Are you trying to get dinner on the table stat? These super simple meals are ones that my family loves.
The Blessing of Simple Foods
Cooking for eleven people, three meals a day, takes a lot of time and energy. In order to streamline as much as possible, we are learning to appreciate and enjoy simple foods.
You do not need several courses and side dishes to make a complete meal. Keep is simple.
I used to feel guilty when I started serving simple meals, but I don’t any longer. I have come to really enjoy the extra time I saved more than I enjoyed serving more complicated fare.
Biggest take away for me?
Everyday food does not need to be fancy. We can save that for the holidays like Thanksgiving or a slow Saturday when I have the urge to cook something more grand.
However, even when they’re simple, our meals should be real, nutritious, and tasty. These five dinners check all of those boxes. They are easy to prepare, kid-friendly, and delicious. Most contain protein, vegetables, and carbs all in one easy to serve meal.
Feel free to add additional fruits/veggies as simple sides. Your kids can even prepare those for you while you cook the main dish. Then, you can all sit down to a tasty meal together. And it won’t have taken all day to prepare.
Note: I am not a food blogger. The majority of the simple meals below are all ones that we’ve adapted over the years to our family’s tastes. They are now committed to memory, which makes them cook up even faster. Feel free to experiment and see what you like! You don’t have to use exact measurement when you cook a recipe – simplify it!
Let’s dive right in!
1. Stir Fry
We LOVE stir fry, and make it at least once a week. It’s on our current annual meal plan for lunch on Mondays, though we have eaten it as dinner many times in years past.
This super simple meal is a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies. By the time the noodles are done cooking, you can everything else prepared. Especially if you use frozen vegetables and leftover meat.
A favorite combination of ours uses leftover steak (cut into thin strips) or chicken (also cut) and a bag of oriental stir fry frozen vegetables. For the noodles, we use either top ramen (faster) or spaghetti noodles (what the majority of the family prefers).
For the sauce you can keep it simple. I typically start with even parts soy sauce and brown sugar. Then I add a splash of ginger and garlic, and some sriracha for flavor (not enough to make it spicy). If we want more of a sweet-sour flavor, I add ketchup and rice vinegar to the mix. We make this sauce slightly different each time, and it’s always delicious.
One of my favorite bloggers has a great recipe for noodle stir fry you can check out. Her sauce doesn’t have the brown sugar, so it’s definitely healthier.
2. Baked Potato Bar
Though potatoes take some time to bake, they are really hands off and perfect for a busy night. About an hour and a half before you want to eat, scrub a potato for everyone.
Prick each one with a fork, and put them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (You can wrap each with aluminum foil, but I don’t usually). Then walk away.
About ten minutes before dinner, mix up a simple cheese sauce. Heat up some frozen broccoli at the same time. You can microwave it or steam it.
Drain the broccoli, and set the potatoes out of the oven carefully. They will be hot! Cut each potato partway open and let everyone dish up their own.
To give them a variety of toppings, set out the sour cream, butter, green onions, diced ham, and any thing else you can think of. Everyone can then build their own potato for dinner, which means there’ll be less complaining. That’s a big win!
3. Taco Salad
This meal comes together so quickly, and it’s a family favorite on Taco Tuesday.
Quick note: You can make this meal even faster by cooking taco meat in bulk and storing it in your freezer. Then it’ll just need to warm when you’re ready, not cook all the way.
But even without the precooked meat, this super simple meal is fast.
While a pound of hamburger is browning, chop and wash your lettuce and tomato, open a can of beans, and mix up your dressing of choice (we do homemade ranch).
Lisa’s Homemade Ranch
In a small bowl, combine the following and mix well:
- Equal parts sour cream and mayo
- A couple of good shakes of Kirkland Signature No Salt Seasoning (from Costco)
- A sprinkle of salt
Once everything is ready, you’re ready to plate. You can either mix it all up like my Mom used to do, or let everyone dish up their own. Your choice.
Before you eat, try sprinkling some crumbled tortilla chips on top. We love the crunch they provide!
4. Dutch Baby Pancake
This quick breakfast for dinner meal has many names. I’m not really sure where Dutch Baby came from, but that’s what we call it.
This recipe is hands off, and simple, and only takes a few ingredients.
To start, put a stick of butter in a large (non-glass) baking pan and let it melt as your oven preheats to 400 degrees. While that melts, add the following to your blender: ‘
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups flour
Then blend it up until it’s smooth. You can also mix by hand, but I think it takes a long time to get the lumps out, so I’d rather wash the blender than fight it.
When the butter is melted, carefully pull the hot pan out and pour in the blender batter you just made. Put it back in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes.
It puffs up and looks beautiful when it’s done.
Once it’s ready, you can take this meal two different ways. You can add blueberries and syrup for a sweet version, or diced ham and cheese for a savory meal.
With some fruit on the side, you’ve got a complete meal with lots of protein from the eggs.
5. Egg Fried Rice
Rice is a staple in our house. We cook it at least once a week in the InstantPot.
Then, we can use the leftover rice for a simple egg fried rice. It does taste better when you start with cold rice. But, you may not always have that on hand. So, feel free to use hot, fresh rice. Despite my best intentions, I wind up doing that at least a couple of times a month when egg fried rice is a weekly menu item.
Regardless, once you have your rice, scramble some eggs. I like to do five or six eggs, but you can do a different amount. Once the eggs are done, take them out of the pan. I let them sit in a bowl next to the stove.
In the same pan, swirl in a bit of olive oil and a dash of sesame oil. Then, cook some diced ham. I almost always use lunch meat. Unless we’ve happened to eat a ham recently. That kind of ham definitely tastes better, but I don’t often have it on hand. So going with lunch meat helps keep this super simple meal simple.
Once the meat is heated, add some frozen peas. I use a whole large bag, but my kids all really like peas and there are a lot of us. If you have a smaller family, use less!
To the peas and ham, add the rice. Stir carefully so you don’t overflow it onto your stove. But, make sure you don’t let the bottom burn. When it’s all hot and toasty, add your eggs back in. I also add some soy at this time – just enough to make it a light brown color, not so much that it’s drowning in a sauce.
For the top, snip a green onion if you want. Or add a sprinkle of peanuts. Or a bit of sriracha. Everyone in my family finishes their rice a bit differently, which is fun to watch.
Some More Super Simple Meals for the Win
If you are looking for even faster meals, here are some that are more non-cook. But, most of these will need some sort of veggie and fruit to go with them to make them healthier.
These are my “emergency” meals that I can get on the table in the speed of light.
- Cheese and cracker trays
- Peanut butter and jelly tacos
- Cheese and ham quesadillas (microwaved for speed)
- Taco pizza (flour tortilla spread with pizza sauce topped with cheese and pepperoni and heated in the microwave)
- Build your own salad bar (my kids really like when I set out Goldfish crackers and cranberries for this meal)
- A bowl of cereal
What Are Your Favorite Super Simple Meals?
Now that you know a few of my favorite super simple meals, I’d love to hear which ones you enjoy! Let me know in the comments.