Weekdays in our household are usually a mad rush – laborious cooking is not an option. It is often a mad and desperate rummage through the cupboards to find something for dinner that will be ready in under 15 minutes – enough to stop everybody’s rising h-anger, and require very little preparation in order to minimise house-destruction by the two-year-old hurricane-child and the puppy that is determined to chew everything in sight.
I asked some very helpful plastic-less people for inspiration and here are some super-quick and minimally plastic dinner winners split into sections for mix and match ideas:
Fried eggs, poached eggs, omelette, scrambled. Yummy scrummy.
Goes well with:
Avocado, broccoli, mushrooms, onions… all easily sourced plastic free in most supermarkets. Home-made, bakery or deli counter bread. Or potatoes.
Onions, mushrooms (loose paper bag ones), peppers, broccoli, aubergine, courgette, tomatoes, carrots – all widely available in supermarkets without packaging.
Veggies can be used as a salad, stir fry, added into a dish e.g. bolognese or pasta sauce to bulk it up, in an omelette or you are really fancy you might have a spiralizer to make stuff like courgetti.
Check for seasonal veg on eattheseasons.co.uk as they are more likely to come with less packaging.
3. Potato dishes
Not entirely sure why, but the only potatoes the supermarkets seem to sell loose are baking potatoes or sweet potatoes. You can make edible but mediocre jacket potatoes in 5-10 mins in the microwave piercing the skin beforehand and add some tinned tuna (pole & line caught) and mayo from a glass jar, or tinned beans – any type. A better baked potato would be cooked the night before to get that crispy skin and then reheated the next day if short of time.
I do like making home-made oven chips, admittedly not quick unless prepped the night before, but surprisingly easy and unbelievably tasty. Blanching for 5 minutes then letting them steam off good and proper before putting them in the oven seems to be the key to yummy crispy chips.
4. Frozen food
The ultimate in convenience food and luckily the following still seem to be sold loose in cardboard in most supermarkets:
- Breaded/battered frozen fish fillets
- Potato waffles
- Veggie burgers
I like to do the squeeze and shake test on cardboard packaging to see if the crinkly sound of plastic can be heard inside (what have I become!). Labelling is hopefully going to improve soon from this point of view. And apparently we should be choosing generic white fish as opposed to haddock and cod, for fish stock sustainability.
Bread making is remarkably easy, but even easier if you have a bread maker! If not, fresh bread is one of the easier things to buy in the shops without plastic, especially if you bring your own designated bread bag in case the shops are still using the silly plasticky ones.
Some bread options for a quick meal are:
- Egg and avocado on toast with accompanying loose veg
- Tinned tuna or sardines or mackerel on toast with accompanying loose veg
- Bruschetta – toast, garlic, butter, chopped tomatoes, basil
- Good old bread and tinned soup (watch out for high sugar and salt content in the soup – the one should only be used in desperation)
Most supermarkets sell either Barilla or a similar brand of pasta, spaghetti or lasagne sheets in a cardboard box (small plastic window, but tiny compared to a whole bag). It’s more expensive of course, but realistically only a pound here or there to save the planet from plastic overload.
Jar of pesto for a super quick dish, or if a bit more time then something like a quick spag bol (main ingredients onions, garlic, chopped toms, mince bought loose from butcher or deli counter with your own container, or a tin of lentils)
Pole and line caught tuna, cannelloni beans, kidney beans, mixed beans, baked beans, sardines, mackerel.
Add to potatoes, pasta, toast, or make into a salad with veggies.
More for the cold winter months and ironic, given this is about fast meals. But it’s true that if you prep some veggies/meat/beans/chopped toms/sauce the night before, or even in advance and store in the freezer, you can dump it into the slow cooker, switch it on in the morning and dinner is ready for you when you get in after work/school/gym etc. Instant dinner at the time that you need it.
9. Take-your-own-container deli food
Take your own container to the supermarket and over the counter you can get some quick-to-cook fresh fish, ham, pie, quiche, all manner of yummy instant food to accompany some veggies.
The best and most nutritious instant meals are leftovers. Cook double or even triple the amount when you have time at the weekend, then put a few meals’ worth in the freezer. Et voila, proper food straight out of the freezer when you need it, or defrost the night before for a simple 5 minute re-heat. Down side is that you have to be organised and plan in advance. And have a really massive saucepan.
Oops. Sorry, that’s not a meal.
This is absolutely not an exhaustive list, just a few ideas.
Would love to hear some of your ideas if you have any favourite five-minute meals, particularly vegan or vegetarian ones too.
Please leave your suggestions as a comment so it can be shared!
Thank you and happy eating x