Quick Dinner Ideas

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Dinner prep doesn’t need to be long and drawn out. These quick dinner ideas are a great way to save money and eat well during the busy week.

black to go trays with black bean taco salads

Black Bean Taco Salad

Life is full of things that can derail you from that great meal plan you made over the weekend. Failure-to-thaw, fatigue, and general family activity can pull you from that casserole you intended to make or those short ribs you had planned to put in the Crock-pot — six hours ago.

So what’s a girl to do?

The fast-food restaurant isn’t too far away, neither is the pizza place. But, you know that those options are more expensive than eating at home — and not as healthy, either.

Plus, total mom guilt fodder right there. C’mon, girlfriend. We can do better than this!

Instead, consider some quick dinner ideas that you can pull together easily. And when I say easily, I mean quicker than the time it takes you to find your car keys and go wait in the take-out line.

Quick Dinner Ideas

Here are some of the strategies you can lean on when you need a quick fix supper:

1. Boil some pasta.

Pasta is an easy fix any day. You can easily pull off a meatless pasta dish (either cream- or tomato-based) in less than 15 minutes, add another ten if you want to add some meat. Cheese and black pepper pasta comes together in minutes! Serve a salad or steamed vegetable and some garlic bread and you’re good to go.

These FishFavorites come together in less than 30 minutes:

creamy chicken pasta with spinach and tomatoes

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes

2. Fix a salad. With stuff on it.

Real men do eat salad. You just need to put a lot of stuff on it like beans, meat, cheese, and croutons. See my primer for making a great salad.

Often, I’ll make a selection of two or three different kinds of salads, including pasta and potato. As long as there’s meat or hearty carbs on the plate somewhere, you’ll be good to go. Promise!

Here are some favorites that we like:

tuna melt sandwich on a white plate with veggies

Buffalo Tuna Melt Sandwich

3. Make a sandwich.

It’s true that sandwiches can seem a little too “everyday”. Kids and spouses may have a sandwich for lunch and not think they want one for dinner. But, I believe if you doctor it up with spreads and Subway-style toppings or if you make a fancy panini or other hot sandwich, you’ll win your people over.

These sandwiches make a tasty quick fix:

bowl of beans and rice with toppings and chips

4. Open a can of beans.

Beans and rice have made a supper for someone somewhere for thousands of years. It can work for you too. Gild the lily with homemade salsa, a dollop of sour cream, and some chips.

We’ve considered Rice and Beans a good cheap eat at our house for a long time. And it takes only 20 minutes to cook up.

Other quick bean dishes:

Don’t overthink supper. You can probably pull together “a meal” in less than half and hour with what you already have on hand. With a little pre-planning, it can be a feast. Dinner doesn’t have to be an event. Just make it real food, and serve it with love.

I’m always looking to expand my repertoire of quick-fix ideas, head to the comments and tell me what you like to make on the fly.

What’s one of your favorite quick dinner ideas?

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bowl of pasta noodles with chicken and spinach

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Kathy says

    There is always taco meat cooked and ready to go in the freezer. Yes it’s nice to think ahead to thaw but in a pinch I can pull it out of the freezer and have either tacos, nachos, taco salad, or similar in less than 15 minutes on the table.

  2. Janet says

    I have a few go to quick fix meals. I always keep pancakes and waffles in the freezer so a meal of scrambled eggs, pancakes and fresh fruit takes less than 15 minutes to get on the table. A favorite meal of my youngest daughter is buttered noodles served with a cheese plate. Grilled cheese sandwiches served with a salad, fruit or veggie slices is another quick fix. When all else fails, I set out a sandwich bar – bread or rolls, leftover meats, beans, cheeses, and sliced veggies with condiments.

    • Breakfast is a great time-saver. I don’t always have them cooked, but I usually have pancake mix that I made. Great reminder.

  3. Mac and cheese with peas or peas and carrots in it
    tuna noodle with peas or peas and carrots in it
    Cuban black beans and rice
    left over Cuban black beans and rice in a tortilla wrap or over salad
    smoked sausage and mac and cheese
    Big egg (frittata)
    123 pasta (1 onion 2 cups of protein and 3 cups of veggies)

  4. Susan says

    I like having browned ground beef in the freezer. Just cook with finely chopped onion, drain fat and freeze. great to use for spaghetti sauce, tacos, sloppy joe’s etc.

  5. Roberta says

    In addition to what you’ve already mentioned, these are my go-tos when I’m just too tired to even think. (Or when I’ve failed to plan.) We almost always have the ingredients for these on hand.

    Eggs. Think frittata, “loaded” scrambles of some type, omelettes, French toast (my son’s favorite). Serve with a salad and some fruit.

    Quesadillas. Just plain tortillas and cheese or “loaded” w/ whatever leftovers are handy. Serve w/ salsa, sour cream, veggie sticks or salad, and some fruit.

    Burritos or burritos bowls. (I guess you’ve actually already mentioned this, but these are staples in our home.) Again, serve w/ whatever toppings are available and salad or veggie sticks and fruit.

    Soups. Homemade from the freezer. Serve w/ bread, cheese, salad, veggie sticks, fruit–whatever is available.

    Hodgepodge. Whatever leftovers are in the fridge; everyone just kind of fends for themselves. Not ideal, but–hey!–it eliminates food waste.

    Cold cereal. This is a last resort type of thing, but some days this is our reality. 😉

  6. Kelly says

    Tonight it was English muffin cheese pizzas. We slightly toasted the English muffins and then added seasoned tomatoes and cheese and put them back in the toaster oven until the cheese was melted.

  7. Alice E says

    My favorites all involve using frozen cooked meat. Examples would be chicken and noodles, pasta and sauce, chili and vegetable soup. The meats might be cooked chopped chicken, turkey, roast beef or roast pork frozen in a bit of broth. I also cook up ground meat and store after it cools in quart freezer bags. I usually freeze ham in bags of 2 slices that I can chop up frozen. The chopped ham thaws very quickly and can be added frozen to most dishes. Frozen meatballs are also quick to use as are the mini-wontons from Costco.

    A couple days ago it was chili I fixed. I opened a cans of tomatoes and beans, added the frozen meat seasoned it and stirred occasionally. In very little time we were eating chili. Since I bought the meat, beans and tomatoes on sale it was not only quick but economical as well.

    But it is equally easy to add the meat to soups or a sauce for pasta. rice or potatoes.

  8. Stephanie says

    Thank you always for the inspiring pictures of the recipes! They really help me. I made the chicken rice bowls for my family and they were a hit! I am also going to try your lunch box ideas for the days we are at our home school co-ops. Recipes like yours make lunch fun.

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