You can’t make every meal from scratch—and that’s okay. With a hectic family schedule and little time for gourmet dishes, here are seven time-saving tips that will make mealtime easier.
1. Start with time-saving kitchen tools.
Avoid kitchen clutter and speed up your cooking with must-have food prep tools:
Two good knives
Mini food processor
2. Bulk grains.
The next time you plan to serve a whole grain, make two to three times as much as you would for one meal. Let cool fully and portion out meal-size amounts; freeze in freezer-safe containers or bags. On the day you plan to serve, remove from freezer in the morning and let thaw at room temperature.
Use in a recipe: Quinoa Fried “Rice” with Snap Peas and Sweet Corn.
3. Clean as you go.
Clean-up can be one of the worst parts about cooking family-size meals. To make the end of the meal easier, fill the sink with warm soapy water, and as your finished with pans and dishes slide them into the water so that, later, you won't have to scrape bits of food off.
4. Get sauce savvy.
For pasta dishes, prepare the sauce up to three days ahead. Then, come dinnertime, you’ll only have to reheat it and cook the pasta.
Use in a recipe: Spaghetti with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
5. Patty Prep
Make hamburger patties in the morning; cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Use in a recipe: Hidden Veggie Cheeseburgers.
6. Cooled cakes.
Freeze cooled, leftover cooked pancakes in a zip-top freezer bag for up to one month. Reheat for quick weekday meals.
Use in a recipe: Sweet Potato-Blueberry Pancakes.
7. Grab n’ go.
Burritos make excellent, quick lunches or dinners. Assemble up to three days ahead. Wrap each burrito separately in foil lightly coated with cooking spray; reheat in the oven at 375 degrees for 10–15 minutes.
Use in a recipe: Easy Chicken Nugget Burritos.