Office Day Dinners

As many of us are starting to go back into the office, either regularly or intermittently, we have to re-learn how to (1) menu plan for those days, and (2) actually make dinner once we get home! Let’s use this thread as a way to share ideas for dinners on those “office days.” This can include make-ahead meals that can be prepped on the weekend for quick weeknight dinners, or meals that come together quickly, or repurposed ingredients for ‘make once / eat twice’ meals.

(I’ll post my ideas separately, just wanted to get the thread going.)


I think tonight’s dinner might qualify. This Beef (top sirloin steak), green beans and penne pasta dish (not a “salad” despite the recipe title) takes less than 30 minutes to make. And that time after work could be shortened a bit by slicing the red pepper and onion ahead of time. I also like to thinly slice the raw steak and broil the strips for speedy cooking., rather than cook the steak and then slice. We like this warm the first night, and in summertime have the leftovers cold for later meals. This time of year, I’ll warm portions of it up for a couple more meals for two.


But isn’t that how we cooked before the pandemic ? Not sure why we have to relearn it. Have people cooked so differently during the pandemic compared to before - we haven’t changed much during that time compared to pre-Covid

Commutes change the equation for at least some of us. I have been work-from-home for a very long time, and can pop things in the oven while finishing up a work project or use a break to run out and pick up our CSA share. Options like that go away if you’re commuting.

My husband’s schedule was notoriously unreliable and ran late when he was commuting to the office. Much harder on me to time our evening meal. Dinners had to be delay-proof with a quick cleanup because we’d often eat so late. Dinner’s the one thing that’s been easier with us both at home.


Smitten Kitchen’s wonton soup is one of my favorite, extremely easy, quick dinners. We have a great dumpling place nearby. I pick up a few bags of those for the freezer, and then just need to get a veg (spinach or bok choy), everything else is in the pantry.


During the pandemic, I had 1. 5 to 2 hour commute each way depending on interstate traffic and back ups. I changed jobs in August of last year and am down to 30 minutes each way. I actually have time to cook in the evenings if I don’t have something already made. Leave it to me to be the opposite of the norm.


Glad you wrote to share your circumstances. What a relief it must be to have a better commute!


Thank you. I am not exhausted anymore. One of my go to quick dinners is homemade pizza, pepperoni bread, or sausage cheese bread. I keep frozen pizza dough in freezer, I take it out the morning of, put in oiled bowl, cover and leave in fridge then do whatever I want with it when I get home. Also another quick one is ham, peas and pasta. I usually have cubed ham in freezer, thaw it, make a quick sauce, throw in the peas the last minute or two of the pasta cook time and there it is. Of course sheet pan dinners chicken fajita is my favorite.


Pasta Carbonara is a meal which I’d never made before a couple of years ago. Afraid I’d scramble the egg yolks. But once I made it the first time, it became one of those meals I’d think of driving home from work at 6pm saying to myself “damn, I’ve got nothing taken out of the freezer…what can I make that isn’t a bowl of cereal?”

Another idea for families is to prepare a meatloaf the night before, cover with Saran Wrap so it doesn’t dry out, and tuck it into the fridge for baking the next day. Or freeze it for later defrosting/baking. You only have to boil some potatoes for mashing and cook whatever other veg you’re having. My go-to is peas, because peas and mashed potatoes go together like…well, like peas and mashed potatoes!


I started this thread based on a discussion some of us were having on the weekly menu planning discussion (originally on CH and now here). It sounded like I am not the only one who’s finding that we have to adjust back to getting home at 5:30-6ish and having to feed other people. The last 2 years have been hard in many ways, but I found that I had more time to cook and didn’t always need to plan ahead as much. As I go back into the office, that’s not always going to be the case.

You’re correct that not everyone will be making changes, eg those who didn’t have the luxury of working from home. My intent was for those who are adjusting to help each other get back into the swing of post-commute cooking. Join in if you’d like.


We love Spaghetti Carbonara and recently tried it topped with a soft cooked egg, very decadent.
Another pasta recipe that we enjoy is Giada De Laurentiis Creamy Orzo with Prosciutto and Peas.
Also Ree Drumond’s Bow-tie Skillet Chicken Alfredo with Spinach and
Cherry Tomatoes. - I used a roasted chicken picked up at a grocery store.
Nigella Lawson’s Sheet Pan Spanish Chicken - I get to enjoy a tea while the oven does the baking.
If all else fails tacos can make it on the table in a relative hurry.
I try to menu plan and cook extra so if tacos then I cook extra meat for either lasagna or Cottage Pie. Also make extra rice for stir fries, extra potatoes etc.
When I have my stuff together then I spend one day cooking in the kitchen for the entire week.
Wiener Schnitzel, jarred red cabbage with apples (liquid cooked off in a pan to take the edge off) and leftover roast potatoes.
Budget Byte$ Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry is always a crowd pleaser.


And for those of us who were mostly working in an office throughout the past 2 years (albeit completely distanced from the few others who were also in the office), we can help with posting what we’ve continued to do to help remind and encourage those who were WFH for 2 long years and now find themselves back on the commuting gerbil wheel. :wink:


Spaghetti carbonara is a weekly dish here. I like to top it with some diced clams, or quickly seared shrimp or TJ’s seafood combo or scallops.


It certainly will depend on what you like to eat.

If you’re into Mexican, you can do a protein on the weekend (chicken tinga, carnitas, etc.) which will keep for a few days, or freeze well for much longer. Then just defrost in microwave, heat in skillet, and throw together a salsa and/or guac and build tacos, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, in less than half an hour. Refried beans also freeze/reheat well.

Chinese also offers a wide variety… prep your proteins and freeze, thaw them in fridge the night before (or via microwave) and stir fry with the veggies of your choice along with a pan of rice (or fried rice if you have some leftover).

Same with:
pasta and pasta sauces
chili and cornbread muffins
pizza dough (transfer to fridge night before)
burgers with great frozen fries (McCain)
frozen shrimp or salmon fillets (transfer to fridge night before)
quiches (transfer to fridge night before)

This is just a small sampling of things that provide so many ways to defrost and cook to serve in less than 30 minutes… so it seems it is more of a matter of what you want to eat, and how to prep/store/freeze it for a half hour meal.


This week I’m doing one sort-of-make-ahead dinner and one quick dinner.

Make-ahead: chicken enchiladas suizas, from Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day cookbook (also here, Today I roasted and then shredded the chicken, and made the sauce while the chicken cooked. On Tuesday, I’ll reheat both and assemble the stacked enchiladas.

Quick: fish tacos, using frozen breaded haddock fillets, topped with a cabbage slaw

Two of my other favorite fast recipes are from a cookbook called The Dinner Plan. We really like the sheet pan chicken fajitas and this fast bolognese sauce - even faster if you do the vegetable chopping ahead of time.


Daycare pickup is closer to 5pm when I commute (versus 4pm) and we start bedtime around 7:30pm. So when I commute, we only have about 2 hours to cook dinner, eat, and have some family time before bedtime. I think I am so mystified since I only had to work 2.5 months and commute since having my son before I went to working from home due to the pandemic. For us, commuting changes everything. Add in my husband traveling for work again, and there is really a lot of difference…

I have gotten into the habit of planning our weekly meals, but probably need to do a better job of doing food prep ahead of time

Salads and grilled meats will work well on the summer but not so much when the deck is covered with snow. This week, I am cheating with some jarred butter chicken sauce one day and doing an oven roasted trout another day. Most pasta dishes are quick, and instant pot does help, but very much looking for other people’s go-to recipes!

Thanks for the idea everyone!


I forgot about the fish stick tacos!! That’s a great office day dinner.


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I tried to post and I guess with the issues with the site it didn’t post.
I made a large pot of Sweet Potato Chilli some for the freezer, tonight and a few days this week.
I haven’t figured out what I’ll do inbetween possible freezer diving.
Or fried Kielbassa with sauteed onion, carrot and sauerkraut with leftover mashed ruttabega.


One of my favorite quick dinners is bean tostadas. Warm up a can of refried beans, toast tostada shells in oven. Top tostada shells with beans, cheese, hot sauce, onions, iceberg lettuce, cilantro, tomato, avocado and sour cream. Serve with poblano rice, if you want a side dish.