Need a quick dinner in 30 minutes or less with no meal plan? If you're not a meal plan kind of person, no worries! You can keep basic pantry and food staples on hand and be able to make easy, fast meals at the last minute. I'm a new empty nester so lately I tend to wait until the last minute to think about what's for dinner. So here's a solution for quick dinner ideas!
How to Meal Plan:
Meal planning is the way to go if you want to make it easier on yourself in the long run. If you have a menu for the week, along with a shopping list and recipes handy, meals end up on the table faster. Plus meal plans can help save money on groceries!
Here's some easy ways to meal plan. There are tons of ways to go about it, so just choose what's easiest for you. Also, don't feel like you have to be so rigid as to not change your mind at the last minute!
Even though I don't meal plan per say, I do have main meals that are staples for my family. I keep the ingredients on hand to fall back on those recipes when I need a quick meal.
Meal Plan Themes:
- Think of favorite meals and schedule them onto a weekly calendar.
- Have theme day meals (you can totally change these up)
- Meatless Monday
- Taco Tuesday (Mexican)
- Weds Soup and Salad or Sandwich
- Thursday Casserole
- Friday Pizza Night
- Saturday Grill Out Night
- Sunday Crock Pot Meal
- Theme your meals and days by the appliance:
- Crock pot
- Instant Pot
- Air Fryer
- Stove top/Saute
- Theme based on heritage of meal:
- Theme based on main entree:
- Beef night
- Chicken night
- Seafood night
- Sandwich night
- Breakfast food night
- Vegetarian night
- Soup night
So you get the picture. But the goal of any meal is for nourishment and connecting with others. So it doesn't matter if you meal plan or make a meal at the last minute. Eating meals as a family has lots of benefits on family relationships. Here's an article to help you learn how to eat more family meals.
Basic Pantry Staples:
In order to create fast meals you need to keep some items on hand:
- Frozen chicken, fish, and shrimp
- Frozen bags of vegetables
- Rice, potatoes, quinoa, pasta, beans
- Canned foods, including tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce/paste, canned beans
- Basic fresh foods: eggs, milk, butter, cheeses
- Spices, oils, sauces
Example meal with no plan:
Here's what I do to make a meal at the last minute. To make a quick meal with 3 food items and no recipes, I turned on the oven to 400 degrees.
Fish/Chicken/Shrimp: Grab some fish from the freezer and put into cool water in the sink to thaw a few minutes. One tip on chicken. Buy large package of raw chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces and freeze flat into freezer ziplock bags. Freeze enough for a meal in each bag depending on family size. Option: If you have an Instant Pot, just put the chicken straight into the Instant Pot frozen, add 1 cup broth or sauce (BBQ, Buffalo) so it will come to pressure, and any spices and cook appropriate time. For frozen chicken I cook about 25 minutes.
Rice: I started some rice. Boiled 1 ¾ cup broth or water. When the broth or water boils, add 1 cup rice, turn temperature down to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes.
Vegetable: Pick any bag of frozen vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, brussels sprouts, whatever you want other than spinach or green beans), toss in a ziplock bag with 1 Tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp salt/pepper or whatever spices or spice blend you like. Put on a sheet pan or shallow dish. Put in the oven to roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. You can be creative with this and add some onion slices, mushrooms, or mix and match vegetables.
Meat: Once rice and vegetables are cooking. Heat a skillet on med heat. I use a cast iron skillet (the BEST to cook with!) Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the meat, sprinkle with spice of choice. I usually use Mrs. Dash seasoning or McCormick's seasoning blends with no salt. Saute on each side, flipping and stirring once or twice until cooked thoroughly.
Now when your timer goes off you're ready to eat!
Steps to a 30 Minute Meal with No Plan:
- Thaw chicken, fish, or shrimp. These tend to cook quickly in a skillet.
- Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces and it will cook quicker.
- Sprinkle with seasoning blend of choice. I love the Mrs. Dash's Fiesta Lime, Lemon Pepper, and McCormick's Garlic and Herb. Taco seasoning is another option.
- Heat skillet and add 1-2 Tbsp. oil.
- Add meat and stir fry until cooked through.
- Boil broth and add quinoa, rice, or other 20 minute cooking grain following package directions. You can also use a quicker cooking brown or wild rice.
- Pasta: follow package directions.
- If doing potatoes, here are two options:
- Chop and boil for mashed potatoes
- Dice and roast with your vegetables.
- I always include vegetables in our meals. My kids aren't picky and eat vegetables well. If you need help with getting your kids to eat vegetables be sure to check out the book by my friend Jill Castle, RD. I've read this book and it has great ideas. This is an affiliate link but I never share products I don't truly love. Try New Food.
- Here's some other easy ways to help your kids eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Keep a variety of frozen vegetables in your freezer. Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh, sometimes even better. They are immediately frozen to keep the nutrients whereas fresh travel to the store losing nutrients over time.
- Try to fill half your plate with vegetables!
- Options for cooking:
- Roasting- we love our roasted! It brings out a better taste and is easy. You just spread them in a pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on spices. Bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes or until done.
That's it! Dinner is served in less than 30 minutes!
For carbohydrate counting: meat is typically 0, starch: ½ cup potatoes/corn/beans/peas =15, ⅓ cup cooked rice or pasta = 15. Vegetables are ½ cup = 5. If you have bread or fruit, add 15 grams per serving. See carb counting post!
What are some of your quick and easy dinners? Tag us on Instagram with your meals at #quickhealthycook
Follow us on Instagram for lots of quick meal ideas like this easy Shrimp Taco!