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“I don’t wanna make dinner tonight” meals.

As a food blogger, you may think that we always have it together during the week with our meals. But the truth is, like most people, we are just as tired after work, sports, and all things parenting that coming up with the will to cook 365 days a year isn’t practical. 

And I know people just despise the whole idea of “commentary” in blog posts, but let me just say that I grew up on a budget. When I say on a budget, I mean broke. I mostly ate pantry items, frozen foods, and yes, TV dinners. That is not to say that my childhood was bad, it was absolutely not. I had working parents and especially when I was much younger, I ate a lot of pre-prep and easy-to-prep items. 

I wanted to create a list that included other “I don’t want to cook” dinner options for people who just cannot fathom being in the kitchen. From budget-friendly pantry items to frozen items and also a few of my slow cooker and casserole ideas that I personally don’t mind whipping up even when I am feeling a little lazy. 

make a sandwich for a dinner that is simple

Budget-Friendly Easy Dinners

Let’s kick this off with meals that are not so expensive to make. You can purchase pre-made canned, boxed, or put together most of these with very little effort. As a bonus, most of these are fast dinners too!

Spaghetti, Tacos or Tostadas, Bean Burritos, Chili, Pizza, Goulash, Meatloaf, Stuffed Peppers, Fried Rice, Pasta Salad, Vegetable Soup, Baked Ziti, Shepherd’s Pie, Baked Potatoes, Quesadillas, Sloppy Joes, Hot dogs & chips, Microwave eggs


No Cooking Required Dinner Ideas

Never feel guilty for serving up easy to make frozen, pantry, or no cook items for dinner. TBH, my kids would prefer chicken nuggets and boxed mac and cheese at least 2 nights a week. We often overthink as parents.

Here are some suggestions to get dinner on the plate quick and stress free.

Frozen

  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Waffles
  • Frozen Meatballs: create subs or eat on spaghetti
  • Waffles
  • Hamburger patties
  • Fish sticks (air fry them)
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Garlic Pizza Rolls
  • Wings
  • Cheese Ravioli
  • Fried Rice
  • Mozzarella Sticks
  • Stir-Fry Mix: Easy stir-fry using a bag of frozen veggies, add rice and protein 

No Cook Dinner Ideas

  • Cucumber Sandwiches: Cucumber and cream cheese sandwich.
  • Plate with random bites of meats, cheese, olives, crackers, nuts
  • Overnight Oats
  • Veggie & Dip Platter: Assorted raw veggies with hummus or ranch.
  • Caprese Skewers: Skewers with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
  • Avocado Toast: Toast topped with mashed avocado and seasonings.
  • Cheese toast
  • Fruit & Cheese Platter
  • Quick Nachos – Tortilla chips, melted cheese, and salsa

Pantry

  • Spaghetti Aglio e Olio: Pasta with garlic, oil, and chili flakes.
  • Canned Bean Chili
  • Rice & Red Bean Bowls
  • Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese
  • Boxed Mac & Cheese
  • Ramen – lots you can do with ramen. Try the tiktok famous ramen recipe, ramen grilled cheese, buffalo ramen
  • Bean and Cheese Quesadillas: Crispy tortillas filled with beans and cheese.
  • Tuna Salad
  • Baked Beans on Toast: Warm baked beans served over buttered toast.

Cheap Meal Ideas: Sandwiches & Wraps

Turkey Avocado Wraps
Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich
Egg Salad Sandwich: Classic egg salad in a sandwich.
Apple & Cheese Quesadilla
Classic PB&J or air fry uncrustables
Cheese & Tomato Sandwich
Turkey & Cheese Roll-Ups
Banana & Nutella Sandwich
Ham & Cheese Croissant
Strawberry & Cream Cheese Sandwich
Veggie & Hummus Pita Pocket
Apple & Peanut Butter Wraps
Quesadilla
BLT Sandwich or wrap

Dips that Double for dinner

When you are looking for something with low ingredients that can double as a dinner, here are some recommendations.

Snacks for dinner

Create a snackle box (also great for the road).

Another thing we do often is create a “salad bar” and put all the cut up veggies on counter with chopped deli meat and let the kids create thier own salad. Everyone wants carrot slices, tomatoes, bagged nut toppings, cranberries, croutons, and bacon bits.

Crock pot meals with Low Stress

Crock pot meals require a bit of effort, but its so much better to whip out during the morning and just be thankful at dinner time. Because we have boy scouts tonight, right now I am cooking pineapple crock pot chicken so I don’t get flustered at 5 pm. 

Salsa Chicken: Chicken and salsa cooked until tender for tacos.
Vegetable Soup: Mixed vegetables, broth, and tomatoes slow-cooked.
BBQ Pulled Pork: Pork slow-cooked in BBQ sauce for sandwiches.
Beef Stew: Stew meat with veggies and potatoes in a hearty stew.
Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Chicken: Chicken with garlic and Parmesan.
Slow Cooker Olive Garden Chicken Pasta: Creamy chicken pasta inspired by Olive Garden.
Crockpot Chicken and Rice: Chicken and rice cooked with creamy soups.
Crockpot Sausage Tortellini Soup: Sausage and tortellini in a flavorful soup.
Slow Cooked Pepper Steak: Beef and peppers in a savory sauce.

Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast for dinner is something we can all agree on. Typically, we make scrambled or poached eggs, frozen hashbrowns, and slices of fresh fruit. Depending on what groceries you have in the house, here are some other ideas.

  • Simple: Scrambled eggs and cheese, sausage links or patties, French toast, waffles, pancakes, sliced fruit, toast (or bagels, English muffins), omelets
  • Scrambled Egg Tacos: Eggs served in tortillas
  • Pancakes & Bacon: Pancakes served with bacon or bacon wrapped with pancake batter
  • French Toast Sticks: Bread dipped in egg mixture, cooked, and sliced.
  • Egg Sandwiches – Grated eggs, egg sandwich hack
  • Yogurt Parfaits: Yogurt, granola, and berries.
  • Toast: Avocado & Egg Toast, Ricotta & Honey Toast, Cottage Cheese & Peach Toast
  • Breakfast Casseroles – this is our entire list of breakfast casserole recipes, which is easier than listing them all here. 

Friday Night Casseroles

Lastly, while casserole dishes do require a bit of work, they are arguably some of the easiest and most basic dinner ideas to make so I am going to include them. One casserole that gets consistently good marks from readers is our chicken and rice casserole below.

If you are not sure what to cook, go with that.