UACES Facebook Meals in Minutes
skip to main content

Meals in Minutes

woman with multiple arms running vacuum, holding phone, working on computer, preparing dinner, holding baby, etc.
You are running late at work, still need to pick up the kids, get everyone fed, and get the kids to their activities. With today's hectic schedules, family meals often get replaced by fast food, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits, poor access to healthy food at home, and a higher risk of obesity. There is a solution.


You’re running late at work, still need to pick up the kids, get everyone fed, and take the kids to their activities. Although you want to serve your family healthy, nutritious meals, you are out of time and out of ideas. Does this scenario sound like your daily routine?

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. With today’s hectic schedules, family meals at home often get squeezed out and replaced by the drive thru of a fast food restaurant. This, in turn, can lead to unhealthy eating habits, poor access to healthy foods at home, and a higher risk of obesity.

There is a solution. Below are some timesaving tips to help you find the time to prepare and enjoy fast, nutritious meals at home.

Here are quick dinner ideas that can be made in less than thirty minutes.

1. Pick up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken on your way home. Add a roasted sweet potato (you can bake one in the microwave in minutes), steamed broccoli with lemon zest, and a green salad topped with light dressing. Pull off the remaining chicken and refrigerate or freeze for another night’s dinner.

2. Use the leftover chicken from the above meal and toss it into a large bowl of chopped romaine lettuce, or any vegetable of your choosing. Lightly dress with grated Parmesan cheese, whole-grain croutons, and a light Caesar dressing. Have a whole-grain roll and a fresh fruit side salad to round out the meal.

3. Lightly season salmon with fresh or dried herbs and pepper. Toss it on the grill or in the oven for quick cooking. Finish your dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Heat a pouch of pre-packaged brown rice in the microwave, then toss a can of drained Mandarin oranges, a package of broccoli slaw, and toasted sliver almonds with a light, sweet vinaigrette for a simply delicious side dish.

4. Treat yourself to a grilled 4-ounce filet mignon. Bake a small potato in the microwave and top with fat-free or light sour cream and chopped scallions or chives. Steam cauliflower and sauté mushrooms in cooking spray for a healthy side dish combo. Toss together a spinach salad with sliced strawberries, toasted pecans, & light berry vinaigrette.

5.Marinate pork tenderloin the night before or in the morning with a bottled teriyaki marinade, and then grill it when you’re ready to eat. Add some pineapple and quartered bell pepper to the grill. Cook up a box of quick-cooking whole grain pasta. For an Asian-style veggie, steam green beans and toss with sesame seeds and a drizzle of bottled ginger dressing.

6. Preheat broiler. Slice lean sirloin into strips, season with chili-style fajita seasoning, and broil until done to your liking. Mix meat with lettuce, chopped tomatoes, a can of drained and rinsed black beans, chopped red bell pepper, chopped red onions, and salsa. Top your salad with a few slices of avocado and a dollop of fat-free or light sour cream. Serve with a whole-wheat tortilla. 

7. Prepare tilapia or any firm fish on the grill, griddle, or in the oven until flaky. Top with a fruit or vegetable salsa. For a side dish, broil tomato halves topped with breadcrumbs, parsley, a little cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with a Greek salad made with mixed greens, cucumbers, chopped red bell pepper and red onion, and fat-free feta cheese, and topped with light vinaigrette. Serve with a few whole-grain bread sticks to complete the meal.

8. Use up stray vegetables and make Pasta Primavera. Start with a jar of your favorite tomato sauce and a box of 100% whole-wheat pasta. Lightly steam a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables until soft. Add cubed or sliced cooked meat, or chicken to the veggies. Toss vegetable mixture with cooked pasta and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Serve with mixed greens topped with sliced pears, chopped nuts, and light vinaigrette.

 9.Sandwiches make great dinner ideas. Pick up a whole-grain baguette. Slice an eggplant, brushing the slices with light balsamic vinaigrette, and grill on both sides until tender. Open and drain a jar of roasted red peppers. Slice the baguette and layer the eggplant, red peppers, some part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, fresh basil, and mixed greens. Drizzle with light balsamic vinaigrette for a light, delicious sandwich. Serve with fruit kabobs, and vegetables, accompanied by fat-free Ranch-style dip.

These are just a few ideas to get you out of the kitchen in a hurry, yet still provide your family with a healthy, nutritious meal.  If you would like information on following the Dietary Guidelines to prepare healthy meals or a complete list of ideas along with quick and easy recipes, please contact me at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in Miller County.  I can be reached at 870-779-3609, visit the Miller County Courthouse, or by e-mail at

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.