topping, or a fun dessert is to dip them into cinnamon sugar instead or the salt packet provided. Serve the salty ones with honey mustard or cheese dip. Serve the sweet ones with whipped cream cheese or plain.
- Jalapeno Poppers – no explanation needed – just bake them and enjoy!
- Mozzarella Sticks – add some red sauce and ranch to the plate for some dipping options
- Chicken Tenders – keep these plain with some dipping sauces such as BBQ sauce, Honey Mustard, and Ranch; or –
- Bake them for half the time, take them out and brush a sauce on top of them, then bake the remainder of the way
- Spray them with cooking spray and then sprinkle your favorite seasoning on top (like a buffalo powder, ranch dry seasoning, BBQ seasoning) before baking them
- Baked Meatballs – serve with tomato sauce, ranch, BBQ sauce, etc. Just take a bag of frozen meatballs, bake according to package directions and serve with sauces!
- Lil Smokies in blankets –
- Mini (or full size) sausage or hot dogs
- Crescent rolls
- Wrap mini sausages or hot dogs in crescent rolls and bake!
Platter Salad –
Great for using up the bag of lettuce you bought and didn’t get to yet, and the random leftovers of vegetables in the fridge. There are no rules – and it’s like a surprise every time!
- Lettuce (bag(s)) or Chopped lettuce from container
- Leftovers from week
- Chopped/Sliced onion
- Corn (from cob or frozen)
- Peas (from freezer works!)
- Shredded or chopped zucchini
- Shredded or chopped carrots
- Dressing from earlier meals
- Layer lettuce on a large plate/platter
- Add other toppings either in layers or mixed across the top
- Drizzle dressing acros entire platter
What do you make (aside from reservations, take out orders and/or nothing!) when you need to eat, but just don’t have any interest to face the kitchen? What is the best thing you’ve made on a whim that’s now part of your normal rotation?
If you are looking for help to set your kitchen/freezer up so you can always pull something together if you need to – reach out to me in the comments below or via email so that you don’t have to face coming up with dinner when everyone is staring at your awaiting something on the table for dinner (or breakfast/lunch too!)!