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What to eat for dinner when you're just too tired to cook

Written by Megan Lee, Registered Dietician, June 2024

I know the feeling well - you stumble through the door after a long day at work, and the kitchen looks as inspiring as a blank canvas. You’re exhausted, your creativity is at an all time low, and the last thing you feel like doing is channeling your inner MasterChef. Here’s the thing though - you can still honour your hunger, health, and taste buds (and wallet) during these trying times. So here’s my gift to you - a list of ideas for what to do when you’re just too tired to cook.

1.Grocery Store Deli/Self Serve Food Section

If you can swing by your local Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers, Spar or Food Lovers Market on your way home, you’ll find a whole section of prepared foods to grab and go. To create a balanced meal, grab a protein dish (roast chicken pieces, grilled fish, sliced meat, bean stew), some veggies (roasted mixed veggies, salad) and some starch (potato salad, roast potatoes, corn on the cob, couscous, rice). Zing it up with some dips and voila - dinner is served!

2. Snack Plate

Who said snack foods can’t be dinner foods? For an easy, no-cook meal, scour your cupboards and throw a bunch of your favourite snack foods on a dinner plate. I encourage my clients to include at least four different foods on their plate - including a source of protein, carbs, fats and ideally some fresh produce.

Build a snack plate dinner by combining foods from four or more of these groups:

1. Crackers/pretzels/pita bread/chips

2. Cheese slices/cottage cheese/sliced ham/chicken/beef/tinned tuna/smoked salmon

3. Hummus/tzatziki/guacamole/cream cheese/pesto/olives

4. Raw/pickled veggies

5. Nuts/nut butters/seeds/trail mix

6. Random left overs

7. Fresh fruit

3. Cereal for dinner

I often have cereal for dinner when I’m just not in the mood to cook up a savoury meal. Yes, cereal is typically eaten for breakfast, but a cereal bowl can absolutely be a balanced meal for any time of the day.

Here are a few ideas to balance your favourite cereal - no cooking required:

1. Add yoghurt, milk, cottage cheese or kefir for additional protein

2. Add nuts, seeds or nut butters for beneficial fats and fibre

3. Add fresh or dried fruit for added fibre and vitamins

4. Fancy Toast

Toast is such a versatile option. There are so many great combos, and many of them use

ingredients you likely already have in your fridge. You can add some fresh veggie sticks or chopped fruit on the side to round up the meal.

Here are a few of my favourite options:

1. Peanut butter + banana + cinnamon

2. Cottage cheese + honey + berries/sliced figs/nuts

3. Smashed avocado + cottage cheese + seeds/dukkah

4. Cheese + tomato + balsamic vinegar/glaze

5. Scrambled egg + smashed avocado

6. Smashed chickpea mayo + sliced tomato/cucumber

7. Tuna mayo + sliced pickles

8. Hummus + sliced cucumber/tomato/pickles

5. Heat and Eat Grain Pocket + Salad + Tinned Protein

Recently I have loved throwing together two or three ready-made meal options to create a full balanced meal. So quick, so delicious.

Here are some of my favourites to mix together:

1. Woolworths/Checkers heat and eat grain bags (microwave for 90 seconds):


Woolworths/Checkers/Pick n Pay ready-made salads:


Tinned legumes, tinned tuna, ready made chicken etc:

6. Pasta and Ready-Made Sauce

There are so many delicious pasta sauces available these days. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a pre-made sauce. If you prefer the flavour of a home-made version - go for it. But the pre-made sauces are a great option to save time and energy. Again, chuck in a tin of beans or lentils or some frozen peas, or add some feta, grated cheese or leftover chicken/meat to up the protein if you wish for a more balanced meal.

Woolworths favourites:

Checkers favourites:

7. Take-Out

Another great option - especially if you’re too tired to even scrounge up a snack plate or boil a pot of pasta. It can be a pricier option, considering a single take out order only provides one meal’s worth of food. However, sometimes it’s all you can manage, and there are many places to order from that provide you with enjoyment alongside nutrition. Here are my favourites:

Poké Co Bowls

Nando’s Boujee Bowl

Kauai Princess Wrap

Sweetbeet BYOB

We all have those days where we can’t be bothered to cook, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you then have to eat in a way that ends up making you feel groggy or uncomfortable in your body. You may find it helpful to stock up on a few shelf-stable items to throw together when the fatigue sets in. And remember, food is food - it doesn’t have to look like a typical dinner meal to serve it’s purpose, be satisfying, delicious, and nutritious.

For personalised guidance on making nutritious, satisfying food choices that suit your individual needs, book a consultation here:


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