I love to cook. I cook dinner for my family most days of the week. However, more often than not, it seems like there’s not enough time to cook a really good dinner for my family. Some days are better than others. On weekends, I usually have no problem cooking a dinner that takes about 2 hours to make from start to finish. But during weekdays, ain’t nobody got time for that in my household. So, I find myself researching and trying out different ways to make dinner preparation take less time. I’ve taken care of much of the trial and error for you and have compiled a list and explanation of my top 5 ways to cut down your dinner prep time.
1. Cook extra protein
My number one way to cut down your dinner prep time is to cook extra protein. For instance, if you are making beef tacos for dinner one night, cook twice the amount of beef your family would use for this. Then, you can set aside the extra portion of cooked beef before you season it to use in a quick and easy meal later in the week. You could toss it in some spaghetti sauce for spaghetti night, bake it into some crescent rolls with cheese to make cheeseburger bombs, or throw it in with a batch of chili in the crockpot and save yourself the step of browning the beef. It doesn’t take terribly long to brown ground beef, but on a busy week night where you’re pinched for time between school pick up and volleyball practice, this solution can help you throw something together quickly without sacrificing a good protein.
2. Make meals that only require one cooking dish
There are so many recipes out there that only require one dish. These include dump-and-go crock pot meals, one sheet pan recipes, cast iron skillet recipes, and pressure-cooker meals, to name a few. These recipes are definite time-savers. The key here is to make sure that whatever recipe you choose, pick one with the least amount of preparation possible. For instance, you don’t want to choose the one that requires you to sear the chicken, saute the mushrooms and make a sauce on the stove-top before compiling on one pan to bake in the oven. That’s too many steps and quickly defeats the purpose of this marvelous method. You want the one that maybe has you cut up the raw chicken, toss it in a bowl with some spices, potatoes, veggies and oil, and put it on a pan and bake it. This is way easier and truly meets the requirements of the recipe category. Same goes for crock pot meals and the rest, avoid the extra prep steps and go with the least difficult choices. Also, if you want to be a little extra, and have the time and extra ingredients, you could take it a step further and double the recipe to have a meal ready to go in the freezer for a particularly busy night in the future. Future you would definitely thank current you for that one!
3. Cut up your produce when you bring it home from the store.
This one can be a hard habit to get into. So, this will take a little will power, but you will thank yourself for doing it. This can be much easier too if you have a food processor or similar. Just cut anything up that you would use in the the next week or so when you bring it home. It’s much easier to get peppers or onions in a recipe when they are already chopped up and ready to go. Plus, by doing this little step ahead of time, your dinner prep is less time-consuming than it would have otherwise been.
4. Plan out your meals ahead of time with the ingredients you have.
This one can coincide with point #3. When you have a general meal plan ahead of time, you’ll know what produce to shop for/chop up/wash/prepare. Planning out your meals for the week saves you the hassle of the whole “What do you want for dinner tonight?” followed by “Oh I don’t care. What do you want to do?”. It’s time to stop having this conversation. Plan out your meals for the week so you can avoid wasting time trying to figure out what to make. It’ll also make it easier to have meat thawed, and whatever else you may need set out ahead of time. When you plan your meals, you’ll know ahead of time about how long you’ll need to make dinner, so you can plan appropriately. I generally try to schedule quick prep meals on weekdays and more elaborate, time consuming meals on weekends.
5. Make sure you stock back up options.
Sometimes nights get away from us and we don’t even have time to prepare the quick meals regardless of our preparations and planning. In these moments, it’s important to have a good back stock of meals that you can use in a pinch. These can be meals that you’ve prepared by doubling a recipe and put one in the freezer (See point 1 above). They could also be meals that are quick to throw together (spaghetti, hamburger helper, BLTs, etc) or frozen pre-prepared meals like a frozen pizza or lasagna. Otherwise, there’s always good-old leftovers. Whatever it is, just make sure you have a back up plan. They’re life savers!
So there you have it folks. My top 5 tips to make dinner preparations less time-consuming. What are some of your favorite time-saving dinner prep tips? Put them in the comments below!
Much love and productive vibes,
Momma Caped Nerd ❤
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