Updated April 2020 with detailed information on How to Meal Plan 30 Minute Meals and new recipes. We all know how busy life can be! When you are trying to keep track of everyone’s schedules and get each person where they need to be, it can be exhausting. The last thing you want to do is come home and cook a meal that takes hours to prepare! I am super excited to share these scrumptious Quick and Easy 30 Minute Dinner Ideas with you. These recipes are a game-changer on those stressful nights when you are in a hurry. They taste way better than take out and will please the entire family!
These all look amazing and all present like you went through a ton of work to make, despite only taking 30 minutes or less! Though this isn’t a list of exclusively frugal meals (if you need super frugal meal ideas, check out the list of 100 frugal meal ideas here!), the cost is reasonable for all of the 30 minute meals on this list!
Click if you want to jump straight to the 30 minute meals.
30 Minute Meals are truly lifesavers for our wicked busy lives. We need healthy meals to put on the table in a flash so we can skip feeding our family corndogs or drive thru. There has to be a better way to keep the rhythm each week consistently and not fall behind again.
Remember being a kid trying to climb up the slippery slide and you would get just so far before you slid back down? That is how making dinners can feel without a battle plan.
You can skip right to the awesome collection of quick-to-make meals, but I hope you stick around so I can show you how to make this a good habit. You no longer have to keep sliding back down the slide. Your kids deserve better than fast food and together, we can make this happen.
How to Plan Your Week’s Meals
First off, nobody can tell you “here is your menu for the week-, now go ahead and make it happen!” They aren’t living your life, with your family and your calendar. That is just setting you up for failure. I’ve been there and this approach doesn’t lead to success.
Stop what you are doing and pause for a few minutes. Grab your family’s calendar and let’s get you started off on the right foot. Don’t start looking at recipes yet, please.
Sit down at the table with a menu planner, your planner, a blank calendar, dot grid paper, etc…you just have to have something where you are going to write down each night’s meals. Don’t say “I’ve got this in my head.” Trust me, meal planning doesn’t work like that. You need to write it down.
Open up your family’s calendar. Look over what is happening in your family’s life this coming week and be 100% honest with yourself. This is probably one of the biggest ways people fail on meal planning which leads to spending too much money eating out. If you have grade school kids who have a swim team at 4:30, then you need to be thinking about using slow cooker recipes that you can prepare before you leave. This is the kind of honesty you need to be successful.
Here’s what my calendar looks like:
Monday: Joey Swim Team practice 4:30-6pm, math test on Tuesday
Tuesday: Sally has Girl Scouts from 3:30-4:45, Sally will need to do homework after she gets home at 5pm.
Wednesday: Joey Swim Team practice 4:30-6pm, Sally has a concert at school at 7pm but needs to be there in proper dress at 6:15. Husband will take Sally and meet you there after Joey’s Swim Team practice ends.
Thursday: Joey Swim Team practice 4:30-6pm, Sally is going to a friend’s house after school but will need to do homework when she gets back. Joey has a science experiment due on Monday and needs to get working on that after practice.
Friday: No scheduled outings and you are zonked and don’t want to cook anyways.
Saturday: Swim meet all day.
Sunday: Joey needs to finish a science project and Sally has homework and band practice.
Given all of that information, I grabbed my blank calendar (or meal planning worksheet) and figured out how I can make homemade meals this week.
Stay at Home Option:
If you are a stay-at-home parent, there is some juggling to be done as you have to make the decision if you are making dinner at 2pm (which I have done for YEARS!) or does your family do better eating at 7pm after swim practice? If you are doing the latter, consider fully prepping whatever meal you choose on Sunday afternoon and putting them into containers to make it easy to heat and prepare each night. Even though all the meals coming up take just 30 minutes to make, you need to save as much time as possible for hungry tummies that haven’t eaten. You can cut those times down even further with some good meal prepping.
When I used to cook at 2pm, we would reheat the meal and get out the door for the 4:30 practice. My son did better with a full early meal rather than a snack. Each family is different, make the decision that is right for yours.
Work Away from Home Option:
If you are a work-away-from-home parent, meal prepping adds a challenge, but it is still obtainable. We have to make the decision to meal prep just about everything on Sundays so we are ready to literally toss in the ingredients, answer questions on homework, find shoes, grab snacks and drinks for later and finish the meal each night.
When choosing your recipes, be honest with the amount of time you have to spend in preparing for recipes. Can you dedicate time on the weekend to prepare for the week’s meals?
The other option is to look more for sheet pan recipes or slow cooker recipes that allow you to be almost hands off for the cooking process. I don’t try to imagine myself making elaborate dishes on Tuesday night like a cooking show when really, you don’t have the prep cooks, staff, and cleanup. Heck, if you’re like me, you’re just trying to make sure your family is fed and put to bed. That is victory!
So! The #1 best tip for How to Meal Plan is: Match Your Meal to Your Calendar.
Now it’s time to go pick some 30 Minute Meals for the week ahead! If you have a 30 Minute Meal you love that is not on this list, you can simply add it to your rotation by simply checking in to see where it can fit given your calendar.
Don’t throw away the meal planning sheet before you reflect on how it worked for this week. Look at what worked and what didn’t. Evaluate why it didn’t work and take that information going forward. This isn’t a “I won/I lost” type of thing. We are all learning to do this better. Look at it more from a “huh, ok, so I was overly ambitious this week and I need to be a realist next week knowing Joey will need more of my attention for his projects and I won’t have as much time to devote to dinner as I wanted.”
Then we sit down and start the next week and move forward.
30 Minute Meals
Do you have any go-to quick & easy meal ideas? Please share your favorites in the comments below!