Ten Guilt-Free Non-Suppers

On most days, dinner comes together quite pleasantly around here. We have a weekly menu plan, I buy just what we need for a few meals (and no more) at the market, and a well-rounded supper comes together with ease. Then…there are other days.

Occasionally, dinner just doesn’t happen for whatever reason – a delayed appointment, a webinar gone into overtime, or just plain lack of motivation (if we’re being honest here) – and we eat what I’ve come to call ‘The Non-Supper’. It’s usually something fast, requires no cooking and generates minimal dishes.

I’m generally not proud of our non-suppers, but sometimes at the end of another long strenuous day (no nanny, cleaning lady or mother’s helper around here!), insufficiently powered due to lack of sleep and fear of a coffee overdose (if there is such a thing), a non-supper takes some pressure off and frees up time for something more important, like playing with the kids.

The Non-Supper: It’s more popular than you think

I have a sneaking suspicion some of you know what I am talking about when I refer to these ‘non-suppers’, and after chatting with other women whom I respect for their ability to put nourishing food on the table, I know I am not alone.

Here’s what a few moms had to say when I asked them to ‘fess up about non-suppers in their homes:

“Well, make-your-own-PBJ comes to mind,” says Jessica, mother of six, “as well as the ‘snacky dinner’, similar to the snacky lunch, but usually has sliced baguette, deli meats, and cheeses. Hubs doesn’t need to be away for it to happen. It’s often my go-to football game/Sunday dinner.”

Julie agrees:

“I know all too well what you mean! (We just ate ice cream for dinner – of course that doesn’t count…) W (Julie’s son) very often asks for oatmeal for dinner. Easy. Five minutes, a shake of ground flax and a handful of raisins. Nothing wrong with oatmeal and milk!”

“People would probably be surprised to learn that there are many nights that I don’t cook dinner,” declares Jennifer, mom-of-four. “By ‘dinner’ I mean a cohesive (and that’s the key word, I think) main dish and side vegetable. Either I’m experimenting and tossing out a weird conglomeration of foods, or I just don’t feel like cooking.”

Jaime shared wise words.

“I believe I must be the Queen of the Non-Dinners. My mom used to advise me when I had only 1 toddler by saying that little kids are easy. If you’re not trying to impress anyone, just make sure the kid has 1 vegetable or fruit, 1 protein, and 1 starch. That’s balanced enough for a little person.”

Another mom who openly admits to feeding her kids plenty of non-suppers is Jan, although her reasons may be different from most:

“Sometimes I’ve done this out of necessity from an overwhelmingly hectic day and other times I do it so that Rob and I can enjoy an adults-only dinner date, at home, once the boys are in bed.”

Ahem, Jan, I’m taking this as a recommendation! In fact, all of these ladies had great ideas.

Here’s where it gets interesting, though, non-suppers don’t have to mean junk, fast-food, take-out or microwave popcorn. Sure back in my single days a non-supper could mean a bowl of ice cream, but with children factoring in to the equation, it needs to be something better, whether I feel up to it or not.

Ten Non-Suppers You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty About

Here are suggestions for decidedly non-suppers, but that are not altogether empty calories. They come together in minutes, require little to no cooking, and even border on comfort food. The best part? No marshmallow fluff is hurt (consumed) in the process.

There’s even bonus points for extra nutrition.

1. Cheese & Crackers

Bonus Points:

  • 1 fruit or vegetable
  • cold chicken or roast beef

2.Yogurt & Applesauce

Bonus points:

  • slice of toast
  • handful of nuts
  • a shake of granola or meusli
  • homemade yogurt

3. Peanut Butter Toast & Banana

Bonus Points:

4. Granola & Milk

Bonus Points:

  • fresh berries
  • dried fruit

5. Egg “McMuffin”

Recipe below.
Bonus Points:

  • fresh fruit
  • slice of tomato or lettuce
  • A slice of turkey breast, or low-salt ham

Photo by realsmiley

6. Fruit Smoothie

Bonus Points:

7. Veggies & Dip

Bonus Points:

  • add whole wheat pita chips or strips
  • add cold chicken for dipping

8. Raisin Bran Muffin & Hot Cocoa

Bonus Points:

9. Whole Wheat Grilled Cheese

Bonus Points:

10. Tuna Salad on Whole Wheat Bread/Bun

Bonus Points:

  • Low-fat mayo
  • diced celery and apple in the mix

Recipe: Homemade Egg “McMuffin”

  • 1 egg
  • 1 bun, English muffin, or bread of choice
  • butter
  • cheese, sliced
  1. Butter a small, microwave-safe baking dish or ramekin and crack an egg into the middle.
  2. With a fork, pierce the yolk and whisk the egg about three times. You want the yolk to stay mainly intact, but not explode in the microwave! Season, if desired.
  3. Microwave on Medium-High for two minutes (or less if you want a soft-set yolk). In the meantime, toast your bun and butter it.
  4. Carefully remove ramekin from microwave and add a slice of cheese on top of the egg. Loosen around the edges of the egg with a knife and slide onto the bun.
  5. Top with the other half of the bun and enjoy! Caution! The egg will be very hot.

Note: Yes, the egg can be fried in a pan, but the microwave is faster and dirties a smaller dish.
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Let’s discuss the non-dinner subject. The ladies in this post and myself have already divulged all. Who wants to go next ?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimรฉe's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. I love this post. So many new ideas to try for our “non-suppers”.

    Our go to, which we just had last night after getting back from a 7 hour drive from camping, would be crepes. They’re fast for me to make, we always have the ingredients on hand and you can add whatever you want to make them as healthy or “un-healthy” as you want. I like to spread peanut butter on the crepes for my son. Then all he needs is a serving of fruit along side (or a banana wrapped in the middle).
    Cheri’s last post: Mandarin Orange Broccoli Salad

    • My kids would love this. The best thing about crepes is that they freeze well (once they’ve cooled!) Then they are really a no-cook meal. Just warm and serve.

  2. Yep, we’ve been there a few times, too! Ours often consist or organic popcorn, cereal, and homemade yogurt.

    It works!

    Thanks for the extra ideas.
    Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s last post: 10 Back to School Traditions- Back to School Week

  3. Thanks for this – these are great! Not sure this qualifies as a non-supper supper but we do a lot of breakfast for dinner. Pop a piece of whole wheat bread in the toaster, scramble a quick egg and serve with applesauce. Oh, and we add a bit of local honey to peanut butter for a delicious twist on the traditional sandwich.

    • We do “breakfast for dinner” around here, too. In fact, it is a part of our weekly meal plan. Helps to break up the week and it is fairly easy to throw together :-)

      Mmmmmm, honey in peanut butter! Yum!
      Kara Fleck’s last post: Sunday Showcase- Link Love

    • We also go for the breakfast for dinner option a lot around here. I’ve got some pretty big pancake fans (plus, we use a homemade vanilla syrup… mmmmm). I almost always have the ingredients on hand and can go from “what’s for dinner” to meal time in about 15 minutes. I usually make a large batch and then put the extras in the freezer. That way I can pop one in the toaster for a quick snack/meal.

  4. Our Sunday night “dinners” have lately consisted of pan-popped popcorn, sliced cheese, crackers and hummus, munchie veggies, and whatever fruit we have on hand. It’s so nice to just set things out on a big plate, and let the family go nuts.

  5. Ahem, I’ve made all of those non-dinners you’ve suggested. They’re easy and can be relatively healthy when living on your own. :) Here’s one you may not have heard of: we cook a big family dinner every Christmas, but on the eve, we do appetizers.

  6. Popcorn Soup is popular here. Heat up a can of Amy’s Tomato Soup and sprinkle with popcorn. The kids LOVE the novelty and the taste!

  7. We are big “assemblers” for dinners around here – sometimes apple slices, popcorn, cheese and crackers …. recently sliced tomatoes from the garden, cottage cheese, and whatever fruit I happen to have fresh :-)

    Here’s to the non-supper supper (and the sanity it sometimes saves!)

    Great topic :-)
    Kara Fleck’s last post: Sunday Showcase- Link Love

  8. Breakfast for dinner is a favorite or a “hangover” – butter bread on both sides, cut out a circle or shape from the middle, and fry an egg in the empty space. Salt and pepper to taste and some applesauce or fresh fruit. If it’s just me and the kids, cold cereal works in a pinch.
    Great post!

    • My dh’s family had what you call “hangovers” when they were growing up but they called them “egg-in-toast”. My family had them growing up too, but my mom called them “UFO’s” (unidentified frying objects)!!

    • We make that too, but in our house it’s called “picture frame eggs.”

      • Loving all these names! Now I’m trying to remember what we called it growing p…..Oh, right: ‘Eggs in a Nest’.

        Thanks for the great reminder; I have yet to make these for my kids, but I am guessing they will be well received.

    • We called them the June Royer Special after my mother’s childhood neighbor lady who cooked them when she came over! All I know is they are delicious!

      • My husband’s family calls these “toad in a hole”….? Kind of a gross name, but we have little boys and they think it is SO funny ( and yummy)! :) I like “eggs in a nest”- that is cute, but i think the name change would be vetoed! :)
        Shannon’s last post: 5!!!

    • I was introduced to these by my boyfriend when I was a teenager; he called them popeye sandwiches. My b-i-l calls them toad-in-a-hole. Kids love ‘em.
      I love cheater dinner- I often ‘plan’ breakfast for dinner once a week (our busiest night) and sometimes I just lack the motivation and the plan is ditched and we do smorgasbord- leftovers from dinners over the last few nights. There’s never enough for everyone to have the same leftovers but there a good offering to choose from and momma gets a breaks.
      My friend from Germany introduced me to cold plate dinner- we do especially in the summer- cold cuts, cheeses, crackers, buns/bread, pickles, etc. I also include crudite.
      Great ideas for saving time and sanity.

  9. Thanks for this great post, Aimee! As a foodie, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get delicious, healthy, well-rounded meals on the table every night…and sometimes it’s just not possible! These are great ideas to help take some of the pressure off. Thanks for the permission and the inspiration! :)

    • I’m with you Katie! I love doing my weekly menu plan and take pride in getting healthy “full” meals on the dinner table, but I’m coming to discover that all of us (including the bank account) might be less stressed if my menu plan said, “Snack Dinner” for one night of the week.

      Thanks Aimee for the ideas and the much needed dose of reality!
      Alissa’s last post: Summer Events – Camping

      • You’re welcome Katie, and Alissa. We do try, don’t we? Katie, thanks for the ‘permission and inspiration’ line. I’m going to borrow that!

  10. Michelle Quinn says:

    Wow, you have no idea how great this post is! I’m a new mum of twin 6 year olds (adopted from Ethiopia) and I had no idea this was ‘allowed’! :) I imagined all you amazing mothers making great dinners every night and have tried to do the same. What a weight off my shoulders.
    Thanks!!!

  11. Great conversation here! Our regualr non-dinner is what we refer to as a “platter”, and is made up of whatever is lingering in the fridge and pantry. We usual include cheese, hard boiled eggs, veggies, hummus, bread sticks/crackers and some fruit plus the occasional piece of chocolate. It’s a hit for everyone and now that I have a ten year old, I have him make the platter for the family sometimes. He loves deciding what we’re going to eat (it’s all about control right now!) so it works out well for everyone.

  12. Aaaah. It’s nice to hear that there is actually a title for what I have been doing for years (and to be honest, how I would rather eat most of the time). My 3-year-old is happiest with anything that you can dip, so this type of dinner is PERFECT! Thanks for taking the *shame* out of it!!
    Amy C’s last post: Cruise Creativityโ€ฆ

  13. I know exactly what you are talking about! We are in the process of moving – we close on our new house at the end of this week! So we’ve been having ‘clean out the kitchen’ dinners where each family member (its just my husband, myself and our 5 yr old daughter) gets to pick things from the cabinet and/or freezer to eat. The only rules are that the dinner must include a ‘main dish’ and a veggie or fruit. On my husband’s ‘pick day’, we had spaghetti with leftover homemade frozen sauce and edemame! When it was my daughter’s turn to pick – we had an ORANGE dinner – mac’n’cheese, carrots and oranges! Not quite ‘normal’ – but healthy-ish, and we are cleaning the kitchen at the same time! I am LONGING for the calm after everything is unpacked when we can get back to pre-planned, cohesive dinners though!

  14. Jeanine Byers Hoag says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post!! I confess that I, too, sometimes create non-suppers.

    And I have tried some of your suggestions but look forward to trying some of the others on those days when I just don’t feel like cooking or am rushing home late from an errand that took longer than I expected. Thanks for the bonus points ideas, too!

    Jeanine
    Jeanine Byers Hoag’s last post: Chicken Enchilada One Pot Meal

  15. After a few nights of cooking dinners, I love going into the fridge and pulling out all of the glass storage containers full of colorful leftovers. It is beautiful, bountiful, and appetizing to see the array on the counter. Thanks to the reply from Jan @ Family Bites, I will begin calling this dinner “Platter Night.” :-)

    Not only is it easy, but some of the food actually tastes better, and we make new combinations out of what we had previously eaten (in a bowl, on a piece of toast, or inside a tortilla). The only actual cooking I might do on Platter Night is to microwave or steam a side vegetable and/or cut up some fruit, which is easy and adds a fresh element to the meal. Thanks for this topic!
    gloria of Veghead etc.’s last post: Tomato mom

  16. I’m eating peanutbutter toast & banana as we speak! What wonderful ideas!
    Shannon’s last post: Why I like Walmart even more

    • add some chocolate sprinkles to the peanut butter before you put the banana on it. I lived on these while pregnant with my now 9 1/2 year old twins

  17. We do the homemade Egg McMuffin too, only we use the microwave egg poacher. We just melt a little butter in it versus using water and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on before nuking it. I also like using those Jimmy Dean microwavable turkey sausage patties with a little pepperjack melted on top. Sandwich the poached egg and the sausage and cheese in between a toasted english muffin and voila…an easy peasy meal. Prob takes a total of 5 minutes to make four “mcmuffins”.Typically this is a “non-supper” or an on-the-way-to-Sunday-School-breakfast at our house.
    Julie @ Essential Simplicity’s last post: Guest Room-Playroom-Sewing Room Reveal

  18. Christine says:

    My parents would declare YOYO dinners. YOYO stood for “you’re on your own” – it was every kid for themselves. We loved YOYO dinners. We almost always ate cereal or cheese and crackers. But it made everyone happy. I’ve taken to declaring YOYO dinners myself, but my kids are too young to make anything, so it’s just my husband left on his own.

    • I think that YOYO dinners are going to be happening occasionally when my kids are teens and well equipped to fend for themselves. As for hubby, well, he’s going to have to step up!

    • I *love* that name! My mom called then fend for yourself nights but YOYO has a really cool ring to it. :-)

  19. This post fits my life perfectly! It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who eats non-suppers occasionally (or should I say frequently, lately). Good tips for mixing them up a bit!
    Heather I.’s last post: Killer Brownies

  20. Great post. We actually have a potluck/leftover night every Thursday when I get off work. I just throw a bunch of stuff on the table and see what happens. On the nights that a well-intentioned dinner doesn’t happen we tend to do egg sandwiches or spaghetti with frozen meatballs. Thanks for the ideas!
    Maryann @ Raise Healthy Eaters’s last post: Weekly Meal Plan- Monday August 16th

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your input, Maryann. We have at least 1 leftover meal a week as well — sometimes things are even better the second time around!

      • We did leftover nights at my parents house as well. It was fun to have a seconds on dishes that weren’t normally served together; it was kind of like breaking the rules (so naturally for a well behaved kid, it was great fun!).

  21. Linking to this today! Thanks.

  22. What a great post! My husband isn’t home for dinner during the week, so I often find myself serving non-suppers around here. Fresh fruits and veggies, muffins, soft pretzels, yogurt, cheese sticks, and cereal are some of our favorites. On nights that I don’t mind a few extra dishes, I serve supper in muffin tins:) Thanks for “permission.”

  23. Denise C. says:

    I love to cook (and bake). Sadly most of the stuff I cook, my kids don’t want to touch (I always refer to Pepper Steak as “Rainbow Dish.”) They love having cheese & crackers, fruit, yogurt, breakfast for dinner. I am happy to see I am not the only Mom out there who does this! :)

  24. Amanda H. says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one too! I grew up on a farm and while most families have their largest meal at night, we had ours at lunch. Supper was always light. Soup, pizza, grilled cheese or tuna sandwiches and the like were our supper. Every Sunday we went for brunch somewhere and supper that night was either popcorn or ice cream unless we made something else. My parents still eat this way. I try to plan “non-suppers” for weekend nights, since the days are usually so busy. Thanks for a couple of new ideas!

    • This is a healthy way to eat, Amanda, and a routine I would love to adopt, however my husband would have something to say about it! He works out of the home and enjoys coming home to a hot supper every day.

  25. Summer is the season of the non-supper. We often hit the beach at 3 and stay until sunset: Cold cut sandwiches, fruit, maybe some cookies and a treat of soda completes the meal. Mezze Platter night is another favorite (hummus, veggies, olives, feta and pitas). Italian Antipasto works equally well (bread, pesto, fresh mozzarella, salami, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers). Deviled Eggs, Shrimp Cocktail and Green Salad also works :)

    Great Post!

    • Sounds so idyllic, Kimberly! Thanks for the antipasto reminder. That is a fantastic idea – and my kids eat bread sticks like they are going out of style.

  26. I’m enjoying this inspiring list and all the additions in the comments. As a convert to menu planning, inspiration for non-suppers comes from swapping in lunch options (premeditated or not). So sometimes I make supper at lunchtime and/or we eat “lunchy” foods for supper. My husband says he feels healthier when our schedule allows him to eat “the big meal” earlier in the day. I concur.

  27. I think our non-supper is omelets, which is about the only thing I can get my hubby to make. It’s quick, doesn’t dirty many dishes, and can be customized with whatever we have in the fridge!
    Vanderbilt Wife’s last post: Before You Hit Publish- Week 9- Could Of- Would Of- Should Of

  28. There is at least one day out of the week my husband works late and my son and I sit down with a bowl of toasted oatmeal! From childhood my mom’s go-to non-dinner would be Campbell’s Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
    Melissa’s last post: Outside-In Cheddar Sliders

  29. Our go-to suppers in a hurry are either pancakes (studded with blueberries, of course), or french toast made with raisin bread, with bacon and a side of fresh strawberries. so easy and so yum. i usually keep a loaf of raisin bread in the freezer specifically for rush dinners.

  30. I confess… we have a few non-suppers. This usually happens when daddy is working late.
    Robin’s last post: Menu Plan Monday

  31. We do homemade salsa and chips for a non lunch or dinner a lot when it’s just me and my daughter at home. Sometimes a couple of healthy snack foods ends up being dinner. Stuff that is along the lines of the muffin tin lunches I have seen around the web.

  32. We had a non-dinner last night! Pancakes are my go-to when I’m done in so many ways. If I have avocado in the house I will also serve up nachos or quesadillas. And Hubby’s non-dinners would be cottage cheese with fruit or scrambly eggs.
    Cheryl Arkison’s last post: Realizations

  33. Our go to non-dinner is either quesadillas ( I always have shredded cheese and tortillas), or crackers, cheese and deli meat ala lunchables. My kids love those nights!

  34. Michelle @ Mommy Misadventures says:

    For our household, rice + anything on top is dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. One of our favorite go to meals is rice, fried egg and fried canned meat, either Spam ™ or Vienna sausage. I’m sure other Asian-American families (especially Filipinos) as well as anyone that’s lived in Hawai’i can appreciate. (Though whenever I’ve mentioned this meal to folks that didn’t grow up with it, I’m usually met with a look of absolute disgust. What? IT’S GOOD.) Rice + furikake (seaweed rice sprinkles) is another favorite not-really-dinner item for us too.

  35. Not Canadian bacon? No cheese? No Egg McMuffin.

  36. Some of these non-dinners are, ahem, planned into my weekly menu. Didn’t realize I was such a slacker! Got some great new ideas, too, though! We have 3 really busy days in the middle of our week, so those nights have to have really quick and easy but still healthy dinners.

  37. My fave non-dinner for my preschooler is a plate chock-full of fruits & veggies, plus a slice or two of deli meat. (I’m lucky, my preschooler LOVES fruits & veggies, but my toddler, not-so-much). My toddler suffices with left-overs & steamed veggies from the freezer. It’s definitely my “go to” when the hubby & I need a night “in” – boys are in bed by 7:00, our dinner’s on the table in 30 minutes or less & the conversation is delightful without the interruptions or distractions of 2 little boys. Thx for the great ideas!

  38. These are great, and I’ve actually made several of them for both me, my husband, and my son. I think my fave is a tie between the cheese and crackers and the grilled cheese sandwich w/tomato on whole wheat.
    Jennifer’s last post: Apple Sauce

  39. Our favorite “non-suppers” (which I call “cheater meals”) are quesadillas (whole wheat tortillas, cheese, leftover rice and beans, and a few chopped veggies) or a big pan of nachos (corn chips, with the same toppings)– which we all crowd around and eat out of the pan– only two dishes dirtied!

  40. we live overseas and this is actually a popular way of eating. i love buttering some super soft bread, slicing some cheese, and grabbing a handful of olives. i’m all set!
    andie’s last post: rachels favorites

  41. My go to is ‘pasta splodge’, pasta with whatever vegetables I have in the house that look remotely edible and passata to hold it all together!
    Claire’s last post: Knitted laptop wrist support

  42. My children love cold refried beans slathered on a torilla. Sometimes I add cheese, and I usually have a raw veggie to cut up and serve on the side. A glass of organic grass-fed local milk rounds it out.

  43. I’ve been looking for an Egg McMuffin recipe. And trying to figure out how to make my eggs round and small enough to fit on the bun. I’ve also been eyeing some ramekins (they are so cute!) so this is the perfect excuse to get some! Thanks for sharing.

  44. I’m a little late getting on the comment boat, but I just discovered this blog (and subscribed to your RSS feed), and I especially loved this post! I’m the mother of three young boys (ages 4, 2 and 11 months), and the non-supper supper has been making an appearance at our home several times a week recently. Sometimes because it’s too hot to cook, sometimes because I’m lacking motivation or energy, or sometimes to make a home dinner date possible after the kids are in bed! One of our favorite non-suppers is fresh veggies and whole-grain crackers with homemade Middle Eastern dips (think hummus and baba ganoush–I make large batches of both recipes and keep them in the fridge for snacking and quick dinners throughout the week). We’ve also been having cheese sandwiches with locally-grown fresh produce served on homemade whole-grain bread. I bake four loaves of bread at a time, cut them in half, and freeze. They last us about 4 weeks.

  45. Just rediscovered this post at the perfect time. I’m in my first trimester and I just. can’t. cook. I just made a list of easy dinner ideas and I’m getting the ingredients when we go shopping today. The only downside is I can’t eat eggs in my first trimester. Our usual go-to quick meal makes me feel sooooo sick :(

  46. Looks wonderful! What happens if you use light coconut milk?

  47. Whoops! I thought I was on the ginger coconut chicken! Sorry!

  48. When we lived in England, my mom used to call it “tea supper.” It meant putting all the snacky stuff on the table and digging in. I can go for just an apple and almond butter. My husband breaks out his convenience foods that he can cook. He always has these if he gets too hungry, and the game is for me to stay ahead of him so they don’t get used too much. My daughter is 15, and sometimes cooks for herself, or even (rarely) for all of us! It’s definitely harder without wheat or dairy. Often it’s just leftover soup.

  49. When my children were younger they used to enjoy something that we called “bits on a plate” . Very self explanatory really. It consists of cut up bits of any fruit or salad vegetables we had in the house with chunks of cheese, sliced meat and sultanas. Each child got to select which bits they got on their plate so everyone was happy.

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