Regardless of how you feel about cooking, nobody wants to be a slave to the kitchen. We are all so busy these days that we need as many shortcuts as we can possibly find for getting a good home-cooked meal on the table with the minimum amount of stress!
It’s no good to find yourself at the end of a crazy day standing in front of the fridge praying for inspiration to hit as you try to figure out what to feed the hungry people in your house. (That’s the danger zone where you’re likely to pick up the phone and call for pizza, don’t do it!)
Here a few shortcuts to help you get your evening meal under control!
- Crock and roll. Dust off the crockpot and put it to work. This ultimate shortcut appliance can save you a ton of time on dinner prep. Assemble your crock ingredients in the crock liner the night before and refrigerate the works overnight. Then, all you need to do in the morning is plunk it in and plug it in!
- Marinate meat before freezing. How many times have you gone to make a recipe and realized that you have to marinate the meat for several hours first? When you’re freezing your chicken, beef or pork, freeze it along with a marinade. That way, it will get good and tasty while it thaws, and you’ve saved a step. Oh, and that thaw? The new way to thaw is in a sink full of hot water—yup, it’s safe!
- Cook more than you need. If you are cooking a meal for two, you might as well cook for four. Cooking for four? Why not cook for eight? That way, you have a double dinner!
- Parchment paper. If you don’t already use parchment paper to line your pans before you bake or roast something in the oven, you’re working too hard on clean up! This oven-safe paper will cut your scrubbing in half! Boom!
- Chop the veggies beforehand. Wash and cut that broccoli and cauliflower after you get it home. Same goes for making pepper strips, slicing mushrooms and peeling Brussels sprouts. Do that work all at once (or even better, put the kids to work!). Place all those veggies in zipper bags and you have grab and go veggies that you can either snack on raw or quickly steam for a side dish. Keep carrot sticks and celery sticks in a bowl of water in the fridge (keeps them fresh!), and let the kids help themselves when they need a snack.
- Go with salad. Making a big raw salad is much quicker than any other side dish you can possibly think of! And if you have some leftover protein, voila, there’s a quick dinner!
- Plan ahead. This would arguably be the number one shortcut when it comes to getting dinner under control. Planning your meals for the week puts you in complete control of the dinner table. Here’s how:
- Choose a day to plan your meals.
- To get started, plan 1-2 dinners for your busiest nights of the week. Work you way up to 4-5 dinners.
- Find several recipes that you and your family love. Rotate them over a 2 week period.
- Keep it simple. No need to use fancy recipes all the time.
- Create a shopping list from your meal plans.
- Shop once a week. Or use one of the ever popular shopping service most major grocery chains now have available. This saves time and money. Impulse buys are avoided.
(Portions adapted from Leanne Ely, savingdinner.com, a fee for service menu planning website)