11 Simple Meals for Busy Nights

11 Simple Meals for Busy Nights

cheese and crackers


As 2011 comes to an end, we’re sharing helpful lists to help you save money, stay healthy, get organized, creatively repurpose, frugally gift-give, intentionally celebrate and more in our “11 Things for 2011” series throughout these holiday months.

Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer

It’s already mid-November. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and after that is Christmas, and then New Year’s.

With a myriad of family gatherings happening on or around these dates, plus Christmas plays and other school events, and holiday parties — it’s a busy time. So busy that you may not have that much time to cook!

Instead of throwing caution to the wind and relying on some packaged foods during this busy season (which will almost certainly mean you’ll end up not feeling well and possibly gaining some unwanted weight!), turn to these 11 simple real food meals that come together quickly and easily.

1. Chicken and Potatoes

One of our favorites, it literally cooks in less than 20 minutes, and includes plenty of healthy coconut oil. Serve a salad or some steamed broccoli on the side, sprinkle some raw cheese on top (if you like) and you have a quick, easy, healthy meal.

2. Taco Salad

So simple to make and everyone can customize theirs however they like. Pre-soak and pre-cook beans and keep them in the freezer and this one goes on the table in less than 20 minutes.

3. Fried potatoes with broccoli and cheese sauce

Eat it by itself, or add some quickly cooked burgers or leftover shredded chicken and you’ve got an easy, yummy meal.

4. Smoothies and scrambled eggs

Smoothies are easily customizable and can be made in minutes. So can scrambled eggs (add chopped veggies or meat or cheese if you like). Simple!

5. Frozen Waffles

That you’ve made yourself, of course. They freeze excellently, so you can just pop them in the toaster. Cover them with butter and real maple syrup, or whipped cream and fresh fruit. Cook some quick sausage patties to go with them if you like.

6. Quesadillas

Buy some whole wheat tortillas (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s sometimes) or make a double or triple batch and freeze them. Make them just cheese, or throw in pre-cooked, shredded chicken or veggies. Serve frozen beans alongside if you like.

7. Pigs-in-blankets

I haven’t posted this recipe yet, but I made a huge batch of these and froze them (pre-baked). They can be heated up, or even taken along and eaten as they thaw. They’re basically soaked crescent roll dough wrapped around uncured hot dogs. They take a little work up front (not too much hands-on time, really) but once they’re frozen they’re dinner in minutes.

8. Pita Pizzas

Use a pita and top it with tomato sauce, cheese, and anything else you have around. The pita’s already baked, so you only have to melt the cheese. Dinner in 10 minutes!

9. Marinated Beef Strips

I like to make two or three pounds and freeze them in the marinade. Then I pull them out in the morning, they’re thawed and well-marinated when I want them. Fry them up quickly in a pan and pair them with beans and lettuce for a taco-salad-style meal, or pair with fried potatoes or rice. We have done all of those ways.

10. Cheese and crackers

An old standby, just pull out a box of organic crackers and some raw cheese. Have an apple, some beef jerky, or dried fruit to go with it.

11. Mac’n’cheese

If I’m really struggling, I get a box of organic mac’n’cheese and cook it up with good quality butter and cream. I add some steamed broccoli and chicken, ground beef, or canned tuna (which my kids love) alongside. Fast and yummy!

What are your top (fast and easy) meal choices for busy nights?

Top image by MathiasBaert

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  1. We throw some chicken sausage on the stove and add a simple side salad or some steamed vegetables to complete the meal. Quick, delicious and healthy too.

  2. Our favorite quickies are bean quesadillas or beans and greens. We usually have a supply of cooked beans going in the fridge or freezer (or I can my own) so these take less than 10 minutes for us.

  3. Our speedy stand by is Skyline Chili. We’re originally from Cincinnati and this spagetti/pasta/cheese combo is true comfort food for us. All I have to do is boil some gf pasta, heat the frozen chili and top with cheese. It’s quick and easy and it feels like home!

  4. We had one of our quick standbys last night: Grilled cheese and soup. I put a little homemade tomato sauce on the cheese and it all melts together. Tasty and neither boy fights me on eating. 🙂

  5. My quick dinner standby are our gluten free pancakes. Whenever I make them I do a triple batch so there are lots of leftovers to freeze, but also because there are a lot of ingredients to mix together. Then, in a pinch it can be on the table in 20 minutes or less with scrambled eggs on the side. And with scrambled eggs I throw in fresh baby spinach and just scramble it together. The kids love breakfast dinner!

  6. I can’t get the Chicken and Potatoes link to work either. 🙁
    Great post Kate!!! We love Pita Pizzas around here. It’s a stand-by for me. And if I don’t have pitas, we use tortillas. YUM!

  7. I was able to get the chicken and potatoes link to work. (Maybe it’s fixed now?) Anyway, it looks great. Our favorite quick meal is chicken curry pitas. Boil the chicken, cut up and add chopped onion, celery, roasted peanuts, and grapes (or whatever sounds good), mayo, and curry powder and then serve on a pita folded in half like a sandwich. I usually toast my pita first in the toaster oven. Yummy!

    1. @Elaine, Yes, it is highly saturated, but not unhealthy at all. Here’s a post where I talk more about the kind of fats that our family eats and why:

      For more specifically on coconut oil, here’s another great post from Kitchen Stewardship:

      I definitely agree with her thoughts that coconut oil is a stable and beneficial oil, although we shouldn’t use it to the exclusion of other oils. Hope that helps answer your question!

  8. Chili is my old standby. Some ground meat (beef out poultry), canned beans, canned tomatoes, and any other vegetables we have around. Saute, stir and simmer 45 mins! Super easy and then you have 45 mins to relax, clean up, or finish up loose ends. And there is always leftovers for the hubby to take for lunch

  9. Yey! This is a great list. So often I find that quick dinner ideas are things my husband wouldn’t eat but this list has a few that I think he would actually enjoy.

  10. Mmm, I am making dinner off this list! Chicken and potatoes with broccoli and cheese on the side!
    My favourite meal for ‘busy nights/days’ would be baked potato/sweet potato and onion wedges with chicken theighs. I cut everything up (except the theighs, which go in whole, sometimes still frozen), throw it all in a casserole dish sprinkle with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper, then drizzle liberally with olive oil. Mix it all up, put in a 400 degree oven, and you have an awesome dinner or lunch in 45 to 60 mins =)

  11. Our family fave in a pinch is salmon patties made w/canned (wild caught) salmon, homemade breadcrumbs which I keep in the freezer, onion powder, sea salt, garlic powder and pepper w/an egg. Cook in butter and serve w/frozen peas. I like to cook up mashed potatoes if I have some too 🙂

  12. Elaine
    Coconut oil is medium chain fatty acids which are good for you.

    My usual quick meal is Garrett County breakfast ham slices heated up quickly in a skillet, raw vegies such as carrots and a fruit like bananas, organic apples or apple sauce.


  13. Elaine
    We need foods high in saturated fat. Among a book-load of other information, coconut oil is 50% lauric acid. The only other natural source of that powerful antimicrobial/antiviral substance is in human breast milk. I know, it’s shocking, but the low-fat craze has produced an epidemic of obesity and overall illness. The book Real Food, What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck is great, as is TropicalTraditions.com’s Coconut Oil Miracle. 🙂

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