Our weekly Meal Planning Monday post in my group, the Semi-Crunchy Mama® Club, has been a little slow lately. People said they're struggling to focus and plan ahead with so much uncertainty in the world.
I get it. We have definitely had more "scrounge in the fridge for whatever people will eat" nights than ever before. If you're in the same boat and just need a little nudge to get back on track, I made this list in the hope that you'll find some inspiration.
If you missed it, I last posted 17 ideas for breakfast. Here are 17 ideas for dinner, and next I'll post some snacks! Use them as a jumping off point, and substitute as needed. I have a simple list--you can even print the graphic out--and I'll add details, recipes, and dietary restriction advice in these posts.
I've linked a few recipes, but there's no right or wrong variation of these. Let me know which idea is your favorite or the most helpful!
17 Easy Kid-Friendly Ideas for Dinner
- baked potato bar
- stir fry
- soup with salad/bread
- egg roll in a bowl
- pad Thai
- burgers and oven fries
- salmon patties and roasted potatoes
- sweet potatoes and quinoa
- homemade pizza
- Mexican quinoa
- burrito bowls
- Vietnamese noodle salad
- curry and rice
- fried rice
Not just for Tuesdays! Easily made gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
Our favorite combo is corn tortillas (GF), black beans, sautéed onion and pepper, corn, salsa, lettuce, and avocado. Add sour cream and cheese for the dairy-eaters.
Baked Potato Bar
Sub vegan margarine/cheese if desired. Use sweet potatoes to make paleo.
Make as simple or fancy as you want! Bacon bits, broccoli, cheese, sour cream, green onions or caramelized onions... To avoid the oven or speed up the process you can cook the potatoes in an Instant Pot, too.
Feeling extra fancy? Throw some chili on top.
Many gluten-free/vegan options available.
I used to make beautiful stir fries with fresh organic farmers market veggies. Now I dump in a few cups of frozen stir fry veggies from Costco because I have 3 kids. We usually do tofu or shrimp for the protein, and toss in cashews if I'm feeling fancy.
If I'm in a huge rush, gluten-free (or regular) ramen noodles are a great alternative to rice, and broccoli and tofu are enough toppings with some garlic in a pinch.
Such a broad category! Gluten-free noodles abound, dairy-free unless you choose otherwise, vegan by default.
Two of my kids have different dietary restrictions, so sometimes we make noodles that one kid eats with butter and cheese, another eats with vegan pesto, and another eats with marinara and meatballs. Did they all eat the food? I'll call it a win.
Mix it up by making baked pasta (can be prepped ahead), or use stir-fry veggies to make a quick pasta "primavera." If you usually have tomato sauce, try pesto, or my kids love cauliflower-based "alfredo" sauce.
Soup with salad/bread
Another broad category with lots of options.
My husband basically considers soup dip for bread, but he'll eat it. I'm not a huge fan of broth-y soups, but love pureed soups like sweet potato bisque, potato corn chowder, creamy broccoli soup, etc. *hugs Vitamix*
Or give me a hearty lentil or bean stew, or a robust chili, and I'm happy for 3 days. I also like throwing it in the Instant Pot (or a slow cooker if that's your jam) so I can keep living my life while dinner makes itself.
Here's a really tasty vegan lentil soup that's versatile and fast. I've made it in my Instant Pot, but put the tomatoes on top or it'll burn.
Egg Roll in a Bowl
This Semi-Crunchy Mama® Club fan-favorite is paleo dream come true! I haven't tried it, but I think you could sub crumbled tofu or tempeh, or protein crumbles to make it vegan.
Here's the recipe I've seen linked the most.
Zero judgment if you get takeout for this. I'm linking paleo and veg options which may not be authentic, but it's better than no Pad Thai due to dietary restrictions. My husband would like this every week. If you live near an Asian grocery the ingredients are cheaper.
- This recipe for Tofu Pad Thai is vegetarian. Make vegan by leaving out the eggs. Make gluten-free by using tamari instead of soy sauce. If you're not vegan, add a splash of fish sauce, though.
- This Paleo Pad Thai recipe uses sunbutter and spiralized zucchini.
- You're home anyway, so why not try to perfect Authentic Pad Thai? You'll need some specific ingredients, but if you're tired of baking bread, this seems like a great skill to hone.
Burgers and Oven Fries
Lots of options here, too. Hamburgers? Cheeseburgers? Veggie burgers? Turkey burgers? Salmon burgers? Paleo-style wrapped in lettuce, or with GF buns? Up to you!
Another option that we like since each kid can choose their toppings and bread. They prefer fries with theirs, which is sometimes a frozen bag from Trader Joe's, but usually potatoes that I've sliced, rinsed in cold water, tossed in avocado oil and salt, and roasted at 425F for about 45 minutes.
Salmon Patties and Roasted Potatoes
This is our brainless meal that everyone eats.
At its most basic, we get salmon burgers from Costco and make mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot.
These are more work, but look delicious. I'm pretty sure this is the recipe I've used before (I didn't make the sauce, but I did toss avocado slices on top).
Sweet Potatoes and Quinoa
I realize that sweet potato season is ending as I post this, but it's a staple meal at our house! These all start vegan if you omit/swap the cheese, but you can cook the quinoa in broth to add extra nutrients. If you skip the cheese, sprinkle a little salt on top before serving.
- This honey-lime quinoa version is a favorite at our house.
- This salad version sounds perfect for summer with watermelon on the side.
- Avocado makes everything better, right? I would use frozen corn instead of canned.
Whether this is tossing your own toppings on frozen pizza, getting a pizza kit from the grocery store or a local pizza shop, or making everything from scratch, you're winning if you get to eat pizza at the end.
Many gluten-free pizza crusts contain eggs if that's a concern. We've used the Breads from Anna and Bob's Red Mill mixes with success. I just got a new kind to try when I can stand to turn my oven on again.
If you're feeling brave, let the kids put on their own toppings, and make personal mini crusts if you're more patient than I am. Then put arugula and balsamic vinegar on top of your pizza because it's delicious.
Like tacos, but with more veggies. If you normally make tacos, sometimes just switching up the protein and seasoning a little can make a big difference. Shrimp fajitas instead of beef tacos? Rice and beans on the side? Sounds good to me.
One-Pot Mexican Quinoa
I'll link the stovetop recipe below, then give you my Instant Pot hack. It starts vegan, but you can use broth and top with dairy if that's your preference.
Here's the original recipe from Damn Delicious. She has my eternal gratitude since everyone usually eats this unless the kids are in retrograde.
I omit the jalapeño because my kids won't eat it, but I put the Instant Pot on Sauté, warm the oil and garlic for a few minutes, then add rinsed quinoa, the spices, the can of tomatoes, and the beans, and about half a cup of water or broth. Stir, put the lid on, and cook on high pressure for 1 minute. Let the pressure release naturally, stir in the corn, and top as usual.
My husband likes to eat it with tortilla chips.
You may have noticed a theme of being able to assemble different toppings for each kid, and you're correct. This is another example of that.
Burrito bowls can be as easy or fussy as you have the ingredients and patience for. Rice, your choice of protein (beans? shrimp? chicken? salmon? beef? pork? tofu?) and toppings turn your kitchen into your own personal Chipotle. Bonus points if you have guacamole.
Vietnamese Noodle Salad (Bún Chay)
My kids are hit or miss with this one, but it's my absolute favorite summer dinner. To make gluten-free, use tamari or coconut aminos in place of soy sauce. Add a dash of fish sauce if you're not vegetarian or vegan for that umami punch of flavor. I keep dried rice sticks in the cupboard, but I like to grab fresh ones from the refrigerated section at my local Vietnamese grocery store.
Curry and Rice
Again, no judgment if you order out or use a pre-made simmer sauce. These are just ideas to get you started! Check the ingredients if you have dietary restrictions since some use part cream and part coconut milk, or use soy sauce, or wheat.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken is a popular choice. My husband doesn't like Indian food (I know! Ugh.) so I don't have any great recipes. Send me suggestions if you have them!
I have a lot of rice recipes (oops), but this is a great way to use up leftovers. You can use riced cauliflower to make it paleo or just get more veggies in.
Kimchi fried rice is one of my favorite lunches ever. Even without the kimchi, it's an easy way to use up those little bits of veggies, a single carrot, half an onion, etc. You can also stir in pieces of meat or tofu, or scrambled eggs for extra protein.
That's 17 ideas for you!
Let me know if you were inspired to make something new, or add more ideas in the comments. Join us in the Semi-Crunchy Mama™ Club for weekly inspiration and support.
Previously: 17 Easy Breakfast Ideas
Next up: 17 snack ideas! Stay tuned...