35 Quick & Easy Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights

It’s the end of the school year around here which means our schedule is full of festivities, which we are extra thankful this year, but that means we are often in a time crunch around dinner time. 

This often means meal planning goes out the window, but if there was ever a time to meal plan, THIS IS IT.

The goal of meal planning can be different in different seasons, in this season my goal is to have a simple plan for easy meals that can be made in a hurry.  Knowing there’s a plan and groceries in the fridge makes a huge difference.  

So, what are some easy meals that can be planned ahead?  Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy to feed your family.

Psst…I record my weekly meal plan in my Simple Purposeful Living meal planner.  You can get yours here.

meal planner with accessory kit

35 Easy Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights

Italian Meal Ideas

Italian Chicken, Potatoes and Green Beans

This recipe is an easy all-in-one meal you can make ahead and pop in the oven later.  On busy weeks, I usually make it early in the week so we have some leftovers.    Find the full recipe here.


There is nothing faster than boiling up some noodles while you warm up a jar of sauce.  You can even throw in some cubed up pre-cooked sausage or frozen meatballs for a quick protein.  


Speaking of pasta, ravioli or tortellini is another great option because they usually come stuffed with a protein which eliminates the need to add one to the dish.  Warm up your favorite jarred pasta sauce while you boil your ravioli or tortellini. 

costco ravioli lasagna bake

Easy Ravioli Bake

This is another great make ahead meal if you know you are going to have a busy evening.  Whip this up over the weekend or earlier in the day and pop it into the oven right before dinner.  Grab the easy ravioli bake recipe here.

Chicken Nugget Parmesan

This is so simple but another fan favorite.  We get the all-white meat chicken nuggets and cook them.  Cut up the chicken nuggets and layer on top of the spaghetti and sauce and garnish with parmesan cheese.  

heart shaped pizza valentine's day activity ideas


We always have a a few frozen pizzas on backup in our freezer to use in a pinch.  We also love these simple pizza recipe variations that are perfect for a quick dinner.

Pizza Quesadillas

Easy Garlic Bread Pizzas

Easy Peasy Pizza Bread

Easy Pizza Crescent Roll-ups

Easy Pizza Crescent Roll-ups

Slow Cooker Meals

On busy weeks, slow cooker meals are my favorite.  You can prep them in the morning and let them cook all day and they usually offer great leftovers which you can plan on eating later on in the week for another meal.  Cook once, eat twice I say!

Slow Cooked Pot Roast

My kids love any meat slow cooked.. This slow cooked pot roast recipe can be served with mashed potatoes and veggies or served as a sandwich shredded on a bun. Get the full recipe here.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This slow cooker recipe with just 6 ingredients is perfect for a busy weeknight.  The soup will be ready to serve with some guacamole, sour cream, tortilla chips, and shredded cheese for dinner.  Find the recipe here.

Chicken Stuffing Bake

This is another great meal you can make ahead or make in the slow cooker.  Read the full recipe here.

Sweet BBQ Meatballs

These meatballs are SO easy to throw in the slow cooker and make a delicious meal served over rice.  In a hurry?  Make minute rice, I won’t tell!  Get the easy recipe here.

leftover hard boiled eggs ideas, breakfast

Breakfast for Dinner

Scrambled Eggs & Toast

Whip up some scrambled eggs in a hurry and serve with some fruit and a side of toast.  I like to make an extra batch of bacon on the weekends and just rewarm it quickly in the microwave.

Pancakes & Frozen Breakfast Sausage

Mix together a quick batch of pancakes and cook up some frozen breakfast sausage.  You could even make an extra batch of pancakes over the weekend and rewarm them for dinner during the week.

Make Ahead Egg Bake

This easy egg bake makes a perfect meal that you can enjoy for leftovers all week as well.  It comes together in under 10 minutes and then you just need to bake it.  

Breakfast Tacos

Whip up some scrambled eggs for the taco protein and serve with traditional taco sides for a fast and different spin on tacos.  You can even add in some bacon bits or pre-cooked bacon. 


Much like slow cooker meals, casseroles can be made ahead and popped in the oven right before dinner!  If your kids are old enough (like mine are), you can even have them put it in the oven if you aren’t home.

Baked Super Nacho Casserole

Our entire family loves Mexican food.  This super nacho casserole makes a great warm appetizer too and we serve it with chips, sour cream, and guacamole.  Check out the recipe here.

Baked Enchiladas

Need a variation to the typical taco dish.  Try this easy baked enchiladas.  You can make ahead and refrigerate or freeze then bake for a yummy weeknight meal.  If you are in a hurry, use rotisserie chicken!  Check out the recipe here.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

We love chicken cordon bleu (which is another great freezer staple for a fast meal).  This casserole can be whipped together in under 10 minutes and can be baked later so it makes for an easy meal to serve with a a steamed vegetable and fruit.  Get the full recipe here.

Chicken Pot Pie

This delicious and insanely easy recipe is perfect for making ahead and freezing.  It has just 4 ingredients. Serve it up with some bread!  Check out the full recipe here.

shredded chicken tacos shredded chicken meal ideas

Other Easy Fan Favorites

Walking Tacos & Taco Salads

If you never have had a walking taco, you need to try it.  My kids ask for them weekly.  It’s a great twist on a favorite meal around here, tacos!   They are great for a crowd too!  Read the full recipe here.


Some nights just call for a sandwich.  Whether that means we are eating on the sidelines of a game or we need to rush out the door.  Chicken salad is perfect to eat with crackers or made into a sandwich.  I love adding pecans and apples in the fall!  Check out the recipe here.

You can even have everyone make their own by making a “sandwich bar”.  Place all the fixings on the counter and have everyone make it how they like it.


Switch up a traditional sandwich and make it a wrap.  BLT wraps are one of our favorites.  Check out the recipe here.  Another favorite is mixing a bagged Caesar salad kit with some grilled chicken or cooked chicken nuggets and then filling a wrap with it.  So delicious and so easy!

Baked Sandwiches

Swich up a traditional cold lunchmeat salad and try baking it or cooking it on the griddle.  Hot turkey and ham sandwiches are delicious and you can’t beat a grilled cheese.  Check out this baked turkey pesto sandwich too.

Grilled Meat & Veggies

Grab some meat and grill it up!  While its cooking, cook some vegetables your favorite way (I love these green beans) and serve with some fresh fruit for an easy and healthy meal.

Stir Fry

Grab a stir fry kit at the store and add your favorite protein for a quick meal.

Sloppy Joe’s

Ground up some beef and add your favorite marinara sauce to the meat and serve on buns for a quick and delicious meal that usually offers leftovers for another night’s meal!  

Baked Potato Bar

Cook up some potatoes in the slow cooker or oven and offer toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, crumbled bacon, and steamed broccoli.

Mac N’Cheese

There is no shame in whipping up some macaroni and cheese. Some nights just call for it!  

Hot Dogs

Grill up some hot dogs.  They grill super fast and serve with some fresh vegetables and fruit for an easy side.

Snack Tray | Charcuterie Board

We have a snack tray every Sunday night.  We fill it with leftovers, cheese & crackers, vegetables, fruit and whatever we can find in the pantry.  Then, we eat off of one tray which the kids think is amazing.

Salad Bar

Cut up all the salad fixings and have everyone make a salad their way!  The options for protein are endless from canned tuna to chopped chicken nuggets, chopped leftover ham or lunch meat.  We like to include a variety of raw veggies, dressings, shredded cheese, chopped hard boiled eggs, croutons and sunflower seeds.


My husband’s grandmother called them “planned-overs” which I love.  She planned for leftovers and you should too.  Every week, we eat leftovers at least once and I plan for it in my meal planner (get your meal planner here).

Freezer Staples

On busy weeks, I always make sure I have some of our favorite freezer staples on hand just in case we need to pull something out of the freezer.  Things like taquitos, chicken nuggets, mini corn dogs, pizza rolls or frozen pizza.  Some nights just call for something super simple and you can offer some raw vegetables and fruit to go along with it.

spiral bound 52 week meal planning journal

Just Remember…

Simple meals make dinner easy.  Some seasons just call for that.  When life gets busy, it’s easy to toss out meal planning but taking 20 minutes to create a plan for the week will help so much.  It doesn’t have to be fancy to feed your family, you can plan REALLY simple meals.  You will be glad you did, I promise.

Do you have any go-to meals that you make repeatedly?  What does your family always request? Hands down we have to have a Mexican dish of some kind every single week!  Jus


Want more help with meal planning? 

Download the FREE 50 Meal Ideas Printable

12 Easy Shredded Chicken Recipes

Easy Grilled Chicken Recipe Ideas

Simple Kid-Friendly Lunch Ideas

25 More Simple Meal Ideas

Simple Purposeful Living Meal Planner


meal plan journal

I write down all my meal ideas for the week in the Simple Purposeful Living 52-week meal planner.  Get yours here.   

Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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35 quick and easy weeknight dinners

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