If you’re reading this, you love food. Maybe you’ve made bread from scratch, or smoked your own ribs, or brewed homemade beer. You might be borderline obsessed. We’re with you.

But you invariably also have nights where you’re running in and out the door and tortilla chips and a few gulps of milk are dinner. Or worse. Time crunches make our heads spin, so share some of your worst, weirdest time crunch meals in the comments while taking notes here people.

Prevention is key. So is creativity. A few easy pantry ingredients can save you a lot of time. Hours, even. Don’t call them cheats or hacks. Even semi-homeade seems rough. Clutch assists? Or maybe you’re just being smart about your cost benefit analysis. Business jargon surely has a term for it too. We’re just here to help though, not add to the bloated lexicon of food words.

1. Rotisserie Chicken Tostadas


Rotisserie chicken is one of the best tools in the nearly instant dinner arsenal. They’re inexpensive, you can snack on them on the way home (no shame), and with a can of refried beans and cheese you’ve got gram-able tostadas! Get our Rotisserie Chicken Tostadas recipe.

2. Lemon Ricotta Ravioli with Wilted Greens

The Clever Carrot

Pre-made fresh pasta has come a long way from chalky, dense tortellini. Browse the refrigerated aisle for some of the newer companies making raviolis that would make a nona blush. Wilt some baby kale in the same pan and you’ve just made a restaurant-worthy in zero time. Get the recipe here.

3. Tarragon Chicken Salad

Hark! For here again the rotisserie chicken saves the day! Fancy sandwich time with all the convenience, but at half the price of these seemingly now standard $12 sandwiches. Not to mention the 15 minutes you put in before you run back out the door means lunch is donezo for tomorrow too. Saving money and time like a boss you sing to yourself. Get our Tarragon Chicken Salad recipe.

4. 15 Minute, 1 Pan Lasagna

Kevin and Amanda

Surely this is a miracle. Into a single pan goes a can of tomatoes, some pre-cooked sausage crumbles, lasagna noodles, and a few other ingredients. A few swirls of the pan and out comes a homestyle meal in less time than it takes to change your outfit. #clutch Get the recipe here.

5. Jalapeno Popper Pulled Chicken Sandwich

Cookies and Cups

Pick up some pulled chicken (or pulled pork) for this sandwich. Most cities even have delivery companies that will get it to you from the grocery store by the time you get home. This way, you get that slow cooked flavor even if you’ve been racing around all day and lunch was…did you even eat lunch? Cheesey sauce and some canned jalepenos give this a decadent street food vibe. You would have to wait in line for the food truck version for longer than it will take you to cobble this together on the fly. Get the recipe here.

6. Sausage and Peppers

Simply Recipes

Classic Fall comfort food, typically reserved for game day, sausage and peppers is an unexpectedly quick dinner as well. Pre-sliced peppers and onions and pre-cooked chicken sausage makes this meal nearly instant! This is another good double-it-for-lunch recipe since those sausages are sold in 4-packs anyway. Get the recipe here.

7. Chicken Quesadillas


Shredded cheese? Check. Rotisserie chicken? You godsend, you. Pack of tortillas? DONE. Dinner, right there. Slap ‘em together, toss onto a hot griddle and try not to burn your mouth. These chicken quesadillas will actually give you time to sit in a chair and eat them off of a plate and mayyyyybe even wash said plate. #luxe Get our Chicken Quesadillas recipe.

8. Sausage, Spinach, and Mushroom Gnocchi

Table for Two Blog

Fresh gnocchi, made by not-you, keeps this really quite elegant meal speeding right along. Plus it looks just luscious, which will actually motivate you to make it instead of rationalizing potato skins at the bar. Let these pillowy potato puffs soak up that well vodka instead. #selfcare Get the recipe here.

9. Garlic Shrimp Tortellini

Julie's Eats and Treats

When was the last time you even had tortellini? Probs like forever ago. Pre-cooked frozen shrimp and a handful of tortellini will fill you up and keep you full so your stomach isn’t rumbling and you aren’t eating allofthecheese at book club. Also, it smells really really good when you make it. Get the recipe here.

Header image: Tarragon Chicken Salad from Chowhound

Vanessa W. Simmons is a former cook living in San Francisco, helping to run a food business. She’s probably hungry, but if not she could eat.
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