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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!
A MENU-PLANNING TRICK
If you’re the type who plans their weekly dinner menu in advance, good for you! Menu planning is a fantastic way to save both time and money. Here’s a way to save even more of both: come up with two seasonal, weekly dinner menus and rotate them.
Honestly, your family won’t remember that you made your amazing meatloaf recipe two weeks ago that very night. Think about it: one hour of planning your menus for two weeks and writing down a shopping list means you don’t have to go through that hassle for another three months!
How to Make Dinner Faster
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.
1. Ingredient prep. Use a homemade fruit and vegetable wash to kill mold-causing pathogens on fruits and vegetables, 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. (Chop even faster with this handy gadget — I love mine, especially when my arthritis is acting up!)
2. Toss once, serve repeatedly. Instead of spending ten minutes every night putting together a tossed salad, make a salad that will last all week.
3. Make defrosting do double-duty. 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. Create crockpot meal kits. 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 selecting your temperature.
5. Double down on the sides. Making a speedy side dish like this Broccoli, Cauliflower and Bacon Salad or Smoky Bacon and Bean Casserole means you can serve it more than once during the week. For a starchy side, try Lemon Asparagus Orzo or make a big pot of brown rice then scoop out what you need for the night and add different flavors to compliment your main course.
Want to make dinner faster while still enjoying a variety of foods? Get my cookbook, Autumn: A Season Of Easy Cooking. You’ll get three 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!