12 Moms Share Their Easiest, Go-To Dinner Ideas for Busy, Tired Nights

12 Moms Share Their Easiest, Go-To Dinner Ideas for Busy, Tired Nights

family eatingIt happened again last night. Despite the fact that I just fed them dinner yesterday, my family was claiming to be hungry again and demanding food. It seems they want this whole "having dinner" thing to be a daily occurrence, even on nights when I am totally pooped and have no energy for meals that take more than 10 minutes. 

Good thing I have friends who are in the same boat as I am and are willing to share their best ideas for weekday dinners that are quick, kid-friendly, and even fairly healthy.

Click on for 12 great ideas for nights when dinner needs to be quick and easy. That's pretty much every night, right?


Image via iStock.com/sturti

  • Snack Dinner



    "One of our favorite family traditions is Snack Dinner Movie Night! Every Friday night, we choose a family movie and have snacks while we watch. The kids love it and it is easy for me after a long week. And snack dinner is actually a lot healthier than it sounds. We usually have: popcorn (whole grain!), grapes, crackers with cheese, carrot sticks or bell pepper slices, and pretzels with peanut butter. Usually I'll put out a small bowl of M&Ms as the treat. Dinner prep is done in 10 minutes or less and everyone is happy." -- Sue T., Des Moines, Iowa

  • Chicken Soft Tacos



    "One of our go-to meals is chicken soft tacos. The key to making this a quick meal is to have the chicken already cooked. I either make one on Sunday or pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store. I warm up the meat in the microwave. Then I just shred some of the breast meat and set up a toppings bar with cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes and let everyone assemble their own. Super easy!" -- Gloria J., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Breakfast for Dinner



    "We are crazy busy on most nights with hockey practice or homework. I have three boys who are always starving so I look for meals with a lot of protein and a healthy amount of good fats. Breakfast for dinner is a good option for us.

    "I start by making scrambled eggs (three eggs per person) and frozen sausage (three links per person). Then I make whole wheat toast with mashed avocado on top, sprinkled with salt and pepper. I'll usually do a side of fruit too, something that doesn't take prep work like bananas or oranges. It is really satisfying and fast." -- Susan Y., Ames, Iowa

  • Homemade Pizza


    iStock.com/Lauri Patterson

    "We are big fans of homemade pizza. To make it quicker, I either do English muffins as the crust and let the kids make their own or we do French bread or flat-bread pizza.

    "Just get a loaf of French bread or flatbread at the grocery store, a jar of pizza sauce, the toppings your family likes, and done. I bake it at 350 degrees and it cooks fast since you don't need the crust to bake too. Serve with a bagged salad and you are good to go." -- Tami S., Portland, Oregon

    More from The Stir: 6 Kid-Friendly Family Dinners for Under $5

  • Ham & Cheese Roll-Ups



    "My kids are always hungry when they get home from daycare, so I am the master of the quick dinner! One we all like is ham and cheese roll-ups.

    "Just take a flour tortilla and spread on a layer of cream cheese (plain or garden veggie is good). Then put down some slices of deli ham and cheese (Swiss or cheddar are our faves). I like to add a pickle but one kid won't eat those, so you can skip it. Roll it up and then slice in half. Serve with a big bowl of mixed fruit, and dinner is done!" -- Andrea P., Albany, New York

  • Pigs in a Blanket


    iStock.com/Lauri Patterson

    "Okay, so this isn't like the most wildly healthy meal, but it is tasty and quick and nobody cries when I make it, so I call that a win. I make pigs in a blanket with mini–hot dogs and crescent roll dough. I usually let my oldest kid help me divide each of the crescent roll triangles (from the pop tubes, because I'm fancy) into three more or less equal pieces. Then I roll the mini–hot dog up and pop on a baking sheet and cook according to directions from the tube.

    "I serve it with some vegetables that my kids probably won't eat, just so I feel better about myself." -- Carolyn F., Tucson, Arizona

  • Crackers Buffet



    "This is my go-to for the nights when the thought of actually cooking is too much to bear: a cracker buffet.

    "I get three or four kinds of crackers, and then lay out a spread of toppings: peanut butter, almond butter, cheese, pepperoni, tomato slices, deli meat, etc. I let everyone make their own creations and call it good. Usually I'll do some fruit or raw veggies with dip to go along with it. Easy!" -- Grace R., Grand Rapids, Michigan

  • Quesadillas



    "I like to do oven quesadillas on tired nights. I spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray and then put down four flour tortillas. The toddler gets just cheese on hers, the big kid gets cheese and leftover chicken, and my husband and I do cheese, chicken, and black beans. Assemble and then top with a second tortilla. Put in a 425 degree oven and let cook until bottom is getting brown. Then flip and cook for a few more minutes to make sure cheese is melted.

    "While the quesadillas are cooking, I throw in a bag of steamed broccoli. Done!" -- Marzia B., Indianola, Iowa

    More from The Stir: 10 Finger Foods Kids Will Devour for Dinner (Photos)

  • Fish Tacos



    "This takes a little longer than 10 minutes to cook, but it is less than 10 minutes to prep, so it's still pretty easy. Did you know that fish sticks make pretty good fish tacos?

    "I make a pan of fish sticks and then make a bag of coleslaw mix. While the fish sticks cook, I slice a lime and some avocado. When the sticks are done, I give the kids fish sticks, fruit, and sliced avocado. The adults get tacos with sticks, slaw mix, avocado slices, and a splash of lime. Yum!" -- Bethany W., Gilbert, Arizona

  • Chicken Ramen Soup



    "Ramen soup is an easy way to use up leftovers! I make a few packages of the cheap grocery store ramen (chicken flavor) and then drain most of the water out. In a separate pan, I do a quick stir-fry of leftover chicken breasts (or rotisserie chicken) in sesame oil along with a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies. Stir fry at high heat until cooked through and then add to noodles with broth. Quick and way cheaper than ordering take out!" -- Valerie J., Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Soup & Grilled Cheese Dippers



    "This isn't exactly a gourmet meal, but tomato soup with grilled cheese dippers is dinner in a pinch for our family. I make soup from a carton and then make two grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread. I cut the sandwiches into sections and then let the kids dip and dunk them in the soup. This is surprisingly satisfying on a cold day." -- Kelli L., Hudson, Wisconsin

  • Dinner Smoothie



    "Some nights we end up doing dinner in the car on the way to swim practice. On those nights, I'll make each kid a sandwich and then do my favorite healthy smoothie as a drink so they get veggies too. Here is the recipe:

    1.5 cups apple juice

    2 cups baby spinach

    1 apple: cored and chopped (you can leave the skin on)

    1/2 avocado, chopped

    Blend together until smooth. The avocado makes it so creamy!" -- Zoe T., San Diego, California

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