17 Super Easy Meal Ideas for When You Need Food Fast and With Minimal Effort

Maybe you’ve been in the situation where you’ve gone too long without eating and are now ravenous and need food ASAP. You’re a 0 on the hunger scale and about to stuff anything you can find into your mouth because your body is screaming for food. But the problem is you don’t know what you feel like eating and what you feel like eating may be too time consuming to make and you need food NOW.
Or, maybe you’re just hungry but don’t have the physical or mental energy to prepare a meal for yourself. The thought of washing dishes, turning on the stove or waiting for foods to cook is way too much for you to even consider right now.
So I’ve compiled a list of 17 super easy meal ideas for you to make at home when you need food fast and with minimal effort. Feel free to add your own meal ideas and keep referring back to this list as needed. It can be a real life saver to have a list of your go-to meals available.

For When You Need Food NOW (less than 5 minutes)

1. Cold Cereal– Perhaps the easiest of all meals and my go-to at all hours of the day. Just pour your cold cereal into a bowl and top with milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese. Add fresh or frozen fruit and/or nuts or nut butter, and call it a meal.

2. Hot Cereal- Same idea as cold cereal. Instant oats are great for when you need food fast. Just add hot water or put in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Mix in whatever toppings you have on hand.

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3. Cold Sandwich/Wrap– So many options for sandwiches/wraps to make with whatever you have in your refrigerator or pantry. Peanut butter and jelly, cold cut, cheese, hummus, avocado, leftover egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, smashed chickpea, leftover chicken or tofu cutlet, etc.

4. Waffles- Frozen waffles saved me the other day when I was overly hungry and not about to spend time making a meal. A few minutes in the toaster then topped with maple syrup, yogurt, peanut butter, and fresh fruit and my tummy was very happy.

For When You Have a Few Minutes to Prep Your Meal (about 10 minutes)


5. Nachos- This has been my go-to since I was a kid and it’s gotten more sophisticated over the years. Top some tortilla chips with canned refried beans, salsa, avocado, and shredded cheese and throw in the microwave for a minute or the toaster oven/oven then top with shredded lettuce and sour cream if you’re feeling fancy. You can also use the same toppings on top of a microwaved sweet or white potato.

6.  Pizza– Another childhood favorite is turning anything into a pizza. Bagels, pita bread, or English muffins work great for this. Just use jarred or leftover marinara sauce, top with cheese and any other vegetables/toppings you want, pop in the toaster oven/oven or microwave and you have pizza!

pizza bagels

7. Quesadilla- All you need is 2 tortillas, cheese, refried beans, leftover protein if you have it, avocado, and salsa. Top everything on top of one tortilla in a pan on the stove, let melt, then put another tortilla on top, flip it over then cut it up and eat!

8. Grain Bowl- This can be done quickly when you have leftovers. In a bowl, place a grain (rice, farro, barley, quinoa, etc.), protein source (beans, cheese, fish, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc.), veggies, and a dressing. It doesn’t have to be Instagram worthy.

9. Everything But The Kitchen Sink Salad- Every salad of mine is this kind of salad. Basically toss everything that looks good to you from the refrigerator over a bed of greens. Leftover protein, starch, and veggies and then drizzle with a dressing.

10. Frozen Meals- There are so many frozen meals to choose from and some can be done under 10 minutes and be lifesavers! It’s always helpful to keep some of these in the freezer for emergencies.

11. Pasta- Boil some pasta including ravioli, pierogis, or dumplings if you desire and toss with your favorite sauce, maybe a protein source (beans, cheese, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc.), and a vegetable if you have it on hand and it’s a super quick and satisfying meal.

12. Soup- Canned, jarred, and tetrapack-ed soups are great for when you’re craving something warm and hearty and can be heated up quickly in the microwave or stove top.

13. Smoothie Bowl- Blend your favorite smoothie ingredients including frozen and fresh fruit, vegetables, and milk and if you want more add-ins: yogurt, chia seeds, hemp seeds, or protein powder. Pour into a bowl and top with granola and fresh fruit. (You’ll need additional frozen ingredients to make it thicker).

14. Eggs- So many ways to make eggs and most of them are super easy. Scramble (can make a tofu scramble instead of egg) or fry an egg, make an omelette, or hard cook them. You can add any vegetables you have on hand or leave them out. Serve with toast if that strikes your fancy.


15. Burger- You’re probably not feeling like firing up the outdoor grill, but burgers (meat, poultry, fish, or veggie) can be cooked in a pan on the stove top, in the toaster oven/oven, or even in the microwave (this works better for veggie burgers). Use this as the protein in your grain bowl or salad or put on a bun and top your burger with whatever condiments sound good.

16. Stir Fry- Use  pre-cut vegetables and your choice of protein and stir fry everything with some soy sauce in a pan on the stove and then pour over microwaved rice/quinoa and you have a pretty legit meal.

17. Leftovers- I always encourage my clients to make extra food when they’re feeling good to keep in the freezer for days when it’s a struggle to make food for themselves. You will thank yourself later!

Of course, all of the above can be modified for any food allergies, intolerances, or dislikes. Make it your own! What are some of your own go-to meals when you need food fast and with minimal effort?

You may like 11 Tips for Nourishing Yourself When You Feel Too Depressed to Cook
and What is Hunger and How Can You Honor It
and 5 Basic Ways to Prevent a Binge

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Struggling with your relationship to food and your body? Recovering from an eating disorder or chronic dieting and in search of an experienced eating disorder registered dietitian in the Long Island, New York area or virtually in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut? Send Christina an email to learn more about 1:1 nutrition therapy sessions!

Published by Christina Frangione, MS, RD, CDN, RYT

Christina Frangione, MS, RD, CDN, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist serving the Long Island, New York City, and New York State areas helping clients with eating disorders and disordered eating recover their relationship with food and their body. She utilizes a Health at Every Size® approach and supports Intuitive Eating and knows that while she is the food and nutrition expert, you are the expert of your body and life.

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