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By Stefanie Sandsmark

Cooking without all the prep and mess

The biggest hassle of cooking after a long day at work is the clean up and all the preparing a meal could potentially take. Meals with limited dishes and limited prep time take the stress off of a chaotic work schedule and the dreaded clean up. Working families often have little time to maintain household work and every once in awhile, a break is appreciated. Here are five meals that are kid-friendly and offer limited prep time as well as limited clean up for the family that just needs a night off. Using paper plates will also help to eliminate a pile up of plates in the dishwasher or kitchen sink.

Chicken nuggets and French fries

This is definitely the easiest meal with absolutely no dishes required. Placing the chicken nuggets and French fries on a baking pan with a sheet of foil leaves no dishes to clean up after. It only takes twenty minutes for both food items to get crisp and cooked for the whole family to enjoy and requires no watchful eye or actual cooking, leaving the ability to walk away for twenty minutes to handle another task while they cook.

Macaroni and hot dogs

Use one pot of boiling water for both items. Boil the hot dogs in water first but be sure to cut the hot dogs long ways to avoid them bursting. After the hot dogs are boiled, dump the water and refill the pot back up with water to use to boil the macaroni. Throw the hot dogs into the cooked and prepared macaroni.


A pretty classically boring meal but with the endless combinations and creative twists, this meal can serve well. The expanded list of meats and cheeses available in grocery stores help each member of the family personalize their own sandwich. Adding condiments such as honey mustard and fresh lettuce or tomatoes will help keep this meal from becoming a boring ham and cheese over and over again.


This meal really only requires one pan to brown the ground beef in and to mix in the taco seasoning. Condiments that are placed on the tacos such as lettuce, cheese and sour cream can be left in their original packaging on the table. They can be distributed with serving spoons or with clean hands.


Requiring the most dishes of all of the listed meals, this one still provides limited prep time and limited dishes compared to other meals. Boiling the spaghetti requires one pot and preparing the spaghetti sauce could potentially require another pot. If adding ground beef to spaghetti sauce is a personal preference, browning the meat in a medium pot and then adding the spaghetti sauce to it after to heat it all up would leave two total pots to clean.

Final thoughts

These meals are easy to prepare, require little work and few dishes to do, enabling families – especially working families – to spend less time in the kitchen and more time at the dinner table enjoying moments with loved ones.

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