Lots of ideas for meals in minutes!

quick meals in minutesEver had a day when you can’t be bothered to cook?

Perhaps you’ve had a busy day juggling 100 chores. Maybe the kids are ill and you’re a full time nurse.

Or maybe it’s been a long week and the thought of spending hours in the kitchen is the last thing you can face.

Fortunately there are plenty of ideas for healthy, nourishing meals that only take a few moments of preparation. Yes, cooking time might be long, but time spent standing at the kitchen work surface is kept to a minimum.

Be sure to bookmark this page because I’ll keep adding ideas as I come across them!

Jacket potatoes

I find jacket potatoes are good if you have time in advance to think about them – they take less than 5 minutes to clean and prepare and you can offer DIY toppings such as hummous with a bag of salad.


Pasta is quite easy if you chop a pepper and carrot, open a tin of sweetcorn, add some tuna and stir in mayo or cream … Again, just five minutes of ‘work’ in the kitchen.

Pasta carbonnara – cook pasta, whisk an egg (we use 2 eggs for 3 people) mix pasta, egg, black pepper and stir so the heat from the pasta cooks the egg. Serve with green leaves and a bit of grated cheese. I sometimes add pieces of ham or some frozen peas or sweet corn as well.

Pasta with tomato sauce with some spinach or rocket mixed in.

Pastina: cook tiny pasta shapes in salted water or bouillon. You can add some chopped carrot or tomato, or frozen peas, right into the water. When pasta is done, turn off heat but do not drain. Stir in an egg. Top with grated cheese. The children have theirs plain and we have ours with a dash of hot sauce. Especially wonderful on cold, rainy days!

Tin of carrots, carton of passatta warmed and pureed for tomato sauce with pasta/spaghetti.

Macaroni with cheese sauce made with milk and cornflour then grate cheese into it.

Feta and Olive sauce: cook pasta, meanwhile chop feta and black olives into small pieces, drain pasta, mix in cream to coat pasta and feta, stir to melt on a low heat, stir in chopped olives and serve.

Blue Cheese and Peas: cook pasta, throw in some peas towards the end of the cooking time, meanwhile chop blue cheese, drain, stir in cream to coat, stir in blue cheese and melt over low heat.

Egg, Onion and Capers: slice an onion as fine as you can cook over a very low heat in lots of butter until really soft, cook pasta, drain,
crack egg into pasta and stir over a low heat once cooked add in onion and some capers (you can chop if big), you can add grated parmesan or similar if you wish.

Spinach and Ricotta: peel and crush two to three garlic cloves fry in butter in a small frying pan add six of seven chunks frozen spinach and cook until melted, meanwhile cook pasta and put a tub of ricotta and chunk of butter and some grated Parmesan in an ovenproof bowl and cook in an oven on 100°C until all melty remove from oven and mix, drain pasta, mix the two sauces in with the pasta.


Brown rice with tamari and toasted seeds and steamed veg.

Fried rice: on the hottest heat your cooker can manage, fry up some onion & garlic and whatever random veg bits you want to get rid of, bung in your cold leftover rice (break up any lumps with your fingers). When rice has some crispy golden bits, season with a bit of soy sauce or any other sauce you fancy. Make a well in the centre and break in 2 eggs. Bury them under the hot rice, cover the pan, and lower the flame. After about a minute, uncover the pan, stir the half-cooked egg all the way through, and serve.

Mash an avocado with a little butter and natural yogurt, season with soy sauce and add to cooked basmatti rice along with sliced peppers.

Bread, toast and wraps

Garlic mushrooms on toast with watercress.

Sardines in tomato sauce, mashed into a paste with some finely minced shallot. Serve on buttered toast. (Sometimes I like to put in a pinch of chili powder and a drop of lime juice.)

Bacon and mushroom sandwiches.

Pizza wraps which are basically passatta spread on a flour tortilla, grated cheese and whatever topping you want, rolled up and put in an oven tray. Grate cheese over the top.

Fajitas made with stir fry chicken and veg.

Sausages, bacon and mince

Where would we be without bangers and mash – serve meaty or veggie versions with mashed potato and steamed broccoli.

A big tray of roasted veg and veggie sausages.

Fry mince and onions (I always keep a bag of frozen onions and mushrooms in the freezer for emergencies to make it even quicker), pour in passatta. Serve with either pasta as a bolognese or with jacket potatoes and grated cheese.

Throw bacon in the oven, scrub new potatoes (you don’t need to peel), steam and add frozen peas – serve everything covered in mint butter. The mint takes 30 seconds to chop and everything cooked in about 15 minutes.

Stir fry

Any variations you like!

Using up a glut

Courgettes fried in olive oil with garlic, basil and lemon juice, which can be served on toast or with pasta.

Spicy butternut squash – cut up in small chunks, doused in olive oil, sprinkled with ground cumin, ground coriander and chilli powder, salt and pepper, baked until tender, and served with salad or green veg, with rice, cous cous or pittas.


You can get two night’s worth out of a big panful – one lot with jacket potato or pasta, and the next night you can stir curry powder in it and eat it as ‘Indian’ with rice or cous cous. That way you have hardly anything to do the next evening either!

Veggie stew

The same with a big potful of veggie stew (with pearl barley in it) and dumplings – it might take 20 mins to prepare the first night, but you only have to do some extra dumpling the following night. Or you could freeze it and have it later in the week/month.

Yellow Split pea soup:

100g frozen chopped onion
1 tbsp olive oil.
Leave to cook gently until soft.

Add 8oz yellow split peas which have been rinsed.
Add one stock cube (I like the organic variety from Waitrose, I forget the name, it’s a dark green box)
Add 1 and 3/4 pint of water. Bring to boil and simmer. I usually leave it simmer very gently on a very low heat for about an hour.
Wizz with stick blender. Serve with bread and cheese.
This tastes so savoury and delicious, it’s really lovely!
It’s not quick but it will physically take about three minutes of work in the kitchen!


The miraculous one-egg omelette (count one egg per person): beat an egg and pour into hot buttered pan. When completely set (it’s very quick), spread the thin omelette with mayonnaise (or pesto, or guacamole, or olive tapenade, or whatever spread you and your kids will eat), roll up, and cut into sections. (You can secure the sections with toothpicks if you have the energy and your children would appreciate such a thing grin .) Serve with carrot sticks, or tomato wedges sprinkled with salt, or apple slices, or…. You get the idea. Anything that would turn this into a vaguely balanced meal!


Pot luck salad make a big bowl of salad with ingredients to hand….salad leaves, cabbage, carrots grated, cheese grated, seeds, nuts, cucumber, peppers whatever takes your fancy….

If you have some roasted beetroot to hand…….cos you always do right?……….then chop into small (bite size) squares with feta and rocket and a vinaigrette makes a lovely salad.

Garlic Beans Fry two crushed cloves of garlic in a cm of oil in a frying pan, add a tin of pinto beans and cook until starting to soften, add some balsamic vinegar and oregano stir to mix and serve.

Cut cauliflower into florets and steam until just soft. Melt some butter in a frying pan add crushed garlic clove and cook for a minute then add a few handfuls of breadcrumbs and coat with garlicky butter mix in some grated Parmesan. Put the cauliflower in a shallow oven dish to cover the bottom. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the cauliflower and cook under a medium grill until lightly toasted.

Thanks to members of the Green Parent forum for sharing their wonderful ideas. Please add your quick ‘go to’ meals in the comments below!