Nearly every household descends into chaos, controlled or uncontrolled, at dinner time, and we regularly refer to 5 pm as the witching hour. It’s the time when dinner needs to be on the table half an hour ago, the baby is fussy and won’t be put down, older kids are groaning about homework, and you and/or your spouse may be wading into the chaos after an hour long commute in rush-hour traffic.

It doesn’t matter who works or stays home or what your kids’ ages and schedules are, dinner time is chaos. While we’re firm about eating a family dinner together, that doesn’t mean we always have time to make an elaborate evening meal. Enter my list of quick and dirty dinner hacks, tips, and tricks.

30 Minute Dinner Hacks

Dinner Portions are Always the Same

I cook with these portions in mind with nearly every single meal and definitely every weeknight meal. It means I rarely have to cook with a recipe when I’m in a rush, and I always know how much to buy at the grocery ahead of time.

Portions are: 1/4 plate of protein, 1/4 plate of starch, and 1/2 plate of veggies.

Thoughtless Chicken Cook Times

Chicken is probably the protein we eat the most of. It’s cheap, readily available, and can be used in every cuisine application I can think of. I keep these cook times in mind. I often spice and build a quick meal from there.

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts + Mrs. Dash + 30 minutes in the oven at 350° F
  • Boneless, skinless frozen chicken breasts + Mrs. Dash + 1 cup chicken broth + 10 minutes on High Pressure in the Instant Pot
  • Boneless, skinless frozen chicken thighs + chicken broth + lemon pepper seasoning + 18 minutes on High Pressure in the Instant Pot

Check out more Instant Pot dinner recipes here and Instant Pot breakfast recipes here!

Empty Pantry Soup

One of my favorite ways to use ingredients like baby carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, or celery that are past their prime is in a stew or a soup. To me, that’s actually when they are really perfect because they are at the peak of the flavor-y essences. I throw these veggies in a pot of beef or chicken broth, add in any leftover bones that might bring some more flavor to the party, and throw in pasta or beans, then add salt, some sautéed garlic and onion, and Mrs. Dash. Ta-da! Empty Pantry Soup.

Pro tip: you can eat potatoes even if they’ve sprouted those little eyes! Just make sure to peel them. Avoid eating the potatoes that have started to turn a little green. That means they’ve started to develop arsenic and can be poisonous.

30 Minute Dinner Hacks for Busy Moms

30 Minute Dinner Tips and Tricks

  1. Thin cut pork chops cook in a pan in about 5 minutes.
  2. Chicken nuggets are fine as a last minute protein.
  3. Steam in bag vegetables are essential.
  4. Crock pot meals make weekends breezy and great leftover lunches.
  5. Breakfast for dinner is totally a thing. This includes cereal and frozen toaster pancakes.
  6. Eat family style with all food going on one or two platters on the table and everyone serving themselves. The kids love it, you’ll fight less about getting them to eat their dinner, and you spend less time making up plates individually.
  7. Rice cookers are time savers!
  8. There is no shame in spaghetti night. Make extra for a quick lunch the next day.
  9. Put the older kiddos to work! Everyone helps this momma hen bake the bread and set the table so that everyone gets to eat the bread.
  10. Leftover rice makes the best fried rice! Toss a seasoning packet in with soy sauce and a pack of frozen veggies, and you’ve got 3/4 of a dinner already made.

When all else fails and you just need a break, there is absolutely no shame in calling in for pizza… even if you just did that the night before. Rock on, momma.

Published by Tiffany Barry

Tiffany Barry is a single mom of 4 who never really planned it out that way. Her writing about motherhood, family finances, parenting, and more has been featured on sites like Scary Mommy, Modern Mom, and

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  1. I thank you for the information in this post. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut corners and I appreciate some tips!