Food & Drinks

5 Quick and Easy Last-Minute Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights

There are nights when you don't have time to cook. You don't have time to go shopping for ingredients or time to make the meal once you've returned home with them.
That's why we always recommend keeping some easy ingredient options in your freezer.

You never know when a last-minute dinner will come up, but if you're prepared, you can still assemble something delicious and nutritious without spending hours slaving over a hot stove.

Quick and Easy Last-Minute Dinner Ideas

Here are five last-minute dinner ideas that take no more than 15 minutes of prep time:

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

You don't even have to turn on the stovetop for this classic! Just toast up some bread and pile on cheese slices along with tomato slices or slices of avocado. If you're feeling fancy, add some sliced deli meat too (like turkey or ham).

Pasta Salad

This dish is easy to make and will heat up when you're ready to eat. Try this tomato pesto pasta salad from The Simple Dollar for a vegetarian option. For something meatier, try this chicken pasta salad from Budget Bytes. Both recipes take about 10 minutes of prep time and are great for using up any leftovers from last night's dinner or adding variety to your weeknight dinners!

Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Avocado Spread

You could spend half an hour making an avocado toast or smoothie bowl for breakfast tomorrow morning, but why not grab a grilled chicken sandwich instead? This one takes only five minutes to throw together — all you need are two pieces of bread, some chicken breast (or thigh) tenders, and your favorite condiments like mustard or mayonnaise,

Stir Fry

This is one of my favorite quick dinners because they are easy to throw together and can be customized with whatever vegetables and protein you have. Simply sauté your veggies in a bit of oil or butter over medium heat until they're tender and browned; add your protein, cook until done, then add some sauce and simmer until thickened. You can use any type of sauce or marinade as long as it has enough flavor to coat all the ingredients without being too thin or runny — as teriyaki or soy sauce-based sauces work well here.


Tacos are one of those dishes that always taste better when they're made at home anyway, so why not make them last minute? All you need is some fresh tortillas (or corn tortillas if you want to go super simple), some shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken or leftover roast chicken from Sunday night's dinner, some guacamole or avocado slices, and whatever other toppings you like on your tacos (lettuce, cilantro, salsa).

Tips for Making Quick and Easy Dinners

Quick and easy meal plans are also ideal when you have a lot going on at work and school. Here are some tips for making quick and easy dinners for busy weeknights:

Plan Ahead

If you know what's happening during the day — like a meeting at work or an activity after school — plan your dinner accordingly so it doesn't take long to prepare. You'll also save money by buying ingredients on sale and storing them in the freezer until you need them.

Make Extra During Prep Time

Add some extras, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, or quinoa, when chopping vegetables or browning meat for your main dish. These will cook while everything else is simmering away in the oven or on the stovetop, making it easy to throw together a complete meal at the end of your busy day.

Cook Vegetables First

This makes them easier to chop up and add to your main dish later in the cooking process — especially if they are being sautéed or cooked in another way first, anyway!

Use Leftover Ingredients

If you plan on making a dish with vegetables or grains as its main ingredient, make extra so you can use it in another meal later in the week (or just eat it for lunch!). Leftover grains can be used in salads or stir-fries, and leftover vegetables can be added to soups or casseroles.


Whatever the reason for your crazy weeknight schedule, we hope that you can maximize your time and make the most of a particularly busy time of year. It's not easy and can be downright stressful, but it becomes second nature when made into a routine.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Vegetarian meals are easy to prepare and perfect for those who want an alternative to meat dishes.

Chicken breasts take approximately 15 minutes to cook. But if you grill them, it will take 20 minutes.

Leftovers are great for making last-minute dinners because they allow you to reduce waste from previous meals and save money on food costs.

Isaac Harrington

Isaac Harrington is an active blogger who started his journey as a part-time stint but has now fallen in love with the profession. Sharing heartfelt experiences is close to his heart, and helping people with his content is something that fuels his passion.