20 Meals You Can Make Even When You're Exhausted

lemon salmon in a foil packet


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lemon salmon in a foil packet

Easy Meals

Having to stay home during the pandemic left many less-than-thrilled about having to make dinner every night. Try these minimal-effort, go-to meals anyone can master — and make extras for family members who will grab seconds of these tried and true favorites.

Related: 55 Big-Batch Meals That Will Last All Week

ham and cheese sliders


These tasty sandwiches require only rolls, a half-pound of deli sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and butter for an easy meal. You can prep and set the ahead of time or make these quickly and pop them into the oven. It doesn’t get much easier than slider-style ham sandwiches.

Related: 15 Simple, Tasty Sandwiches That Cost $1 or Less

lemon salmon in a foil packet
American Goulash

Johnny Marzetti/American Goulash

This meal is perfect for cooler nights. Many Midwesterners refer to this meal as Johnny Marzetti, and other parts of the country call it American Goulash. No matter your name for it, your family is sure to ask for seconds of this one-pot meal.

Related: 40 Cheap and Easy One-Pot Meals

pancakes and bacon
taco meat quesadilla or crunchwrap


At our house we make chicken tacos with fajita-style vegetables the most, but my favorite is chorizo tacos topped with diced onion, cilantro, and a little lime juice. You can also go “brinner” style with scrambled eggs and cheese with sausage or bacon.

Related: 30 Cheap, Delicious Ways to Fill Your Tacos

Broccoli and Cheese Soup
ham and cheese crescent roll up
Lynne Mitchell/istockphoto

Ham, Egg and Cheese Crescent Roll-Up

You’ll need deli-sliced ham, a few cheese slices of your preference, scrambled eggs, and a package of crescent rolls to make this delicious meal. Lay out the crescent rolls but keep them all intact, then place the ham, cheese, and eggs in the center and fold the dough over. To make this even easier, bypass the eggs for simpler meat-and-cheese roll-ups.

Related: 35 Finger Foods for Game Day Entertaining and Beyond

Hawaiian Chili


This doesn’t have to be an elaborate, stew-for-hours chili. Try this with ground beef, two cans of Ro-Tel tomatoes, and a chili seasoning packet (throw in a can of beans if you like, too). Serve with a side of cornbread or just some soda crackers. 

Related: 13 Regional Chili Recipes to Try



The best part of making chili: The next night, you can make nachos with the leftovers. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lay out a layer of tortilla chips, top with leftover chili and a heaping layer of shredded cheese, and cook in the oven until everything is warmed through. 

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kids making pizza
Ekaterina Morozova/istockphoto

Homemade Pizza

This is a fun dish to make with kids, since they can choose their favorite toppings for their portion. Just buy the pre-made, refrigerated crust from the store, cook as directed, pour some pizza sauce on it, sprinkle with cheese, and add toppings depending on your family’s preference. Voila, you get your kids excited to help with dinner — with an easy cleanup. 

Related: 17 Easy-to-Make Foods to Stop Buying at the Store

Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

This meal is for those nights when you’re really struggling. Cook your favorite pasta noodles or whatever you have on hand, cut up tomatoes, and mix everything with pesto. Add pepperoni and a favorite cheese for a little more flavor. Another bonus is that you can make this meal at any point during the day, chill it in the fridge, and it’s ready whenever you are.

Related: 16 Easy Pasta Salad Recipes

Douglas José/istockphoto


Instead of letting vegetables go bad, sauté them and stick them in a quiche. This meal can be tailored to your family’s tastes and whatever foods you have on hand, but a family favorite in my household is the classic Quiche Lorraine.  To make it easier, I opt out of the homemade pie crust and get a store-bought one.

Related: 15 Classic, Budget-Friendly French Dishes

sheet pan roasted vegetables and sausage

Roasted Vegetables

This meal lets you use the leftovers in your fridge or plan a meal in advance. Cut up the veggies, toss a little olive oil on them, sprinkle on salt and pepper, place in the oven, and you’re done. It’s so simple, so easy, and relatively healthy too. My favorite blend is sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers. I also like to slice up some kielbasa to throw in there.

Related: 30 Vegetable Recipes for People Who Hate Vegetables

Pasta Aglio e Olio

Chef's Pasta

Pasta Aglio e Olio, also referred to as Scarlett’s pasta, is what Jon Favreau makes at the beginning of the movie “Chef” for Scarlett Johansson’s character. With just a few simple ingredients — pasta, sliced garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, lemon, and parsley — this dish is full of flavor and can be ready in no time.

Related: 15 Foods That Are Always Better as Leftovers

grilled chicken

Grilled Chicken/Steak/Pork

Meat on the grill is always tasty, whether you prefer chicken, steak, or pork. Get your favorite cut of meat, turn on the grill, season as you like, and you have a fantastic entrée in no time. If you don’t have a grill, sear the meat in a pan and finish it off in the oven.

Related: 11 Inexpensive Cuts of Meat for Grilling

steak and baked potato

Steak and Potatoes

A classic home favorite, steak and potatoes can be done in so many ways. Get store-bought mashed potatoes to make it easier for yourself, or just wrap up a couple of potatoes in tin foil to toss in the oven for a classic baked spud. Prep a favorite cut of steak and grill it to get a hearty meal at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant.

Related:  27 Barbecue Recipes and Tricks From Celebrity Chefs

Deli Sandwich

Deli Sandwiches

Whatever you might order at your local deli can work at home — just remember to buy favorite fixings on your next trip to the grocery stories. What’s great about this meal: I can have my pastrami sandwich toasted to perfection while my husband enjoys his roast beef and cheese. 

Related: You Have to Try These Famous Sandwiches in Every State