Lucy and I have been super busy lately. I’ve been settling into my new job and she’s been working long hours. The last thing either of us want to do is spend 45 minutes cooking to eat at 8pm. We both want to eat as soon as we’re home, and want to avoid snacking while waiting for dinner. We also only rarely eat out, and this includes ready-meals. I enjoy cooking and I like to know exactly what’s in my food as much as possible.
Thankfully, my new job (which FYI is going great) means I only need to take one bus instead of two, so I’m getting home a bit earlier. This means I have a bit more time to prep meals. Nevertheless, I’m normally the one meal planning and I purposefully pick menu items that can be made in 30 minutes or less. I also do a lot of meal prepping on Sundays so that we can just re-heat food when we’re home from work.
For those of you looking for easy, fast, and healthy weeknight dinner ideas, I hope this is helpful! As a note, we eat some meat (mainly chicken and pork), but most of our meals are vegetarian and can be adapted for food allergies/diets/preferences.
Jacket Potatoes & Salad
Every Sunday morning I put the oven on 200°C, coat 2 small baking potatoes in peanut (groundnut) oil and wrap them in some foil. These bake for 90 min and then go in the fridge.
On the weeknight, I prep a quick salad, usually lettuce, cucumber and pepper with oil and balsamic vinegar, and then I microwave the potatoes, sliced in half, for 5 min each. I pick different toppings every week including: baked beans, cottage cheese, or tuna and sweetcorn. Sometimes I prep ahead toppings such as: soya mince with salsa and chopped peppers; turkey mince with basil & tomato sauce; or soya mince “Cottage/Shepherd’s Pie” with carrots, peas, tomato base, and Worcestershire sauce. The options are endless!
This isn’t entirely “homemade” because it involves a pre-packaged sauce, but on nights we want something really fast we opt for stirfry. We normally use the following:
- packet of udon noodles
- packet of stiryfry sauce (like hoisin or black bean)
- broccoli (chopped small)
- carrot (chopped small)
- mangetout/snow peas
- baby corn
- cashew nuts
- water chestnuts (optional)
It takes about 5 min to prep the veg and 10 min to cook. Easy and filling!
Veggie-loaded pasta sauce
I love making this pasta sauce on Sunday and then putting half in the fridge and the other half in the freezer. It’s great with spaghetti or chunkier noodles like penne.
- 1 carrot chopped
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 shallot diced
- half a butternut squash (roasted with a drizzle of oil for 20 min)
- handful of cherry tomatoes (also roasted with oil for 15 min) – optional
- carton of chopped tomatoes
- fresh basil (I keep mine frozen)
- 3 sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Fry the carrot, celery, and shallot in the oil for a few minutes.
Add the basil, chopped tomatoes, and sun dried tomatoes. Add the honey and seasoning.
Once the squash (and cherry tomatoes) are roasted, add them to the saucepan. Simmer for 25 min, adding water to make it the consistency you desire. Allow to cool slightly before whizzing with a hand blender. Re-heat in a saucepan or microwavable container and serve over pasta (or even rice!).
Mild Bean Chili
I make this chili a lot, and I always do it differently. It’s best to prep it ahead on Sunday and then it can be frozen or stored in the fridge. Sometimes I make it with just beans, other times I add soya mince or ground turkey.
- tin of mild mixed beans in chili sauce
- turkey/soya mince (optional)
- jar of mild salsa
- carton of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. honey
- frozen corn
- sweet potato, chopped
- red pepper, chopped
- BBQ sauce or fajita/taco seasoning
Really, this is a simple as browning the mince (if you’re including it) and then putting everything in a pot and simmering for 40 min. You can add more or less of the ingredients, omit things you don’t like, or swap in alternatives. Chili is full of protein and we usually have it with some crusty bread, or rice.
Other ideas include salads (which I have previously posted about here), and soup! Beans on toast is also a staple in our house, and if I’m on my own I opt for easy meals like a grilled cheese sandwhich, or omelette.
With a bit of planning, it’s entirely possible to eat homemade meals every night that are tailored to your diet, healthy, and save you money!