Best tips and recipes for low-effort weekend dinners

Weekends are meant for unwinding, not for spending hours in the kitchen, right? Yet, the importance of consuming healthy, homemade meals remains paramount for individual and family well-being. So, what can you do? You’re probably searching for culinary shortcuts that don’t compromise on nutrition or taste. Fortunately, with a few strategic tips and some simple recipes, it’s entirely possible to enjoy delicious, low-effort meals throughout the weekend. These seven tips, accompanied by easy-to-follow recipes, promise to minimize your kitchen time while maximizing the quality and enjoyment of your weekend dinners.

So, tie your aprons, put on your chef hat, and get ready to cook some amazing meals without spoiling your weekend!

1. Plan Ahead

Efficient meal planning is the cornerstone of a hassle-free cooking experience. By investing a few minutes each week to decide on the weekend’s menu, you can avoid the stress of last-minute decisions. This proactive approach allows for the compilation of a comprehensive shopping list, ensuring all ingredients are on hand when it’s time to cook.

Recipe to try: Sheet pan chicken fajitas

  • Ingredients: Chicken breast strips, bell peppers (sliced), onions (sliced), olive oil, fajita seasoning.
  • Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss the chicken and vegetables with olive oil and fajita seasoning on a sheet pan. Spread them out evenly and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve with warm tortillas and your choice of toppings, such as sour cream, cheese, and lime wedges.

2. Quick, Healthy Meals with Minimal Preparation

Choosing recipes that are both nutritious and require minimal preparation is key to efficient weekend cooking. Dishes that come together in one pot or pan not only save on prep time but also simplify cleanup.

Try this teriyaki salmon donburi recipe for a quick, healthy, and delicious meal:

  • Ingredients: Salmon fillets, teriyaki sauce, steamed rice, sesame seeds, green onions, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, Mirin (a Japanese sweet wine).
  • Instructions: This recipe takes approximately 40 minutes to prepare. Pan-sear the salmon fillets over medium heat until golden and cooked through, glazing them with teriyaki sauce mixed with soy sauce, brown sugar, and Mirin towards the end. Serve the salmon over a bowl of steamed rice, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and chopped green onions.

3. Make Use of Pre-prepped Ingredients

Utilizing pre-prepped ingredients such as pre-cut vegetables, pre-marinated meats, or store-bought sauces can dramatically reduce the time spent on meal preparation. This strategy is especially useful for those seeking to balance a desire for homemade meals with a busy lifestyle.

Here’s a quick veggie stir-fry recipe:

  • Ingredients: Pre-cut mixed vegetables, pre-marinated tofu or chicken, soy sauce, noodles, or rice.
  • Instructions: Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add the pre-marinated protein and stir-fry until nearly cooked. Add the mixed vegetables and continue to stir-fry until everything is well-cooked. Finish with a splash of soy sauce and serve over a bed of cooked noodles or rice.

4. Slow Cooker to the Rescue

A slow cooker is a fantastic tool for preparing meals with minimal effort. Starting the cooking process in the morning allows for a day of slow simmering, culminating in a flavorful and ready-to-serve dinner by evening.

Try this Slow cooker chili recipe:

  • Ingredients: Ground meat (beef, turkey, or chicken), canned beans, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, garlic, and onions.
  • Instructions: Place all ingredients in the slow cooker, stirring to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Serve with toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, and chopped green onions.

5. Batch Cooking and Freezing

Investing time in batch cooking and freezing meals can pay off by ensuring that a homemade dinner is just a microwave or oven reheat away. This approach is perfect for those weekends when you’d rather spend time relaxing than cooking.

You’ll love this freezer-friendly lasagna:

  • Ingredients: Lasagna noodles, marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, ground meat (cooked and seasoned), mozzarella cheese, spinach.
  • Instructions: Layer the ingredients in a baking dish, starting with sauce, then noodles, followed by ricotta, meat, spinach, and mozzarella. Repeat until all ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of cheese. Bake as per usual, then cool and cut into portions for freezing. Reheat portions as needed.

6. Upgrade Your Sandwich Game

Sandwiches are often overlooked as a quick lunch fix, but with a little creativity, they can transform into a gourmet dinner. The secret lies in choosing quality ingredients and combining flavors that elevate the humble sandwich into a fulfilling meal.

Make sure you try this gourmet grilled cheese with spinach and mushrooms recipe:

  • Ingredients: Sourdough bread, your choice of cheese (e.g., Gruyère, cheddar), fresh spinach, sliced mushrooms, and butter.
  • Instructions: Sauté mushrooms and spinach until cooked and set aside. Butter one side of each bread slice. On the non-buttered side, layer cheese, the cooked spinach, and mushrooms, then more cheese, and top with another slice of bread, butter side up. Grill on a pan over medium heat until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Serve with a side salad for a balanced meal.

7. Utilize Your Grill

Grilling is not just for summer barbecues; it’s an excellent method for quick and healthy weekend dinners. The high heat of the grill enhances the flavor of foods with minimal added fat, and the cleanup is often easier than kitchen-based cooking methods.

Try this grilled vegetable and halloumi skewers recipe that’s super easy and delicious:

  • Ingredients: Chopped vegetables (e.g., bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms), halloumi cheese cut into cubes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic glaze.
  • Instructions: Thread vegetables and halloumi onto skewers. Add some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Keep the heat medium-high when grilling and turn occasionally until the vegetables are charred and the cheese is golden. Drizzle with balsamic glaze before serving.


Transforming weekend dinners from a time-consuming chore to an enjoyable, low-effort culinary experience is entirely possible with the right approach. These strategies not only simplify the cooking process but also ensure that your weekend meals remain delightful and nutritious. This approach to weekend cooking allows for more relaxation and quality time spent with loved ones, proving that delicious and healthy meals don’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.