5 Smart Family Meal Strategies to Nail Dinner Every Night

Yes, takeout is easy. But so is whipping up a healthy, homemade dinner when you have these pointers in your apron pocket.

With 25-plus years as a cook in restaurants and test kitchens, frequent Better Homes & Gardens contributor and recipe developer Anna Kovel's cooking philosophy is all about thinking on your feet, cooking in season, and using what's on hand. Follow her tips and tricks so even busy weeknight meals can be equal parts interesting and efficient.

1. Spice up your supper.

Turn to your spice cabinet to change the personality of dishes you make all the time. Try one of Kovel’s go-to combos: a Middle Eastern mix of cumin, coriander, cardamom, and chile (such as Aleppo or ancho). Rub onto chicken, season chickpeas or beans, or sprinkle on roasted veggies.

Give it a try with: Steak and Black Bean Burritos

2. Trim food waste.

Before you toss those last little vegetable bits, think about how you might turn them into something that can add even more deliciousness to dinner. “I’ll grate the last quarter of a cucumber into a raita (an Indian yogurt condiment) or chop up the ends of a tomato I’ve sliced to make a quick salsa,” she says.

Give it a try with: Salsa Picante

3. Stock a global pantry.

Keep a mix of ingredients for bold weeknight flavors. Kovel reaches for these: Thai curry pastes, coconut milk, gochujang (Korean fermented red chile paste), Indian pickled fruits and vegetables (she loves mango and carrot), chutneys, salsas, and mustards. While you're in the canned food aisle, stock up on oil-packed tuna (or salmon, sardines, or chickpeas), too, so you can add a protein boost in an instant.

Give it a try with: Tuna Melts with Olives and Lemon

4. Make the most of oven time.

While dinner roasts, Kovel gets a head start on tomorrow’s meal. “I might throw in some mushrooms, onions, carrots, or cauliflower that I can use in a salad or grain bowl the next night, toast some nuts, or crisp up bread cubes for croutons.”

Give it a try with: Spice-Roasted Vegetables

5. Save a pot.

Kovel makes her pasta water do double duty. “While I’m cooking pasta, I’ll toss whatever vegetables I’m using, like peas or greens, right into the pasta water for the last  2 minutes. I’ll drain everything together and return to the pot with garlic, olive oil, and cheese. One less pan to clean is a win.”

Give it a try with: Pasta and Peas

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