Last minute dinner or takeout? Takeout usually wins, right? Have you ever gotten halfway through your day and realized you have no plan for dinner?
Part of naturally healing my anxiety and overwhelm was rooted in eating healthy meals at home made with fresh ingredients. I love cooking at home because it gives us the opportunity to eat meals that taste amazing and it helps save us from spending on takeout or lunches out.
Though I am often prepared with a meal plan and a grocery list each week, there are times where last minute I have no plan for dinner. Things get busy or I forget or I am just looking for something quick and easy to pull together. Sound familiar?
Sharing my Must Have Staples
I pulled together a list of 10 things to share with you for last minute meals but really the list is bigger than just 10 things.
I split the list in to two groups, last minute meal ideas and staples for meals to just “throw together”.
BONUS POINTS: I added a list of a few of my favorite tools for last minute meals, too.
EXTRA BONUS POINTS: I made all of the must have items in BOLD and I created a special info graphic you can save to your phone!
1. Last Minute Meal Inspiration: Easy Burrito Bowls
Burrito bowls are an easy go to last minute. If you have meat defrosted or can quickly defrost meat, use it. If you don’t have meat defrosted, use quinoa and beans as a protein source. I keep Ortega chilies, beans, and fire roasted tomatoes in my pantry always. I also prepare large batches of rice and quinoa (2-3 cups of dry grain cooked for the week) so I can grab from it and easily add it to meals.
You can easily throw beans, rice/quinoa, fire roasted tomatoes, and Ortega chilies in a pan with some sugar free taco seasoning (my personal recipe is below) for a quick meal.
2. Last Minute Meal Inspiration: Pasta
A super last minute meal in our home is using chickpea or lentil pasta and no sugar added tomato sauce for a pasta dish. When picking out a lentil or chickpea pasta (ps… these have more plant based protein than wheat pasta), I choose an organic pasta with one or two ingredients. The ingredients are usually the legume (chickpea, lentil, bean, etc.) and water.
I choose an organic, no sugar added pasta sauce and keep a couple jars in the house. This is my favorite store bought pasta sauce (here).
If you have veggies in the fridge like tomato, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, bell peppers, etc., sauté them in the pan until they are cooked. You can then add the sauce to warm it up and top your cooked pasta.
3. Last Minute Must Have: Using Jackfruit
The other night I made a burrito bowl salad using staples from our pantry. Jackfruit that I seasoned like “taco meat”, black & pinto beans, cooked rice, and mixed together some veggies I had in the fridge like sweet peppers, tomatoes, romaine, and avocado.
Jackfruit is a plant that takes on the texture of meat. If it is seasoned properly, you can really make it taste like anything. BBQ, taco style, or even smokey. Organic jackfruit is a staple I keep in the pantry for last minute meals.
4. Last Minute Meal Inspiration: Asian Takeout
For a last minute Asian inspired meal, you can keep a few of these staples in your pantry. Water chestnuts and bamboo shoots are a great addition to a meal if you are going for Asian take out flavor. Use fresh or ground ginger, garlic, orange juice and coconut aminos (it’s like soy sauce) to make an easy sauce to cook with.
Pull from other items you have on hand to create a take out inspired bowl. Frozen veggies, chicken, quinoa, extra veggies from the fridge, can all be added to create a meal.
5. Last Minute Meal Inspiration: Tuscan style
Sometimes you have some frozen chicken and a few odds and ends to use for dinner, but have no clue what to do with them. For these moments I keep sun dried tomatoes, chickpeas, and greek olives in the pantry.
When paired with cooked quinoa or rice and chicken, it makes a Tuscan inspired dish. Use coconut milk if you are looking to make it “creamy”. I have a great place to get a Tuscan Chicken Inspired recipe.
Brittany over at Instant Loss has an incredible Instant Pot recipe for Tuscan Chicken in her Instant Loss Cookbook. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you should get one and in the meantime, you can cook your chicken and simmer (instead of pressure cook) the ingredients following her recipe. Add the chicken to a bowl of cooked rice or quinoa.
6. Last Minute Must Have: Frozen Vegetables
Any meal can be pulled together with the help of frozen vegetables. Choose organic whenever possible in the case of frozen vegetables. Costco has a great selection of frozen vegetables.
I try to use fresh vegetables whenever I can for our meals, but in a pinch or in those last couple days before a grocery store trip, I use frozen vegetables.
We have found that Costco has frozen organic cauliflower rice, organic mixed vegetables, organic butternut squash, and organic Brussels sprouts.
Just a note: Because of the toxins that heated plastic can create, I don’t cook our vegetables in the microwave steamer pouch they sometimes come in. I will take them out of the pouch and cook them on the stovetop boiling or sautéing them.
7. Last Minute Must Have: Sweet or Regular Potatoes
Potatoes are fairly simple to cook with, and versatile. Sweet potatoes are easily baked, steamed, boiled and have a lower glycemic index, than white potatoes.
Sometimes I will make steamed sweet potatoes in my Instant Pot and fill them like baked potatoes with whatever I have in the house. Taco style with Ortega chilies, beans, and quinoa is great! Veggie style with sautéed vegetables.
8. Last Minute Must Have: Spices
You can really throw anything together and make it taste great, if you season it well. A lot of successful recipes and meals are really just a great combination of seasoning and foods.
I like to make my own taco seasoning at keep it in a little jar in the spice cabinet. I add it to chicken with veggies and call it a “taco” combination. You can add it to beans and rice with some jackfruit, taco “meat”.
I also love to use garlic, onion or onion powder, and black pepper. I try to buy seasonings that don’t have salt or sugar in them. If I think a recipe needs salt, I will add my own to taste.
If you are looking for more inspiration on how you can make your food taste great, this post here is a great one!
9. Last Minute Must Have: Frozen Wild Caught Salmon (or fish)
Salmon or really any fish defrosts fairly quickly in a bowl of water. If I forgot to take something out, I will pull out a couple filets of wild caught salmon from the freezer.
Salmon is seasoned well with lemon juice, garlic, and pepper. You can get creative and use honey, coconut aminos (or a soy sauce equivalent), garlic, and fresh or ground ginger.
10. Last Minute Meal Inspiration: Toppings for salads
Last minute salads are big in our home. Romaine lettuce is quickly chopped and you can add so many things to make a delicious salad.
I keep on hand as salad toppings: artichoke hearts, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pickled jalapeños, etc.
Your own salad dressing can be made at home 2 parts oil (I like avocado oil), 1 part raw apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, pepper, Italian seasoning, and 2 Tablespoons of dijon mustard.
Tips and tools for Last Minute Meals
Let me share with you a few things I keep in our home for last minute meals. These are always my “go to’s” when I need ideas or when I need to cook something in a short time frame.
Brittany from Instant Loss has a great cookbook out right now that I use almost weekly. It is where I get my Tuscan Chicken Recipe, Instant Pot Meatloaf recipe, and SO MANY other great recipes. I reference it when I need inspiration for a quick, last minute meal.
She has a new book coming out at the end of the year that I have already pre-ordered. You can preorder her new cookbook (releasing in December 2019) here on Amazon!
My Instant Pot is an obvious gadget that saves me so much time in the kitchen. Not only do I use it to make last minute meals, like cook frozen turkey for pasta, but I also use it to batch cook for the week.
I use my Instant Pot to make large batches of quinoa, rice, sweet potatoes, and even plain chicken I can just throw in to a meal last minute.
EVERYONE should have an Instant Pot in their home, especially busy moms and families. Take the time to get an accessory pack for your Instant Pot. This will help give you more cooking options for your meals!
Air Fryers make cooking so easy, especially if you love “fried food” without the extra calories. An air fryer has 75% less fat than traditional frying methods. You can also Dehydrate with it. You can create flat, chip-like dehydrated foods for fun, homemade snacks.
What are your must haves?
I hope you found this post helpful! Save any of the images you need to reference later or my favorite, Pin it for later on Pinterest. If you loved this post and found it helpful, please share it with anyone you think would be inspired to keep a couple of these items in their kitchen.
Until next time! Enjoy!