By applying a focused approach with advanced menu planning, you won't waste time figuring out what's for dinner. Spend Saturday afternoon mapping out your week of meals, performing an ingredient inventory, writing out your grocery list, and doing your shopping. Everything will go much smoother once you're organized.
Sample day included in the meal planer:
Items like prepackaged salads and canned beans will become your new best friends when you need to make dinner in a flash. Their quality is top-notch. For instance, the taste of a prepackaged salad is comparable to that of fresh-cut greens. The only difference is the time savings.
Besides salad, you can find numerous pasta salads, beans, and even hot items that require minimal preparation. Serve your finds on beautiful dinnerware, and no one will know you made dinner with nominal effort.
Crock pots and slow cookers have been around for ages and their popularity continues to increase. It's because the busier we get, the more we need them! An early prep before work can leave you with a piping-hot dinner waiting for you when you get home. Innovative (not to mention fast) dishes like this In-a-Hurry Chicken Curry can be tossed together in 15 minutes before heading out in the morning.
Slow Cooker Helpers:
Creating meals with precooked meats is such a time-saver. One trick I learned a long time ago was to buy a cooked rotisserie chicken at the market and use it throughout the week in recipes such as Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken Noodle Soup. This tip can trim up to 20 minutes from dinner preparation.
Stick to recipes with seven ingredients or less during the week. It can be time consuming to deal with a laundry list of ingredients. Save time-intensive gourmet recipes for your weekends or special occasions instead. Delicious shortcut dishes like this Jamaican Pork Stir-Fry and this Cajun Snapper with Red Beans and Rice don't require a lot of ingredients but still pack a lot of flavor.
Sunday is a great day to do some prep work for the week ahead. Cut and freeze vegetables ahead of time, cook and freeze meats for later use, and don't forget dessert. Make a big batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie dough to freeze for baking during the week.
Ideas for Freeze-Ahead Recipes:
Dinner can always make it to the table quicker when you have some helping hands. Get the kids to pitch in. It will not only make the process go by faster, but it will add some fun to the mix, too!
Just remember that if all else fails and there really isn't any time, just order some takeout and relax. It happens to the best of us sometimes.
Jocelyn Delk Adams is the founder of Grandbaby Cakes, where she blogs about classic desserts and modern baking trends.