When you’re raising young kids, having enough time to cook up a full family dinner with lots of ingredients and steps is often a luxury.
Fortunately, there are many recipes out there that don’t require a lot of time and preparation. But not all cheat dinners are hits with kids, so it’s important to choose meals that you know your kids will love. To save you even more time, we’ve found a few cheat meals that are easy to cook and serve, proving you don’t always need to set aside a huge part of your night to create a great dinner for your family.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Fried Rice
Not only can you make fried rice quickly, but chances are you already have the ingredients for it in your pantry and fridge.
It’s the perfect dish for reusing leftovers, combining these different ingredients and turning them into a completely different meal. You can use leftover rice and meat from previous meals together with fresh ingredients like bacon bits or frozen peas to create a new flavourful mix. Stir fry these ingredients with oil in a hot frying pan (a wok ideally, if you have one) and then add your rice soon after. Stir fry everything together for a few minutes, and you’re good to go.
The best thing about fried rice is that you can cook different versions each time, depending on what ingredients and leftovers you have. You’ll also find different recipes for fried rice (here’s a good one), so you can experiment and choose one your kids will like.
2. Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese is fast and easy to make, so it’s easy to understand why it’s such a popular family meal. You only really need a few ingredients to make Mac and Cheese (you guessed it – mostly just macaroni and cheese), and even a complete kitchen newbie can cook it.
To cook basic Mac and Cheese, simply add cooked macaroni in a saucepan that’s simmering cheese and full-cream milk (for extra creaminess and flavour) over low heat. Stir everything together for a few minutes until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce becomes thick. And voila: you’re ready to serve.
Here’s a simple Mac and Cheese recipe that can get you started.
3. Roast Chicken and Veggies
Roasting chicken may take a while to cook, but they require minimal prep time and looking after – so they’re a great cheat meal for any time-poor parent. But if you’re really time poor, nothing beats picking up a roast chook from Coles or Woolies.
The best thing about roasted chicken and vegetables is that once you have everything prepared in your baking tray/pan, you can simply pop them into your pre-heated oven, set the timer, and forget about it until it’s cooked.
If you have more time on your hands, you can prep your chicken and vegetables to suit your tastes, using different herbs and sauces to flavour it.
And if you don’t have much time available or if you’re feeling particularly tired, you can roast pre-marinated chicken (widely available in groceries) and frozen veggies to save time.
Here’s a super simple recipe for roasted chicken and vegetables that you can try and experiment with.
Wraps are fun and easy to make, making them excellent meals to make together with your kids. Simply take plain tortilla wraps (which you can find easily in groceries) and fill them with a good amount of cooked meat (chicken or beef often work well), salad greens, and herbs.
The best thing about wraps, however, is that you can put practically anything you want. Choose ingredients and flavours that your kids are familiar with, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients for variety. Even better, let your child choose and decide what to put inside their wraps and encourage them to make their own.
Here are some delicious wraps to try with your kids.
5. Eggs (Omelettes, Scrambled, Fried…You Name It!)
Eggs are filling, delicious, and best of all, easy to cook in almost any way. You can fry them, boil them, scramble them, poach them – cook them any way you want, and they’ll still taste delicious. Most of these cooking methods also don’t require much time and preparation at all, making them a great option if you need a good, filling meal quickly.
Omelettes are particularly popular with kids and so are scrambled eggs. You can even add herbs, bits of meat, and veggies to make them even tastier. Whatever way you choose to cook eggs for your kids, you can expect a delicious and hearty meal ahead.
Here are some easy egg dishes and recipes you can try.
Cheat Dinners Can Be Fun and Healthy
Cheat dinners may be fast and easy to make, but they can be just as good, delicious, and healthy as fully prepared meals if you choose the right ingredients and recipes.
The key to making cheat dinners a regular part of your weekly meal plan is variety. The more you mix it up and experiment with different ingredients, the more exciting it will be for your kids.
So the next time you’re running short on time and energy for the night, remember that there are always quick and easy meals you can make that your kids will love.