What’s the hardest part of coming up with your weekly menu?
I recently received an email from a reader who was stuck coming up with side items for her dinners! It’s easy enough to think of healthy sides for things like grilled chicken, steak, and meatloaf. But what about pasta dishes? Soups? Pizza?
I came up with a list and we both decided this would be a great idea for a blog post! If we have this problem, surely you might too, right? Below is my ultimate list of side ideas for dinners. They’re incredibly simple and don’t require a lot of cooking; but as busy moms, simple is best! Here are some tips first, to get you started:
- Roasted vegetables are a common theme below. For a basic roast, chop up your vegetable into small pieces; toss with a little olive oil and desired spices (I like Cajun spice); and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. This is usually perfect for most vegetables!
- I use a LOT of frozen vegetables, and these are usually your best bet for cheap and easy sides. You can pick up a one-pound bag for around a dollar and just pop it in the microwave right before dinner’s ready!
- Try to cook your vegetables using a different method than you’re using for dinner, unless they cook at the same temperature. For example, if you’re using your oven to bake a casserole, use the microwave to steam vegetables. But if your casserole bakes at 400 degrees, go ahead and roast those veggies! I’ve constantly made the mistake of planning two dishes that bake at the same time, but different temperatures; and have to find something different instead.
The Ultimate List of Side Ideas for Dinners
Includes dishes like burritos/tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas
- Roasted zucchini
- Roasted sweet potatoes
- Zucchini and corn
- Mexican rice
- Refried beans
Includes spaghetti, lasagna, Alfredo, or any kind of pasta dish
- Salad (Add lots of veggies: tomatoes, mushrooms, shredded carrots, bell peppers)
- Roasted broccoli
- Steamed broccoli or other frozen blend (We like the California blend, which has broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
Macaroni and cheese
I consider this different from Italian dishes. We usually have it as a main dish mixed with some kind of sliced hot dog/sausage.
- Frozen peas (I usually mix them in with the mac and cheese)
- Frozen broccoli/vegetable blend
- Frozen broccoli/green beans/other blend
I usually don’t serve a vegetable with soup because I load my soups with them anyway- blended or whole. But here’s what I typically serve with it:
Salads are usually big enough not to require many sides. Include a good protein and plenty of veggies in your salad!
- French bread
- Garlic toast
- Bread Machine Breadsticks
What sides you make just depends on the casserole! Most already have the protein, carbs, and vegetables included in it.
- Frozen broccoli/other blend
- Roasted broccoli/zucchini (If they roast at the same temperature as the casserole)
- French bread
Most Asian dishes I make involve mixing everything together, so the only sides I use are fruit. But here are things you can add to your dish to bulk it up:
- Frozen stir-fry blend (Usually has broccoli, snap peas, water chestnuts, red peppers)
- A bag of coleslaw mix- Add the whole bag! A great way to add a ton of bulk.
Pancakes aren’t typically served with vegetables here; however, these Carrot Pancakes are my go-to recipe so there’s a little nutrition in them!
- Scrambled eggs (You can easily cook these with spinach, mushrooms, and bell peppers)
- Sausage links/bacon
- Bananas/strawberries/blueberries/apples (Chop them up and add them on top of the pancakes!)
- When I want a protein boost, I’ll mix up some Greek yogurt and peanut butter/PB2 and put that on top of my pancakes instead of syrup.
Grilled cheese, Sloppy Joe, or any kind of grilled sandwich
- Roasted sweet potatoes/sweet potato fries
- Roasted butternut squash
- Roasted carrots
I hope this list of side ideas for dinners can help you during those weeks when your mind just goes blank! Can you think of any favorite sides to add to this list? Post in the comments below!