I’ve noticed that some of the most popular articles here on the blog are about fast, family-friendly recipes that don’t break the budget. Meals that everyone around the table can get behind, including the cook. So here are 7 Fast, Easy, Family-Friendly Meals from the Urban Cottage Life archives to make your meal planning a little easier in the weeks ahead.
What Makes for a Family-Friendly Dinner?
To me, a family-friendly dinner is one that meets a few criteria. A family-friendly dinner is:
- Appealing to most everyone gathered around the table (let’s keep it real … that can be a challenge, especially with children, but it is possible!)
- Fairly quick to put together on a work/school night — most of the time it takes to get this meal to the table is for cooking, not prep
- Easy on the budget
- Suitable for making ahead or for leftovers
It was interesting to me to see that of my seven choices, six contain meat or poultry, and three have pasta or are typically served with pasta. I eat little meat, poultry or pasta these days. But this is the kind of food my kids liked to eat when they were little and teenagers. And that was more important to me in putting this list together than my empty-nester tastes.
But don’t go thinking that these recipes are “kid food.” Each and every one is food that I enjoy today and would serve to guests.
7 Fast, Easy, Family-Friendly Meals
These recipes are for the main dish, and of course you may want to add vegetables and salads for a well-balanced meal. You’ll also note that, even though I’m an avowed soup lover and firmly believe that soup makes an acceptable dinner, I didn’t include any soups here. But there are well over 40 soup recipes on the blog if you’re so inclined.
Let’s explore these family-friendly dinner recipes so you can decide which ones you’d like to add to your repertoire.
1. Hamburger, Potato & Tomato Skillet Dinner
If you’re looking for a quick, one-pan meal idea for hamburger, there’s no need to turn to a box on the shelf. My Hamburger, Potato & Tomato Skillet Dinner is one of the most popular recipes on Urban Cottage Life.
2. Beef and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie
This Beef and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie uses the “blend and extend” method, substituting finely chopped mushrooms for half of the beef I’d normally use, at about half the price. Even the Offspring who normally turn down mushrooms enjoyed this recipe. (It tastes much better than it looks in that sad picture!) To make it even quicker, make more mashed potatoes than needed for dinner the night before, and this Shepherd’s Pie will be even easier to make.
3. Sausage, Potato and Onion Dinner
This is basically a baking sheet dinner, although I happened to make this one in a nice dish. Essentially, you’re cooking the entire meal together on a sheet pan. The trick is to cut the vegetables so they’ll cook in the same period of time as the meat. You may need to add a few tender ingredients, like herbs, toward the end of the baking time. Recipes like this Sausage, Potato and Onion Dinner are one-pan cooking at its best, although I confess I did brown the sausage first for colour and to cook off some of the fat.
4. Pasta with Garlic, Chili and Lime
I’ve been making this pasta for about 20 years. What can I say, it’s one of the fastest meals to get on the table, the flavours are bright and bold, and I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t like it. Check, check, check!
5. Beef and Spaghetti Dinner
This was one of my earliest blog posts from way back in 2011. As mentioned above, this Beef and Spaghetti Dinner was one of my Mom’s recipes. It’s so not how I cook today (canned tomato soup! no herbs!), but even as I’m writing this I’m craving the comfort of this old family recipe. As the post title says, sometimes comfort is all that’s required.
6. Chicken, Tomatoes & Cannellini Beans
Yup, my blog used to be called Life Through the Kitchen Window. What I was thinking slapping the name in large print on this picture, I don’t know. What I do know is that my thinking was inspired when I came up with this one-pan meal! Plan ahead and have some extra cooked chicken on hand to speed it along, relax while it cooks, and enjoy a delicious, easy dinner. I used San Marzano tomatoes at the time because I had them, but it’s not necessary to go all fancy like that.
7. Basic Spaghetti Sauce
There’s nothing like a homemade spaghetti sauce, and this one is versatile. You can make it with ground chicken or turkey, beef, sausage or even mushrooms. Serve it over pasta or spaghetti squash. Make lots and freeze the leftovers to make the next time you serve it even easier.
So, there you go, 7 fast, easy, family-friendly meals. I hope they bring good flavour and good memories to your table. And please let me know what your favourite family meals are!