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You know that situation. Everybody gets home from work/school/daycare and the question is inevitable:
What are we having for dinner tonight?
Shoot, I gotta cook something! With a meat lover husband, a picky kid, a toddler and no time for grocery shopping, it can be a pretty daunting task sometimes.
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I try to avoid fast food and take-outs as much as possible and I refuse to cook separately for each family member. Instead, I focus to fill my pantry with ingredients that I can easily combine to put together a quick and healthy family dinner that is kid-friendly and does not sabotage my weight loss efforts.
So what are those staples I am talking about? Here is my usual grocery shopping list I use to fill my pantry and freezer with goodies for easy and healthy family meals. Just in case you’d need some inspiration next time you’ll go grocery shopping 🙂
- canned tuna
- frozen veggies
- wholewheat tortillas
- parmesan and mozzarella (you can put cheese in the freezer)
- canned beans and chickpeas
- canned tomatoes
- wholewheat breadcrumbs
- good quality sliced ham (at least 95% of meat) – I buy more and I freeze it
- free-range chicken meat (to make several batches for the freezer)
- various fresh herbs – parsley, mint, basil, coriander (I cut them finely and freeze in ice cubes or zip-lock bags)
I’ve put together our favorite quick family dinner recipes that you can easily make with just a few pantry staples. With these tips, you’ll have dinner on the table within 30 minutes – no fancy cooking skills or exotic ingredients required.
1. Chicken Rice
My sons all-time-favorite. Every time I ask him what does he want to eat for dinner, his answer is mostly the same: chicken with rice.
And since we happen to have a rice cooker, I cook rice quite often. For this recipe, I usually use pre-made frozen chicken meat. I buy free-range chickens from a local farm about once a month and I batch multiple meat packs for our freezer all at once.
To prepare meat for the freezer, cut it into small pieces, add some seasoning of your choice and salt, and brown it on the skillet, adding a little bit of oil. When cooked, let it cool load it into zip-lock bags and freeze.
With pre-made meat packs on hand, cooking any quick chicken meal will be a breeze 🙂 Also great for salads!
Here is what you will need:
- 1 lb chicken (or turkey) meat
- 2 cups of rice
- frozen peas (or any kind of veggies your kids like)
- chicken stock, olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika
- grated parmesan or mozzarella
Cook the rice with a little bit of salt. Let the meat thaw a little and place in on the skillet with olive oil and veggies. If the meat wasn’t seasoned before frozen, ad salt and seasoning. Saute for a few minutes, then add cooked rice and mix thoroughly. Add a few spoons of chicken stock and a spoonful of butter to make it creamier. Serve with grated parmesan on top.
2. Zucchini potato pancakes
- 2 small zucchinis
- 2-3 potatoes
- 2 eggs
- all-purpose flour (I prefer wholewheat)
- olive/coconut oil
- salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder
- greek yogurt, chives (optional)
Finely grate zucchini and potatoes (the quickest way to do this is in a food processor). Add eggs, salt, and seasoning and mix well. Add 5-10 spoons of flour (depending on how much excess water comes out from the veggies) and combine into a batter.
On a non-stick skillet, heat some oil and form pancakes out of the batter. Fry 3-4 minutes on medium heat on both sides. For effortless option, form pancakes on greased parchment paper and pop them into the preheated oven. Bake until they turn golden.
I absolutely love these pancakes with a home-made, easy-peasy garlic yogurt dressing! Just mix plain Greek yogurt with some salt, garlic powder and fresh chives for a delicious and healthy side dip.
3. Ham & corn quesadilla
This one is my son´s favorite. He even likes the avocado in it. Simple, yet warm and delicious. Resembles pizza but much healthier. Serve it with fresh veggie salad and a yogurt dip and you are done within 10 minutes 🙂
You will need:
- tortilla wraps (I prefer wholegrain)
- sliced ham
- sliced cheese (gouda or mozzarella)
- avocado (optional)
Place ham on one tortilla, then add sweetcorn (and avocado) and a layer of cheese. Sweetcorn should be the layer in between ham and cheese to it sticks together and doesn’t fall off). Cover with another tortilla and place inside an electric grill (I use this one). Bake for about 3 minutes or until golden.
You could also place it in the oven or on the skillet (haven’t tried this one) but you would probably need to weigh it down with some plate or lid so the tortillas and cheese stick together nicely.
4. Tuna stuffed bell peppers
This wonderful stuffing is very versatile and goes with almost every veggie that is suitable for stuffing. Portobello mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant – it comes out yummy every time!
If your kiddos are not huge fans of these veggies, you can roll the stuffing into small balls or “burgers” (just cover it with breadcrumbs so they stick together nicely) and bake it with the veggies on the same baking sheet.
- 6x bell peppers
- 3x canned tuna
- cooked rice
- 1 egg
- mozzarella cheese
- salt and pepper
Combine cooked rice with drained tuna, sweetcorn, shredded mozzarella (set a little aside for topping). Add seasoning and parsley. Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds. Fill each half with seasoned tuna mixture, place on the parchment paper and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
You might want to cover the peppers to become softer. After 20 minutes, top each pepper with the rest of mozzarella cheese and bake for another 5 minutes just to brown the cheese slightly.
5. Baked chicken meatballs
These yummy meatballs actually require a bit of prep work, but I’ve put them on this list because I usually batch them in advance and put them in the freezer. So once you have ready-made meatballs in the freezer, it’s easy to make a healthy family dinner in no time!
You will need:
- 2 lbs chicken skinless chicken (turkey) breasts (or equal amount of minced meat)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 3 spoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, parsley, salt, pepper, paprika (or burger seasoning)
Cut meat into smaller pieces and pile all the ingredients into the food processor. Careful with the salt – parmesan cheese is pretty salty alone. Pulse until blended thoroughly. Grease your hands with a bit of olive oil and form meatballs. You can either bake them in the oven or throw them in a saute pan with a little oil.
I personally LOVE these meatballs, as they are such a versatile meal. They go perfectly with just about anything. In a tomato sauce, with spaghetti, mashed potatoes or with roasted veggies. If you prepare them ahead and freeze in a big batch, you’ll have quick and healthy family dinner on the table in no time!
What’s your favorite family dinner recipe? I would love you to share it with me in the comments!