The mood for cooking up a meal doesn't always strike.
Whether you've been flat out, the kitchen already looks like a storm's raged through, or it's been a difficult mental health day. Whatever the reason or not, it's okay to feel like you can't be bothered cooking. When I'm feeling this way, I have a few go-to meals up my sleeve that are quick to prepare and accommodate whatever ingredients are available in the kitchen.
Because on these days, last-minute trips to the grocery store are a dealbreaker!
Each of these meals begins with a base food or ingredient, which you can add to. Don't be afraid to experiment. I've made a few suggestions too.
1. Egg Muffins
When it comes to a quick and easy meal, eggs can hold their own!
They're packed with protein for building, restoring, and repairing the body's tissues. And fun fact, eggs are also one of the few foods to contain Vitamin D, needed for bone health. If you're keen on something super easy, eggs on toast are delicious. But if you feel like jazzing things up just a bit, try adding some eggs to a greased muffin tray and add a few other ingredients you have lying about in the refrigerator.
Ingredients that tend to work well are grated squash or zucchini, grated cheese, feta cheese, pepper, and salt. Swirl the ingredients together so that the egg coat the other added ingredients.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the muffin tray for 15 minutes. When time is up, check that they're cooked to your liking and eat them on their own or add a side salad.
2. Baked Beans
As a child, I remember our Saturday night staple of Heinz baked beans on toast as mum and dad would prepare to head off for an evening out.
I love cooking with beans because they're cheap as chips and filled with protein and fiber, so they're fantastic if you're trying to stick to a budget, and what a hearty meal to fill you up. If you want to keep it super simple, canned baked beans on toast are great. Just add a bit of cracked pepper, and they'll be even more delicious.
If you'd like a meal that feels a little more homemade, cooking up a batch of baked beans on the stovetop using a base Napoli sauce and then adding any beans you have in the pantry, like kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, and butter beans, and you're set.
I like adding a sprinkle of chili, thyme, or basil too.
Baked beans are perfect for any meal of the day, too, and they store well in the fridge.
3. Anything Goes (in it) Salad
My mother-in-law makes some of the best salads I've ever tasted.
Her secret? She'll throw anything and everything that she has available in them. This Salad is perfect for that meal where you don't want to overthink it. Have a rummage through your pantry and fridge and see what you can dig up. Some ingredients you could consider adding that you may not have thought of for a salad include:
Mandarine (canned or fresh)
Mix up a 1:1 batch of some oil and vinegar for a quick vinaigrette dressing.
4. Rice Bowl
Rice is one of those staple ingredients.
I feel at a loss if I don't have it available in the pantry. We often buy big bags and use them alongside many meals each week. Curry, salads, stews, stir fry, burritos. You name it! My son dislikes fried rice, so instead, we cook up plain rice and add ingredients on top to either mix through with a touch of soy sauce or eat separately.
Foods you could consider adding to your rice bowl are:
Canned salmon or tuna
Tip. Add a tortilla if you have one, and you've got yourself a burrito bowl!
5. Loaded Potatoes
Loaded potatoes are jacket potatoes cooked first in the oven then loaded with ingredients you love.
I've been enjoying using russet potatoes to make this meal because they cook up so nicely, and the skins are yum! Turn on the oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your potatoes on an oven-proof tray, and rub them with some oil. Next, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and pop them in the oven for between 45-60 minutes. Check they're ready by pricking them with a folk.
When done, add one to a plate, cut it in quarters, add a knob of butter (optional), then load them with some of your favorite ingredients like:
Cheese, yogurt, or sour cream
6. No-fuss Homemade Pizza
Last but not least, pizza! You don't need dough for this pizza tho. You can make delicious pizzas on muffins, pita bread, even naan bread also.
Top your chosen pizza base with some sauce or brush with some oil if you don't have sauce available. Next, layer your favorite toppings. Mushrooms, spinach, cheese, ham, salami, olives, anchovies, anything goes. Heat the oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the pizza for 10-15 minutes, regularly checking to make sure that the cheese is melted and cooked nicely.
Image credits: Nicole De Khors, Sarah Pflug, Shared Food, Matthew Henry, Brodie Vissers