We all suffer the occasional brain freeze when we just can’t think of any to cook for the family. Here is my list of more than 50 go to meals for our family.
They are mostly very straight forward to make from scratch at home and don’t require lots of time or any exotic ingredients….. a quick google search should bring up a heap of recipe options.
For many of the recipes there are great pre-made options in the supermarkets for those nights that you don’t fancy cooking a paella from scratch but remember, like many things in life, you get what you pay and we all know the risks you take eating a lasagne that costs a pound!
I have divided it into nine categories: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Veg, Pasta, Fish, Sausage and Miscellaneous. (Miscellaneous has flexible dishes that could fall into a number of categories)
Enjoy and please do share, bookmark and add any other dishes that should be on the list in the comments below!
Cottage pie – Great dish to make a large batch of and freeze. Cooking the mince in the slow cooker is a simple option for a great result. Serve with lots of veg.
Beef Burgers – Loads of great recipes available to suit every taste and also a huge range of good options from the supermarket or butcher. Serve with good quality bun (I love brioche if you can get them) and lots of lettuce, tomato, sauces, etc.
Meatballs and Noodle / Zoodles – Another good option with both homemade or store bought versions. Serve with homemade tomato sauce (batch made and frozen works great) and either noodles or zoodles or a combination of both.
Spag Bol – Always a crowd pleaser for the kids. I like to make big batches…. as much as can fit in the slow cooker! Frozen portions are always useful. Serve with either noodles or zoodles or a combination of both.
Enchiladas – Tone down the spice on this Mexican classic and serve with sour cream and guacamole and rice.
Beef Stroganoff – This traditional Russian dish can be a bit hit and miss. Go easy on the paprika and on the mushrooms if they might put off your kids…. But definitely keep them in as they are important for both flavour and exposure. Goes well with any kind of carb!
Chilli Con Carne – Another classic which is great to batch cook and freeze. Go easy on the spice and serve with rice.
Steak – The cut of meat here is so important…. get it wrong and you might end up serving chewy, tasteless meat and put your kids off for ever. Perhaps more than ever, you really get what you pay for here. Look for good quality fillet, rump, sirloin or rib-eye and use good cooking technique. If you are not sure about cooking it then I would recommend googling it… cooking steak is a science in itself. Get it right and you are onto a winner! Serve with chips or mash with veg or salad.
Beef Stew – I love getting cheap, flavourful cuts of beef and melting them in the slow cooker. Heaps of amazing recipes out there. Serve with mash (and dumplings if you are feeling adventurous!).
Thai Beef Salad – This was a surprise hit in our house. Choose a recipe that is noodle based and the kids will be pleased and make sure that any strong flavours (chilli, coriander, etc) are added individually to taste.
Beef Goulash – Another great casserole option to make as a batch. Go easy on the paprika and serve with rice.
Lasagne – THE Italian classic. To be honest, for a mid-week dinner, I would usually opt for a good quality store bought lasagne but if I do make it, then I make it big and load the freezer!
Slow Cooker Sesame Chicken – This one usually has quite a bit of honey in it but as a result it always goes down well. Chuck the whole lot in slow cooker and come dinner time you have delicious chicken and sauce to serve with rice.
Satay Chicken – We call it peanut butter chicken and the kids love it. Spice can be added individually. Serve with rice.
Chicken Quesadillas – It’s basically chicken with veg and cheese in a folded over, toasted wrap…. but kids love them.
Baked Honey and Mustard Chicken – I usually cook this as a tray bake and add lots of veg. Be careful to get the balance of honey and mustard right!
Lemon Chicken – There are a heap of recipes for this one. Can be done in the slow cooker, as a tray bake or in a pan. Best recipes seem to have honey in them to balance the tartness of the lemon.
Chicken Pie – Another classic with heaps of recipe options. I like to top the filling with scrunched up filo pastry that goes golden and crispy when cooked.
Chicken / Turkey burgers – I tend to make these myself as the options in the supermarkets are not always great. Great serving options again with heaps of fillings to choose from.
Whole slow cooker chicken – Basically pop a whole chicken into the slow cooker with a bit of seasoning and stock and leave to cook for the day. Can be browned under the grill to finish if you like crispy skin. I like to put some whole sweet potatoes in on top to slowly cook with the chicken.
Chicken sausages – My head says no but my heart says yes! Lower fat change to the red meat options and always go down well with kids.
Soy and Hoisin Pork Loin – Pork loin is an inexpensive cut of meat which is great for marinating in soy and hoisin and the baking (or even better when BBQ’ed) and then serves with stir fry rice.
Meatloaf – Great use for pork mince or any cut of pork that you have that you can grind. Simple recipe to follow which pack into a bread tin. Roast and serve with tomato sauce or gravy.
Pulled Pork. A current favourite. Requires quite a bit of sweetening but great with veg and rice or in a bun.
Shepard’s Pie – Similar to the Cottage Pie; Great dish to make a large batch of and freeze. Cooking the mince in the slow cooker is a simple option for a great result. Serve with lots of veg.
Lamb Stew – Perfect winter recipe and works well in the slow cooker again. Load with veg and serve with mash.
Lamb Kofta – Skewer either balls or sausages of flavoured lamb mince and then grill or bbq. Serve with minted yogurt, flat bread and salad.
Stir Fry Cauliflower rice – A decent blender or thermomix is really helpful for this one but a good old box grater will do the job if need be. Blitz your cauliflower, but not too much, and add it to your favourite stir fry recipe.
Baked Potatoes – For me, the key to a great baked potato is coating the skin in oil and seasoning it before it goes in the oven. They come out looking and tasting great. Don’t be afraid to microwave potatoes and them finish them off briefly in the over or under the grill and be adventurous with fillings!
Risotto – Mushroom and pea risotto is a family favourite of ours… as long as it is not too mushroomy! Loads of great versions out there; chicken, squash, haddock, cheese… Might take a few experiments to find a recipe that works for you and don’t be surprised if you end up with some gloopy rice on the way to perfecting this one.
Beans on toast – Simple and often a go to meal for the kids at short notice.
Veg Pie – Buy yourself some pre-made pastry… even better, buy yourself some pre-made and pre-rolled pastry and off you go. Butternut squash and lentil pie is a great option!
Veggie chilli – Either with lots of beans or lentils… or both. Works well cooked in the slow cooker so the flavours can really develop.
Sausage pasta with tomato ragu – Loads of recipes out there for sausage pasta, I like to squeeze the meat out of the sausage into meatballs. Delicious!
Cheese and Cauliflower pasta – I like to make cheese sauce from crème fraiche and grated cheese… no making a roux or anything fancy like that. Works every time. Mix with pasta and cooked cauliflower (and broccoli, pea, sweetcorn, etc) and then bake until brown.
Pesto pasta – We always keep a pot of pesto on standby in case we ever need an emergency dinner! Cook pasta, mix in pesto, parmesan cheese and wilted spinach. Job done.
Gnocchi with tomato ragu – Great alternative to pasta… pretty much anything you can do with pasta you can do the same with gnocchi.
Mac and Cheese – Possibly the king of comfort foods! Again, I like to make cheese sauce from crème fraiche and grated cheese… mix it with macaroni or any other pasta you fancy and add anything else you might want…. Bacon, tomato, chorizo…..
Baked Tortellini – A great use for frozen homemade tomato sauce. Cook the pasta, add the sauce and top with cheese. Into the oven to brown and then serve with veg and garlic bread.
Fish Wrapped in Bacon – Wrap your favourite fish in bacon and bake. The more adventurous version has a layer of olive tapenade spread on the fish. The salty combo is super.
Fish Stew – Surprisingly quick to make and great served family style at the table with crusty bread.
Fish Curry – Something like a Goan fish curry works well for kids as the coconut milk softens the flavours.
Teriyaki Salmon – The sweetness in the sauce make this much more palatable for kids. Serve with Asian greens and rice.
Fish Tacos – Salmon works well in tacos… and goes down really well when eaten with a mango salsa.
Fish Pie – This is another option where it is great to make… but can be quite time consuming… and there are lots of great pre-made options in most supermarkets. Again, you get what you pay for!
Fish and Chips – Breading your own fish is not as time consuming as it might seem… dip in flour… dip in beaten egg…. Dip in bread crumbs (or oats) and pan fry. Serve with chips (of course) and veg.
Mussels – This can be a bit hit and miss in our household. Generally goes down well with tomato sauce and crusty bread.
Paella – Another option where it is great to make and there are a host of recipes out there, some quick, some not so quick. Either way, there are lots of great pre-made options in most supermarkets, but again, you get what you pay for!
Fish Cakes – A really versatile dish with lots of options for both homemade and shop bought.
Sausage and Mash – Can’t go too far wrong with this one. Make sure you go for good sausages and feel free to experiment with mash…. Sweet potato is great. Serve with peas and gravy!
Sausage casserole – This one can be made quickly in time for dinner or can be chucked in the slow cooker for the day.
Toad in the Hole – Sausages cooked in crispy batter with gravy…. What’s not to love?! I find we get our best results cooking it a loaf tin.
Sticky Apple with Sausage and Bacon – Good tray bake for using up all those cooking apples that seem to get passed round in autumn!
Sausage with Maple and Swede – Tray baking again, this time with root veg. Chuck it all in the oven and serve with broccoli.
Fajitas – Tone down the spice on this Mexican favourite and serve with either beef, chicken or as a vegetarian option.
Kebab Skewers – There is almost no end to the variations you can have here. If you can skewer it, you can cook it! Aim to have everything on the skewer a similar size so that it all cooks at the same rate. Needless to say, this works great on the bbq!
Roasts – Chicken, pork (with crackling!), lamb or beef…. Great any night of the week but be careful when cut you choose. It might just be me but I have definitely experienced some pre-packaged supermarket options that have been tied in a way that makes the cut look good but it is more or less just off cuts strung together… you get what you pay for!
Homemade Pizza – I use soft tortillas for bases and keep some pre-made tomato sauce in the fridge which is perfect as a base of whatever toppings you can find in the fridge or cupboard. Kids love building these.
Soups – Quick and easy to make with 100s of options….. chicken, tomato, veg, roasted cauliflower and coconut, mushroom, carrot and ginger, bone broth, lentil and bacon….. add noodles if you don’t mind a bit of mess… make beetroot soup if you don’t mind a lot of mess!
Omelette – Another quick and cheap dish with heaps of options….. I like mine with chorizo.
Stir Fry – Any meat, any veg, noodles, zoodle or rice. Sesame oil and soy sauce makes a great, light stir fry sauce or you can opt for store bought Kecap manis for more of a sweet nasi goreng flavour.
Curry – Mild curries are great for kids. We especially like red Thai curries, the coconut sweetens the spice nicely. Chicken is the standard choice but pork, prawn and veg all over well too.
Quiche – This is one that I have definitely bought more of than I have made at home! Perfect for summer, served with salad.
Puff Pastry Tarts – A super simple version of the homemade pizza. Buy pre-rolled puff pastry cut into rectangles, score a “crust” and top with tomato sauce and anything else you fancy.
Frittatas – Like a naked quiche! Chuck anything in that you fancy and serve with salad…. or chips.