When work is hectic and your kids have a million assignments to complete on top of music lessons and sports practices, it is not always easy to put a homemade dinner on the table. Who wants to spend all their time in the kitchen anyway? An easy way to cook less, but have more homemade family meals is to cook things that make great leftovers. It is especially nice when you find some family meal ideas that taste even better as leftovers! If you are a busy mom with hungry kids to feed, here are 10 family meal ideas that make great leftovers.
1. Chicken Broccoli Casserole
If you have never tried one of Trisha Yearwood’s recipes, here is your chance. She has some easy southern family meal ideas that make delicious leftovers. One simple recipe is her Chicken Broccoli Casserole. Start by poaching chicken breasts in salted water. Once it has cooked and cooled, shred the chicken (you can cook the chicken ahead of time and shred it when you are ready to make the casserole). Cook your broccoli florets and white rice. While the broccoli and rice are cooking, mix the shredded chicken with cream of chicken soup, sour cream, mayonnaise, shredded cheese, and lemon juice. Layer the ingredients all together in a casserole dish and bake for 40 minutes.
This casserole keeps well in the fridge for a few days and makes for a delicious second family meal later in the week once the chicken mixture has had a chance to sit and bring all the flavors together even more.
2. Baked Ziti
Everyone loves a good baked pasta recipe. This Baked Ziti from the Pioneer Woman is one of the simplest family meal ideas that makes for yummy leftovers later in the week. Start by sauteing garlic and onions. Add ground beef and Italian sausage and cook until browned. Once the fat has been drained, add tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Let it all simmer for around 25 minutes. While the sauce and meat mixture is simmering, boil the pasta and add it to a delicious cheesy mixture of mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan. Layer the pasta and meat mixtures in a casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.
You will end up with a hearty family meal that is even better the second time around. When you warm up the leftovers, sprinkle on some grated parmesan and some fresh parsley and your family will gobble it up.
3. Vegetarian Chili With Lots of Fritos
If you are looking for vegetarian family meal ideas or you are a lover of chili, this Vegetarian Chili with Lots of Fritos is right up your alley. This chili is made with a lot of ingredients you likely already have on hand, so it does not take a lengthy shopping list. It also includes chiles in adobo, which are super spicy and so delicious. To make the chili, start by sauteing onion, garlic, cilantro, and chili powder. Add tomato paste, a finely chopped chipotle chile with some of the adobo sauce, diced tomatoes, pinto beans, salt, and water. Let simmer for around 30 minutes. Before pulling it off the heat, add in a cup of Fritos and stir.
Garnish your chili with whatever you like best. The recipe suggests avocado, sour cream, cilantro, chopped onion, and (of course) more Fritos. This is one of those family meal ideas that make great leftovers because all the flavors meld together while it sits in the fridge.
4. Instant Pot Lasagna
There are not many weeknight family meal ideas that get easier than this Instant Pot Lasagna. The added benefit is that it makes the most delicious leftovers for another night when you do not feel like cooking during the week. Start by cooking ground beef in a medium skillet until mostly browned. Add in onion and garlic until the onions are soft. Sprinkle Italian seasoning and salt over the beef mixture and stir to combine before adding tomato sauce and cooking until slightly thickened. In a springform pan, layer sauce, uncooked lasagna noodles, and ricotta and mozzarella, repeating layers. Top it all with a layer of sauce and shredded cheese.
Place the rack in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Pour in one cup of water and place the springform pan of lasagna on top of the rack. Pressure cook the lasagna inside the Instant Pot for 12 minutes. When it is done, quick release the pressure and let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before serving. If you can keep your family from eating it all in the first sitting, you will have the most amazing leftovers.
5. Chicken and Rice Soup with Green Chiles and Ginger
This Chicken and Rice Soup with Green Chiles and Ginger has an elevated flavor profile that is also leftover friendly. Start by bringing chicken thighs, chicken broth or stock, shallots, and garlic to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and garlic to a cutting board and let them cool. Smash garlic and return it to the saucepan. Shred the chicken and set it aside. Next, bring the broth or stock mixture to a boil and add rice. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is tender and has broken. Stir in lime juice, fish sauce, and the shredded chicken.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with ginger, chilies, scallions, and peanuts. Make it ahead of time and eat days later or save the leftovers and eat it again in a few days once the broth has had more time to soak into the chicken and rice. All you need to do is add a little water or chicken broth to the soup when reheating as needed.
6. Cheesy One-Pot Pasta
Who does not want family meal ideas that take only 15 minutes and make for a great second helping tomorrow night? This 15-minute Cheesy One-Pot Pasta is one of those meals. The ingredients are pretty much all pantry staples so you can whip up this recipe when you need something quick and do not have any special menu set for dinner one night.
Simply place dry shell pasta, vegetable broth, cream cheese, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and minced garlic in a large pot and mix to start melting the cream cheese. Bring the pot to a boil before lowering the heat and simmering for about seven minutes. Add peas and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. The sauce will thicken as the pasta sits, so if you prefer it more thick and creamy as opposed to saucy, let it sit for a few minutes, stirring from time to time.
7. Instant Pot Sunday Sauce and Meatballs
“Sunday sauce” is what you call spaghetti sauce that you put on in the morning on a Sunday so you can attend to it and let it simmer all day. Thanks to the Instant Pot you can enjoy the flavor of a slow-cooked tomato sauce in less than an hour with this Instant Pot Sunday Sauce and Meatballs. Start by whisking together parmesan, minced onion, half-and-half, eggs, garlic, parsley, basil, and oregano in a large bowl. Add ground beef and ground pork. Then, using your hands, mix it all together until combined before stirring in breadcrumbs just until incorporated. Shape mixture into approximately 18 meatballs.
Set the Instant Pot to sauté and add oil. Cook meatballs in the Instant Pot in batches of 6 meatballs. After the meatballs have all been browned, start the sauce. Add oil, onion, and garlic to the Instant Pot and cook until onion is translucent. Combine crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, water, tomato paste, sugar, basil, salt, pepper, and bay leaf in the Instant Pot. Add the meatballs and gently stir to coat them. Once the sauce and meatballs are cooked, pour it over your favorite cooked pasta and serve. Save the leftovers and have Sunday Sauce any day of the week.
8. One-Pot Weekend Beef Stroganoff
Cook this One-Pot Weekend Beef Stroganoff on Sunday and then eat it again for dinner on Monday night too! Some family meal ideas can be put together super efficiently and this is certainly one of them. Start cooking the mushrooms in a dutch oven with some butter. Use the time it takes for the mushrooms to cook to chop an onion and two cloves of garlic. Add them to the pot with more butter. Next, add ground beef to the pot. While the beef cooks, measure out the rest of the ingredients so they are ready to go as soon as the beef is done.
Once your beef and the gravy (add flour, paprika, and beef broth) is ready, add egg noodles to the same pot and cook for just six to eight more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in greek yogurt until completely incorporated.
9. Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
The more slow cooker family meal ideas the better. Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala makes for a great dinner that then makes even better leftovers. Start by sauteing onion in a large frying pan until tender. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, garam masala, cumin, and turmeric and cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste and drained tomatoes and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer to a slow cooker and stir in chicken thighs and yogurt. Cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.
Serve this delicious tikka masala over rice or with naan. The flavors in the leftover sauce become more incorporated and harmonious after a day or two in the fridge. Luckily, you are likely to have leftovers for more than one meal later in the week.
10. Crock Pot Chipotle Pulled Chicken
Family meal ideas that turn into versatile leftovers are always a welcome addition to the menu rotation. Crock Pot Chipotle Pulled Chicken is great because it is the perfect base for quesadillas, burritos, nachos, salads, or served up on a bun with coleslaw. Although the recipe has a fairly long ingredient list, it is a “dump and go” recipe that only takes about 10 minutes to put together. Simply add all of the recipe’s ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on low for four hours. Then shred the chicken with two forks and serve on a bun, in a taco, or in a quesadilla. Or you can serve all three over the course of the week!
Cooking smarter is better than cooking harder. Making a delicious family meal that can turn into two or more meals lets you worry less about what you are putting on the table this week. All of these recipes are delicious and will leave your family wanting more. Luckily, you will be able to serve them round two another night soon!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Looking for more delicious family meal ideas? Check out this article on Quick, Prepare Ahead Family Meals.