Posted: Sep 30, 2014 5:00 AM
Every family has their go-to easy dinners for busy nights and we've collected 10 of our favorite families to share theirs. Add these real family favorites to your weekly menu or keep them in your back pocket for when your own family is too busy to think about what to make for dinner.
Photo credit: Jupiterimages/Pixland/360/Getty Images

Panko chicken

"Our go-to meal is panko chicken. I use thinly sliced chicken, add salt and pepper, then coat in panko crumbs," mom Toni, shares. "I fry it on the stove top in olive oil and serve with whatever veggies we have on hand. My kids love it because it is like chicken tenders... but healthier."

Pirate skewers

Mom of two pirate-loving boys, Sara, shares that on the nights when cooking is the last thing she wants to do and the kids need dinner right now, she whips up their favorite... pirate skewers. "I start with cocktail skewers (but you can use anything, including toothpicks). From there, I put on a piece of protein (we love Apple Farms anything), leftover chicken or shrimp. Next, add a cherry tomato, a piece of melon and a piece of pickle or a chunk of cheese." And, she shares a secret that makes dinner even easier, "Or, put all of the ingredients on a plate and let your kids assemble themselves."

Mom's tacos

Katie, a mom of two in Seattle, shares the quick go-to meal that is actually her mom's... and a family favorite. "My mom is from San Diego, so of course her fallback dinner is tacos. I'm not entirely sure what she does, as none of us can get them just right, since there is no real recipe that she follows. The basic idea is ground beef with some seasonings, toss in a jar of salsa and let simmer. Grab flour tortillas and fry in a super-light oil in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Serve with chopped onions, lettuce, shredded cheddar, sour cream, salsa... all of the usuals."

Sweet potato fries

A family who is often doing a dinner hand-off from parent to parent in the evenings (mom, Jen, is a doula and dad is an opera singer!), Jen shares their go-to quick dinner. "A lot of nights, I'll be getting back from a birth as he runs out the door to sing. So... my favorite go-to is sweet potato fries and smoothies. I can put a ton of health into the smoothies (chia seeds, flax oil, greens, Greek yogurt) and my kids can't tell. Then, I make some homemade dipping sauces — lime sour cream, honey mustard, ranch — and I just put one big platter on the table, drop off a smoothie with each kid and they just huddle around it and love their life."

Quick salad

Leora, a mom of three who lives on Long Island, gives us two quick dinners for busy nights... depending on who is home to cook it. "If my husband is home, he'll make a quick salad by throwing anything on the grill, shredding the lettuce and adding some tomatoes. He knows how to season the chicken or fish perfectly to bring out the flavor on the grill." And, if Mom's doing the cooking? "I'll make pasta, saute some garlic in a pan and add some veggies to make pasta primavera. Maybe even add a splash of wine for some quick flavor. If there's grilled leftover chicken in the fridge, I'll add that, too."

Cheese pizza

With an idea that we love, Allison shares that her family's favorite dinner for busy nights starts with a plain cheese pizza from the deli section of their local grocery store. "We pull out whatever veggies and protein we have on hand — peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, cured salami — in addition to whatever canned items we have in the pantry that might work — sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, sliced olives, pineapple. Every member of the family gets their own quadrant for themselves."

Dressed up pizza

Another family who loves the "dress up a pizza" idea for quick and easy dinners, Christina, a foster mom, tells us that they keep the freezer stocked with the simplest organic frozen pizzas from Trader Joe's. On busy nights, they pull some out and top them with their favorite toppings — fake sausage (veggie!), salami, chickpeas, hidden cut-up greens and more fancy cheese.

Wonton soup

If you have a Trader Joe's in your area, use this delicious quick dinner idea on a busy night. Jane shares, "Our favorite is a cheater wonton soup I make from Trader Joe's ingredients. I always keep boxes of their ginger miso broth and bags of their frozen mini chicken cilantro wontons on hand. Just heat up the broth and toss the wontons in for a few minutes. In a perfect world, I slice up some fresh bok choy and add it to the bowls before ladling the soup in."


"Quesadillas are always in my backup plan for dinner," shares a mom of three. "I know my kids will eat them, and I can make them fancy for the grown-ups. I start with flour tortillas — or the corn/flour mix tortillas from Trader Joe's — and cook them on the stove top until they are nice and brown and crispy, usually with a little butter underneath. Inside, I fill them with cheese (whatever we have on hand) and throw in some shredded chicken or any protein we have left over in the fridge. Sometimes, I try to sneak in some veggies by sauteing them first... spinach is always a hit and usually goes undetected."

Sub sandwiches

"On the nights I know dinner isn't going to be fancy, I swing by the deli on the way home and grab freshly sliced deli meats and cheeses for subs," shares Sam, a mom of two. "My kids think it's fun to assemble their own sandwiches and with some other leftovers from the fridge, cut into little pieces to go on the side, and we have a meal that we love."

More on dinner

Elegant (kid-friendly) dinner parties
Pinterest dinner ideas
Fast Greek chicken pita dinner