Quick and Dirty 30 Minute Dinner Hacks for Busy Moms

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.

How to Make a Caprese Inspired Chicken Dinner in 30 minutes

I absolutely love caprese salad. It combines some of my favorite things: vinegar, tomatoes, and cheese. After trying my hand at making a fruit and balsamic reduction for a pork loin, I started wondering how else I could incorporate one of my vinegar into more meals.

This Chicken Caprese Dinner is a quick dinner idea born on a night when my pantry was nearly as empty as my patience (and my bank account), and I had tomatoes that needed to be eaten before they went bad.

It takes just 30 minutes to cook with almost no prep time, perfect for busy moms making fast and affordable weeknight meals!

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

1 package (8-10 oz) of grape tomatoes, halved

mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3-4 leaves fresh basil (2 tsp if dried)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Lightly coat chicken in olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Roast on a sheet pan in the oven to 30-35 minutes or until done—slice your chicken into tenderloins for faster cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, bring balsamic vinegar and garlic to a boil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Simmer on low and reduce by half.
  4. Add basil and tomatoes. Cook until warm throughout.
  5. Cover chicken breasts with mozzarella cheese and finish cooking in the oven until chicken is cooked and cheese is melted.

Allow 5 minutes for the chicken to rest outside the oven. Serve with the balsamic vinegar and tomato mixture spooned over the cheesy chicken.

On the Side

I love pairing this Caprese Chicken with bright vegetables and crispy french bread. To make those simply blanch green beans and finish them with a quick sauté in a piping hot pan with olive oil, sea salt, and about a tablespoon of minced garlic.

Pop your bread into the still warm oven while you rest your chicken, and by the time the chicken has rested your veggies will be done and your bread hot and crispy.

Plate it all up together and use the bread to sop up all the yummy juices leftover!