If you’re like me, your best-laid dinner plans often go awry. Usually on Mondays, I find all these great recipes I want to make during the week, and then I’ll have leftovers I can eat for lunch or dinner other days so I don’t spend too much money, everything’s going to be so great. Aaaaaaand then life happens. You work late, a friend invites you to meet up for happy hour or dinner, whatever. Suddenly, you don’t have time to make those fabulous recipes, and you just need something quick and easy — which is a whole lot easier if you have some staples on hand! Here are some of my favorite super-quick dinner options for those nights when you just don’t have time for anything else…
1. Packaged ravioli or totellini
This stuff can be frozen and keeps for a long time, so it’s easy to just keep on hand. Cooks up in like 10 minutes, and you can pretty much put any sauce on it (or even just olive oil or butter, if you don’t have sauce). Easy and tasty — what more can you ask for? Just watch the salt and fat contents when you’re purchasing, as some pre-packaged foods can go kind of overboard.
2. Rice and beans
My mom looked a little horrified when I told her I sometimes eat this for dinner, but it’s healthy, nutrient-rich, and super easy. All you have to do is heat up the beans, and you can reduce prep time to almost nothing by buying instant rice. I recommend brown rice (it’s a little healthier than white), and adding cheese, salsa, and maybe some avocado and cilantro on top for extra flavor. Rice and canned beans keep forever, so pick some up next time you’re at the store, and you’ll be good to go when you need a quick dinner.
Breakfast for dinner is the best. Also the easiest. Toss whatever veggies and cheese you have on hand into an egg scramble (use whites if you want to cut out some fat and cholesterol), and plop it on some toast. Omelettes are a great option to, if you’re good at making omelettes, like I am not. What I really recommend is making some waffles for your side dish/dessert — easy, breezy, beautiful decadence!
Okay, I know this one sounds a little more prep-intensive, but hear me out: chicken freezes really well, so it’s an easy thing to keep on hand until you need it. There are also about a thousand ways to cook chicken, and many of them (like grilling) are really fast. If you have some frozen chicken breasts lying around, run them under hot water for a few minutes until they thaw, and then cook them up on the stove or grill with sauce or herbs. Chicken pairs with everything (in my opinion), so grab whatever you have for a side dish — pasta, veggies, whatever. Protip: buy a bunch of chicken breasts at the grocery store, then freeze them in individual Ziploc bags. Makes it way easy to thaw just one when you need a quick meal.
Seriously, just buy a bunch of cans of appealing-looking soup next time you’re at the store. They’re cheap, keep forever, and take literally five minutes to prepare, so they’re perfect for nights when you get home and need to eat something NOW. Try to pick soups with some substance, like chicken, beans, lentils, or barley — they’ll keep you fuller longer. Again, watch the sodium content!
Throwing this one in here to remind you to save your leftovers whenever you can! Lots of things actually freeze very well, so don’t worry if you can’t finish all your leftovers before they go bad in your fridge…just pack them up and throw them in your freezer! If you can bring home leftovers from a restaurant, do that to get more bang for your buck, plus an insta-gourmet dinner the next night.