There will always be seasons that call for easier-than-normal meals. And I want to help you with a fresh inspiration for a week of easy meals.
by Lisa Burns
For months now, my family has been in seasons which call for simple meals that can be put together quickly with little fuss.
During the spring, my family found out we were expecting our fourth child. Along with the excitement came the standard nausea and fatigue. I was down for the count and Dad was in charge of meal preparation most nights.
Once my nausea subsided, summertime had made its entrance. Busy days of exploring the river or splashing in the pool, playdates to fill pails with fruit off the vine, or enjoying simple summer activities like water balloon fights and elaborate chalk drawings took extra energy and time.
And now, we are going through a season of grieving. Our family is focusing on quality time with each other and I am giving myself a lot of slack when it comes to making elaborate meals.
I’m looking forward to the fall– to schedules slowing down a bit, to a return of routines, and to more time in the kitchen with my kids. But until that time, I’m relying on these meals quite a bit.
Even if you enjoy cooking (I do!), there will always be seasons that call for easier-than-normal meals. And I want to help you with some fresh inspiration for quick, healthy dinners.
A Week of Easy Meals
Day 1: Ham steak, boiled red potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and/or roasted carrot fries
Ham steak isn’t always the healthiest meat on the block, but it is just about as easy as it gets (while still being real food). Simply cook the ham on both sides in a nonstick pan over medium heat until both sides start to darken and the ham steak is hot.
When we aren’t eating the ham steak as it is for our meal, I love using the ham for empanadas, Hawaiian pizza, chowder, or omelets.
TIP: Be sure to save the leftover ham for omelets on day three!
Day 2: Easy Weeknight Meatloaf, steamed green beans, and perfect baked brown rice
I never cared for meatloaf as a child, but then again, I never cared for MANY foods. Now, I enjoy meatloaf– both for its taste and because my kids all eat it without a fuss. I often save this simple meal for nights when my husband is out of the house since it’s easy to make and no complaints will be heard at the table.
This recipe comes from my mother-in-law, who taught me to leave my measuring spoons in the drawer and how to cook from intuition, rather than by rigid rules.
TIP: Don’t forget to double the rice to use the leftovers for fried rice later in the week!
Day 3: Ham, cheese & spinach omelets, hash browns, and fruit
It only takes a little bit of leftover ham from dinner on day one to make omelets for dinner another night. My kids get very excited about breakfast for dinner, but if I’m going to make it when my husband is home, I need to make sure it’s still filling!
Hash browns are delicious, but could also be substituted with grits, toast, yogurt, or another side.
Ham, Cheese & Spinach Omelets
- Salt and Pepper
- With a fork, whisk together eggs and a splash of milk in a bowl.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat until it is hot, about 3-4 minutes. Grease the pan with about a half-tablespoon of butter. Pour in eggs but do not stir. Season with salt and pepper and cover the pan with a lid. Cook covered for about 5 minutes.
- Remove lid and sprinkle toppings evenly across the top.
- Finish cooking the omelet in the oven. Set the oven to broil (high) and let the top of the omelet cook for 2-3 minutes or until done.
- Slide the omelet onto a plate, folding in half with the toppings in the middle.
- Serve immediately.
Day 4: Simple pasta salad
Pasta salad is a wonderful summer meal and a great option for picnic lunches or dinners!
We recently enjoyed this pasta salad at our favorite local park. Following an evening swim, we made our way to the picnic tables next to the lake to enjoy an easy dinner together. Juicy organic grapes rounded out our meal.
Simple Pasta Salad
- Chopped bacon or chopped ham
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- >1 cup sweet peas
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. champagne or white wine vinaigrette
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground pepper
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and rinse. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Toss in a couple slices of chopped bacon or a cup of chopped ham.
- Add one cup of each: crumbled feta cheese, sweet peas, and halved cherry tomatoes. Stir to combine.
- Whisk together 1/4 C olive oil, 2 Tbsp champagne vinaigrette (or sub white wine vinaigrette), 1 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp each of oregano, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle over pasta mixture and toss to coat the salad thoroughly.
Day 5: Easy fried rice
Fried rice is one of our favorite meals. It is super versatile and frugal. You can make it with a variety of proteins or leave the meat out altogether. The dish can also be made with many different vegetables. We typically make ours with carrots, onions, and peas — all inexpensive kitchen staples at our house.
The key to making this a quick and easy meal is having the rice already cooked. If the rice is already cooked, nothing else requires much time in the pan– especially if the pan is HOT (which is a must for a good fried rice).
TIP: Cook double the amount of rice you need on meatloaf night and save the leftovers to use with fried rice.
Day 6: Sheet pan nachos
I LOVE Mexican/Tex-Mex food. Anything that can be topped with heaps of homemade salsa, guacamole, and shredded lettuce, and so on is going to be okay with me.
Tacos are more rare, though still delicious. Burritos are a great way to use up frozen jars of beans. But these nachos are where it’s at.
The preparation is incredibly simple and they deliver a lot of bang in both their taste and their frugality.
The key is having several kitchen staples on hand. I always like to keep a variety of cooked beans on hand in the freezer. Cherry tomatoes, onions, and peppers are a kitchen staple here and can quickly be whipped up into a fresh salsa. Homemade yogurt (as a sub for sour cream) and a package of guacamole out of the freezer (from either Costco or Aldi) really add a lot of flavor to the nachos.
Day 7: Leftovers!
Leftovers night can be a lot of fun. I like to pull everything out and let my kids decide on whatever combination of foods they want to eat. If leftovers happen to be a little sparse, I just use some frozen peas or corn and some fresh fruit to round out the meal.
More easy dinner ideas when life gets busy:
- Almond & Parmesan Crusted Chicken
- Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms
- Honey Roasted Carrot Soup
- Simple Sugar Snap Pea Pasta Salad
- 30 Minute Chicken Parmesan
- dinner salad
- hot dogs/brats
- chicken sausages, sauteed onions & peppers, spiral pasta
What is one of your favorite meals for when life gets busy?
Lisa Burns is married to her best friend and together they have three inquisitive and energetic kids. She loves crafty things like sewing and painting and actually enjoys cooking with her kids, and making crackers and pasta from scratch. In the busy fullness of life with young children, Lisa strives to live faithfully, remembering the hope of the gospel in all the everyday things. She blogs about a “pilgrim life,” living in grace now and waiting for a more permanent, eternal home at thispilgrimlife.com.