Dinner Ideas: Less Time Cooking Means More Time Eating

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It’s a common scenario. You’re in the midst of your daily hustle, someone asks, “What’s for dinner?” and you’re unsure how to answer. You freeze and think of what you could make, or you come back with something along the lines of, “I don’t know; what do you want?” Fifteen minutes go by, and you’re still no closer to a solution. 

Thanks to the internet, many recipes that work with any budget, skill level, diet, family size, and specific ingredients are available. The best dinner is, of course, one that’s a cinch to prepare and delicious, too. However, with so many choices  and interpretations of “effortless,” it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In this article, we’ll provide you with some advice for next time you come up empty on dinner ideas, and some simple ideas for dinner now.

What should I make for dinner tonight?

By creating a dinner menu for a month ahead of time, you can select your meals for a week and know what you’re making in advance. Additionally, you can easily create a grocery list based on your weekly choices so you can make sure the ingredients are readily available at home when you need them. While it takes a bit of time at first, it gets easier as you go, and in the long term, you will save plenty of time and money, and prevent food waste. Perhaps some of these quick and easy dinner ideas listed below will get you started.

Easy go-to dinner options for everyone

Healthy dinner

One-pan sausage, butternut squash, and apples

Delphine – stock.adobe.com

Servings: four
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes


1 large butternut squashed, peeled and diced

2 medium apples, diced

12 oz. kielbasa, sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Dice the vegetables and apple, slice the kielbasa and add them to a baking sheet.
  3. Combine the seasonings and olive oil in a small bowl and pour it over the ingredients on the sheet.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, stirring halfway.

Nutrition values per serving:

Calories: 380

Carbohydrates: 27.1 grams

Protein: 12.5 grams

Fat: 26.4 grams

Cholesterol: 100.8 milligrams

Sodium: 1454 milligrams 

Fiber: 4 grams

Sugar: 13 grams

Original recipe: What Molly made

Cheesy Dinner

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

FomaA – stock.adobe.com

Servings: eight
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes


2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups water

3 1/3 cups milk

1 pound elbow macaroni, uncooked

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika 

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped


  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Butter can burn quickly, so keep a close watch.
  2. Once the butter melts, add the flour and whisk until combined.
  3. Add the water and whisk stir until the mixture is smooth and starts to thicken.
  4. Stir in the milk, followed by the macaroni and seasonings.
  5. Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil and let the pasta cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Lower the heat and add the cheeses a handful at a time, stirring between additions until it’s melted and then adding more.
  7. Garish with parsley before serving.

Nutrition values per serving:

Calories: 478

Carbohydrates: 50 grams

Protein: 28 grams

Fat: 21 grams

Saturated fat: 17 grams

Cholesterol 88: milligrams

Sodium: 434 milligrams

Potassium: 333 milligrams

Fiber: 1 gram

Sugar: 7 grams

Original recipe: Dinner at the Zoo

With steak dinner

Cheesy scalloped potatoes

Vm2002 – stock.adobe.com

Servings: four
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: one hour


1/4 cups unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

4 medium russet potatoes, cleaned and thinly sliced

1 cup cooked ham, diced

Parsley for garnish, chopped


  1. Clean and slice the potatoes, dice the ham, and grate the cheese.
  2. Spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan.
  5. Add the flour and whisk until combined.
  6. Pour in the milk a bit at a time, stirring gradually. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens.
  7. Stir in the cheese until it’s melted, and remove the saucepan from the heat, setting it aside.
  8. Line the bottom of the pan with half the potatoes and half the ham and pour over half of the contents of the saucepan. 
  9. Repeat with the second half of the ingredients.
  10. Place it in the oven and bake for 60 minutes.
  11. If the potatoes are soft and the sauce is bubbly, you know it’s done.
  12. Add the parsley for garnish.

Nutritional values per serving:

Calories: 590

Total fat: 31 grams

Saturated fat: 17 grams

Cholesterol: 105 milligrams

Sodium: 837 milligrams

Fiber: 3 grams

Sugar: 8 grams

Protein: 25 grams

Original recipe: Love bakes good cakes

Family meals

Shake and bake pork chops

evgenyb – stock.adobe.com

Servings: six
Prep time: five minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes


3 cups of breadcrumbs (not panko)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons table salt

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon celery salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder 

6 bone-in 1/2 inch thick pork chops


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray it with cooking oil.
  3. Add everything but the pork to a large ziplock or reusable bag. Shake to mix.
  4. Place one pork chop in the bag, leaving some air in it, and shake until the mixture covers the meat.
  5. Place it on the baking sheet and repeat with each pork chop.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, flipping at 15 minutes.

Nutritional values per pork chop: 

Calories: 295

Carbohydrates: 39 grams

Protein: 7 grams

Fat: 12 grams

Saturated fat: 8 grams

Sodium: 1,655 milligrams

Fiber: 2 grams

Sugar: 3 grams

Chicken dinner

Baked chicken legs

valeriy555 – stock.adobe.com

Servings: four
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes


8 chicken drumsticks

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika 

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon onion powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with non-stick cooking oil.
  3. In a small bowl, combine seasonings.
  4. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken drumsticks with the oil to coat them.
  5. Add the seasoning mixture to the bowl and toss until it covers the meat.
  6. Lay the chicken out on the baking sheet.
  7. Place it in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Nutritional values per serving:

Calories: 310 

Carbohydrates: 2 grams 

Protein: 27 grams

Fat: 21 grams

Saturated fat: 5 grams 

Cholesterol:139 milligrams

Sodium: 743 milligrams

Potassium: 364 milligrams

Fiber: 1 gram

Sugar: 1 gram

Original recipe: Julie’s eats and treats

The bottom line

Wondering what to make for dinner is something even the most seasoned home cooks experience. However, a little preparation goes a long way. Perhaps tonight, you can treat yourself and whomever else happens to be at the dinner table with one of these easy, delicious at-home recipes, and when you can, put together a quick-meal menu to help make dinnertime a speedy breeze.

Now that you’ve gotten dinner out of the way you may be interested in learning some methods to help you relax after a tough day or practice some self care. But, if you’re stuck on dinner as you found you’re missing some ingredients, you can order them in seconds and they’re at your doorstep in a matter of minutes with Gopuff.

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