I don’t know about you but I have a hard time coming up with dinner ideas night after night. We eat the same things over and over again, and no matter what I make, someone in the family always hates it. Dinnertime is always a struggle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: dinnertime sucks.
The worst part is thinking up something to make that A) the kids will actually consume without gagging, and B) Is actually quick, easy and cheap enough to throw together on a weeknight amidst all the homework, chores, sports, and doctor appointments. Often, when I look up new dinner ideas I end up sifting through unnecessarily complicated recipes with pricey ingredients that I never have on hand. To me, successful dinner ideas have to be things I can throw together in 20-30 minutes without a lot of advance preparation, money spent, trips to the store, or complaints from my kids. A tall order, I know. But it’s a weeknight necessity. Otherwise it would just be cold cereal or frozen pizza every night.
Over the last 17 years of making dinner for my family, I’ve come up with a few meals that actually are cheap, quick and easy. And they are even kid-friendly. For the most part. No meal ever pleases everyone. But that’s another topic altogether. At some point in my kids’ childhoods I have relied on each of these meals as a go-to for weeknight dinners.
Nine Dinner Ideas that are Actually Cheap, Quick, Easy, and Kid-Friendly:
Especially when you have littles, homemade quesadillas are an easy way to get your kids to eat. You can simply fold over a tortilla with cheese in the middle and microwave it for a bit. Or if you want to get real “fancy” (like anything I do is ever fancy), you can fry a tortilla in butter, top it with shredded cheddar cheese, sprinkle some chili powder on it and then top that with another tortilla. Flip it over to cook evenly. I slice mine up into triangles and serve them with salsa and sour cream on the side.
I grew up calling these Dutch pancakes but it’s the same thing. Here’s the recipe I’ve been using that my mom gave to me when I got married. I think she got it from a high school Home Economics class. Very little prep, and it’s bakes for only 20 minutes. I usually double it and cook it in a 9×13 casserole dish. Then serve it with pancake syrup. My 17-year-old even likes to make this on his own.
This obviously requires advance preparation because you have to make it in the Crock Pot in the morning. But it’s SO quick and easy. I just put in a pork roast (they’re super cheap at Costco) and then put baby carrots and diced potatoes on top of that and top it all off with cream of mushroom soup and onion soup mix. Someone in college told me about this one and it’s a perfect slow cooker roast.
This is another slow cooker recipe that is even easier than the roast. Stick in a pork roast and top it with BBQ sauce. When it’s done cooking, serve it shredded on hamburger buns.
Another idea I think I got in college. Dump in cans of tomato soup, corn, kidney beans and olives. Add cooked ground beef, taco seasoning, and heat it up. Easy Peasy. The hardest part is cooking the meat. I find my weeknight dinners are a lot easier if I cook the week’s meat ahead of time and then pull it out of the fridge or freezer when I need it.
I feel like this is the most overlooked quick and easy meal. How hard is it to boil some noodles and pour a jar of sauce over it? You can even change it up and swap marinara for alfredo once in awhile.
I’ll be honest, unless someone else in the family is willing to grill them, I just microwave them. Lame, I know. But the kids don’t care. Some of my kids eat them with buns and condiments and some eat them plain. Whatever you want, kids.
Egg noodle soup
My mother-in-law used to make this for my husband when he was little. It’s basically just ramen but while it’s cooking you crack an egg in it and mix it all up until the egg breaks and cooks all streaky in the soup. My kids love it.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup
My kids’ favorite part about this is when I cut the sandwiches into three or four sticks that they can dip in their cups of soup.
To make any of these a complete meal, just steam some frozen veggies and you’re done. A complete, cheap, actually quick and easy, semi-nutritious meal (I’m not claiming this is health food, but it’ll keep them fed) that most kids will actually eat.
What are YOUR go-to quick and easy meals for a hectic weeknight? Please share with us. We need all the dinner ideas we can get!