Five Steps To Making Dinner Prep Easier All Week

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Who doesn’t want to know how to make dinner faster? It’s something just about every home cook goes through: You’ve had a long day. The kids are cranky. Your feet hurt. There’s a show starting in an hour that you want to watch. Oh, and your family wants dinner…now! Sound familiar? If you’re tired of the pre-dinner headaches, here are five things you can do this weekend to make dinner faster all week. Best yet, you can do them all in an hour! Here’s how.

Now, I’m going to assume you’re already planning your weekly dinner menus in advance. Good for you. Now, take that organization one step further by making two different weekly menus, and repeating them. Really, your family won’t notice that you served meatloaf 14 days ago and now you’re making it again, so why feel the pressure to come up with dozens of different recipes when a mere 14 will do?

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Once you have your menu planned and your shopping list compiled, go through it and cross of any ingredients you already have before heading to the store. As soon as you get home — and I mean it, as soon as you get home — spend the next hour doing these five tasks.

How to Make Dinner Faster

1. Wash and chop your vegetables for the week. Use a homemade fruit and vegetable wash to clean away any mold-causing pathogens, then get to chopping. Stash each chopped ingredient in a separate container in your fridge, leaving out only what you’ll need to make the tossed salad you’ll be eating through the week.

2. Make your week’s salad in advance. Instead of spending ten minutes every night putting together a tossed salad, use these tips on making a salad that will last all week and you’ll be sure your family gets the vegetables they need without eating up your time.

3. Freeze your meat in marinade. Got a recipe that calls for marinated meat? Whip up that marinade and put it, along with the meat (even if it’s still frozen), in a freezer bag. Squeeze out excess air, mark the bag with the cooking instructions, and stash it in the freezer. Now the meat will marinate when it defrosts, saving you one more step in dinner prep.

4. Assemble slow-cooker meals in advance. Just about everyone has a slow-cooker, but few of us use them as often as we’d like. Here’s how to change that: brown your meat as soon as you get home from the store, and stash it in a freezer bag. Put the veggies and any spices, sauce, etc., in another bag, and clip both bags together, along with the cooking instructions. Finally, pop the whole thing into the freezer. Now getting a meal going in the crock-pot is a matter of dumping the ingredients in, adding whatever liquid’s required, and turning the thing on.

5. Make a big batch of simple sides that can extend to a full meal. We love wild rice, so on the weekend I make a big pot of it and separate it into three or four smaller containers that I freeze. We’ll have the rice plain one night, then when I’m serving Mexican I’ll defrost a container in the microwave and simmer it with salsa for a Spanish-style rice. The third container usually goes into a soup or stew, and the fourth gets turned into fried rice so I can use up any leftover veggies. You can do the same thing with pasta or a big pot of beans, both of which freeze beautifully.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend that one hour working like crazy on the weekend than spend 30 minutes going crazy seven nights a week! What tips do YOU use to make dinner prep easier all week?

UPDATE: Want to make meal-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking dinner SUPER easy? Get my cookbook, Autumn: A Season Of Easy Cooking. You’ll get 3 months of weekly menus featuring whole foods, 12 weekly grocery lists, 100+ recipes, and a weekly cooking plan to get your ingredients prepped so dinner takes only 20 minutes a night!


  1. Tracy says

    Thanks for the tips. With having several kids and being so busy during the week, I will take any time saving tips I can get.

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