A simple collection of tips I have found useful over the years to get dinner ready when I don’t have a lot of time. Includes quick dinner ideas, meal prep ideas, and time saving tips.
Prep & Execution
- Keep boiled eggs handy. Great to toss into salads, lunches and soups. Extra time savers: Add a bit of salt or baking soda into water while boiling for easy peeling. Or purchase pre-cooked boiled eggs from the grocer.
- Prep vegetables by chopping or slicing after purchase. This cuts down prep work on busy weeknights. Veggies usually remain fresh for 48-72 hours. Extra time savers: Purchase pre-cut vegetables from the grocer.
- Purchase steamer bags to steam veggies in microwave. This saves time AND money! Pro tip: Rinse the bag well and use once more.
- Buy jarred minced garlic. Saves a ton of time in recipes that call for garlic! Use 1:1 ratio. Pro tip: May take experimentation to find brand preference.
- Invest in a meat mallet (this one is my favorite). Thick meat takes longer to cook through. Pound out chicken or pork to ¾ of an inch for even fast cooking.
- Cook thin pasta. Pasta is a go-to for busy nights. Angel hair pasta cooks in less than 5 minutes. Refrigerated pasta varieties cook in less than 4 minutes!
- Purchase an egg slicer for even slicing- eggs, mushrooms, hulled strawberries.
- Use pizza cutter to slice herbs, like parsley and cilantro. Also great for cutting pancakes and pasta for young kids.
- Cooking Spray is your best friend! Spray hands with it before shaping meatballs or sticky treats for easier handling. Coat knife blade with it to keep dried fruit or garlic at bay while chopping. Coat measuring spoons with it before measuring out honey or molasses for easier transfer.
- Create Mis En Place- This translates to “putting in place.” To successfully execute a simple supper, lay out all of the necessary ingredients ahead of time. This saves time rummaging back and forth during execution. Line a baking pan or counter top with parchment paper and set ingredients there, for easy clean up!
Easy Clean Up Tips
- Set up a scrap bowl. Line a large cooking bowl with a plastic bag and dispose scraps while cooking into bowl (eggshells, peels, etc) if a trash can isn’t readily handy. Dispose of plastic bag into trash for minimal clean up!
- Line baking pans with foil, parchment paper or silicone mats for minimal clean up.
- Pour water into dirty pots and pans with a bit of dish soap while they are still hot to prevent food debris from sticking.
- Clean as you go! Don’t wait until after serving dinner to start the clean-up process.
- Have masking tape and a marker nearby when storing leftover food. Write the date and name of the dish on the tape to label container.
Last Minute Supper Suggestions
- Breakfast for Dinner- Eggs & bacon with toast & berries or pancake nights are always a hit in our house.
- “Taco Tuesday”- Taco night is simple, fast and usually met with cheers of delight. Protein & topping variations allow for endless flavor combinations.
- Baked Potato Bar- Baked potatoes & a variety of toppings for a satisfying meal with easy prep & clean up. Super short on time? Pop the potatoes in the microwave on High for approximately 4 minutes before baking and shave 30 minutes off the cook time.
- Veggie stir fry- Don’t let all those veggies the Sunday version of you bought go to waste! Chop them up and toss into a quick stir-fry. Serve on a bed of rice and you have a well-rounded colorful meal in no-time!
- Embrace sandwich night- Whether keeping it simple with a fresh loaf of bread and deli meat or dressing it up panini style with a loaf of ciabatta and pesto, sandwich night is a fun relief from the monotony of the traditional dinner roundup.
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