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Pretty much every week I put together a menu plan. When I make that menu plan I fully intend to follow the plan– sort of.  While I enjoy the knowledge of having the plan and knowing that if I follow the plan I won’t have to scramble at the last minute trying to put a meal together, when making the plan I do account for slight changes.  Sometimes I’ll have made too much food and we’ll need to add in a leftover night.  Or we might eat more food than I expect and if a dish was a ‘planned-over’ that might leave me without food for the next night. And then there might be times when I just messed up my plan. Maybe I forgot to take the big hunk of meat out of the freezer and it is still frozen solid. Or I was supposed to put a pot of beans to soak and I didn’t do it.

For the nights when the menu plan has disintegrated, I look to my Emergency Meals List.  This is a list of simple to prepare meals with basic ingredients.  By keeping the ingredients on hand for these meals I know that we’ll always have some quick and nourishing to make and won’t have to rely on take out.  Not to mention that most of these dishes go together a lot quicker than relying on any restaurant.  They are even faster than fast food when figuring in the need to drive to the fast food place!

West African Beef

Ground Beef

Many of my quick meals start with ground meat (either beef or game). I can take it straight out of the freezer and put it in a cold water bath. In about 20 minutes or so a pound of ground is almost fully thawed and ready for browning.  It is possible to brown straight from the freezer but that 20 minutes in cold water makes things much easier.

Goulash– This is not anything close to a traditional goulash but we love it. In many ways this is pure comfort food.

Quick Chili– I use my Navajo Taco chili recipe (use canned, frozen or dehydrated beans) and serve it over rice.  I start the rice cooker when after I get the beef thawing. Yes, rice should be soaked for best digestibility.  We alternate between brown rice and white rice. I do soak the brown rice but for the white I don’t worry about it. You should do what you feel best about.  This chili is also delicious served in a bowl or served over slices of bread.

Tacos or something similar.  I brown up the burger and then season it with chili powder, cumin, a pinch of cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper and powdered garlic. Then I add about 1/4 cup of water and let it simmer for a few minutes.  Any taco style toppings we have on hand are pulled out. This could be shredded cheese, sour cream, clabber cheese, yogurt, cortido, sauerkraut, beans (canned or thawed out frozen), lettuce, sliced cabbage, sliced onions, olives, etc.  We might have tortillas in the fridge or freezer. If not then we might put it over rice or put it all together and call it a salad (even if we didn’t have any lettuce for it).

Asian Infused Lettuce Wraps from Divine Dinners by Lydia Shatney. This has become one of our favorite meals. The beef is deliciously flavored. We don’t always have lettuce on hand to use as the wraps but we do usually have a head of cabbage in the fridge (cabbage keeps pretty well) so we substitute cabbage leaves for the lettuce.

West African Beef– This is something we’ve been making lately and really enjoy.

 Eggs in Marinara


We have chickens and ducks so we usually have eggs. The dead of winter eggs tend to be a little sparse but the rest of the year we are pretty good.

Eggs in Marinara– This is a great one.

Clafouti or Frittata– These go together very quickly. The Clafouti tends to be a sweeter meal but the frittata can be made quite hearty. I usually just throw it together with whatever ingredients we have on hand.

Breakfast for Dinner– Scrambled or fried eggs with pancakes or waffles. Quick and easy.  Another breakfast for dinner idea is Almond Meal Pudding or the hotel style version.

Potato and Salmon Patties


I keep several cans of salmon on hand. These wild caught salmon can become salmon patties (if I have leftover mashed potatoes I make these salmon patties), salmon salad or salmon chowder for quick and delicious meals.




I keep a few different kinds of pasta on hand. I purchase the brown rice pasta from Azure Standard in fusili, elbows and fettuccine. I also keep the Asian rice noodles in the pantry. Even though we are using ‘healthier’ noodles in these dishes we don’t make pasta to terribly often.

Goulash– I listed this in the ground beef section but it is a cross over meal since it uses elbow pasta. Yummy!

Honey Garlic Pasta– This is a super quick and tasty dish. My youngest girl will often make this while I’m doing something else. We use any style of brown rice pasta for it.

Puttanesca– This is something I’ve been experimenting with. I base it on this recipe but adapt it considerably to work with ingredients we keep in our pantry. It is pretty good. I use my fettuccine noodles for this.

Carbonara– Another one I’ve been working with using this recipe as a guide. The few times I’ve made it everyone enjoyed it. Good quality bacon is pretty expensive and this only uses a small amount for a great flavor.

Quick Pad Thai– I keep a bottle of Pad Thai sauce in the pantry and combine it with the Asian rice noodles, scrambled eggs, leftover meats (optional), a little lime juice and top it with chopped peanuts for something that is sort of like a Pad Thai dish.  I even make this when we are on the road using my rice cooker or only hot water (omitting the eggs).  My eBook Real Food Hits the Road shares this recipe and many more for quick cooking suitable for home and vacation.

Curry Lo Mein Style Dinner– This is a great one to throw together using leftover meat or scrambled eggs.


What are your favorite quick meals?

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