Real Food Tips: 4 Super Quick Wholesome Dinners

When your day just doesn’t go as planned or you simply don’t feel like cooking up a storm, here are four super easy “real food” dinners that can be whipped up in 15 minutes or less. That’s faster than the pizza delivery man. And most of these meals are made from ingredients with a decent shelf life that don’t have to be defrosted or prepared in advance. So if you pick up some of the suggested “items to have on-hand” the next time you’re at the store then you’ll be all set the next time you suddenly need to whip up a super quick wholesome dinner. Please also feel free to share your easy and fast “real food” dinner ideas in the comments below.

  1. Spaghetti with Sautéed Onion/Veggies

    Items to have on-hand:
    Dry organic whole-grain noodles – Look for a 1 or 2-ingredient organic pasta product that contains something like “organic whole durum wheat flour” and maybe “water” (avoid “semolina” because that is the refined version of whole durum wheat)
    Jar of organic spaghetti sauce – Eden Organic “no salt added” spaghetti sauce recommended (pictured)
    Olive oil or butter – For sauteing the veggies
    Onion – I always try to have onions in the house…they have a fairly long shelf life and can be used in so many different recipes
    Fresh (or frozen) organic vegetables – Some veggies that would nicely complement this dish are zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, and mushrooms
    Optional items – Freshly grated parmesan cheese, fresh or dried herbs for added flavoring of the sauce

    Simple directions:

    1. Boil pasta according to package directions. Once the water is boiling most noodles take 7 – 10 minutes.
    2. While noodles are boiling dice about a quarter of an onion. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or butter) in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add the onions.
    3. While the onions are cooking dice/chop the veggies and add them to the pan with the onions. Turn the heat up to medium and sauté until veggies soften, about 5 – 7 minutes. If you are using frozen veggies heat them up according to package directions or throw them in the pan to defrost/cook.
    4. Once the veggies are tender pour the jar of spaghetti sauce into the pan. Spend a few minutes warming up the sauce and then taste test to see if it needs anything else (like salt, pepper, or herbs).
    5. Drain the noodles and divvy them up. Pour the veggies/sauce over top and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese (if using).
  2. Scrambled Eggs with Fruit (with Optional Greens and/or Sausage)

    Items to have on-hand:
    Eggs – I don’t know about you, but eggs are something I always try to have stocked since there are so many uses…also local, pastured and/or organic eggs are recommended.
    Organic Butter – For cooking the eggs
    Fresh or frozen organic fruit – Any fruit will work
    A whole-grain bread-like item – Anything could complete this meal including whole-wheat sandwich bread (to make toast), whole-grain crackers (like Ak-Mak, Triscuits, or Multiseed), or possibly some homemade whole-grain muffins or biscuits if you happen to have some around
    Optional items – Cheese, jelly (if making toast), kale or spinach, local pastured sausage

    Simple Directions:
    1. If using the optional kale or spinach puree it in the blender along with the eggs. I usually figure two eggs per person. If you don’t have greens just crack open and scramble the eggs with a fork. Be sure to season with salt and pepper.
    2. Heat a medium sized sauté pan over medium-low heat and add a generous pat of butter. Once the butter has melted pour in the eggs. Let them sit for a few minutes before you start to “scramble” them.
    3. While the eggs are cooking make the sausage (if using) according to package directions and toast the bread and chop/wash the fruit. If the fruit is frozen run it under warm water to help it defrost (or blend with other ingredients to make a smoothie).
    4. Once the eggs are done all the way through sprinkle cheese on top (if using). Serve with the fruit, toast/crackers, and optional sausage.
  3. Whole-Wheat Organic Boxed Mac & Cheese with Frozen Peas and Optional Bacon/Hot Dogs (just for the kids…or for the whole family if you are really in a pinch!)

    Items to have on-hand:
    Annie’s whole-wheat organic boxed macaroni and cheese (1 – 2 boxes) – There is only ONE variety of Annie’s mac and cheese that even comes close to fitting the real food bill (pictured) so be sure to analyze the options closely!
    Organic frozen peas – There should only be 1-ingredient listed on the bag…avoid frozen veggies that come with sauces/flavorings
    Optional – Organic grass-fed bacon or hot dogs

    Simple Directions:
    1. Boil and make the macaroni by following the directions on the box.
    2. If using bacon/hot dogs cook according to package directions. When done cooking chop/dice the meat.
    3. Once the macaroni is done and the cheese sauce has been mixed in add the frozen peas (no need to defrost them). The frozen peas will simultaneously thaw while they also cool off the macaroni. Mix in the chopped bacon/hot dogs (if using).

  4. Pizza Toast (or Bagels) with a Side of Raw Veggies

    Items to have on-hand:
    Whole-wheat sandwich bread (or bagels)
    Jar of organic pizza/pasta sauce: Eden Organic brand recommended
    Organic cheese: A block of mozzarella is recommended and if unopened will stay fresh for several weeks in the fridge (Avoid the pre-grated stuff because it has a powdery anti-caking additive)
    Raw veggies: Carrots, celery, cucumbers or bell peppers would all be tasty quick side items
    Optional: Freshly grated parmesan cheese (for the pizza), hummus or homemade ranch dip for the veggies

    Simple Directions:
    1. Slice the bread/bagels and spread a tablespoon or two of the pizza/pasta sauce on the top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and heat in the oven (or toaster oven) just until the cheese melts and starts to turn brown.
    2. While the pizza toast is cooking wash/slice veggies and make dip (if using). When the pizza comes out of the oven top with grated parmesan cheese (if using).

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132 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 4 Super Quick Wholesome Dinners”

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  1. I would not call bacon, hot dogs and Mac and cheese from a box “real food.” Bacon has little nutritional value and uberprocessed boxes Mac and cheese does not become “real” because it has an organic label on it. It’s still powdered cheese.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Julia. I think the point of these suggestions is that they are good in a “pinch”…not to be used all of the time as part of a whole food diet, but, something quick that could be thrown together on nights you don’t have time to cook and are probably healthier alternatives to ordering something like restaurant pizza. Hope that helps to clarify it a bit. Jill

  2. MMMMM, another quick breakfast I have been doing is whole wheat toast, with avocado/crushed red pepper mash and an egg on top…. with a side of fruit…. SO yummy!

  3. We love to do the pizza’s. I do ours on naan I get in the freezer dept and the boys love it because it looks a lot like a pizza and they get to create it themselves. I always make extra meatballs and have some in the freezer and make that one of the toppings besides veggies and things. Also my little guy LOVES corndogs so I to get the natural ones and will cut them up and put them in corn muffins. Just a little cornbread that I whip up and put both the batter and hotdogs in muffins and you have decent corndogs. He LOVES them.

  4. Great ideas! For pasta nights in my house we sub zucchini and spaghetti squash in place of pasta. I use a potato peeler on a zucchini and lightly steam it or cut a spaghetti squash in half and cook each half in the microwave.

  5. I always keep pesto and chicken in the freezer. You can add quinoa or pasta and any type of vegetable out there. This is super fast with or without the chicken. Pizza’s are always quick too. It takes only minutes to make a quick pizza crust, add some pesto, veggies and cheese!

  6. As someone who goes to school full time and works part time I would love to see more posts just like this. I’m trying to eat better but it’s really hard when I barely have the time to eat! If you have the time I would love to see a meal plan made up of quick recipes like your 10 day pledges. :)

  7. We don’t buy boxed mac-and-cheese anymore. I adapted this recipe from smittenkitchen.com. Boil fuscilli pasta. The last minute of boiling, you can add chopped, fresh asparagus. Drain the pasta, but reserve a tiny bit of the water. Crumble up goat cheese on top. (Use your eye to measure. Start small and add.) The goat cheese will melt and form a sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and shred parmesean on top. It’s so easy!

    1. We don’t use packaged Mac and Cheese Either. To make a sauce you just add a tablespoon or so of butter in a pot, add some flour once melted. Once mixed add in milk. Stir the sauce until it thickens. Once it’s thicken then added in some cheese (I used mozzerella). Then add the sauce onto your macaroni noodles.

  8. These are some great ideas! My family loves fajitas, so these are most often our go to meal. I keep some cooked frozen chicken on hand and add it to some frozen sauteed peppers and onions. Sautee in olive oil with some salt, pepper and a little chili powder. Add the frozen chicken when the veggies are almost done to warm it up. Wrap in a whole wheat tortilla shell with a little cheese, avocado, salsa, or what ever you have on hand.

  9. Great ideas!
    We make dutch babies, or puff pancakes a lot.
    Heat oven to 425 and put in a 9X13 pan with half a stick of butter to melt.
    Put 8 eggs, 2 cups milk, 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in the blender and blend til blended. :)
    Open oven, and if butter is melted, pour the mixture into the pan. Close the door and come back in 20 minutes or when the middle is set.
    Cut into squares and serve with lemon juice and powdered sugar.
    It also works with whole wheat flour, or rice flour and almond milk for my allergic kids.

    1. Carrie,

      Thanks for the recipe! I had a surplus of pumpkin purée from my garden, so I added 2 cups to recipe and I subed with vanilla almond milk. I also added a dash of cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg. Yummy! I will be making this again. Much appreciated!

      1. Laura,

        Did you adjust any of the other ingredients or just add the 2 c pumpkin with everything else as written? Thanks!

  10. I will make a quick asian stirfry that cooks in like 10-15 minutes.
    I cook up just a little organic chicken, add in peppers and onions, garlic and a little ginger and then some fresh pineapple and a good organic, preservative free soy/teriyaki sauce (Trader Joes has a good non-gmo, organic one available). I top that on TJ’s precooked brown rice…its very filling and yummy! It makes great leftovers as well!

  11. This is a great post. I am always looking for quick dinners.

    I find that Quinoa is a great grain to have on hand too. It cooks pretty fast, 12 minutes and then I just add some pesto, (homemade that I keep in the freezer), and frozen peas sprinkled with parmesan for a “risotto-like” dinner. Yummy.

  12. Hi Lisa!

    First, let me say I love your blog–it’s completely changed our diet for the better!

    Where do you get “real food” hot dogs and bacon that haven’t been doused in nitrates/nitrates? Even the ones that say “no nitrates or nitrites” contain cultured celery juice, which creates nitrates and nitrites. Basically, where can I get real hot dogs that aren’t loaded with carcinogens, don’t contain mechanically separated gross-ness (like turkey dogs), and don’t contain rat hair and excrement?

      1. If you have a Traders Joes near you they sell uncured, organic, grass fed hot dogs there for pretty cheap!

      2. 100 Days of Real Food

        Not sure if you saw the other reply, but we’ve found both hot dogs and uncured bacon through local farms. I also occasionally buy Applegate Farms organic from the grocery store.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      We’ve actually been able to find both hot dogs and uncured bacon from local farmers at our farmers’ market. I also occasionally buy Applegate organic when I am in a pinch.

  13. One of our “go to” meals is spaghetti also. The other one is Mexican bean dip- we use Lisa’s Mexican beans that have been frozen (or any other beans we have on hand), sautee up some frozen veggies (usually peppers and onions), add a little salsa and cheese and viola! My husband also likes to add some frozen chicken if we have it. Delish and super easy!

  14. Good ideas! I made spaghetti last night using an organic pasta sauce and whole wheat organic pasta. After reading your post, I’m going to double-check the ingredients on the brands we’re buying. Tacos are a quick meal for me every other week. I make whole wheat tortillas and refried beans on the weekend. On the crazy weeknight, all I do is brown the ground beef, add seasoning, and heat up the refried beans. We top them with organic salsa, onion, lettuce, sour cream (Daisy brand), and tomato. My son gobbles it up!

  15. Yummy sounding meals :) Can I suggest making your spaghetti sauce and mac n cheese both from scratch instead of buying packaged goods? Its so easy to do both and you would have all the necessary ingredients in your cupboard and wouldn’t take much longer than 15 minutes either! Much better flavours and better for your health :)

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I agree that making those things from scratch is great (and what we usually do as well), but that doesn’t always work for everyone so these suggestions are just to provide an even easier alternative. It would surely beat driving through!

  16. Great ideas! Spaghetti and eggs are my go-to quick meals :) I use a large can of diced tomatoes (and puree some as my kids don’t like the chunks) and add seasoning in place of the jarred spaghetti sauce. The flavor is still great and the price is less expensive.

    Another way to do pizza-put a bit of olive oil or spray olive oil on a pan. Heat on medium heat. Place a tortilla in the pan, spoon some sauce and sprinkle some cheese. Leave on stovetop until cheese melts. Roll up and cut and serve. We call these “pizza roll-ups”.

  17. Do you find that you need to keep onions below a certain temperature or somewhere dark? Mine never seem to last longer than a week or two in the summer….

    1. I just keep mine in the drawer in the fridge and they last for weeks if I don’t use them first. I don’t think I’ve ever had one go bad. You can also pre-chop them and freeze to use for cooking later.

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      We keep our onions in a basket in the pantry…so I suppose it’s dark in there most of the time.

    3. Here in GA we get the vadallia onions and they WILL start to ferment pretty quick because of their high sugar content. I keep them in the fridge, bottom drawer, uncovered not in bags. Worst case, slice/chop and just freeze flat in bags, then crumble them up.

  18. We keep a stash of wild caught fish in the freezer that defrosts in hot water in a few minutes. We make quick fish tacos, broiled fish with lemon & pepper, or even put the fish in pouches of parchment part with veggies piled on top and baked for 15 min. I almost always round out a quick meal with a grain frozen in my freezer or some leftover homemade bread and raw fruit or veggies. We eat lots of salads and a chef salad is always a meal option for my family – boil an egg and chop up some leftover meat and voila! Chef salad.

  19. This is such a great list of ideas. I work 2 days a week and on those days when I get home (at 5:30pm) I have 2 hungry kids! Last night (without seeing this post) I made the Annie’s mac n cheese with frozen peas and turkey hot dogs. My kids GOBBLED it up!

  20. Spaghetti is one of our favorites too – I often make a huge batch of sauce and freeze most of it, so homemade sauce is easy to pull out and warm back up again!

  21. We have a friend from Iran who introduced us to a fantastic way to eat eggplant that has become a good option for a quick and easy meal. (I recommend making it and freezing it ahead of time for use in a pinch).

    Grill a whole eggplant (skin and all) over a hot grill until it is very soft and the skin slightly splits.
    While the eggplant grills saute up a whole medium sized onion and four cloves of garlic in extra virgin olive oil.
    Peel the eggplant and process in a food processer with the onion and garlic until pureed but slightly chunky.
    Add a 8oz can of organic tomato sauce.
    Cook on the stove for 5-8 minutes or until thickened some.

    Use right away as a fantastic pizza sauce (and you are eating eggplant!) or pasta sauce or freeze for use later on.

    Hint: you can “hide” other vegetables in this yummy sauce too. Try adding in cooked carrots, kale, or mushrooms. We’ve found that we like the sauce better than any other for it’s thick smooth texture and rich flavor.

    1. Thank you for this! I’m used to grilling eggplants for babaganoush (the dip) but I’ve never thought of using them in a sauce like this. Will try it out!

  22. Sometimes I find myself starving after I get home from work late at night with absolutely no desire to cook anything, and the thought of stopping for take out crosses my mind. I’ll keep the organic mac and cheese in mind next time I go to whole foods.

  23. Thank you Lisa for all the wonderful ideas!! One of our go to favorite is nachos with local 100% whole corn chips yummy organic cheese and local salsa is the base and then we add what ever else we have like lettuces,beans,chicken ect. or just with cheese and salsa!!

  24. On my mac and cheese nights, I increase the protein and fiber by adding half a can of well-rinsed (preferably Eden organic) white beans — either great northern, cannellini, or navy beans — to the cooking water about 30 seconds before the noodles are done. I know you are not a big fan of beans, but the white beans blend in with the noodles and sauce, and the kids barely notice the difference!

  25. I usually stock the freezer w black beans and garbanzo beans (chick peas) that I have cooked and packaged into 2 c. portions and cooked brown rice in 4 c. portions. I also stock up on whole wheat pita from Walmart (ingredients: whole wheat, honey, salt) and bags of frozen mixed veggies. When we’re in a hurry, I can make stir fry from the rice & veg (sometimes I add leftover chicken or tofu), rice and beans, or make hummus from the chick peas & serve w pita and raw veg and cheese. My kids actually prefer these easy meals!

  26. Spaghetti is our favorite quick dinner — in fact, I was planning on making it tonight! I use a store brand (Sunflower Farmers Market) organic pasta sauce (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t checked for ingredients because my husband picked it out at the store last night), organic whole wheat pasta, and sometimes a little raw milk hand-shredded cheese, all-natural chicken sausage, or grass-fed beef crumbles. I think I’ll pick up some frozen veggies on the way home and toss those in the sauce! (Why didn’t *I* think of that?!)

    Our other quick dinner is grilled cheese and tomato soup. I buy whole grain sandwich bread from the bakery and a block each of raw milk mozzarella and raw milk sharp cheddar cheese with some organic butter for the outside. Organic tomato soup from the deli and we have a delicious meal in 30 minutes or less!

  27. Great ideas, thanks! I used organic brown rice pasta (Trader Joe’s) the other day and my kids thought it was the same old semolina pasta we used to use. When you buy it, it’s brown, but it cooks up light. They don’t like the whole wheat at all. I was wondering if there is any nutritional reason to use whole wheat over brown rice pasta?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Nope both brown rice and whole-wheat are whole grains…they are just different grains. That’s really all! (It’s like eating an apple versus a banana)

      1. We love the brown rice pasta, too, for its similarity to “white”, but I noticed that the brown rice pasta has less fiber per serving than the whole wheat. The total amount of carbs are about the same though. Only if this matters to you (we have a diabetic in the household)….

  28. Do you make your own bagels? Or is there a brand that is real food approved? My kids LOVE bagels, and for us that has been the hardest part of the conversion to real food.

    1. I was going to ask the same questions about the bagels, curious about your answer Lisa. Love the information you provide!

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      Yes, I’ve been *trying* to make bagels using my bread recipes. They are edible and fine, but not great yet…I definitely need more practice (but my kids love them!)

      1. I have been making bagels for years using a recipe from allrecipes.com called “boiled bagels”. You would just use whole wheat flour rather than the all-purpose.

      2. There is also a great recipe for bagels in Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day. Not terribly fast to do, but well worth it.

  29. I also use whole-wheat tortillas as pizza crust when I’m in a pinch! Pull one out of the freezer, bake it for a few minutes so it gets crunchy, then add a thin layer of sauce and some cheese and veggies. Super yummy every time! :)

    1. We do this, but make ‘Pizzadilla’s’….either folding over the tortilla, or using two to make a round sandwich. Go light on the sauce (so it doesn’t slop when you flip it) and heavy on the cheese, quick to cook up in a pan on the stove, or bake a whole bunch at once. We will make them to use up leftover meats, vegge’s, and spaghetti sauce.

  30. Breakfast is always a go to quick meal in my house any time of the day. Also short cut rice and beans: Success (par boiled) brown rice, canned beans, canned tomatoes (onions, peppers, garlic, celery, etc – all optional and depends on what you have on hand and what needs to be used up) throw it all in a skillet and it cooks up in about 20-25 minutes. Also quesadillas.

  31. I have a question about your photos of the food – is that a portion that you would eat or a portion size for your kids? Portions have become so large here in the USA that I have no idea what is a reasonable portion anymore. In general, I think we all overeat.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Good question! The egg picture is an adult portion…although one of us might go back for a little more of our favorite item. The pizza toast was actually a picture I had from a long time…not at all enough food for my kids or for us! That picture is almost like an appetizer, but at least it shows what the pizza toast would look like. Real food is more filling than the empty calorie stuff though (like refined grains) so you don’t need as much to fill up.

  32. Love the pizza bagels for the kids. I buy lots of Eden products but haven’t tried the pizza sauce–thanks for the recommendation!

    And even for the grownups we sometimes do scrambled eggs for dinner. I like to dress them up with some of this smashed-herb cream cheese (from http://www.101cookbooks.com) and maybe a little smoked salmon: http://emmycooks.com/2012/03/03/smoked-salmon-frittata-with-spinach-and-herbed-cream-cheese/

    And THIS is my current favorite quick meal if you are an anchovy fan (and even if you think you aren’t!), made with whole wheat pasta and possibly a fried egg on top: http://emmycooks.com/2012/02/14/pasta-with-garlic-anchovies-chili-and-breadcrumbs/

  33. We like to do our pizzas on a pita cut in half the circular way (instead of like a pocket). It’s fast and easy! I also got my kids “face plates” that have an undecorated face on them. They are great for giving my kids a dinner of very random assortment of fruits and veggies. They kids use the food to decorate the plate and don’t notice the strange combinations I give them. :)

  34. This is excellent. Just yesterday, I found myself too tired to cook anything. Will add this to my grocery list this week. Thank you!

  35. As a homeschooling mom of four boys ages 10-3 and a fifth boy coming in August this post is just what I need. Thanks so much. Another go to in our house is French Pancakes. So easy!
    8 eggs
    2 cup milk (any type works – soy, coconut, almond etc.)
    2 cup flour (we grind our own at home, whole wheat works great!) preheat oven to 425
    place 1 stick of butter in a 13x9x2 baking dish. Put the baking dish in the oven while it preheats to melt the butter
    while oven is preheating mix all three ingredients well. sometimes we add cinnamon, nutmeg or any other spices that sound good.
    once the oven has preheated and butter has melted pour the batter into the baking dish and put it back in the oven.
    It will need to bake for about 15-20 minutes maybe longer. Your meal is ready when the center is set and the sides are starting to brown. (The butter starts to brown nicely too.)
    We love this with maple syrup, jam, honey or fresh fruit on top! We have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    We are big fans of Real Food! Thanks for all of your hard work!

    1. Another good, quick, high protein pancake recipe is:

      8 eggs
      2 c. cottage cheese
      1 c. oatmeal
      1-2 tsp vanilla
      cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
      Blend it all up in a blender, and cook on a griddle

    2. I have King Arthur Whole Wheat flour. Would I need any baking soda or salt for this french pancake recipe? I am assuming the flour is “all purpose” which usually calls for soda and salt for it to “rise.”

    3. Those are called German Pancakes, not French. It’s in every cookbook. The only French pancakes are crepes. Very different.

  36. I really appreciate your blog – great info!

    I was wondering… Would you please consider allowing a full feed to Google Reader, rather than a partial feed? I subscribe in Google Reader because I don’t have time to click over to all of the blogs I follow. Partial feeds really defeat that. And, to be honest, if the topic doesn’t grab me right off, I often don’t click over and read the post. But I’d like to read them all!

    Thanks!

    1. Yes, I agree! I often read multiple posts at once to catch up on posts that I’ve missed and partial feeds make this difficult to do.