It’s 5pm on a Tuesday and you’re trying to decide what to pull together for dinner… again. Finding healthy weeknight meals that are both family-friendly and don’t take hours to cook can be a lot harder than you think! Fortunately, I’ve come up with a few simple staple recipes and tips on how to make weeknight cooking a bit easier along the way.
In this guide, I’ve provided unique last minute dinner ideas and advice on meal planning, along with a couple of my personal tried and true easy weeknight recipes. If you have any helpful tips or a favorite dinner recipe of your own, leave a comment below! xoM
Last Minute Dinner Ideas
Sometimes, things just have to be last minute! If you find yourself in a bind for time during the week, I have a few ideas for some quick last minute dinner ideas that are both healthy and can come together in under 30.
When In Doubt: Pasta
Pasta is essentially the most versatile and easiest dinner that even a beginner can whip up in no time, depending on the recipe. Plus, most everyone has a box or two in the back of their pantry at all times. The issue is that pasta dishes can tend to get a little boring. Maybe you’re stuck in a routine and your family is getting tired of seeing the same ingredients on the plate.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little inspiration! I’ve pulled together a list of some of my favorite pasta recipes that are still simple and quick, but can also take you out of your pasta comfort zone (in a good way).
Linguine with Lemon and Tomatoes by Love and Lemons. An elevated, simple dish with bright flavors that comes together in 35 minutes.
Bon Appetit’s Pantry Pasta. A “lightning-fast” pasta recipe combining ingredients found in most pantries.
Cacio e Pepe from Epicurious. A classic, minimalist recipe full of creamy textures and simple flavors.
Check out a few of my own easy weeknight recipes utilizing pasta here.
Keep the Freezer Stocked
It’s getting late, your work deadline is quickly approaching, the kids are hungry, and you just don’t feel like lugging the pots and pans out. We’ve all been there! Rather than calling for pizza, it can be beneficial to keep your freezer or pantry stocked up with some healthier options that you can reach for on nights like these.
One of my favorites to keep in the house is Amy’s Kitchen — their frozen meals are actually pretty great and made with fresh, organic ingredients. Plus, their meals are actually ‘pre-cooked’, not processed. Try their Veggie Crust Pizza or Roasted Poblano Enchiladas.
Another good brand to have on hand is Annie’s. Their mac and cheese is a fan-favorite and their one-pot pasta dishes are a great option for quick, healthy weeknight meals that still feel home cooked. They also have plenty of gluten free and vegan options in case you’re dealing with some special dietary requests!
Order Local Takeout
Sometimes, you just need to order the takeout. Which, in my opinion, is not a bad choice! Not only is it a chance to support local businesses, but it can also be a great way for your family to try a new cuisine or restaurant.
If you’re in the Phoenix area, you might find the following list of family-friendly dinner spots helpful to guide you through your takeout journey.
Doughbird is a great restaurant in the valley to pick up quick, healthy weeknight meals on the go. Their family meal serves 4 for $32, and includes a whole roasted chicken, with a salad, a large side and sauce.
Il Bosco Pizza
Il Bosco features a menu of wood-fired thin crust artisan pizza, topped with house-made sauces and seasonal, local produce. They also have a robust take out menu, with the addition of $10 DIY pizza kits, which is great to bring home for the kids.
A great option for those near downtown to order authentic Thai food from a family owned and operated local spot. They serve fresh, inventive meals, such as their signature Coconut Pork, Beef Mangone, and Pineapple Curry Chicken.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out my post here to see a full list of nominees from The Scout Guide’s ‘Favorite Dinners in AZ’ category.
The Weeknight Meal Plan
When it comes to weeknight meal planning, you might consider having a strategy set in place to avoid the stress that comes along with throwing something together at the last minute. How in depth the planning goes is up to you! The following are my tips and tricks for building a successful weeknight meal plan that sticks.
Use a Calendar
It may seem simple, but using a calendar or a scheduling system can really help you to plan out the weeks ahead. You can use a pre-organized meal planner like this one here, or you can simply grab an old notebook or a whiteboard to set up your calendar.
When it comes to the actual planning, it’s up to you for how detailed you want to be. You can simply add recipe names, or even just the type of dish (e.g. pasta night, chicken soup, etc.). You can also go as far as listing out the ingredients needed for each meal.
Make it fun
Get the whole family involved! This is a great way to both turn the meal planning into a fun activity for your family and helps to avoid those picky eaters from reacting to a certain ingredient when dinner comes to the table.
Hold family meetings on Sunday where you can sit down and plan out the week’s meals together. Try assigning each family member a day that they can plan to get some more engagement. You can even add in a night designated for takeout to mix it up!
Once you’ve made your plan, it’s a good idea to write it all down in a shopping list. This is especially important if you are making something that requires a few special ingredients that you don’t have on hand. Getting everything you need in the house at the start of the week will ensure that you are ready to cook so there will be no need for those last minute dinner ideas.
My Own Easy Weeknight Recipes
Now for the fun part. I’ve added some of my own family’s favorite healthy weeknight meals of mine so that you can start your week off with some fresh ideas. Maybe you can add one of these recipes to your weeknight meal plan!