What's Your Quickest Dinner Idea?

Updated on February 24, 2016
S.L. asks from Arvada, CO
30 answers

I'm trying to break the habit of going to get food at a restaurant or fast food place when I'm stumped for what to have (or I didn't plan ahead). What's your quickest "go to" recipe when you're in a pinch?

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answers from Sacramento on

Omelettes. Mix up some eggs, put in the pan, throw on some spinach, onions, cheese, diced sausage, whatever is around. Dinner is ready in five minutes.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

spaghetti with good old ragu.
tuna melts on bagels or english muffins.
chicken or tuna salad wraps.
big fat salads with canned chicken or lunch meat and lots of cheese and fruit.
frozen dinners (i always have a couple for 'those nights'.)
steamed (frozen) broccoli over rice with a little tamari.
hard boiled egg sandwiches (i usually keep hard boiled eggs in the fridge for quick protein.)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Nachos. Put good tortilla chips on a cookie tray, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese, spread on some stewed beans (or canned refried beans, if that's what you have), put in oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, assemble small bowls of chopped tomatoes (canned are fine), sliced black olives, salsa, red or green bell peppers, maybe some chopped chilis if you like them or lettuce or scallions. Once the chips, cheese, and beans are warmed, put the other toppings on the table and everyone serves themselves and puts on their own toppings.

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answers from Phoenix on

I have spent a tremendous amount of time gathering easy recipes. I don't really like to cook and I can't seem to be very good at it. lol

I brown 6# of hamburger at a time and put it in zip freezer bags and freeze it. Then I take out a bag or 2 and use for tacos, spaghetti, enchiladas, soup, sloppy joes, casseroles, etc.

Right now I have a ton of b/s chicken breasts and thighs in the crock pot. Cover with water add 3 packets dry onion soup mix, salt and pepper. Cook on low all day. Shred and with slotted spoon serve on rolls. DELISH! Takes 2 seconds to eat when you get home. Then take leftovers and put in zip baggies and freeze to use again for bbq sandwiches, tacos, salads, casseroles, etc.

You can also make a ton of homemade mashed potatoes at a time and put in muffin tins, freeze, then put in zip baggie and use as needed.

I make 3 meatloaves at once. I make one for dinner then freeze the other 2 in aluminum pans I get at Dollar Tree. Then just thaw it in the morning and cook (but that takes an hour) but is still "easy" or can be done on weekend.

I also get frozen pizzas when they go on sale and put them in the freezer. We will have pizza and salad night and watch movies with the kids on Fridays when they aren't at their dads. I have a very large freezer in the garages so I'm blessed I can fill it up.

I also try to keep some basic things in the pantry for quick and easy meals:

Tostadas: Premade tostada shells, canned refried beans, I always have shredded cheese and lettuce in the fridge and salsa/hot sauce for hubby.

Chili mac: This is the kids fave and actually hubby and I like it too: make 2 boxes mac n cheese, add in 2 cans chili, heat and serve with green beans and biscuits made in toaster oven.

Chicken alfredo: make 1 box spaghetti. Heat 1 jar alfredo sauce with 1 can drained canned chicken. Mix together serve with canned veggie and fruit.

Because I have frozen ground beef ready to go I do keep Hamburger Helper in the pantry and Tuna Helper because they are quick and easy in a pinch and everyone likes them. I try to only make them once a month because otherwise it's so easy it becomes a habit. lol

I also buy roasts when they are on clearance and put them in the freezer and will throw it in the crockpot with veggies. Same thing with pork loin but I have a rotisserie I use for that after it's thawed. I will put b/s chicken breasts (frozen or thawed) in the crock with a can of cream of anything soup. Cook on low all day, stir when you get home and serve over rice. You can also make a ton of rice ahead of time and freeze in zip baggies.

Ideally I like to use fresh fruits and veggies, but I have embraced my canned and frozen friends. lol I also will stock up on instant potatoes and rice mixes I can use with meat in a pinch and any of the veggies I have on hand.

I tend to be a basic cook and it's taken some time to find things that everyone likes. I still try new casseroles all the time because they are easy as well and since I'm home during the day I can eat them as leftovers.

Back in the day when I worked full time and my kids were small, I only cooked 3 days per week. This was my schedule so maybe you can try something like this: Cook a full meal on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Eat leftovers on Thursday (I did this because it was my bowling night so they all heated up whatever they wanted.) Then on the Fridays that we had the kids we would have Family Movie Night with frozen pizza and salad. On Fridays when my kids were at their dads, hubby and I had date night and went our to eat. Saturday it depended on what was going on but I would try to make one of the quick easy meals I listed above. Sundays after church we ALWAYS go out to eat fast food and Sunday nights it's either a premade casserole/meatloaf or quick like HH or TH or something else with little to no effort. My grandma was a big believer in Sundays are a Day of Rest and I try to follow that.

I also do some of the other things that other have shared but thought I would mention some other things they didn't. Good luck!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Hi deedee,

we also do a lot of breakfast for dinner at Chez W. I always keep prediced potatoes for a base on hand and whatever else that can go in...will go in. For example, I'm planning on one tonight that will use up the cooked spinach from our dinner last night.

oh and, I'm planning to move in with Geneva because that sounds phenomenal! :-) S.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

Chop up about half an onion and a carrot or two and saute in olive oil in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Chop a few zucchini and throw them in. When the zucchini is mostly done, add a can of chopped tomatoes. Last add one can of rinsed, drained chickpeas. When the chickpeas are warmed through, you're done. While all that is going on, also fix some packaged couscous (typically, you'll need to boil water, then pour in couscous, then cut the heat, throw on a lid, and let sit for 5 minutes). Serve the veggies over the cooked couscous. If you like, grate come parmesan, asiago, or romano cheese on top. Dinner in 10 minutes! Delicious, hot, nutritious, and cheap. Two dirty pots, one cutting board, and one knife to wash.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

chicken stir fry.
Thaw chicken breasts in the microwave, then chop and put in a pan with a soy sauce, lemon juice and/or orange juice, and a little sugar (makes a quick sweet and sour sauce).
Put frozen veggies in the microwave while the chicken cooks.
Start minute rice once the veggies are started

Everything ready, start to finish, with no prep work/overnight thawing needed, in less than 20 min.

And, even my picky kid will eat it. Granted, he doesn't eat it like I do - I throw all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix with some extra sauce from the pan, while he eats the chicken and rice separately from each other, no extra sauce, and picks out only the carrots from the veggie mix. But he eats it.

Second choice - even easier and faster but not as healthy - spaghetti, jar sauce, store-bought frozen meatballs, store-bought frozen garlic bread.

ETA: I thought of it when someone else mentioned it, but my favorite almost no work/almost at home dinner idea is to pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on my way home, and then just heat veggies from the freezer. It's not home-made, but the whole chicken is only $5.99 at my store, so it's less expensive and I think it's a lot healthier than any restaurant - fast food or otherwise.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think one of the best things you can do is to think outside the dinner box.
It can be overwhelming to think at the last minute, I must prepare a full three course meal.
Last minute dinners can be tasty, healthy and easy.

Quesadillas using leftover chicken or steak, or burritos.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup.
A crustless quiche or just scrambled eggs with cheese and sauteed veges.
Sandwiches for dinner, made with fresh sandwich rolls from the grocery bakery, we love this in the summer!
A quick stir fry using whatever meat and veges you have on hand, quick rice on the side.

I find I can throw almost anything together if I have a good variety of frozen vegetables on hand, eggs, cheese, tortillas, pasta/rice, marinara sauce, canned beans/tomatoes/tuna, salsa and soy sauce.
It's easy enough to stop at the store and pick up a rotisserie chicken and some french bread to go with what you already have.
Get creative and have fun with it!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Mix hot, drained cooked pasta (any shape) tossed with fresh (raw) chopped tomatoes, mozzarella cheese (either cut up string cheese, or shredded, or the real stuff - shredded or chopped) and some basil. Drizzle a little olive oil over it and add salt.

Sliced fresh garlic very lightly sauteed in olive oil, tossed with cooked pasta.

I make what I call "Greek nachos". Pita chips spread on a baking sheet, topped with a few sliced kalamata olives (they're better than the black canned olives and keep a long time in the fridge), chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, and feta cheese, baked just until the pita chips heat up and the cheese softens and turns a little golden brown. Takes just a few minutes. Top with fresh diced cucumbers and a drizzle of red wine vinegar.

Keep cooked chicken in your fridge. Either purchase two or three rotisserie chickens at the beginning of the week or else poach or roast a bunch of chicken breasts or thighs and keep them in a bag. Then you've got the beginnings of chicken tacos, or chicken salad for sandwiches or on lettuce, and a million other ideas.

Make toast, fry an egg, and slice up an avocado. Don't butter the toast - just lay the avocado slices over it and top with the sunny side up (or poached) egg.

Roast vegetables and just eat them without any meat. Cut up potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, winter squash, tomatoes, carrots, whatever's on hand. Just make sure the pieces are similar in size. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and put on a large baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees until they're golden and tender. It's a very comforting meal that takes just minutes to prepare.

My favorite thing lately is roasted green beans. Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat both the pan and the oven to 425 degrees. It's important that the pan is very hot. Meanwhile, just trim the tough ends off the beans, toss with a little bit of olive oil (be sparing with the olive oil - the beans should glisten not be in a puddle of oil) and sprinkle with salt, or even better, with plenty of Montreal Steak Seasoning. When the pan is hot, quickly transfer the beans to the pan, spreading them out as evenly as possible. You don't have to line them up, just make sure they're not piled in a heap. Roast for about 15 minutes. Eat them with your fingers, with pita chips, and maybe some sliced cheddar cheese on the side.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Breakfast for dinner or lunch for dinner. I was raised in a pretty traditional household with traditional dinners (meat and lots of sides), so it's been tough to break that mindset, but I turn to eggs or soup/sandwiches/salad on time crunch days. Probably healthier than those big meals.

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answers from Erie on

If I have milk, butter, and flour, I can make an amazing cream sauce which goes over almost anything. Tonight I didn't have butter, but I had raw chicken, so I had some fat to work with, see where I'm going with this? :) There were leftover broccoli and green beans, and I cooked the chicken & made the sauce in the same pan, serve with a carb of any kind (tonight I was fancy, layered it with rice and baked it). Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner, everybody makes their own. When I was a kid, my mother made creamed peas on toast for lunch often, actually any leftovers we had eventually made their way into a cream sauce over toast. A liquid, a fat, and a thickener, that's all you need. I'm not the measuring type, but it's basically 1T fat-1T flour/corn starch-1cup liquid. HIgh calorie? Maybe, but not as bad as a burger and fries.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Use pocket-less pitas or Naan bread to make individual pizzas. Provide cheese, sauce and any topics you'd like, and each child can make his/her own pizza. Just bake on a cookie sheet at 350 until cheese is bubbly. Quick, easy, and always a hit at my house!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I might think of more later, but right now I would say pork chops with rice and frozen (seasoned) veggies. Pictsweet offers a nice variety of veggies and of seasonings. Keeps my husband and I eating our veggies.

Another is stir fry chicken, again with rice and frozen veggies. This time, though, I use veggies that aren't seasoned, since I know the soy sauce or whatever stir fry sauce I use, will be enough to season them.

Tacos are pretty easy. Spaghetti. I know adults get kind of tired of spaghetti, but my boys are 7 and 9 and could eat it almost daily :-)

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answers from Springfield on

shredded chicken ( can be out of a can) warmed up and with taco seasoining added in. some instant rice and refried beans. paired with taco shells, shredded lettuce and salsa and dinner is done in about 5 min.
or breakfast for dinner, pancakes or waffles, precooked bacon, takes a minute to scramble the eggs and dinner is done in about 7 min.

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answers from Boston on

I try to always have ground beef in the freezer so that I can throw together tacos or a platter of nachos (like Anne L details below). It takes about 5 minutes to thaw in the microwave, 5 minutes to brown the meat, then 5 more minutes to bake the tray in the oven to melt the cheese and warm everything up. Burgers are fast too if I have burger buns on hand.

Another quick meal is quesadillas - I usually have cooked chicken on hand but if not, finely chop and cook chicken breast or boneless thighs, chop up some peppers and onions, then throw some shredded cheese, chicken, and veggies on a tortilla, top with another tortilla and cook on a greased griddle until everything is crispy on the outside and melty on the inside.

I keep frozen meatballs on hand and can cook those in the microwave with sauce for 7 minutes while I boil pasta water and pasta. I microwave some broccoli after the MB are done and can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes.

I'm on a strict diet and don't eat a lot of the things my kids do (beef, dairy, grains) so my favorite quick meal for myself is a skillet of chopped veggies sauteed in coconut oil and seasoned with S&P, garlic and red pepper flakes. I then push everything to one side, add a little more coconut oil and scramble two eggs in the empty part of the skillet, then give it all a quick stir and throw it into a big bowl. I try to keep mason jars of chopped veggies in the fridge so that I can literally make this in 5-10 minutes, which is great on nights when I have a class or a kids' activity after work.

With most of the quick meals, I serve raw carrots, sliced peppers, green beans or other raw veggies with the entree. My kids prefer their veggies raw and it's fast and easy.

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answers from Norfolk on

Take and bake pizza - I always have one or two on hand for just such an emergency!
I warm up the oven, put the pizza on the pan, add garlic powder, cheese, oregano, sometimes mushrooms - pop it in the oven and dinner is ready 20 min later.

Scrambled eggs are good any time of the day - add in hot dogs or sausage or sauteed onions if you want to.

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answers from Portland on

I have a super easy tomato sauce recipe - it's from Annie's Eats. If I'm in a pinch, I just cook it as long as it takes the water to boil for the pasta. It's good. She has a great website if you're looking for ideas. Every one I've tried, we've enjoyed. It's a safe site.


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answers from Washington DC on

Free choice...aka leftovers for dinner, everyone choose what they want within reason. Prep time is just however long it takes to cycle through the microwave. Baring that, tacos, stir fry, pasta, breakfast-for-dinner...

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answers from New York on

Ground turkey or ground beef tacos/quesadillas. I make a large amount of the seasoning ahead of time so I can just take out the jar and use 2 tablespoons of it each time. The meat browns in 10/15 minutes. I drain out the excess oil, add the seasoning, a little water, stir, and it's done. Quick and easy. Some days we'll do tacos other days we'll do quesadillas.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I call it my hamburger has. Brown a pound of beef and add in onions, potatoes, green peas, brown gravy sauce, season to taste, and let it cook. It is done in about 20 minutes. You could use an instant package of rice if you don't like potatoes - just cook the rice almost done and add it to the pan.

the other S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Obviously this will all be contingent upon what you have on hand. We tend to grill chicken about once a week, so there is often a large breast or two in the fridge, already cooked.

A) Breakfast: Scrambled eggs/omelettes/french toast.
B) Quesadillas: Diced chicken or steak, diced peppers/onions, shredded cheese (I always keep this stocked in the fridge), tortillas, and salsa/sour cream condiments... if you want/have time, open a can of black beans and heat with some red bell pepper, onions, cumin and lime juice.
C) Pasta: Boil water, cook the pasta, open a jar of prepared sauce, heat up garlic bread in the oven. Nuke a bag of frozen veggies or if you have salad stuff, make a garden salad.
D) Grilled cheese sandwiches, with a bowl of soup.
E) Pot of chili (if it isn't the heat of summer). Ground beef, onions, chili powder and other spices, 1 can each of chili beans, black beans, tomato soup and 2 cans of chili tomatoes. Bring to boil, simmer for 15 minutes.

If you have leftover chili, make chili cheese burritos, with a side of black beans or mexican rice.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Pick up a rotissary chicken, steam some broccoli and make rice (my kids like simple).
Tacos...just brown some meat and serve with the fixings. Too easy.
Saute onions, potatoes (cut thin) and polish sausage together.
Stir fry...just cook up a bunch of veggies and add some garlic, ginger and a little soy sauce. Cook rice on the side. Any leftover meat can get chopped up and thrown in.
I like to make a kind of homemade hamburger helper...brown meat, saute with onions and other veggies. Add leftover rice or pasta. Melt a little cheese on top. It's very quick.
Do you ever try crockpot meals?
Homemade soups are very easy also...so many recipes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

We always have frozen ravioli or stuffed shells in the freezer. I put it frozen in the microwave. Take it out...put canned tomatoe sauce in the bottom of the dish and on top of the shell and put in the toaster oven. We also typically have romaine lettuce in the house. I just wash it and put vinaigrette on it. Done!

My husband also makes pizza for the kids. I serve it with fresh cut berries. Cheap and easy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Grilled cheese or tuna salad sandwiches.
Pancakes and eggs.
I always have a ton of frozen vegetables. Roast vegetables in the oven and serve over rice or pasta.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on


Microwave meals such as Lasagna (takes a while to cook it though), chicken nuggets and some veggies, and TV dinner style stuff if you like that.

Salad meals

Kentucky Fried Chicken, chicken, veggies, and rolls. Whole meal, better than fast food, has healthier choices than fried too.

Pizza on biscuit dough. Flatten a biscuit for a small small single or put 3 or 4 together flattened out and smushed together. Put some favorite spaghetti sauce on the dough, add a bite of shredded mozz. cheese, add pre-cooked meat or purchased pepperoni, bake until biscuit dough edges are nicely brown but not too done.

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answers from Chicago on

When you get groceries get 5lb packages of ground beef (or turkey/chicken if you don't do beef) fry then up the same day and put them into heavy duty Ziploc or small plastic containers. Their then in the freezer. Then you are ready for tacos, spaghetti, sloppy Joe's, chili, casseroles etc. I also buy packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts and bake a few and cut them or shred them and put in freezer and they are ready for casseroles, enchiladas, tacos, bbq sandwiches etc.


answers from Columbus on

if you have those grilled chicken strips on the freezer or can quickly get a rotisserie chicken from the store, I make pesto chicken pasta (I always have pesto, feta and different pastas at home), it can also be used for chicken quesadillas (I'm Mexican, so I also always have tortillas, tostadas, cheese, beans and rice stock up) or fajitas/tostadas. My other to go fast meal is spaghetti and meat balls or meat sauce since meatballs unfreeze fast while cooking in the tomato sauce and pasta cooks fast. If its meat sauce, when I buy ground beef I place it in zip lock bags and flatten it so it unfreezes really fast and I just sautee it with onions, garlic, red wine and tomato sauce (spices of course).
Good luck!!!


answers from Washington DC on

My two favorite quick dinners are taco's or kielbasa and peirgoies. I try to plan way ahead of time for everything because we are super busy, so if we don't plan ahead we are in trouble.

Other kind of quick ones are jumbalaya, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, etc.

My kids don't like Kraft Mac and Cheese, hot dogs, frozen pizza, hamburger helper, etc.


answers from Chicago on

Chicken tacos.
1 can chunk chicken
Add salsa to taste.

Put it on tortillas and you're done.



answers from Kansas City on

Tacos. It's fast, easy, delicious and I almost always have all I need already in my kitchen. My others are spaghetti, soup and sandwiches, and red beans and rice.

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