Need Help with Ideas of Easy Meals on Very Limited Time.

Updated on January 19, 2011
D.S. asks from Weatherford, TX
19 answers

I am a full time working mom and usually get off of work late almost every night. I am in desperate need of some meal ideas that are fast and easy. I am tired of making the "boxed" meals for my kids. I have thought about making meals on the weekends that can be heated up at night, but I am at a loss for ideas. I am also interested in crock pot ideas as well. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. TIA

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Thank you to all of you wonderful ladies that have responded to my question. You have given many ideas where to find easy recipes. I am going to have to sit down and plan my meals out for the week. Thanks again.

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answers from Dallas on


I did not read all the responses you received, but I have a crock pot cook book called "Fix It and Forget It". It is great and has a lot of options.

Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I've started doing crock pot meals the night before. I'll get a meat (pork ribs, a chuck roast, chicken), a seasoning (one I mix together or pull from a prepackaged mix), and a liquid (broth, wine or beer). Then I go ahead and let the crock pot start cooking and will let it cook overnight and sit warm all day. The meat is always extra tender (as long as there was enough liquid.)

So, for a good roast recipe: a 2 lb (ish) roast, an onion soup mix, and about a cup of beef broth or red wine (wine is better in my opinion, but it's a personal choice.) Serve with bread and steamed veggies.

Chicken: about 1 1/2 lbs chicken, about half of a bottle of bbq sauce and a little chicken broth.

Pork: I get the McCormick slow cooker pork ribs seasoning mix (follow directions to mix), the pork, and about 1/4 cup Dr. Pepper (not necessary, but adds a nice flavor.)

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

This is a recipe a friend gave me and I make it once a week. It uses 3 ingredients and one dish.


1 box frozen taquitos(whatever brand or type you like)
1 can enchilada sauce
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Place frozen taquitos in glass baking dish. Pour sauce over top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cook uncovered in preheated 350 oven for 20-30 minutes.

I serve this with a bag or 2 of the Uncle Ben's microwave Spanish rice and some raw veggies, if you like.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Joplin on

Kraft has a great recipe site. I like to utilize my crock pot one night a week, I try to have at least one casserole a week that can be made ahead, refrigerated and popped straight into the oven when I get home. You can make double batches and freeze one, I do this often with lasagna's, it is not that much more work and it saves so much in the long run. Also I have 3 kids so a quick easy fix is we rotate one week we will have a pizza night ( the kids love to help) and then we will have a breakfast for dinner night. Once you add in a left over night or a soup and sandwich night, the whole week is filled in = ) We do several build your own type meals either with baked potato's and cheddar broccoli soup or chili with fixings, or taco's. Any box meal that you enjoy can be converted easily into a homemade meal. Campbell's has a great site for recipes too. What helps above all is meal planning...I can not stress that enough. When you have it planned there is no more last minute oh no what am I going to make? That and when you know in advance you can post a reminder for yourself to set something out to thaw = ) Good luck, you can do it = ) Being prepared is the key.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I will whole-heartedly agree with the crock pot ideas. I also have Fix It and Forget It. Awesome cookbook. While, it is true, sometimes crockpot meals can start to can really dress up a roast so that it doesn't taste like a roast. I have put a frozen roast in the crockpot, then added some cumin, chili seasoning, onions, peppers, etc and now you have a pulled beef filling for tacos!

I also use for a lot of my cooking. The meals are rated, so you know if they are really as good as they sound :) The reviews also comment on changes you can make. For instance, the reviews on a recipe may say, "definitely make more of the sauce" or, "that was way too much lemon", etc. It really helps when you are trying to make a recipe for the first time.

Another site I like is You type in the ingredients you have in your fridge, pantry, etc. Then, it will give you recipes you can make with what you have. Great for those nights when you want to cook, but don't have a specific recipe in mind.

I've found, too, that if I meal-plan for the week, it really helps cut down on last-minute running around to get stuff for a meal. You can make up the marinade the night before, then grill up some fantastic chicken, without much prep-time at all. I guess organization is the key. I say that, but implementing it is another story!! It takes a little practice, like anything else.

Good luck and happy eating!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wichita on

I like stuff you can make up the night before and just stick in the oven when you get home, like a meatloaf or lasagna. If you use the oven ready lasagna noodles, it's really easy.

And if my husband gets home before me, even he can take a meatloaf out of the fridge and put it in the oven.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

easy go-to that I alwasy make a BIG batch of is taco soup (and it's a HUGE hit with my family!)

SO easy to make. you basically open a bunch of cans, pour them into a big pot, let it all heat, and serve. other than that you brown the meat, and DONE.

you can re-heat it several times and its as good as the day before.

2 cans black beans (or kidney)
2 cans corn
2 cans mexican style tomatoes
2 cans rotel
2 onions diced (get mine pre cut/diced)
1 package taco seasoning
1 package ranch dressing mix
2lbs ground beef, or turkey

brown the meat & throw everything else in a large pot (including liquid from cans) and heat until ready to serve!

(serve on top: crushed corn cips, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, cheese etc)


enough to serve 12.

another easy one is flat tacos:

refried black or brown beans
tomatoes or rotel
shredded cheese (lettuce and other stuff you might like on top)
tostadas (most stores sell them pre made)

heat up the beans and mix the tomatoes or rotel in.
add spices to taste if you want.
smear that mixture on top of tostadas & dress it up.
EASY and QUICK. really good! my kids love it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

Look at It's a blog and she does freezer cooking, pantry challenges, and meal planning and lots of other things with her kids.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

There are serveral ideas for crock pot meals. Here are a few easy ones that i use pretty regular.
Peppercini Beef
slice 1 whole bell pepper
slice 1 whole onion
tsp of minced garlic
1 jar of peppercini's with juice
1 roast ( i buy mine at sams and they are rather larger so i cut mine in half)
1 package of hoaggie rolls
sliced provolone, swiss, or mozzarelli cheese

place roast in crock pot. arrange the onions, garlic, and bell peppers around the roast. Pour the jar of peppercini's over the top. Turn on crock pot on high. check periodically and flip over so that the meat cooks through completely. (this will take about 4-8 hours depending on your crock pot). You know it is ready when you try to flip the meat and it falls apart. Use hoaggie rolls and cheese and make your self a sandwich.

Taco Soup
1 can Rotel (with juice)
1 can Pinto beans (with Juice)
1 can Ranch Style beans ( with Juice)
1 can Stewed tomatoes (with juice)
1 can corn (with the juice)
1 can green chilis, chopped
2 lbs hamburger meat
1 seasoning package of taco seasoning
1 seasoning package of ranch dressing
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 whole onion chopped

saute meat and onion together, add in green chillis, ranch seasoning packet, taco seasoning packet, salt and peper.
Dump rotel, pinto beans, ranch style beans, stewed tomatoes and corn in a crock pot. Put the crock pot on high. Once meat mixture is done, add to the veggies in the crock pot. Cook on low all day.

Serve with a little cheese on top. If you like a little spice you can add a little of your favorite hot sauce to the soup. Great with nacho chips.

Try going to the Kraft website. They have a quarterly magazine that i believe is free for the first two years. That magazine will give you a lot of help with new and easy meals for your family.

Good luck. I hope you enjoy the recipes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

The Campbell's Kitchen website is my go-to for quick meals. I am culinarily challenged, and I really don't like cooking, so I love how easy these meals are. Most of them are pretty healthy too! You can browse recipes according to 'quick meals', main ingredient, healthy, etc. :) My favorite dish is the 15 minute chicken and rice skillet meal.

That link is the recipe (and a pic.) of the chicken dish...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Burlington on

I've got a good one. I'm making it tonight. It's called Tater Tot Cassarole
1pound of ground beef
I bag of tater tots
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup.
Brown the ground been in a pan (pour off fat)
mix the frozen tater tots the 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup and the ground beef together, bake it uncovered for 40-45 minutes at 400 degrees.
very simple, kids will love it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Savannah on

For breakfast, we like the vegetable quiche cups with some salsa (recipe from the South Beach Diet book). You can make those ahead and use them during the week, can freeze them and they're already in individual portions). It's a nice departure from the usual cereal, oatmeal, or yogurts we most often do.
I'd suggest getting a pressure cooker big enough to cook 3-7 pounds of meat at a time. When I was working, this was a life saver to me! When boneless skinless chicken went on sale, I'd buy a bunch and season it with some garlic, Tonys, whatever you want to season it with....throw it in the cooker and it'll all be done in 45 minutes or so. When cooked, you just drain it and divide the chicken up for meals: enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos or burritos, chicken noodle soup or chicken tortilla soup, king ranch casserole, chicken and rice casserole, etc. You can freeze portions to be used for these meals later (I'm sure you don't want to eat chicken 7 days a week!) but do a couple meals at a time on a Saturday or Sunday when you're's normal for me to have a beef stew in the crock pot, a casserole in the oven, and a spaghetti on the stove at the same time.
For crock pot cooking, I like to make minestrone, beef stew, chicken tortilla soup, red beans and sausage (to serve over brown rice), ribs, pork tenderloin to make bbq sandwiches (I like the McCormick packet and the recipe on back), and everything but the rice for chicken and rice. On the stove I like to cook gumbo (you can do a short cut with a rotisserie chicken that you tear apart), the taco soup mentioned previously (we use the same recipe but ranch style beans) is awesome, spaghetti and meatballs, my 4 year old likes to do our chicken fettucini alfredo, which we add vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, drained rotels) to. Super fast meal but good.
Fish can be very fast. I use the foreman grill for rosemary salmon (southbeach diet's recipe) or baked salmon. My husbands favorite FAST fish dish is broiled tilapia parmesan (no marinating needed, takes 10 minutes to prepare AND cook). You can message me if you want some recipes. After that, it's just putting the vegetables and "stuff" together and you're done pretty quickly, with all these meals.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

My favorite crockpot meal involves a whole chicken. Empty the cavity. Rinse it. Put it in the crockpot. cover the chicken in garlic salt, celery seed, a little pepper, and a little lemon juice if you like it. Leave on low up to 10 hours.

when you come home- the meat will fall off the bones. You can serve it over minute rice with a pack of steamfresh veggies. You can also use the leftover meat to make a rice soup with veggies. Just add some chicken stock. It'll keep in the fridge a few days, or you can freeze it in individual serving sizes for eating later.

Another great crockpot meal is lamb stew- you can use cheap lamb chops. put the meat at the bottom. season with salt and pepper, a little garlic paste, add a cup of redwine for flavor. layer whatever tuber veggies you prefer, and some potatoes. cook on low all day. It's filling and delicious.

good luck!



answers from Phoenix on

The quickest protein to cook is fish - any kind.

Our fave is Salmon.

Preheat oven to 415 degrees. Rinse, pat dry, score it through if you bought a big piece, lay on pan coated with spray.

Make ahead sauce will keep in frig for a couple of weeks:
In equal parts mix:

Juice of 1 lemon
Dijon Mustard
Soy Sauce
Olive Oil
Lemon Pepper to taste

Pour about half of this over a large salmon filet from Costco.
Pop in oven for 12-15 minutes.
Steam a veggie while in the oven.
We eat with rice, as the sauce is tangy and delish. Rice cooks in 20 minutes. Or make rice ahead and freeze. Reheat in micro with some water.

My 2 kids devour this. There are seldom any leftovers with just the 4 of us now. I used to be able to serve to company, but now need to buy 2 salmons if I'm feeding others.



answers from Youngstown on

Spaghetti is our go to easy meal. I agree make meals ahead and freeze. My mom always made a ton of meals each August to freeze before she went back to teaching. Lasagna, meatloaf, burritos, casseroles ect.

My two favorite crock pot meals are:
1. Beef roast with Golden Mushroom soup poured over it. Let it cook all day. Then serve with egg noodles and a veggie.
2. Chicken breasts (boneless) with cream of chicken soup. Then serve with rice, mashed potatoes or even over biscuits and a veggie.


answers from Dallas on

I know exactly what you mean, i dont work but i go to schoo; in the day, and when i get home its late to make meals. I like making burritos there cheap and dont take long. I'll add wolf chile and melted cheese on top. Montery burritos are the best. Tuna sandwiches or tuna casarole. Theres so many meals that you can make in 30 minutes but it also depends on how picky your kids are with food. try looking up some of rachel rays 30 minute meals;]


answers from Austin on

Fried rice- make extra rice ahead of time, then scramble an egg, add frozen peas and carrots, frozen shrimp or leftover chicken, and soy sauce.



answers from Dallas on

Last week, I made Mexican Pot Roast.
I put 5 lbs of pot roast in the crock pot with
2 cans original Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 8 oz can of El Pato sauce (the red and yellow can, not the jalepeno one)
1 8 oz can of Embasa brand salsa casera
and 1 cup of water
Set to low and cook 8-10 hours.

The first night, I made burritos from the meat with large flour tortillas and sliced avocado.
The second night, I served the meat over cooked rice and poured the juice over, with a salad on the side.
The third night, using just the broth, I poured in a can of black beans, a can of corn and beans and cilantro, a bunch of frozen green beans, and 1/2 cup of pasta stars into the broth for a spicy soup.
The fourth night, I shredded the meat while warming it in water and broth and served it in taco shells with trimmings.
The fifth night, I heated up the meat with hoisin sauce (I was out of BBQ, so chinese BBQ is just as good), with a bit of the broth, and served it on rolls like sloppy joes.
I still had leftovers. Normally we don't eat the same meat every day for a week, but we were super short on cash and that spread it out just right.

So, here is a fabulous tip: buy Gallon Freezer baggies. to adapt the above scenario, Fill with portions of the meat with the mix-ins, lay flat, squish out the air, and freeze flat. The night before, drop a bag into the fridge, it will be defrosted by dinner, so you can just heat it up. The soup you can actually put in the crockpot in the morning and it will be ready when you get home, just serve with bread.

Any meal you can prep ahead of time, will save you so much time!! put in the freezer bags, lay flat, and just defrost the night before. You can fit over 30 in a normal freezer no problem, with other freezer items! I learned that from's freezer menu. ;)

Do you have a grill? Marinate as many chicken breasts as you can afford, grill all at once, slice, dice, and shred in portions, freeze and refrigerate the portions, and you have ready meat for any meal!!

Chop your onions and peppers and freeze and refrigerate. Ta-da! Instant prep work done!

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful and given you ideas. Buying in bulk, preparing ahead, can save you a lot of time, and money! Freezing prepared meals and leftovers can stretch the food and provide variety, by taking different things from the freezer!

Good luck!!


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