7 Simple Meals Any Parent can Make Fast

If you’re running out of dinner ideas or tired of trying to cater to everyone’s tastes, try these ideas

Whether it’s the exhaustion of trying to use what you have on hand to avoid a trip to the store, or listening to all the demands for what dinner should or should not have to make little mouths happy, there comes a point where making dinner starts to feel like an exercise in futility.

You can’t make everyone happy with just one meal… or can you?

As a single mom, I learned quickly that if I didn’t want to spend all night in the kitchen, I needed to make sure two out of every three things for dinner were things my kids would eat without complaint. But after you’ve had French fries and chicken nuggets for the fourth night in a row, you’d kill your own mother for a salad or at least a baked potato, right?

I’ve got seven simple dinner ideas that will allow you to cook just one meal and still make the home crowd happy. They’re all “bar” meals so everyone gets to have exactly what they want. Give these meals a shot!

Baked potato bar

A baked potato bar allows you to create a simple yet hearty meal fast. Bake up one (or two, depending on size) potato per person. Then while the potatoes are baking, prep your bar ingredients.

Baked potato bar staples include:

· Butter

· Sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)

· Shredded cheddar cheese

· Bacon bits

· Diced ham

· Diced onion (regular or green)

· Salsa

· Chili

The great thing about a baked potato bar is that you can use up leftovers too! Leftover chili or spaghetti sauce both make great potato toppings, as does leftover steak, chicken, or bbq pork. You can put almost anything on a baked potato, so go crazy!

Salad bar

Salad bars are an easy way to whip up a healthy meal in a hurry. Plus, on hot summer nights, they’re the perfect light meal to fill you up without feeling too heavy. And they’re super easy to put together. Just chop up some lettuce (iceberg, romaine, butter, or a combo) and dice up other ingredients to go in it.

Great salad bar ingredients include:

· Various shredded cheeses

· Onions

· Green peppers

· Tomatoes

· Croutons

· Parmesan crisps

· Diced ham

· Chicken chunks

· Steak slices

· Tuna

· Cucumbers

· Radishes

· Sprouts

· Sliced almonds

· Sunflower seeds

Again, a salad can be a great way to use up a variety of leftovers, especially when it comes to meat toppings. With different toppings and dressings, you could do a salad bar a couple times a week without getting bored.

Mexican bar

If you’ve got one kid that loves burritos, another loves tacos, and the third loves nachos, a Mexican bar can be the perfect fit. Brown up burger or chicken with some taco or burrito seasoning. Lay out hard and soft taco shells, burrito shells, and corn chips. Then lay out the usual taco staples like:

· Shredded cheese

· Sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)

· Salsa and/or taco sauce

· Guacamole

· Diced tomato

· Diced onion

· Shredded lettuce

· Pico de Gallo

You can also add black olives or other toppings you enjoy on nachos, taco salad, etc. Then everyone can choose their favorite. It’s quick and easy and makes everyone happy.

Sandwich bar

Like a salad, a sandwich can be a great light meal on a hot summer evening. And they’re super quick to make. Let your kids choose their own faves by laying out:

· A few different bread choices

· Peanut and/or almond butter

· A couple of flavors of jelly

· Two or three deli meats

· Two or three cheeses

· Condiments including mayo, mustard, ketchup, Italian dressing, etc.

· Lettuce

· Onion slices

· Tomato slices

· Hummus

Let everyone make their own sandwich and add some chips, crunchy carrots with dip or apple slices, and enjoy a nice dinner on the patio.

Pizza bar

Grab some fresh French bread or English muffins or make your own pizza dough, pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, and toppings such as:

· Pepperoni

· Onions

· Green pepper

· Diced ham

· Sausage crumbles

· Mushrooms

· Banana peppers

· Black olives

· Pineapple (but ask yourself if you really want to be that monster)

Let everyone spread pizza sauce, cheese and their choice of toppings on their pizza crust base. Then put them on a cookie sheet and stick them in the oven for a few minutes to heat through and get the toppings all melty and browned.

Then enjoy homemade pizza that everyone loves without worrying that the pizza place is going to get your order wrong.

Pasta bar

Boil a couple of different pastas (spaghetti, rotini, and bowtie, for example) and offer them alongside different sauces, such as spaghetti, Alfredo, and pesto.

Put out toppings like:

· Parmesan cheese

· Red pepper flakes

· Meatballs

· Sausage crumbles

· Chicken chunks

Let everyone put together their own pasta plate. They can even go back for seconds and make something different! You can also add some garlic bread on the side.

Leftovers bar

This bar idea isn’t about creating a new meal. This one is all about using up what you’ve got left in the fridge. You know how it is. You saved something because you figured someone would eat it, but it’s only enough for one or two and no one seems to be touching it. A leftovers bar is a great way to use up all those little leftovers that might not be enough for everyone but are too much to waste by throwing away.

The leftovers bar is easy because you literally just gather up all your leftovers, heat them up and let everyone decide what they want. Someone can take all the leftover chili if they want. Or everyone can take a spoonful of your delicious homemade mac & cheese. And if someone’s not a chicken soup fan, they don’t have to eat any.

It’s a no fuss, no muss meal that doesn’t require you to fight with anyone to get them to eat.

Simplify your meals while giving everyone their choice

The great thing about these meals is how simple they are. The base ingredients are the same for everyone so you only need to prep the toppings to ensure everyone has something that makes them happy. And if you do it right, all the bars (except the leftovers bar, hopefully!) could even have leftovers for another night.

Don’t stress yourself out trying to figure out what to make tonight that will satisfy everyone. Pick a bar meal and you know everyone will walk away from dinner full and happy.

Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.

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