I’m always trying to come up with quick and easy dinner ideas because life is just plain busy. When you’re a busy mom with a busy family, the truth is … you need fast meals all the time.
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There are times that we forget to do our Frugal Meal Planning, or there are times that our schedule changes and life has us on a quick detour. I’ll tell you a little secret, too. Sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking … anything … at all. You feel that way sometimes, too, right?
I know I don’t have to tell you about how hard it is to manage all the things there are to do: work, shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving the kids to sports, homework, extra-curricular classes, volunteering, laundry, etc.
So, while each of our days may look a little different, they are always crammed full.
So, I Cheat at Dinner!
It’s important to me that we eat together as a family, so I like to make a family meal, but it doesn’t always have to be fancy. My husband also has to leave on time, right after dinner, for his overnight shift at Intel. This means we have to get the food on the table at a specific time. Too late and he won’t get a dinner before heading out the door. Many times, we’ve got to get it to the table fast.
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Quick and Easy Dinner Ideas
So, here are a few ways I have figured out to make dinner quick and easy.
My typical fall-back is to use my freezer meals from my MyFreezEasy membership. At the beginning of each week, I pull out a couple of freezer meals and place them in the fridge. Then I can quickly dump them in my Instant Pot. It’s done within 30 minutes and we can be on our way. Read Why You Need a Freezer Meal Plan to see how we use MyFreezEasy.
My Instant Pot
I use my Instant Pot to make all kinds of fast meals. With an Instant Pot, you put your ingredients in and walk away, so the hands-on time is short. It does take some time to come to pressure, then cook, but you can be doing other things while it makes your dinner. I make soup, potatoes, chicken breast, rice, etc. You read about my 5 Instant Pot Tips to Save You Time.
If I haven’t thawed ahead of time, I can thaw my freezer meals in a sink of water for 20 minutes then put them right into my Instant Pot to cook. While it’s cooking, I can make a quick side and we’ve got a nutritious, quick meal.
Read here about how I have batch-cooked chicken breast in the fridge or freezer all the time. This really helps throw together quick meals.
Also, I love to buy the Rotisserie Chickens at Costco, or the packages of cooked breast meat to make our meals out of. There are many options in the freezer and refrigerated sections at your grocery store, too.
I frequently use Salad Kits for the main dish. By adding some protein to it and a few fancy vegetables we have a complete meal, easy peasy (especially if I have pre-cooked meat to add). You can find lots of different flavors, like Asian, Caesar, and Mexican. Add some chicken or taco meat for an amazing family meal that comes together in just minutes.
These can be whipped up in no time and there are so many different flavors to choose from. Usually, they are already cooked, so it’s a matter of just warming them up and adding a couple sides. There are varieties like kielbasa, chicken apple sausage, and even hot links. We buy these on sale and keep them in the freezer. They thaw in seconds.
If I’m making baked potatoes, rice, pasta, broccoli, etc. I make enough for at least two meals. I can then turn those into a quick meal or add them as a side dish on another day. Get more ideas on How to Use Leftovers here.
Lay everything out on a cutting board and let everyone make their own dinner. We’ve even had Make-Your-Own Panini nights. I have this panini press, which also doubles as a griddle and a grill press. All you have to add is some chips and veggies or fruit and you’ve got a fun meal the whole family will love.
All it takes is a little chopping of veggies and opening up some cans and you’ve got a great meal. After chopping your lettuce, or opening up a bagged salad put out some cheese, lunch meat, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, carrots, frozen peas, olives, mushrooms, canned beans, craisins, almonds, etc. The kids love making their own salad and are much more likely to eat it after they put it all together.
This can be a super easy cheat. I’ll use frozen meatballs with a sauce, either marinara or mushroom soup gravy (just thin condensed soup with a little milk). Serve it over leftover baked potatoes, instant potatoes, buns, or rice.
They make these so good now. I buy this kind from Costco and it only has potatoes, butter, and sea salt as ingredients. There are a lot of other instant potato varieties you can check out at your grocery store. They have varieties like scalloped, au gratin, hash browns, garlic, steakhouse, and even soups that can be the center or side of your meal.
I don’t always have time to make soup quickly, so I keep soups like these on hand. They’re large enough to serve the whole family and they’re better quality than the canned varieties. Just serve buttered bread and apple slices on the side for a complete meal.
Sometimes I’ll snag the snap peas, cut broccoli, sliced mushrooms, etc. from the produce section. Let someone else do your chopping for you. These are great for those salad bar nights.