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Healthy Dinner Recipes for Those Who Don’t Have Tons of Time to Cook

By on 06/11/2014

Cooking is the Last Thing I Want To Do After Work


My pre-prepped home-salad bar

After a long day at work, many of us may head home pretty hungry, but not really feel like taking the time to cook.  When this happens, it’s easy to fall victim to the pattern of picking up take-out, snacking during dinner prep, or defaulting to quick and easy foods we have at home that may not be good for our health.  Even if you have tons of healthy dinner recipes on hand, you just may not have the energy to cook every night.

TIP: Mix and Match Pre-Prepared Items

I find it’s very easy to whip up a quick meal for dinner that is healthy, delicious, and varied if I have a few key things on hand in each food group. Consider mixing and matching these pre-prepared items to create and quick and healthy dinner without really needing an actual recipe and with very minimal cooking.  In most cases these items can be purchased ready to eat or prepared in bulk at home on days when you do have time to cook.

Find Your Own Favorite Combos

Here’s a chart for your meal mixing and matching pleasure.  If you feel best with a mixed meal, pick an item or two from each column.  Feel free to mix it up however you like!


Quick-Fix Recipe Strategies for Those Too Tired to Cook

Pre Cooked Starches

Protein Foods


Condiments & Toppings

Pasta (can be frozen): whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa or multi grain (or even regular white pasta — just aim for the majority of the grains you eat to be whole grain)

Cooked Chicken, Turkey, Beef or Pork

Salad Bar: (Store pre-cut veggies in divided container): Onion, Celery, Grated  Carrot, Peppers, Cucumbers, Grape tomatoes, Broccoli Slaw, Snow Peas, Cauliflower, Broccoli Florets

Pesto,  Vinaigrette

Brown Rice or Quinoa (can be frozen or vacuum-sealed pouches)

Chunk Light Tuna or Nitrate-free Deli Meats

Pre-Washed Greens (for salads or green smoothies): Chard, Spinach, Kale, Turnip Greens, Mesclun

Dried Fruit, chopped

Other Grains (can be frozen): Barley, Millet, Amaranth, Buckwheat

Pre-cooked & Frozen or  BPA-Free Canned Beans, including vegetarian refried beans

Frozen Vegetables (Plain): Look for frozen vegetables without sauces or seasoning

Mayonnaise, Mustard

Starchy Vegetables (pre-cooked and frozen): corn, peas, mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, winter squash

Dry Lentils or Split Peas (canned or frozen soups)

Cooked & Seasoned Vegetables (frozen): Make your own roasted vegetables & vegetable soups to freeze

Horseradish, Relish, Chutney

Baked Potatoes: Microwave in a potato bag

Chopped Nuts/Seeds

Shelf-Stable Soups: look for brands without plastic lined cans

Spice Blends & Rubs

 Bread, rolls, wraps

Shredded Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Greek Yogurt

Pre-made sauces: Peanut Sauce, Coconut Sauce, Marinara, Black Bean Sauce, etc.

Can you think of any other ideas to add to this list?  What do you find is helpful to keep on hand so you can quickly whip up a meal?

Take a Look at Our Other Healthy Recipes

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