14 Lazy Dinner Ideas For When You Don’t Want to Cook!

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Not in the mood to cook dinner tonight? Make low-effort meals! These lazy dinner ideas will help you eat at home. 

kids eating a no-cook snack dinner

Quick and easy low-effort meals are the best!

No one tells you that a huge part of adulting is figuring out what’s for dinner every day, FOREVER. When cooking a complete homemade meal from scratch or grabbing take-out food isn’t desired, now what?

Perhaps you don’t cook much or are unable to. No worries! I am here to share some easy tips and recipes for people who hate cooking!

woman with Sam's Club Prepared Meals

What sounds good for dinner? I got you covered!

Cooking meals and photographing them is part of my job, and yet I still am at a loss as to what to make for my family some days. My kids are occupied with lots of sports and activities so I feel like we’re all coming or going. I too get meal burnout sometimes.

Our family does opt for DoorDash or take-out on occasion, but I would like to reduce that!

Two bags of mandarin orange chicken sitting in top of red grocery cart.

Over the years, I’ve become a fan of utilizing the premade section of the grocery store to get dinner done! Sometimes combining fresh items with ready-made foods is a genius shortcut.

I can also navigate the Costco and Sam’s Club pre-made sections like a champ, along with Trader Joe’s amazing frozen aisle. For instance, adding fresh veggies to a skillet with Trader Joe’s mandarin chicken is a winner!

Today I am sharing 14 tips and lazy dinner ideas to help inspire some easy low effort meals! It’s usually money-saving compared to restaurants and take-out. 

1. Utilize grocery store rotisserie chicken or canned chicken for quick meals.

Lina holding a rotisserie chicken

Pairing bagged salads from the produce department with shredded cooked chicken is my personal go-to meal when cooking isn’t appealing. You could also make quick tacos, quesadillas, chicken salad, and more.

Hip Tip: Be sure to check our post on the best lazy dinner ideas to make with a rotisserie chicken.

A fork with walnut chicken salad on it using canned chicken. This is low effort meal idea.

Canned chicken is also an excellent pantry staple to have on hand for quick soups, casseroles, or chicken salad. I make my favorite walnut chicken salad sometimes for quick meals with it. I also make a super easy chicken pot pie using canned chicken!

2. Both Costco and Sam’s Club have delicious premade meals in the refrigerator section!

Shopping cart with premade Costco meals for easy low effort meals in a pinch.

If you have a warehouse membership, be sure to check out the pre-cooked meals and sides at Costco and the ones at Sam’s Club too. Our family loves to utilize these for low-effort meals. The yummy chicken taco kit with tortillas from either store is always a hit with my kids!

Woman holding a chicken taco kit from Costco for low effort meals.

Be sure to check out these popular posts: 

3. Trader Joe’s frozen meals are popular and delicious.

Frozen Trader Joe's pasta with pesto and tomatoes in a skillet.

We have too many family-favorite ready-made or frozen items from Trader Joe’s to list! Honestly, their frozen items can taste so next-level and gourmet! Orange chicken, fried rice, all the pasta options, and the beef Birria taco meat are my current obsession.

The only downside is the portions tend to be for 1-2 people so I find myself grabbing multiple bags for a family portion size.

Hip Tip: Be sure to check out 34 of our team’s favorite Trader Joe’s finds!

4. Grab your favorite deli meat, cheese, and a loaf of French bread!

grilled ham and cheese sandwich recipe ingredients

I find that cutting a loaf of bread in half lengthwise, making a large sandwich with deli meat, and cutting it into slices is such an easy way to make quick sandwiches for the family.

If you want to take it a step further try this grilled ham and cheese loaf recipe you can easily do on the grill or the oven!

5. Check out your grocery store’s premade soup section.

Dishing up chicken noodle soup at a grocery store soup bar for an easy no cook meal idea.

I am a huge soup lover especially when the weather is chilly. Opting for the convenient premade soups is fast and so comforting. My local grocery store also has the yummy Panera soups you can warm up at home.

Hip Tip: This large batch dump-and-done broccoli cheddar soup recipe has Panera vibes, with no real “cooking” involved!

Holding a container of grocery store Panera soup.

6. Take advantage of the grocery store salad bar and hot food bar.

Large salad bar at Whole Foods.

The convenience of a good salad bar with lots of toppings and veggies is also hard to resist! I love building a good salad instead of chopping veggies myself sometimes. Whole Foods has a nice salad bar and hot bar offerings to check out.

7. Build a quick snack-based dinner or charcuterie board!

Raid your fridge for odds and ends and build an easy snack-based dinner or charcuterie board. Utilize grocery store grab-and-go meats and cheeses too. I know Aldi usually has a great specialty cheese section that’s also affordable.

Arrange your small bites onto a large cutting board or sheet pan and enjoy a delicious no-cook meal!

Hand holding a snack tray with cheese, crackers, nuts, fruit, and dip

Check out my favorite Lock n Lock snack tray to create snack dinners on the go! This tray with lid could be perfect to take to the park or beach.

8. Grocery store sushi is a valid option in a pinch, especially on Wednesdays!

Woman holding grocery store sushi in-store.

We noticed that some grocery stores like Sprouts, Kroger, and HEB are discounting sushi rolls to $5-6 on Wednesdays! Are you noticing this trend in your area?!

You never know when a sushi craving could hit. If you don’t want to spend money on a restaurant this is an option to consider. I love a good grocery store crunch roll on occasion, and my local grocery store makes fresh sushi daily.

9. Utilize pre-made carnitas from the grocery store.

Trader Joe's carnitas on a homemade salad for a low effort meal idea.

Pretty much every grocer has ready-made carnitas. Collin is a huge fan of the Trader Joe’s carnitas and uses it as a starter to build carnitas salad along with lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole to keep things low carb and keto.  You could easily make tacos or burritos instead!

10. Frozen foods in the air fryer is the ultimate lazy dinner idea!

making just bare nuggets in an air fryer

Having an air fryer means not even having to turn on the oven to heat up frozen classics like french fries, taquitos, and of course chicken nuggets. It’s so easy the kids can even make them on their own!

If you’re looking for a great suggestion, check out these popular Just Bare chicken nuggets from Costco! Pair them with Chick-fil-a sauce for a great fast-food copycat.

Hand holding a bag of Tyson Frozen Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast Strips

I also LOVE the new Tyson Roasted chicken breast strips from Costco. I personally make quick salads and stir-fry dishes using this wonderful chicken. It’s tender and delish!

Hip Tip: Quick air fryer meals are so helpful and delicious. Be sure to check out all my easy air fryer recipes!

11. Pick up a large frozen lasagna, pre-made bagged salad, and garlic bread.

Spatula dishing up a Costco frozen lasagna for low effort meal ideas.

I am kind of a lasagna snob, and am telling you that there are some yummy frozen options out there! My hands down favorite is the Italian sausage and beef frozen lasagna from Costco.

The sauce is so flavorful and it’s big enough for the whole family with leftovers. Try it!

12. Buy pre-made pizza dough and add toppings for a fast semi-homemade pizza night.

Making pizza on an pizza peel for a low effor meal idea.

Taking the shortcut of buying dough can be helpful when making quick pizzas! My family personally enjoys the herbed pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. Then just add some pizza sauce, and cheese, with toppings. Bake in the oven for a low-effort pizza!

13. Easy Sheet Pan Meals

sheet pan meal using costco chicken and veggies

Dumping ingredients onto a sheet pan and baking them is a cinch! This low-effort chicken and veggies meal idea of using just three ingredients from Costco is delicious. The sesame dressing gives it a nice flavor and this is very easy to accomplish!

ingredients for Costco chicken and veggies easy sheet pan meal

Using a sheet pan to make a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches easily is also a favorite lazy day kitchen hack!

sheet pan grilled cheese

This sheet pan meal requires very little effort and turns out AMAZING! Melted grilled cheese and tomato soup is the ultimate comfort food and I highly recommend this easy method for making a bunch at a time. Warm up a can of tomato soup and that’s an easy and crowd-pleasing meal idea.

14. When all else fails make breakfast for a low-effort meal idea!

Person holding a fried egg on cheese with yolk as a low effort meal idea. .

I once watched a TV interview with Martha Stewart where they asked her if she eats fast food. She said she no, but when she doesn’t feel like cooking she fries an egg with toast. I love doing that also because it’s so simple yet comforting and delicious.

Check out this easy method for frying cheese with an egg on top. It’s my favorite low-effort breakfast right now. This idea is keto, however, I love adding it to a piece of toast!

easy pancakes baked in a sheet pan

My kids would say their favorite breakfast-for-dinner idea is pancakes. Baking pancakes on a sheet pan is the easiest method, especially if you use a boxed pancake mix from the pantry! This is a wonderful low-effort meal all will love, and you can customize the toppings to taste.

Do you have a “go-to” lazy meal idea when you don’t feel like cooking? Share with us in the comments! 

Check out my latest FREE five-day meal plan with a grocery list! 

About the writer:

Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 11 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in Today.com, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.

Join The Discussion

Comments 38

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh yes! I make freezer burrito pouches to reheat with a tortilla and I agree it’s the best feeling!
      Thanks Melie!

  1. HV Mom

    nice options Lina. thanks for writing this up.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh sure, and thanks for the encouragement!

  2. 5pink1blue

    Good ideas, I have done several of these myself. Another idea is to make two casseroles or lasagna and freeze one. So nice to be able to pull out a meal when you don’t feel like cooking.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes! Love that too! Thanks for sharing ❤️

  3. Momof3superkids

    Thanks Lina, many of these are really good ideas! These are definitely more cost effective than eating out.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh good and thanks so much!

  4. Tracy

    I absolutely loathe cooking so love these ideas (obviously I use most of them already). My newest find is the Rana family sized lasagna which is fresh not frozen in most grocery stores. Truly one of the best tasting lasagnas I have had.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh nice! I have wondered about that brand and will give it a try. Thanks Tracy!

      • Justina

        they are tasty, we purchase on sale and with a coupon too when they are available, even froze one once, thawed later and it cooked just fine–delicious! easy lasagna with few or no chemical stuff when in a rush, near our deli in stores here

    • Christy Michaels

      Thanks for the tip, Tracy! I’ve already added it to my Walmart cart for my next order. Can’t wait to try it!

  5. Kay

    I luv that TJ linguine n had already planned to cook it this weekend. I agree that the portion is too small. I can go through one bag by myself, or need at least 1.5 bag to feed 2 adults. I like to add chicken. I also luv many other TJ frozen meals, especially the Indian n Asian ones.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes, same! Thanks Kay!

  6. Chantel

    I always try to make big batches for dinner then freeze the rest. Mac and cheese, spaghetti sauce, breaded pork or chicken cutlets that can go right in the pan or oven and pulled pork that can be broiled with onions for tacos or simmered in bbq sauce for sandwiches. My favorite is Chicken Tikka Masala. I will freeze a portion of the sauce and rice, and bag it up with cut up chicken so that I just have to sauteed the chicken and then simmer it in the sauce.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Great ideas! I love that tip about making extra sauce!

  7. Allison

    Flour tortillas make great pizza crusts, and then everyone can personalize theirs how they want it. And cake mix makes great pancake/waffle mix with just enough sweetness to not need syrup! I like to make the entire box and freeze leftovers for a quick breakfast on the go.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Love these tips- thanks!

  8. Sue

    Just wanted to hop on a few of those ideas. The Rana pasta such as the tortellini cooks so extra fast because it is fresh it is a perfect quick meal. Also, if you are not opposed to frozen chicken patties (cutlets), you can easily nuke them, add any toppings you want and stick on a bun or between lettuce. You could also opt to add cheese and tomato sauce for a chicken parm. I frequently use the artificial crab chunks to add protein to my salad for a quick and frugal fish option that’s not the same old tuna. Another thing I do is nuke a sweet potato and top it with seafood salad type thing , leftover taco meat, chili, or even pulled pork.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Love these ideas Sue! I especially love the baked potato idea YUM. Thanks for sharing ❤️

  9. Sue

    Thank you Lina! I enjoy seeing what you come up with and post for your meals. I love reading other ideas for quick meals. They make a difference for time constraints and people who may have issues with prepping or standing for long periods.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh good, glad this was helpful. Thanks Sue!

  10. Sarah

    “Grilled hand”? This made me laugh. Recipes for cannibals…. Just kidding, I know what you meant.

    • Amy

      I saw that too. Very funny!!

      • Trish (Hip Sidekick)

        Whoops! Thanks for catching that, Amy! 😉💖

  11. Del

    I’m all for these shortcuts, but I would call them “Busy day dinners!”

    • Trish (Hip Sidekick)

      Yes, love that! These are perfect for busy days! 🙌❤️

  12. Betsy

    I stock up on whole chickens when they are on sale and when I’m cooking a roast chicken I make 2. Doesn’t take any more time to cook that second one and then I can use it during the week for Chinese chicken salad, pot pie, casseroles. The bones can be used to make broth for soup.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Love the idea of batch cooking! Great suggestion. Thanks Betsy.

  13. rebecca

    When you feel half-hearted about cooking, or short on time, but also want it to feel kind of like real food: make cheap Ramen from the packets, but add in a handful of frozen vegetables, or diced green onion, or carrot or celery strays that you need to use up. And/or add rotisserie chicken (or canned chicken or meat leftovers you might have), or an egg. You’ll have a hot meal on the table in about 5 minutes.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Love that idea too! Yum. Thanks Rebecca.

  14. Suzanne H

    My family likes my “fake lasagna” – I layer ravioli, tomato sauce, ricotta, parmesan cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes – just enough to get everything hot and marry the flavors. Very quick and simple. When I am willing/able to put more time into it, I will saute up some veggies for the sauce (tomatoes, peppers and onions) and add ground turkey and/or sausage.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes love ravioli lasagna too! It’s so good and quick to compile! Thanks Suzanne!

  15. Dee

    Love these ideas, but they’re not lazy at all! They still take planning and shopping. I’d say “efficient” and “smart” more than lazy. 🙂

  16. Ihearthip

    Our go to is rice bowls. Minute rice cups, whatever vegs I have on hand, rotisserie ckn, smoked sausage, or fully cooked shrimp, throw on whatever cheese we have. Top w/ sour cream or drizzle of dressing/sauce. Thanks for these ideas…I am taking a load off until Spring break!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Great idea, Ihearthip! I’ll have to remember that. I keep the minute rice bowls on hand for recipes, but didn’t think about turning them into a meal itself! 🤗

  17. Vanessa K

    I love frozen meatballs! You can add: -bbq sauce -make a delicious brown gravy (ala ikea style) -make a cream gravy (cream of mushroom

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      YES! Love those ideas! 😋 Thanks, Vanessa K!

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