The back-to-school craziness has started around my house, and we’ve already eaten way too many Chinese-takeout dinners to be good for us. Before we go completely off the deep end, I wanted to round up my favorite 30-minute meals for families. These are dinners that my kids love, and I have a seriously picky crew.
Plus, you can quickly whip up every one of these at the end of the long day. I promise. But I do have a pro tip to help ensure that you don’t fall back on pizza at the last minute: Take a few minutes over the weekend to chop and dice, then store the prepped ingredients in airtight containers. That way, you have everything ready to go when it’s time to cook. It’s been a lifesaver for me.
One of my kids’ favorite meals to eat — and help cook — is this Easy Chicken Gyros & Tzatziki Sauce at Creme de la Crumb. The only part you have to cook is the chicken, which makes it fast. (Want it even faster? Just add some spice to a rotisserie bird.) The homemade tzatziki sauce is so delicious that you’ll be pouring it over any leftover chicken and lettuce for a great, quick lunch salad the next day.
This Cajun Chicken Pasta at The Pioneer Woman is on my regular meal rotation at home because I usually have all of these ingredients on hand. It’s so quick, but feels more special (and a lot lighter) than regular old spaghetti when you’re craving pasta. If your kids are like mine, they’ll be slurping up these noodles.
No matter how many Thai Meatball Lettuce Wraps I make, I never have any left over. My picky kids were skeptical — Thai food?!? — but they devoured these. The recipe at The Garlic Diaries says that this will take you 45 minutes, but I recommend making the meatballs smaller — they’re easier to eat and will cook a lot faster too.
I love this Balsamic Chicken Tortellini Pasta at Multiply Delicious as a quick dinner on a busy night, because the only thing you need to cook is the pasta…if you use rotisserie chicken, that is. I’ve packed this up to take with me to ball games, picnics, and back-to-school events instead of sandwiches, again. It’s also great for nights when you have to eat in the car on the way to practice.
This recipe for Fresh Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms at Fine Cooking sounds intimidating — it’s Fine Cooking, after all — but it’s actually really quick and easy, and so delicious. My kids love the spicy sausage, even if they pick over the mushrooms to get to them.
I much prefer spaghetti with homemade sauce, but that seems impossible on busy school nights. However, this quick recipe for Linguine with Easy Meat Sauce at Cooking Light is ready in under 20 minutes. And my kids will eat it! Wow.
Kids always think that dinner’s better when served in a foil packet, right? That’s probably why these Fajita Foil Packets at The Life Jolie are so popular with my family. It’s basically like we’re camping…but with plush beds and air conditioning after dinner.
Mmmm…this Dijon Croque Monsieur sandwich is so rich and cheesy and utterly delicious. I know, the calories! But — get this — the recipe is at Cooking Light. Whoo!
Every once in a while I like to shock my kids with a salad for dinner, and this BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad at I Heart Naptime is about as kid-friendly as they come. In fact, they can almost get full without eating a single bite of lettuce. Well played, kids.
Even though school’s about to start, I’m still holding on to summer with this Grilled Chicken with Peach Jalapeño Salsa recipe at The View from Great Island. I’ll probably serve it to the kids with the salsa on the side, because picky. But, whoa, this one looks so tasty.
When it starts to feel like fall, I crave chili. Any of these 6 chili recipes that cook in 30 minutes or less, including this Fiery Chipotle Chili at Wilde Orchard, will make my family happy. And you can, of course, make them as fiery (or not) as your kids’ taste buds can handle.
Our editor, Stacie’s Skinny Fettuccini Alfredo recipe at her site One Hungry Mama is one of our favorites, because it’s lighter on the calories but also super quick. If you want some grilled chicken to go with it, you can still squeeze that in under 30 minutes. Boom.
Cook up breakfast for dinner with fried eggs, sausage or bacon, and these Sweet and Savory Sweet Potato Waffles at On the Eaten Path. Or serve it Nashville-style with some hot fried chicken (that you picked up on the way home, of course). This is a serious parent win.
Of course, cheeseburgers are a favorite with my kids, but this recipe for Bourbon Bacon Jam at The Chunky Chef takes those boring backyard burgers up more than a few notches. This is totally worth the extra effort and cooks up while the burgers are sizzling on the grill. And no problem if the kids stick with just ketchup — more bacon jam for you.
Fish isn’t usually my kids’ first choice for dinner, but these Fish Cakes with Lemon Caper Mayo at Valerie’s Keepers look so tasty. In fact, you might even be able to trick your little ones into thinking that these are chicken…maybe? Cook these when you have leftover mashed potatoes on hand and the recipe will go even faster.