Want to reduce the time it takes to make dinner each night? With a bit of advanced planning and a few handy tips, you can drastically reduce meal preparation time. You’ll have more time to relax after a long day and enjoy mealtime with your family.
- Make a meal plan. Planning meals not only makes meal time preparation much easier, it can help you save money each week as well. Sit down once a week and decide what you’re going to have for dinner each night. You might use the store circulars so you can purchase foods that are on sale. You might also keep a cookbook or your favorite recipe blog handy, too. It’s also helpful to use your meal plan to make your grocery shopping list. That way you make sure you have everything you need for an entire week’s worth of meals.
- Choose quick and easy recipes. As you’re making your meal plan and working your way through potential recipes, skip the Beef Bourguignon which takes hours, and go for Salisbury steak, which takes less than 20 minutes.
- Organize your kitchen. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find an ingredient you’re 100% certain you have, somewhere. Spend a little time organizing your cupboards and refrigerator. You don’t have to alphabetize your spices, though you can. However, keeping like items together makes meal preparation easier and less stressful.
- Get everything out before you start cooking. Before you start cooking, read the recipe through completely and get everything you need out. You might actually measure all the ingredients in advance, too. For example, if you need two tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon of garlic powder you might measure them out in prep dishes. You can also simply get out the ingredients and the measuring devices.
- Prep fresh produce before you need it. Chopping, slicing, and dicing all take time. One wonderful way to save time when making dinner is to prepare your fresh produce in advance. For example, if you go shopping on Saturday you might prepare the week’s produce on Sunday. Chop, dice, and slice and then store in air tight storage containers. When it’s time to cook dinner all you need to do is find the prepped produce you need.
- Prep meats when you bring them home. If you buy meat in bulk, because it’s less expensive, take a few minutes when you get home to separate the packages. For example, you probably aren’t going to consume five pounds of chicken thighs. Open the package, divide the thighs into one pound segments and store in freezer bags. If you buy five pounds of ground beef and you know you’re going to make burgers from some of it, divide the meat into meals and make your burgers right now. You can store them in the refrigerator until it’s time to cook them.
- Buy precooked/prepared when it makes sense. Sometimes it makes sense to purchase prepared produce. For example, if you’re making coleslaw it might make more sense to buy prepared cabbage rather than to chop a head of cabbage yourself. Weigh the pros and cons. It is more expensive but it does save time.
Finally, enlist help. Even small children can wash vegetables and set the table. Getting them to help prepare dinner now not only saves you time, it gives them some responsibilities and it can be something fun to do together.