We’ve all accidentally picked our fair share of over-ambitious recipes to tackle on busy days — dishes we thought required minimal prep and ingredients—but we failed to read that recipe all the way through first.
We labor over what we thought was going to be a simple meal, only to find ourselves elbow-deep in dishes at 9 p.m., and still nowhere close to eating dinner.
Or, our schedules just get a bit too hectic and cooking is the last thing we want to bother with.
It’s true. All of us have busy lives. Some days we just need to pick something up or order-in, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to eat out several times a week.
In order to stay on track with a healthy eating regimen, we’ve got to spend a little time in the kitchen. The good news? With some planning and preparation, we can all easily shave off some time on our dinner routines.
1. Read your recipe all the way through. That way you won’t have any surprises or crises. “Marinate for 8 hours?! Shoot, I thought it was 2 hours!” Yeah…sound familiar?
2. Plan for the week. Use the weekend to map out your meals for the coming week. Pick quick and easy recipes, and try to find a couple of meals that use some of the same ingredients — that way you won’t go over budget. Also, hit the grocery when you have some downtime on the weekend. Try and get everything you need for the week so you won’t have to worry about paying the store another visit when you’re crunched for time.
3. Keep your pantry and freezer stocked. Try and make sure you always have your most-used ingredients on hand — whether it’s canned plum tomatoes, garlic, beans, pasta, Sriracha, etc.. Buy extra meat when it’s on sale and store in the freezer for when you need it.
4. Prep in advance. Pre-wash any lettuces or greens so they’re already good-to-go for salads (or just buy pre-washed greens). Chop up any veggies needed for your recipes ahead of time and store them in ziploc bags or tupperware until you need them. Grill meats and shred rotisserie chicken beforehand. All of this will cut back your time tremendously, so when it’s time to get cooking, you should be able to throw everything together.
5. Make big batches of things for the week. Think stocks, sauces, soups, rice, sautéed veggies, etc..
6. Put your slow cooker to work. Your slow cooker is a workhorse and it will take the majority of your load off. Prep anything you can and brown your meats the night before, then all you’ll have to do in the morning is throw it all in there and press start! You’ll come home to an amazing smelling house and dinner that’s already made. It’s a pretty dreamy situation.
7. Remember, one-pot recipes are your BFF. Try and pick recipes that require minimal utensils and clean up. One pan/pot/skillet dishes are easy and unfussy, which is exactly what you want during a busy week.
8. Use simple ingredients. Don’t feel bad about using some frozen veggies here or there. Also, canned beans and quick-cooking grains (AKA rice that doesn’t take almost an hour to cook!) are your friends here.
9. Set your Mise en Place. Having all of your tools and ingredients out and organized will easily speed up your process and prevent you from having to run to the pantry or the fridge every couple of minutes because you forgot something.
10. Clean as you go. Got a few minutes while that sauce is simmering? Wash a few dishes or wipe down those countertops. Then your post-dinner cleanup will be a cinch.