Dinner ideas to feed your family on busy nights without hitting a drive-thru

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My husband and I purposefully strive to keep our children’s schedules from being too jam-packed. But, even with that, family life is just plain busy. Yet every single night, we need to eat. Coming up with quick and easy family dinner ideas keeps us from hitting up the drive-thru or ordering pizza.

So, I’m sharing some of my best quick and easy family dinner ideas today. Give these a try!

Sandwich selections

Not much says easy meal more than a sandwich. There are so many options besides just putting some lunchmeat on bread and calling it a day. You can make hot sandwiches or “fancy” cold ones.

When it comes to hot sandwiches, subs and sliders are long-time favorites of my family. Check out these recipes for some quick and easy family dinner ideas for your crew.

These pizza subs are a recipe of my mom’s from when I was a kiddo that I took and morphed into what my family loves most. The subs are super easy to make and can be customized per person for individual preferences, which I love!

I love recipes that are easy to make and please my whole family; this pizza sub recipe does just that. You'll want to add it into your regular rotation! #Pizza #PizzaSubs #Recipe #EasyRecipe #KidFriendlyFood #PickyEaters

Another great hot sub you bake in the oven is these hot ham and cheese subs with honey mustard. The oven gets the edges of the ham a bit crispy and the honey mustard kicks the flavor up a notch. So yummy!

It’s not a secret that pizza flavors are popular in my family — and I’d bet they are in yours, too. Hawaiian rolls and an onion garlic topping make these pizza sliders a great family dinner idea!

The sweet pineapple mixed with the salty ham on a Hawaiian roll that’s topped with an onion garlic butter spread make these ham and pineapple sliders a super tasty family dinner!

But if you don’t have time for baking out some hot sandwiches in the oven, consider using your toaster! One my family’s favorites is toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The hot bread from the toaster makes the peanut butter all melty and delicious. There are all sorts of options for this one: peanut butter alone, peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and honey, peanut butter and banana — whatever you like!

Another super easy hot sandwich option is refrigerated (or frozen) pulled pork barbeque. My daughter and I love the pulled pork BBQ on hamburger buns. It’s easy to heat in the microwave (or on the stovetop if you really want) and serve up.

We also enjoy fancy cold sandwiches for dinner and pretend like we are at a sub shop. Buy sub bread, pretzel rolls or a loaf of bakery bread. Pair it with a variety of toppings like shredded lettuce, onion, green peppers, cheese and lunchmeat. Let your family build their own fancy cold sandwich. My guys both like sandwich size pepperoni or salami.

My favorite fancy cold sandwich is shaved turkey on a pretzel bun with Swiss cheese and garlic aioli. It’s so good!

You can pair any of the sandwiches with chips, pretzels or veggies and dip. Add in some fresh fruit on the side and you’ve got a great family dinner idea!

Easy pizza

My family loves pizza. My son would eat it daily and never tire of it. So easy pizza recipes make for great family dinner ideas around my house. I’ve made pizza dough from scratch, but there are so many easier options available that are ideal for busy nights. You’ll want to give these recipes a try!

With a crescent roll crust, this BLT pizza is a quick and easy recipe, especially if you make it with precooked bacon like I do. It’s a favorite around my house!

Starting with a canned pizza crust, these pepperoni pinwheels are a great way to get pizza flavors in a different way that’s also quick and easy for busy nights.

And then there’s premade pizza crust. While I have bought canned pizza dough or pizza crust mixes before, our favorite is the premade pizza crusts. The best thing about making your own pizza is that you can get as creative — or not — as you want with the toppings. My guys like pepperoni with pizza sauce. My daughter and I get a bit more risky.

Chicken, barbeque and onion pizza: This is my daughter’s favorite. I stir a bit of brown sugar into barbeque sauce, then spread it on the crust. I top it with cheese (Italian blend or mozzarella), diced white or red onion and precooked chicken from the refrigerated section. It’s so incredibly yummy!

Barbeque pulled pork pizza: We got this idea from a restaurant we went to while on vacation. Spread some barbeque sauce (sweetened with a bit of brown sugar if you want) onto the crust. Add the cheese and then top with barbeque pulled pork from the refrigerated section. It’s delicious!

Mashed potato pizza: My daughter was very unsure of this one, but once she tried it with me, she liked it. I had it once at a restaurant years ago and liked it. Spread a bit of ranch salad dressing on the crust, top it with refrigerated mashed potatoes that have been heated and top with shredded cheese (I usually use cheddar or colby jack) and crispy pieces of precooked bacon. Add some green onion when it comes out. You can dip it in ranch dressing when you eat it for extra flavor.

Mexican meals

Along with pizza, I know anything with Mexican flavors I make is going to be a hit. So I’ve found a few quick and easy dinner ideas that don’t have me cooking long. I do usually make extra taco-seasoned meat when I make tacos so I can make some Mexican food quickly, like nachos with jarred queso or even taco cornbread bake.

Making quesadillas in a skillet is not quick and easy when you are feeding your whole family. But, you can still get a crispy, yummy taste in the oven. These easy baked quesadillas are easy to customize for what your family likes.

Another quick Mexican meal we love is fajitas. I’ve found frozen chicken fajita mix at my grocery store. I put it on a baking sheet (covered in parchment paper for fast clean-up) and heat it up in the oven. Add in some flour tortillas, sour cream and shredded cheese and it’s a quick and easy family dinner!

Breakfast for dinner

I will eat breakfast food for any meal of the day. From cold cereal to full, hot breakfasts, I’m happy with breakfast food. So breakfast foods are definitely part of my family dinner ideas.

Eggs are the quintessential breakfast food, in my opinion. Try whipping them up in the microwave on busy nights to eat as is or add to a sandwich. (I love a scrambled egg with a bit of mayo on bread as a sandwich!)

Not only can you make scrambled eggs in the microwave, but there are a variety of flavor options you can do with them, including basic scrambled eggs, cheesy eggs, Italian flavored eggs, buttery eggs and mini omelettes.

Bagels maybe considered a breakfast food, but they make for a filling, easy family dinner idea! Peanut butter is super popular in my family. My son, especially loves bagels with peanut butter. But you could also toast a bagel and use cream cheese, which is what I do.

Another easy and quick breakfast food we have for dinner sometimes is frozen waffles. You can get regular frozen waffles or go for fancier Belgian waffles. All you need is your toaster! Add in some precooked bacon or sausage links that you heat in the microwave, and you’ve got a good family dinner. If you are worried about mess from syrup, try serving the waffles with applesauce for dipping instead! (Plus you get the bonus of added fruit.) Or if you have about 15 extra minutes, whip up this easy caramel sauce on the stove for a scrumptious topping!

And I have to include cold cereal. We totally have it for dinner sometimes. I make it fancier by adding toast alongside it.

Finally, don’t forget about instant oatmeal when it comes to breakfast for dinner. Go for a flavor or make it plain and add your own flavors. My kids like apple and cinnamon. I like maple and brown sugar. We add toast on the side to make that dinner a bit heartier as well.

Slow cooker

You can’t forget the slow cooker when it comes to quick and easy family dinner ideas. Slow cookers let you make dinner early in the day and then forget it. I’ve got two soups we eat from the slow cooker that you’ve got to try!

This slow cooker potato soup is a regular in my household. And since it uses frozen hashbrowns for the potatoes, you don’t even have to take time peeling potatoes. I can get it in the slow cooker in 5 minutes! It’s cheap, easy and filling.

I’d not had potatoes in chili until recently when we tried this slow cooker potato chili. But, I love potatoes prepared any way I can get them! While you can dice up your own potatoes to put in here, you could also use frozen hashbrowns to make this an even faster family dinner.

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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21 Quick and easy family dinner ideas21 Quick and easy family dinner ideas

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