You know that feeling you get when it is getting on toward dinner time and you have NO idea what you’re going to make? Sometimes it’s a failure in creativity. Or motivation. Or maybe just grocery shopping.
Or, maybe, it was because you got a phone call from the school telling you that your kid fell off a stationary bike (that he wasn’t supposed to be on) and off the stage (that he wasn’t supposed to be on either) and that you needed to come and take him to Urgent Care to have his head stapled back together. Yeah. That happened. It was a while ago now, but it happened.
This is when the drive-thru window, or the take out menus start calling your name.
Ignore them. They are not healthy or frugal choices. You can (almost always) do better!
And here are some ideas to get you started:
Beans & Rice — This is the very top of my “go to” list. It really is quick, easy, and frugal… plus we almost always have all of the ingredients kicking around. Rice takes about 20 minutes to cook, and by the time that’s done everything else is ready and waiting. Dinner is on the table in less than a half-hour–and that includes the time it takes to find the counter and wash the frying pan!
Toodles: The Tuna Noodle NOT Casserole — Besides being quick and easy, Toodles is plain, simple comfort food. So often the thought “I don’t know what to make for dinner” is really just a version of “I don’t want to cook.” And I’ll admit that this isn’t exactly like having your mom come over and cook for you… but it’s a lot like her home cooking… sans the cream of mushroom soup! I always keep a couple of cans of tuna fish on hand just for this recipe.
Indian-Spiced Split Peas — Technically this one isn’t last-minute; it’s cooked in the crock pot, so it takes all day. On the other hand, the prep time is almost nothing, and it is hot and waiting for you when you come in at the end of the day. Plus it makes enough for an army, even if that army consists of growing children, so there are leftovers for longer than anyone wants to eat them. But it freezes well! Another awesome thing about this dish is that it uses “throwaway” greens — I wrote it for radish tops, but it is also delicious with carrot tops. Of course spinach, kale, and other greens work well too. Or you can just leave out the greens altogether and have a salad or something. Be sure to check out this post for other great crock pot recipes, because there is nothing like having dinner already made at the end of the day!
Roast Chicken — This recipe calls for making a potato stuffing and roasting the vegetables with the chicken. And all of that is delicious, but it is even quicker and easier to pop the naked, unstuffed chicken into the oven with a couple of potatoes for baking. Cook up your favorite frozen veggie and it’s all done in less than an hour with very little effort on your part. And don’t forget to save the carcass for making bone broth. Once that is done, you can feed yourself for a week!
Soup. It’s What’s for Dinner.
Cock-a-Leekie Soup — This soup is made with that fabulous bone broth from our roasted chicken, but doesn’t actually have any chicken in it. And, sure, not everyone has leeks floating around in their refrigerator. But you can always skip the leeks, fry up a couple of extra onions and call it potato soup. Leave out the prunes and grate some cheese to sprinkle on top and you have a great meal!
Endless Pot of Soup — Bone broth to the rescue again! Just take a quart or two of broth and start throwing things into it: leftover chicken or ground beef, frozen veggies, leftover potatoes or rice… really just about anything you have! This is quick and an excellent way to make sure you are not wasting food. And why is it endless? Because this can go on all week, or even longer! Just keep adding to it! For example the soup we had for dinner the other day started out with leftover chicken, potatoes, corn, and carrots. At some point I added rice, some sauteed mushrooms, and spinach. Then I added more corn and a jar of tomatoes. Bonus: Every time you bring the whole pot to a rolling boil it stops being a leftover and becomes a whole new meal again … so you could literally eat this same soup for weeks without food poisoning yourself!
Make Breakfast for Dinner.
Scrambled Eggs — I remember once when my neighbor–who was a brand-new bride at the time–came popped her head into my kitchen while I was scrambling eggs for dinner. “You can do that?” she asked in tones of horrified fascination. Yup. And I highly recommend it! If you toss in some leftover veggies and grate some cheese over it, you have a complete meal!
Pancakes — This is my favorite pancake recipe… but if you haven’t thought far ahead you can always use sprouted flour instead; it gets you to the same healthy place. Add plenty of butter, and choose apple sauce or fruit instead of syrup for a more healthy, more dinner-like meal. Be sure to check out this post for even more pancake recipes!
When All Else Fails…
Popcorn — I firmly stand by the notion that air-popped popcorn, with plenty of butter, coconut oil, and salt is practically a superfood. If you add a bowl of fruit, or maybe a glass of wine (come on, you just agreed that popcorn was a suitable supper, of course you need a glass of wine) you’re golden. And if you’re harboring any doubts to the suitability of this, just remember, your other option was a drive-through window. Just make sure you are NOT using microwave popcorn. If you don’t have an air-popper, check out this recipe on how to make stove top popcorn!
And… there you have it. What do you like to make for dinner when you are completely out of ideas?
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