Are you a meal planner? I am, through and through. You can even see all the weekly meal plans I’ve shared. But you know what? That still doesn’t exempt me from the need to have a go-to list of last minute dinner ideas.
Sometimes I plan these quick dinners from the start and other times life happens, plans change and I’m left scrambling and in need of an easy last minute dinner idea. So today I’m compiling some of my favorite last minute weeknight meals and tips to help you out when you need something to make, fast.
Last-Minute Dinner Ideas
Rotisserie Chicken + Salad + Rolls
This is such a great combination to make a staple weeknight dinner. Roast your own chicken or pick one up from the store. Pull it and put it over salad (which can be as intricate or simple as you like) or for toddlers and young kids, serve it all separately with dipping sauces. Everyone can customize it with their dressing of choice, though even just a squeeze of lemon juice a drizzle of olive oil tastes great, too. Get real wild a make it a kale salad with craisins and goat cheese- anything goas! Serve with warm rolls and butter for an easy last minute dinner that will please everyone.
Crispy Chicken + Tortillas + Iceberg + Buffalo Sauce + Ranch
Crispy chicken is a hero for an easy last minute dinner idea. I buy in bulk from Butcher Box, who offers crispy nuggets and crispy strips that are delicious with a clean ingredient list. These bake up crispy and turn quickly into a flavorful dinner with the addition or tortillas, crunchy iceberg lettuce, spicy (or mild!) buffalo sauce, and ranch for either drizzling or dipping. You can fancy this up of course with blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes, and onions, but even made simply, it’s delicious.
BBQ Chicken + Buns + Slaw
Like many of these meals, you can make the components or grab the short cut options available at most grocery stores depending on your needs. Slow cook chicken breast or thighs in BBQ sauce all day or grab a heat and eat option from the store. Load it onto a bun with a hearty serving of slaw and a crisp pickle and you’ll have
Sausage + Jambalaya Rice Mix + Green Bell Pepper
Looking to spice things up? You can’t go wrong with jambalaya! Grab a jambalaya rice and seasonings box from the grain aisle of the grocery store. Add some sauteed green pepper and andouille sausage so a well, rounded and exciting meal in just 20 minutes.
Ravioli + Marinara
This one doesn’t need much explanation, as it works for any pasta dishes. However, ravioli offers so many fun fillings from cheese to lobster, so having it in your freezer or fridge as a quick grab and go option means it’s a step up from plain spaghetti. Boil, top with some parmesan cheese, and enjoy in less than 30 minutes!
Naan + Pizza Sauce + Mozzarella Cheese
Looking for a kid pleaser? You must try naan pizzas! They are easy to throw together and everyone can make their own just how they like. The base is simple- naan bread, pizza sauce, and shredded mozzarella, then pop them in the oven on a baking sheet at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes. These are easy to jazz up by adding pepperoni and mushrooms or other favorite pizza toppings, or simple add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese, or hot honey to elevate it for adults.
Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese
A classic for a reason, nothing says comfort quite like this combination. Make your grilled cheeses stove top or use a sandwich press to go panini style (which is so helpful for me, as my kids go through several grilled cheese sandwiches each). Cut into halves, triangles, or strips for younger kids, dunk, and savor!
Salad Kit + Ground Beef + Salsa
Taco salads made easy! Use a head of iceberg lettuce for a satisfying crunch, or pick up a salad kit with more bells and whistles. Even just sticking to the basics or lettuce, cooked and crumbled ground beef, and salsa will make a satisfying meal, but you can also easily doctor it up by adding in your favorites- guacamole, sour cream, chopped black olives, pickled jalapenos, tortilla chips for scooping… the sky is the limit!
Chicken + Tortillas + Guacamole + Pico
Grab another rotisserie chicken, or cook your own in the slow cooker, then pull it and throw it on a tortilla with some store bought guacamole and pico. You can use salsa, of course, but the pico will feel like a great switch up and add a lot of flavor.
Oven Baked Bean Burritos
A recipe made with refried beans, rice, salsa, shredded cheese, and some seasoning, these roll up quickly and bake in 10 minutes for a crispy, heart, budget-friendly result. Great to dip in guacamole or sour cream and to eat on the go, if needed. Looking for other budget-friendly options? Beans are great for that! More recipes with pinto beans.
Lemon Dill Salmon over Rice + Green Beans
An elevated and gluten free option, this still counts as a last minute dinner, especially if you have salmon in your freezer (it defrosts quickly in a bowl of water in the sink) or can grab some on your way home. The seasoning is simple with lemon juice, dill, and salt. It cooks up in 10 minutes, and you can quickly roast or boil green beans for a simple side in the same amount of time. Lemon dill salmon and easy green beans.
In my ongoing quest to have as little food waste as possible, may I present you with buffet night! Not a novel concept, but buffet sounds better than leftovers, right? Simple pull any food from the fridge, pantry, or freezer that needs to be eaten and line it up along the counter. This is fun because everyone can make their own choices and the favorites will go fast, encouraging everyone to show up for dinner on time, right when you call. You’ll have a cleaned out fridge and will have saved a few bucks (no take out).
Rice + Soy Sauce + Frozen Peas and Carrots + Egg
If you have leftover rice, then this is the dinner for you- ready in 15 minutes! It’s forgiving so you can make it however you like; you can even add in a big bag of frozen veggies and make it more a a veggie-forward stir fry than rice focused. However, if you want a straight forward recipe without all the frills but with a delicious result, then check out this easy fried rice recipe from the recipe critic.
Sheet Pan Sausage + Veggies
There are endless combinations to this easy last minute dinner idea, but one of my favorite combinations and methods can be found here. By combining a flavorful, lean sausage and veggies with the same cook time, the meal comes out balanced and fresh. Serve over rice or just as is for a healthy dinner option.
If your plans cancelled in the morning leaving you with the need for a last minute dinner idea, but you have all day to make it? Pull out that beautiful slow cooker and reference this list of delicious and easy crockpot dinners for family.