Quick and easy meal ideas

As the days get longer, the last thing you want is to spend all your spare time in the kitchen. We’ve got you covered with these hacks and recipes to help you get a meal on the table in under 30 mins!

Frittata in pan on table surrounded by mushrooms and herbs

1. Plan ahead

At the start of the week, put together a plan for your meals and stick it to the fridge. It doesn’t take long and you’ll save time deciding what to cook each night. Take meat out to defrost the night before and whoever’s home first can get started.

2. Go meat-free

It's often cheaper and quicker to make a vegetarian meal. Especially if you don’t have any meat already defrosted. Plan a meat-free meal or two each week. Base them around quick to cook options like tofu, canned kidney beans and lentils, eggs or falafel.

Cooked tofu in bowl on table

3. Cook once, eat twice

Get smart and plan meals you can use for two nights e.g. you could have roast chicken one night and turn the leftovers into chicken wraps or a chicken vermicelli salad the next night.

4. Stock the freezer with essentials

The trick to quick and easy meals is a well-stocked freezer. These frozen essentials can be thrown into meals with fresh ingredients and will save you prep time in the kitchen:

  • plain frozen fish fillets
  • pre-cooked and frozen chicken
  • frozen prawns or squid
  • frozen vegetables of all shapes and colours (e.g. cauliflower, spinach, beans, peas and corn)
  • frozen vegetable stir-fry mixes
  • leftover cooked rice, couscous or pasta
  • frozen pita bread, rolls or wraps.

Stock the freezer when you see these foods on special at the supermarket.

Close up of frozen vegetables

5. Stock the pantry with essentials

It’s not only the freezer that needs stocking. These pantry essentials are quick to add to meals and don’t take long to cook:

  • canned legumes e.g. beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • canned vegetables e.g. corn, peas, beetroot, asparagus
  • couscous
  • pre-cooked rice pouches
  • small quick-cooking pasta e.g. orzo or macaroni
  • noodles e.g. rice, egg and vermicelli noodles.

vermicelli noodles cooked into a meal in a bowl

6. Quick and easy meal ideas

Keep a few quick and easy meal ideas on standby for when you’re too tired to cook and need to pull together a fast meal in a matter of minutes. Salad bowls, stir-fries, omelettes and wraps and are all quick and easy to throw together. 

tuna, egg salad in a bowl on a wooden table

These recipes all take under 30 minutes so give them a go:

7. Don’t lose your leftovers

Finally, don’t let random leftovers lurk in the back of the fridge. Use them as the base for your next meal, e.g. use leftover vegetables to throw together a frittata or use leftover rice to make vegetable fried rice. With rice, to ensure it is safe to reuse, cool it as quickly as possible after cooking. Refrigerate or freeze it as soon as it is cool. Eat within a few days.

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Lily Henderson, NZRD

Lily Henderson, NZRD

National Nutrition Advisor

I am passionate about improving the health of all Kiwis from young through to old. I have enjoyed working in nutrition in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.