It seems we are all operating in a permanent state of crunch time. With so many responsibilities, weekday dinners can take a backseat. These 9 easy steps will help you efficiently face your weekday meals with skill and confidence so you can spend more time focused on what truly matters.

By Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes
Updated June 23, 2020
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Let's start eliminating the hurdles to weekday home-cooked meals. Implementing a few smart strategies will slash the stressful feeling of starting dinner from a blank slate in a time crunch. Having a plan, using ingredient shortcuts, and utilizing make-ahead recipes and leftovers can all make weeknight cooking easier. Don't forget about all the tools out there that help make grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking easier. Try out e-grocery or food subscription services. Use some of the meal planning apps and tools that offer recipes using ingredients you have on hand. Then use these tips to help make weeknight cooking easier.

1. Meal Plan

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.

2. Add Prepackaged Groceries to Your List

Items like prepackaged salads, canned beans, and broccoli already cut into florets 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.

3. Shop the Grocery Store Deli

Snag the amount your family needs of an already-made side dish such as pasta salads and beans. There are even hot items that require minimal preparation. Serve your finds on beautiful dinnerware, and no one will know you made dinner with nominal effort.

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4. Show Your Slow Cooker Some Love

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! Early-morning 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 and added to your slow cooker ($35, Bed Bath & Beyond) in 15 minutes before heading out in the morning.

5. Buy Precooked Meats

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.

6. Simplify and Shave Recipes

Stick to recipes with short ingredient lists during the week. It can be time-consuming to deal with a long 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.

Jason Donnelly

7. Freeze, Freeze, Freeze!

Sunday is a great day to do some prep work for the week ahead. Make entire meals ahead of time. Cut and freeze vegetables, 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.

8. Reuse Leftovers

Repurpose foods such as mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, for delicious new meals. These Salmon-Potato Cakes use leftover mashed potatoes to create an entirely different dinner.

9. Get Help

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!

About Jocelyn

Jocelyn Delk Adams is the founder of Grandbaby Cakes, where she blogs about classic desserts and modern baking trends.

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