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Life is a chaotic mess, you don’t have time to breathe, let alone plan dinner without a takeout menu in one hand. You can make easy weeknight dinners in a snap with a few staples most of us already have on hand. Easy weeknight dinners can be quick, budget-friendly AND healthy, no need to choose. And most of these ideas that I have grabbed are great for kids. Nothing too fancy or exotic.
For the past several centuries the bonding power of the family dinner table has been one of the few constants, and now it’s binding no more. The potency of the media is now stronger than that of the family. The wonder is that families still exist at all since the forces of modern life mainly all pull people away from a family-centered way of life.–Larry McMurtry
Easy Weeknight Dinners with Ingredients You Already Have in Your Pantry
Black Bean Chili You will need an onion and some garlic to make this savory soup — the rest is all pantry staples, but you can save chopped onion and garlic in the freezer. And with instructions for stovetop, slow cooker, and Instant Pot, you can pick a recipe that works for your schedule.
Taco Mac ‘n’ Cheese Start with your favorite boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, then add taco meat and your go-to taco toppings like salsa, avocado, or jalapeño. Yum!
Three Ingredient Mexican Rice All you need are three ingredients — rice, enchilada sauce, and chicken broth — to throw together this filling dinner. If you’re short on time (or motivation) just grab some microwaveable rice.
Spinach Tortellini Soup This satisfying main-dish soup is ready in just 15 minutes thanks to shortcut staples like packaged tortellini and frozen spinach. Frozen spinach is an easy way to put vegetables into just about anything.
Sloppy Joes Kids and adults alike love sloppy joes and this essential family recipe is always a crowd-pleaser. Saucy ground beef is piled onto burger buns for a tasty and filling dinner you can get on the table quickly. Use defrosted frozen beef to make it, thawing meat in the fridge overnight. If you pre-brown the ground beef before freezing, you can just thaw the meat right in the pan as you make dinner.
Salmon Spaghetti Carbonara Canned salmon can be substituted for any leftover fish in this delicious recipe, without sacrificing flavor. The luxurious salmon spaghetti carbonara with bacon, egg yolks, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and peas is quick and easy enough for busy weeknights, but special enough to serve drop-in guests.
Classic Tomato Soup If you have a couple of cans of tomatoes in your pantry, you have the makings of amazing homemade soup. Bonus points if you have some bread and cheese on hand to make grilled cheese sandwiches to serve alongside. Sourdough with pepper jack cheese is a big hit!
One-Pot Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole If you don’t have chicken or cheddar for this stovetop casserole, no problem. You can substitute deli ham or bacon bits for the meat and any other kind of cheese you have.
Easy Chicken and Dumplings Canned biscuits turn into delicious dumplings in this quick-and-easy version of the traditional recipe. Use deli-roasted chicken to save time; one roasted chicken yields about 3 cups, the amount needed for this recipe. Chicken and dumplings, comfort food at its finest.
Lemon Quinoa with Peas You bought that box of healthy quinoa and now you’re wondering what to do with it. Never fear, you got this. You can even use canned peas instead of frozen veggies or mix it up with lima beans. The lemon is refreshing and bottled lemon juice will do if you don’t have a fresh lemon.
Loaded Potato Soup You can do better than just heating up a can of soup. At the very least, follow this recipe to take canned potato soup to another level with added potatoes, cheese, bacon, and onions. Top with a dollop of sour cream or plain greek yogurt to really get that loaded potato taste. Try adding in canned peas to the soup as well for another easy twist.
Southwestern Omelet This meal cooks in minutes, and is a great option for a busy night when you don’t have time for grocery shopping or to wait around for dinner to cook. Serve with buttered toast, if desired.
Easy Vegetarian Chili Canned beans and tomatoes make this quick vegetarian chili recipe ready to eat in just 30 minutes. Serve over rice or couscous if you need to stretch your meal., Top with tortilla chips, sliced scallions, chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, or sliced jalapeños.
Our Favorite Savory, Cheesy Waffles Use a sharp cheese for extra flavor and use a thinner waffle maker if you have one for extra crispy waffles. Top with your favorite savory flavors: bacon bits, sour cream, green chilies or pesto.
Bonus: Pantry Dessert
Rockin’ Rice Pudding Dessert doesn’t need to be an extravagant production either. Rice pudding is the perfect pantry staple dessert. You can even eat it the next morning for breakfast. I won’t tell.
Final Thoughts on Easy Weeknight Dinners
Dinner doesn’t need to be a big production or break the bank in order to be delicious and crowd-pleasing. I hope that these ideas will get you skipping takeout on busy nights when you haven’t been shopping. If you don’t have all the ingredients listed, improvise and substitute. The only rule when it comes to easy weeknight dinners is that it tastes good and satisfies.
What is your favorite easy weeknight dinner? Let me know in the comments below.
Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.Charles Dudley Warner
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