Dinner. The one meal of the day that somehow always ends up being way more complicated, time-consuming, and stressful than necessary. What is it about this meal that stresses moms out? Personally, I think the culmination of the day’s events, topped with a hungry family, plus pressure to provide good, nutritious meals are what get me flustered. Fortunately, I have a few meals in my arsenal that save me more often than not, so I want to share my favorite quick weeknight meals.
Before I became a mom, I was the kitchen queen. I constantly tried new recipes, experimented with different flavors, and didn’t worry if preparing dinner took an hour. Obviously that all changed once our son was born. Suddenly, my biggest priority became just getting something on the table as quickly as possible.
Now that he’s a toddler and we have another little one on the way, quick weeknight meals are an absolute necessity in our house. My husband works weird shifts, so most evenings I’m on my own.
Tips and Tricks for Quick Weeknight Meals
The biggest trick I found when it comes to getting dinner on the table quickly is meal planning. I used this trick before motherhood, and I’ve realized it’s even more valuable when you have kids. I usually plan one to two weeks in advance and make my plan and grocery list on payday. When meal planning, make sure to take into account activities, appointments, and other scheduling issues.
Make Enough for Leftovers
I realize not every family enjoys leftovers, but a tight budget makes reheating last night’s dinner necessary in our house. I love these quick weeknight meals because you can modify the amounts to make more, and they all keep well overnight.
Prep Food when Possible
I know this sounds impossible. Most of the quick weeknight meals I list below don’t require much prep. But sometimes a recipe calls for a chopped onion, peppers, garlic, etc. I found that things go a lot smoother when I prep my veggies beforehand, like when my toddler is napping or the night before. Before kids, I thoroughly enjoyed chopping veggies (there was just something therapeutic about it), but now I have little time to splurge in that area. Prepping veggies and even meat beforehand saves a ton of time when as you rush to get dinner on the table.
6 Quick Weeknight Meals
Now on to the fun part! These are pretty much my go-to meals and they all live in my rotation. Some I make every week, and others I save for nights I know I need a quick win.
Spaghetti, asparagus, and garlic bread
I’m sure almost every mom’s go-to quick weeknight meal is spaghetti. It’s incredibly simple and delicious. And you can make it in such a short amount of time! I put the pasta on to boil first; then get the sauce going. Normally, I brown ground beef or Italian sausage, but you can even buy frozen meatballs from Costco to use as your meat. I used to make my sauce from scratch, but now I just buy a jar of sauce and spice it up a little bit.
Line a baking sheet with tin foil and toss the asparagus with a little olive oil and seasoning. Broil in the oven for about ten minutes, give or take.
Buy a loaf of French bread, or, in a pinch, toast regular white or wheat bed and brush with a mixture of melted butter and garlic powder. When the pasta’s done, drain and add a little olive oil to keep it from sticking.
I recently added this Quick Shepherd’s Pie recipe from Tasty Home to my arsenal of quick weeknight meals. It’s great because you get veggies, meat, and potatoes all in one dish. And here’s the kicker: you don’t even have to peel and mash any potatoes! The recipe calls for refrigerated mashed potatoes and can be finished in about twenty-five minutes. I modified the recipe a bit; I add a little tomato paste to the sauce to thicken it, and I sprinkle cheese on top halfway through baking because, well, cheese.
Brats and Broccoli
This meal has been a staple for a few years. Brats take less than fifteen minutes to cook on the stove top. I roast the broccoli in the oven after tossing with olive oil and Cajun seasoning. Broil for about eight minutes and serve with biscuits or rolls.
Chili Beans/Frito Pie
This quick weeknight meal is great for the fall and winter. Cook your pinto beans in the pressure cooker, slow cooker, or Instant Pot. Add a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, 1 pound ground beef, and a packet of chili seasoning mix. Serve as Frito pie or with cornbread (from the box for time’s sake).
True confession: I hate cooking chicken. It weirds me out and I often worry I didn’t cook it thoroughly enough and end up drying it out. To solve this problem, I buy a rotisserie chicken from Costco almost every week and use it for my chicken tacos. Tip: it’s also great for chicken salad and other quick weeknight meals.
De-bone that bad boy and lightly cook with a little olive oil and taco seasoning. Either fry corn tortillas or use crunchy shells from the box. Cook a box of Spanish or Mexican rice, and warm up a can of refried beans. Voilà! Taco Tuesday!
I shared my Super Easy Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup a while back, and it always pleases the crowd. Throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning, and forget about it until dinner time. Serve topped with tortilla strips and cheese.
There is a time and a place for experimenting with time-consuming recipes, but busy weeknights aren’t it! I realize these quick weeknight meals may not work for every family, but hopefully they provide some inspiration for your own list.