I gotta tell ya before any holiday, things can get hectic! I know I probably don’t have to say that, because you’re living it, too. But add kids into the mix and all of their activities, all of your activities, all the preparations for Christmas, buying, wrapping, decorating, baking, cleaning and maybe getting ready to travel and it can get hard to even pull off dinner. That’s when you need 10 No Effort Meals!
Me, sometimes I end up skipping dinner which isn’t great or snacking on whatever treats I’m making (even worse) but I’m a Grandma and it isn’t gonna kill me…but the littles? They gotta be fed. So demanding, right, lol! And pizza is great now and then (Flatbread Pizza is always a quick option, too) and takeout can be an option, but what if your kindly Gramma Frau can give you a list of 10 delish, comforting, fast, no effort, with very few and mostly pantry ingredient meals that can get you by in a pinch?
Oh yeah, we’re gonna make those 10 No Effort Meals cheap ones, too, so you can put more of your money towards the holidays.
These are some of my FAST, FAST, FASTEST recipes with down & dirty shortcuts to get you by. Click on the titles for full recipes and/or more instructions. I tried to include a little something for everyone, and mostly kid-friendly options, so I hope you’ll find something for you! Check out my main recipe index if you’d like to see more and happy holidays!
This is easy, simple, comforting, nothing offensive to anyone unless the green onions are an issue. Leave them off if you don’t have them.
- Main ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, 8 ounces tomato sauce, 8 ounces egg noodles, 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt, 1 cup small curd cottage cheese, 1/2 to 1 cup grated Cheddar.
- Game plan: Boil noodles, brown beef, layer and bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
- Serve with: Corn or Green Veggie
This is down-home comfort. Instant Pot ingredients and instructions are different, see post.
- Main ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, 1 onion, chopped or onion powder, 1 bell pepper, chopped, 2 cloves garlic minced or garlic powder, chili powder, 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes with juice, 8 ounces macaroni, 8 ounces Cheddar or American cheese, cubed.
- Game plan: Boil noodles, brown beef with vegetables, add spices, mix together. Add in cheese and cooked noodles, mix, bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. till hot and bubbly.
- Serve with: Corn or Green Veggie
This is delish as made in the full recipe, but to make it fast, shortcut the vegetables with a cole-slaw mix. This is an easy and versatile recipe and I make a jar of my Asian Dipping Sauce and use some of it to season this dish. You use a Teriyaki sauce (the flavor is different) or for a down and dirty quick sauce, 3 tablespoons soy, 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger or ginger powder, 1 clove garlic grated or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon sesame oil or to taste, and a few red pepper flakes.
- Main ingredients: 1 pound ground beef chicken or turkey, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 package coleslaw mix, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoons Asian Dipping Sauce or quick substitute, above, 1/4 cup sliced green onion
- Game plan: Mix meat with cornstarch, brown in a large skillet (add oil if using chicken or turkey), add the rest of the ingredients except green onion. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes, uncover and turn the mixture with a spatula and cook uncovered until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with green onion.
- Serve with: Rice and pass Soy Sauce and/or Sriracha
Shortcut this one-skillet dinner with a packet of taco seasoning instead of the slew of spices listed in the original recipe. I love to use onion and bell pepper but they can be left out in a pinch.
- Main ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, chicken or turkey, 1 onion, diced, 1 bell pepper, diced, 1 packet taco seasoning, 1 15 ounce can of tomatoes or Rotel, 1/4 cup salsa, heat level your choice, a tablespoon of hot sauce, optional, 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed, 3/4 cup raw regular rice, 1 1/4 cup water, 2 cups cheese, grated, Colby Jack works well.
- Game plan: Brown meat with onions and bell pepper, add oil if necessary or drain if using ground beef. Add seasoning packet, stir in tomatoes with juices, salsa, black beans & hot sauce. Toss the rice on top and add the 1 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir together, bring to a boil. Cover with lid, reduce to a bare simmer for 22 to 24 minutes until rice is just done. If possible, don’t lift the lid or stir until rice is finished. Off heat, sprinkle cheese over and lid for a few minutes to melt.
- Serve with: tortillas and corn is a great vegetable choice. Put out any of your fave taco “fixings.”
In this post, I showed my kids how to take a recipe and modify it, from a very basic good version to a fancier “gooder” version to a gourmet “goodest” version. Here’s the good version perfect for a busy weeknight. Five minutes to toss together but it does need to bake 35 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, then is topped with cheese and popped back in the oven to melt.
- Main ingredients: Enough chicken breasts for your family, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 15 ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes with Italian herbs (if you don’t have add about 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning to your can of tomatoes), a heaping tablespoon of flour, a little Italian seasoning, basil or oregano to top chicken, 1 cup grated cheese like Mozzarella.
- Game plan: Mix together the can of tomatoes and juices, flour and olive oil in a casserole dish just large enough to hold the chicken. Salt & pepper the chicken, sprinkle with Italian seasoning or herbs and lay it on top. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. until chicken is cooked through. Add cheese and bake a few more minutes.
- Serve with: pasta or garlic bread, vegetable or salad if desired.
I always have canned artichoke hearts; my kids (and my cat, Homer) loved them. Leave them out if they don’t work for you. Maybe add a few sliced black olives, instead. I usually make this with cherry tomatoes but about 3 large tomatoes, chunked, works well, too. Angel hair pasta makes this super fast but spaghetti is fine. Use a little pasta or a lot, your choice. The olive oil is a healthy part of this pasta dish, not an incorrect amount.
- Main ingredients: 1/2 to 1 pound Angel Hair or other Spaghetti, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 small onion, chopped, 12 ounces or more of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, 2 cloves garlic or a little garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon dried basil or Italian herbs, 1 can (6 ounce) drained tuna, 1 can artichoke hearts, halved & drained, salt & pepper.
- Game plan: Boil noodles, save a cup of the water. Add oil to a large skillet, saute onion till softened, add the garlic & tomatoes, cook until tomatoes soften & give up juices, add dried herbs, tuna, artichokes. Add in hot pasta and toss. Use the reserved pasta water to moisten if needed; it will make it a little “saucy.” Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with: Garlic Bread.
Again with the artichoke hearts! Hey, we love them. Hope you do, too! Shortcut this scrumptious chicken dish with a deli artichoke dip.
- Main ingredients: enough chicken breasts for your family, Italian seasoning, 1 can artichoke hearts, quartered, Kalamata or black olives pitted and halved, a small deli container of artichoke dip, a little milk to thin it.
- Game plan: Sprinkle chicken with S & P, 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Place in casserole, sprinkle artichoke hearts and olives around. Microwave artichoke dip for a few seconds so it’s not cold, add a little milk and stir in so it’s the consistency of a thick cake batter. Cover, bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 minutes; test for doneness. Move casserole to the top shelf, uncover and broil until hot and bubbly the topping is golden brown in spots.
- Serve with: Rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.
A childhood favorite, this is my comfort food and maybe now yours. It’s a fast one dish skillet meal. Heck, it’s what hamburger helper wishes it was!! If your kids are picky dice the veggies very small.
- Main ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, 1 medium onion diced, 2 stalks celery, diced, 1/2 green pepper, diced, 2 cups V-8 or tomato juice, 2 cups water, 8 ounces egg wide noodles.
- Game plan: In a large skillet or a Dutch oven, brown beef with vegetables, drain. Add in the V-8 or tomato juice, water and bring to a simmer. Add noodles, and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer gently until noodles are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t stir but gently scoop up and turn with a spatula if needed. Add a touch more water if needed.
- Serve with: Corn or Green Veggie.
This is an American Classic. You might already have your own recipe! So kid-friendly, and plain, down-home cooking. I forget about it sometimes but when I remember it makes me nostalgic!
- Main ingredients: 3/4 cup of dry macaroni, small-sized, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 onion, chopped, 1 green pepper, chopped, 1 clove garlic, minced or a little garlic powder, 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, crush tomatoes by hand, 2 teaspoons chili powder, salt to taste, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Cheddar
- Game plan: Boil macaroni, brown beef with veggies, add garlic and cook a minute longer. Combine all ingredients except cheese, top with cheese and bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. until top is browned and bubbly.
- Serve with: Corn or Green Veggie.
You wouldn’t believe how much I debated on this recipe or my Porcupine Skillet Dinner. I love both but already have several down-home ground beef dinners here and this is one of my fave quick go to meals any time of the year. It may not be so kid-friendly depending on the ages and your habits and it might be you don’t keep a jar of Thai yellow or green curry (both very mild, especially the yellow) or coconut milk in your kitchen (but you might if you try this meal!) but both are available in a well-stocked grocery. This is so fast, so delish and you can easily make a little or a lot or leave out the chicken if you want to go meatless. If it’s not your cup of tea, check out the Porcupine Skillet Dinner.
- Main ingredients: 1 can coconut milk, full fat (let it settle a few days in your kitchen if you can) green or yellow curry paste, about two or three slightly heaping teaspoons are about right, 1 onion, sliced pole to pole, 2 or 3 bell peppers, thinly sliced, 2 chicken breasts, about 3/4 to a pound sliced thinly, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 lime for serving
- Game plan: To your largest skillet, scoop the thickened fat off the top of the can of coconut milk and add to skillet. Add in the curry paste and let it heat through (leave it in a little pile, then add in the vegetables on one side of the skillet and the chicken on the other. Coat each pile in the curry mixture and spread out. I like to keep the chicken and veggies separate so I know the chicken gets cooked all the way through, then cook, stirring a bit until chicken is white on all sides. Add the rest of the coconut milk and fish sauce and simmer gently until vegetables are softened and chicken is done.
- Serve with: Rice and wedges of lime.
I’ll be sharing 10 No Effort Meals at Fiesta Friday #306 this week.