Somedays there’s just no time to make dinner from scratch that can take up to an hour to make.
When you’re a busy mom, you and your family don’t have the luxury of waiting so long for dinner. You still have to account for cleanup afterward. Your evenings can be consumed by dinnertime and that can throw a good evening routine off track.
If you wan to cook but just don’t have the time for anything more than a handful of minutes, I have 15 easy dinners that take 15 minutes to make.
Here’s two weeks of dinners already lined up for you so you can enjoy your evenings how you want instead of spending it cooking.
Here they are…
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Shortcuts for Faster and Easier Meals
To make meals as quick and easy as possible, choose foods that don’t require long cooking or baking times. Choose precut veggies, seasoning mixes and quick heat foods as shortcuts when the days are short and you’re tired. Here are some suggestions.
Grocery store prepared meals: Many grocers will offer mains, sides and other meal kits that are premade and cooked. Rotisserie chicken meals, baked potatoes, lentil salads are a few examples. It’s still technically fast-food but it’s much better than a greasy pizza!
Shredded or chopped: When shopping, choose as many foods that come already chopped, shredded or diced so you don’t have to. You will be saving several minutes just in prep time. When you cook with pre-chopped or diced veggies you are also going to save on cooking time too. Don’t forget diced onion or minced garlic to make stir fry’s and sauces even easier.
Pre-Cooked Meats: Shredded or grilled chicken, cooked frozen shrimp, canned fish, ham or roast beef can save a lot of cooking time since meats usually take the longest.
Store bought sauces: It’s okay to cheat by using store bought sauces or marinades. They add a lot of flavor without the effort. Look for simple ingredients for healthier option.
Canned goods: You can get almost anything in a can and there’s nothing wrong with cooking with foods from a can. Excellent source of protein and fiber from canned beans, veggies and fruit.
Cook in one pot: Pressure cookers are great for easy stews, curries and soups. Add all ingredients at once and set the time. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it will pay itself off quickly. It’s worth the investment.
Kitchen tools: The goal is to save time when cooking and some kitchen tools can help you with that. Food processors, slow cookers, pressure cookers, electric choppers and kitchen shears will save you a lot of time and energy.
Get family involved: Even getting your family members to help set the table can save time. A little bit of help goes a long way.
Simple Formula for Fast Dinners
Sometimes we can complicate dinnertime more than it needs to be. This simple formula can save your mental energy and get dinner on the table faster.
Step 1: Choose your flavor or style.
Step 2: Choose a protein
Step 3: Choose a grain
Step 4: Choose a veggie(s)
It’s important to choose your flavor first because that will help you find the right ingredients for your meal. Your flavor can be style of food or cuisine.
For example, let’s say you want to have a Mexican inspired meal. Your flavor will be chilli powder or cumin. After which you can decide on the rest, the protein, grain and veggies that you want to pair with those flavors.
Other flavors can be favorite oils and sauces. You can simplify it even more by writing out a list of you and your family’s favorite flavors and styles. Prepare a list, print it out and use it for reference.
15 Fast Dinner Ideas that Take 15 Minutes
1.Quick Veggie Fried Rice
Sauté mixed veggies in a hot pan, then add pre-cooked rice and soy sauce. Optional: Dice chicken, pork or egg for added protein. Pre-Cooked meats are also an option.
Top whole-wheat flatbread with hummus, pesto or pizza sauce, chopped veggies, olives, and cheese of your choice. Toast until crispy.
Fill whole-wheat tortillas with canned beans, rice, shredded cheese, and salsa. Roll up and enjoy. Optional: Heat in the microwave to melt cheese or Bake in the oven for a crispy tortilla.
Use leftover veggies, can of black beans, cheese, and tortillas. Heat up in the microwave, skillet or bake in the oven.
5.Greek Salad Wraps
Fill whole-wheat wraps with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and a drizzle of Greek dressing. Add a side of fruit or more veggies. Whatever you have on hand. Optional:
6.Chicken finger Wraps
Fill whole-wheat wraps with baked from frozen breaded chicken fingers, shredded cheese, chopped/shredded lettuce or other greens, and ranch dressing of your choice. Optional: Instead of ranch, you can use honey mustard, teriyaki, or other dressing.
7.Stir-Fried Veggies and Tofu
Toss your favorite veggies and cubed tofu in a hot skillet with soy sauce and garlic for a quick and nutritious stir-fry. Optional: Precooked and prepared shredded chicken or beef.
Simmer canned chickpeas with canned diced tomatoes and curry spices or canned pre-made curry sauce. Serve over rice or with naan bread.
9.Couscous with Chickpeas and Veggies
Cook couscous and toss with canned chickpeas and your choice of diced veggies. Season with lemon and herbs.
10.Pasta with Pesto
Cook pasta and mix it with store-bought pesto sauce. Add cherry tomatoes and grated Parmesan. Optional: Add grilled chicken, pork or seafood.
11.Sausage and Bell Pepper Pasta
Sauté sliced sausage and bell peppers, then toss with cooked pasta and marinara sauce. Optional: Side of dinner rolls or crusty bread.
12.Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Make grilled cheese sandwiches while heating up canned tomato soup for a comforting meal. Optional: Pair with a side of carrot, celery, or cucumber sticks.
13.Rotisserie Chicken + Salad
Purchase a rotisserie chicken at nearby grocery store, a bagged or boxed salad and dressing. Plate and serve. That’s it!
14.Lazy Shepherd's Pie
Cook ground beef (lean or medium) in a pan until fully cooked. Add frozen or canned mixed veggies and shepherd’s pie seasoning mix. Prepare instant potatoes. In a bowl, add the meat and veggie mix, top it with a generous amount of mash potatoes and shredded cheese. Optional: If you have extra time – bake or broil it in the oven until potato and cheese are crisp.
15.Ramen Noodles & Veggies
Sautee garlic and onions in a pan. Add veggies you have on hand, can be frozen, canned or fresh (carrots, spinach, mushrooms and/or peas) until cooked. Add soy sauce to taste. In a pot, cook ramen until just done. Add to pan with garlic, onion and veggies. Optional: Add hardboiled eggs or leftover grilled chicken or other cooked meat. Sesame oil for extra flavor.
Other Meal Options When You Have Zero Time
Meal Planning Apps
Maybe you want the convenience of 15 minute meals but want 1 hour meal taste. You can get that with the help of meal planning apps that have hundreds of meal ideas.
Plan to Eat: Another great meal planning app designed to simplify meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking that also integrates well with popular grocery delivery and pickup services like Walmart. Also has a 14-day free trial!
Meal Kits - Heat and Serve!
I get it. There are days when you want someone else to do the work and you just want to heat and serve.
Enter meal kits. A healthy and delicious time and energy saver at dinner time.
I recommend Gobble. Cost per serving is reasonable for the amount of time and energy saved.
Right now they are offering 6 meals for $36. It’s worth giving them a try and with busy back to school season, they will make the transition back to school so much easier.