When it comes to clean eating and a healthy lifestyle, planning ahead is definitely a habit you want to cultivate. (Ben Franklin said it best: “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”) However, we all know that despite our best intentions, life gets messy. Whether we plan meals we just don’t have time to actually make after a hectic day, don’t get to the planning part at all, or just don’t feel like cooking, we’ve all had nights when we didn’t know what would end up on our dinner plates. Because real life.
That’s when you need to have a backup plan, a.k.a. a few staple meals you know you can pull together with minimal ingredients and effort. These go-to meals are fast and easy—and totally wing-able.
Before we dive right into those super-simple meals, we want to share a few general tips for getting dinner on the table faster:
1. Meal prep on the weekends.
We know, we already talked about meal prepping—but these crazy weeknights are exactly when that meal prep comes to the rescue. Having three or four recipes ready to go will shave off most of the time you’d need to cook a meal before dinner. Even if you just prep basic ingredients—like chopping vegetables—over the weekend, it’ll save you some time during the week.
2. Pull meat, poultry, fish and anything else that needs a few days to thaw from the freezer at the beginning of the week.
Place your proteins in a bowl in the fridge to safely thaw until you’re ready to use them during the week.
3. Have a stash of leftovers in the freezer.
Remember when we suggested doubling one of your meal prep recipes to freeze? Stews, soups, sauces, and baked goods are especially easy to freeze and then thawed out for use in a pinch later on.
4. Use pre-made, minimally processed foods to get dinner on the table fast.
When you’re crunched for time, picking up pre-made cauliflower rice, masked sweet potatoes, frozen veggies, jarred pasta sauce, or frozen salmon, can really cut down on prep time—and dishes to wash.
5. Cook once, eat twice.
Find creative ways to reuse your leftovers. For example, a roasted chicken (or deli rotisserie chicken) can be used in salads, wraps, soups, and more. And leftover roasted or stir-fried vegetables can be added to omelets, pasta, salads, and soups, too. Think about how you can transform what’s already in the fridge before whipping up something entirely new.
6. Use a pressure cooker.
We love our Instant Pots for getting dinner on the table fast–even when we’ve forgotten to thaw the meat! Seriously, these handy kitchen tools can cut your cooking time in half! If you have a pressure cooker, check out some of our most popular pressure cooker recipes here.
7. Put the slow cooker to work.
Kind of the opposite of the pressure cooker, we know. But if you have a few minutes to toss your ingredients into the slow cooker before heading out in the morning, you’ll come home to a hot meal that requires very little clean up. Try some of these slow cooker recipes to get you started.
8. Embrace one-pan dinners.
When all of your ingredients are on one pan, you don’t have to worry about monitoring the oven and the stove and the grill—plus you’ll only have one pan to wash! Try one of these recipes on for size:
9. Turn to ‘ingredient meals’.
When you have a stash of healthy, quick-cooking proteins, vegetables, and starches on hand, it’s easy to create a wholesome combo of ingredients when you’re in a rush. No recipes, just simple, on-the-fly nutrition. For example, you could make:
- Frozen salmon or chicken burgers with frozen mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed kale
- Rotisserie chicken served with roasted green beans or asparagus (or frozen vegetables) and a simple salad topped with your favorite vinaigrette and a handful of fresh berries
10. Have breakfast for dinner.
Forget cold cereal and milk—egg scrambles and omelets are a fantastic way to get quality protein, healthy fat, and fiber-rich vegetables into your diet in just a few minutes flat. Hashes made with sweet potatoes and other vegetables are also great options.
If you’re still struggling to get a clean meal on the table when you’re running short on time, try one of these six meals to get you in and out of the kitchen fast and well-fed!
6 Quickie Meals
Option #1: Eggs, Your Way
Protein: 2-3 whole eggs
Veggies: greens + additional non-starchy veggies of choice
Carbs: ½-1 cup berries or fruit of choice, or 1 serving of carb of choice (rice, quinoa, potatoes, gluten-free bread, etc.)
Fat: Butter, coconut oil, avocado, or a sprinkle of cheese
Sauté veggies in your fat of choice. Cook the eggs to your liking (fry, scramble, omelet, etc). Top with a sprinkle of cheese or diced avocado. Serve with a side of your fruit or starch of choice.
Option #2: Power Smoothie
Protein: 1 scoop organic protein powder of choice + 1-2 Tbsp. collagen hydrolysate (optional)
Veggies: 1 large handful of greens (spinach, kale, collard, chard, etc.)
Carbs: ½-1 cup fruit (fresh or frozen)
Fat: 1 Tbsp. nut/seed butter or ¼-½ avocado
Other: 8-10 oz. unsweetened coconut milk, almond milk, or water + ½ cup ice
Blend all ingredients until smooth.
Option #3: Kitchen Sink Salad
Protein: 3-5 oz. quality protein or 2-3 eggs
Veggies: Generous portion of salad greens + chopped veggies of choice
Carbs: 1 serving of fruit of choice or 2-3 Tbsp. no-sugar-added dried fruit or 1 serving of carbs/starch of choice
Fat: 1-2 Tbsp. cheese or ¼-½ sliced avocado or 1-2 Tbsp. chopped nuts and/or seeds + ½-1 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil
Other: Lemon juice or vinegar of choice
On a salad plate, layer mixed greens, veggies, protein, and fats. Drizzle with oil and vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice. Toss and enjoy. Serve with a side of fruit or starch of choice.
Option #4: Simple, Balanced Meal
Protein: 3-5 oz. cooked meat, poultry, or fish of choice or 2-3 whole eggs
Veggies: Generous portion of non-starchy veggies of choice
Carbs: ½-¾ cup sweet potato or ¾-1 cup butternut squash or 1 serving carb of choice
Fat: 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, butter, ghee, or avocado oil for sautéing
Prepare meat, fish, or eggs. Toss veggies with oil and sauté in a pan or roast in a 400℉ oven until tender. Serve with your carb of choice.
Option #5: DIY Stir-Fry
Protein: 3-5 oz. cooked meat, poultry, or fish of choice or 2-3 whole eggs, scrambled or fried
Veggies: Generous portion of non-starchy, stir-fry veggies of choice (fresh or frozen)
Carbs: ½-¾ cup rice or quinoa or ½-1 cup cooked spaghetti squash or carb of choice (rice/quinoa, fruit, etc.)
Fat: ½-1 Tbsp. coconut oil or avocado oil for sautéing + 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts or seeds
Other: 1 Tbsp. coconut aminos or 1 tsp Tamari for stir frying + garlic powder or seasonings of choice
Sauté veggies with oil until crisp-tender. Stir in meat or eggs and heat through. Turn heat up and add coconut aminos or tamari and sauté for 30 seconds. Top with chopped nuts or seeds. Serve with carb of choice.
Option #6: Veggie “Pasta” with Meat Sauce
Protein: 3-5 oz. ground turkey, beef, chicken, or pork
Veggies: ⅓-½ cup organic marinara sauce + zucchini noodles, lightly sautéed (or chopped zucchini) + mixed green side salad
Carbs: ¾-1 cup cooked spaghetti squash or ½-¾ cup brown rice or quinoa pasta
Fat: 1-2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese (optional) + ½ Tbsp. olive oil
Brown ground meat. Add marinara sauce and heat through. Serve meat sauce over zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or pasta. Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with a side salad tossed in olive oil and lemon juice.