Family dinner ideas that please all three of my non-infant kids and are not pizza, hot dogs, or peanut butter and jelly are hard to come by. But every once in a while, we’ll find a winner that gets integrated into our meal rotation.
The best family dinner ideas in my book are ones that are easy to make, use ingredients I am relatively likely to have on hand and are met with little to no resistance by at least one of my kids (because you can’t win them all!). Bonus if it dirties only one pot or pan!
Here I share 15 of my favorite family dinner ideas with easy, kid-friendly recipes. I hope that you will find at least one you’ll be able to incorporate into your family’s recipe list.
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This family dinner idea is super easy to put together, and it’s been a favorite of mine to bring to new moms. You layer ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese, brushed with egg whites, between two crescent dough sheets and bake. The result is an easy hot sandwich that, in my opinion, tastes even better as a cold lunch the next day. The original recipe I based our take on is from Rachel Schultz on Homemaking. It calls for salami, but we simplified it a little for our taste. You can also dip the sandwich in a tomato sauce.
For a break from the blue box, try making macaroni and cheese from scratch for dinner. This recipe from Living Well Mom was kid-approved at my house and does not include any extravagant ingredients or fancy cheeses (although you could incorporate fancy cheeses, if you wish). If you have milk, cheese, pasta, flour, and butter on hand, you can whip this up quickly. It also calls for breadcrumbs, which add a nice texture. If you have leftovers, they make a nice side for the next day’s lunch or dinner.
Goulash is a family dinner idea that incorporates pasta and some basic pantry ingredients. This hearty recipe from Lil’ Luna only requires ground beef, pasta, cheese, soy sauce, tomato sauce, and spices. It’s all cooked in one pan and ready in about half an hour. I don’t think your kids would complain if you threw in some warm bread to sop up the sauce!
I have not yet learned to use my Instant Pot on a regular basis, but I do love using it to make a super simple spaghetti and meatballs recipe that is usually a huge hit at my house for dinner. (Hint: Make sure you keep frozen meatballs stocked in the freezer!) You layer the frozen meatballs on the bottom, then the pasta drizzled with olive oil, and finally add some jarred tomato sauce and water. Voila – around 20-30 minutes later, the Instant Pot delivers you a delicious spaghetti and meatballs meal in just one pot.
I like to make this Sloppy Joe recipe from Taste of Home because the ingredients are easy and basically amount to a fun take on a hamburger. All it takes is ground beef, ketchup and mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, a few common ingredients from your spice cupboard, and of course some buns. Try getting slider buns for a kid-sized bite! You may need to double the recipe.
Pulled pork is a family dinner idea that goes a long way. It’s also great if you’re entertaining or having company for dinner. This pulled pork recipe from Chowhound is super easy to prepare. It can cook in the slow cooker the entire time I’m at work or overnight to be pulled and stored in the fridge in the morning. The secret to great pulled pork is to use pork butt or shoulder as your cut. Remember, it also needs to get up to a high enough temperature (somewhere around 200 degrees) for long enough that the collagen breaks down and it falls off the bone and shreds easily with a fork. Serve on hamburger or slider buns!
Two out of my three kids really love having chili for family dinner. (It could have something to do with the fact that we serve it with corn chips and shredded cheddar cheese, but I do think they generally like the flavor!) We adapted our recipe from one that was given to me by a friend. We use one to two (depending on your preference) 15-ounce cans of tri-bean blend , one 28-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes, a pound or so of ground beef (although I’d prefer sausage, we usually have beef on hand) flavored to taste with salt and pepper, a quarter-cup of brown sugar, and two tablespoons of chili powder. Dump it in the slow cooker and let it go for about six to eight hours on low. You could cook it for a shorter amount of time on high. This amount works well for the two adults and three small kids who eat it, and it still easily lasts us more than one meal.
My mom always called this recipe “Spanish Rice,” but for all intents and purposes, it’s tomato, beef, and rice, and it’s nice and simple (the way kids like it!). Sautee a medium diced onion in some olive oil. (Hint: If you can find frozen diced onion at your grocery store, it makes life so much easier!) When the onion has started to turn clear, add a cup of white rice and a half-pound of ground beef, flavored with salt and pepper. Once the beef has browned, toss in a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce, then fill the empty can with water and dump it in. Add a teaspoon of salt (more if you prefer) and a dash of pepper. Bring it to a boil, and then simmer it for about 25 minutes. You can also add green peppers if it suits your family’s taste!
Chicken Thighs followed by Chicken Noodle Soup
I like the seasoning combination in this chicken thigh recipe from allrecipes. It’s so easy to rub the seasoning on chicken thighs and pop them in the oven for an hour. You can serve the chicken thighs as a main dinner dish. I just cut them up into bite-sized pieces for my kids so they don’t have to maneuver the bone. Then, the next night, use the leftover chicken and some veggies to make this yummy, easy homemade chicken noodle recipe from Betty Crocker as another family dinner idea. Serve with cheesy biscuits!
Three ingredients make for an easy, kid-friendly dinner idea in this barbecue meatball recipe from Sweet Baby Ray’s. Pull frozen meatballs out of your freezer, combine them with a mixture of jelly and barbecue sauce, and turn on your slow cooker for a few hours. I like serving these sticky meatballs with some rice. This also makes a great party dish if you multiply the recipe!
“Not Chicken Pot Pie” is a perfect weekday slow cooker family dinner idea I found at The Monthly Lineup. It combines chicken, potatoes (we use frozen hash browns instead of fresh), vegetables, cream of chicken soup, and a few spices to create a soup-like meal similar to the insides of a chicken pot pie. Serve with crescent rolls or tortilla chips and cheddar cheese on top! I absolutely love this recipe because most of the ingredients go straight from my freezer into the slow cooker. I usually halve the recipe because it makes plenty.
Breakfast for Dinner
Whenever I announce we are having “breakfast for dinner” at home, the kids seem to get excited! I like to turn to this family dinner idea if we skipped eggs for breakfast. You could do a simple ham and cheese scramble served with fruit and yogurt. Or, if you have the time to plan ahead, try a breakfast casserole like this super simple recipe from Kevin & Amanda. I am sure kids would also enjoy a delicious pancake dinner with some breakfast meat and fruit on the side!
This Shepherds’s Pie recipe from allrecipes is filling and delicious, and it conveniently combines the protein, starch, and veggie into one dish in this family dinner idea. Using a bag of pre-chopped or shredded carrots, or a mixed veggie medley from the freezer, makes the recipe even simpler. Preparing mashed potatoes is not easy in my book, so to make it a little easier on yourself, you might want to buy some ahead of time from the store. Bob Evans mashed potatoes are my favorite!
If you happen to live near a Bob Evans, as an aside, their “Family Meals to Go” are a delicious and very cost-effective way to feed your crew, and there are almost always coupons available online to make it even more affordable. My kids like the grilled chicken dinner with mashed potatoes on the side.
This easy barbecue chicken recipe from allrecipes.com is a quick family dinner idea and also great for feeding a crowd. I love it because there are only four simple ingredients used to make the sauce, and it uses frozen chicken. I am happy when I don’t have to remember to defrost! You could use this chicken in sliders, wraps, or even on a homemade pizza!
If you have other family dinner ideas, please leave them in the comments for other parents looking for simple meals their kids might actually eat!