Frozen dinners? We’ve all been there. Mom’s late from work, dad’s out at his old man softball game, and you’re buried in so much homework that movement from your desk for food seems impossible.

Rather than just grabbing that family-sized bag of chips or pint of ice cream for dinner, a good alternative is a frozen meal. Big downsides to these meals is that they are so small, boring, and occasionally even tasteless. When we finish eating them, we end up thinking, “Wait, that was my dinner? Did I even eat anything?” Here are a few add-ins to amp up those chicken and veggie dishes or pastas, in a bland “red” sauce, that will actually leave your tastebuds and tummy happy.

1. Spinach


Photo by Kelda Baljon

My favorite food. Add it to any frozen meal and it can make a small meal seem huge. Sautee it in a pan for about 2 minutes with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a little bit of lemon juice. Personally, I prefer it in a nice carb-y pasta dish to make myself feel a little bit healthier.

2. Crushed cashews (or any other nuts)


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Sprinkle a few on top of a chicken dish and it immediately adds a salty crunch to amp up the flavor. My personal suggestions are cashews, pecans or pistachios. Those kinds of nuts are most commonly seen in chicken dishes, especially when the dish is on the sweeter side. You can decide what nut you are feelin’ with this helpful nut guide.

3. Cheese


Photo by Alex Weiner

Shaved cheese, melted cheese or any kind of cheese can be added to most dishes. It adds a lot of flavor and needed decadence. The amount is up to you, however, I say the more the better.

Need help figuring out what kind of cheese to use? Here is a beginners guide to the world of cheese.

4. Frozen veggies


Photo by Maddie Cole

Grab a bag of green beans or frozen peas and carrots, and quickly microwave them. While it may not add a ton of flavor, it’s an easy way to make a meal seem a lot bigger and fill you up without the extra calories. Shake some salt and pepper and maybe a little lemon juice on them for a tangy kick that’ll complement just about every meal.

Never attempted steaming microwavable veggies? Here’s how.

5. Bread


Photo by Emily Hu

Take some leftover bread, toast a slice or two, and eat it on the side of your dinner. You can scoop up any sauce with it, or put some of the dinner on top of the slice to give the meal a little more fullness and dimension. There is no such thing as too much bread. Lean Cuisine meets sandwich.

6. Croutons


Photo by Theo Lee

Another type of bread, but this one is premade for you, and it’s ready to go with no toasting necessary. These bad boys can create a much fuller dish and bring a great crunch as well. You can even cook them yourself with this bomb pizza crouton recipe.

7. Chickpea salad


Photo by Helena Lin

You can find a chickpea or bean salad at just about any local grocery store. This one takes a bit more advanced planning, but if there’s something like this stuffed in your fridge definitely take advantage. These have a lot of flavor because they often have onions, cilantro, and other spices in a light sauce. It’s also really easy to make them yourself like this chickpea and quinoa salad recipe.

8. Rice (Or Quinoa)


Photo by Kelda Baljon

Rice can be boring and bland when eaten plain, but pair it under just about any dish and it’ll soak up the juices and spices beautifully. It adds a lot of body and texture to the food as well, without being too unhealthy (but still satisfying those carb cravings).

So next time you find yourself stuck at home with nothing to cook up but those pesky frozen meals, don’t fret. Scrounge around for some of these great add-ons, and suddenly, you’ll find yourself not so bitter about the folks working late or not having enough time to cook a full 4-course dinner.