A couple of weeks ago I noticed it was National Lasagna Day. This surprised me as I’ve always thought of lasagna as a cold weather dish. Why would someone pick a summer date as the right time to honor lasagna? I hadn’t really considered it a summer recipe before now. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to make lasagna in the middle of the hot summer. Lasagna is one of those recipes I always make ahead and have ready to pop in the oven. It’s a classic “cook-without-me” dish.
I try to make recipes that don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen in the evening. I’ll do what I have to do, so I don’t have to do anything. Does that make sense? I’m willing to put in a little up-front time, to make sure that when I’m tired from a long day working, but still need to get dinner on the table, that it’s easy and fast. I don’t even want to think about it, just put the finishing touches on what is planned for that night.
10 Tips to make meals faster and easier:
- Planning. This is always step 1. Go ahead and Google “tips for cutting your time in the kitchen” and you will read over and over the importance of planning. Your DinnerTime Meal Planner allows you easy access to a calendar plan. Take those extra few minutes to edit your plan to make sure it works for your week.
- Update your DinnerTime Pantry manager so your planner will choose the green beans you bought at the farmer’s market, or to make sure you add what is running low to your grocery list.
- Select at the top of each day’s drop-down, any profile preference, or if you have “Other Plans”.
- Edit your DinnerTime Grocery List so you know everything you will need is on the list. This makes shopping easier and faster. Plus, shopping with a list saves you money, reduces food waste and studies show those who shop with a list eat healthier.
- Prep. Clean and prep food as soon as you come in from the store. I know that my shopping trip isn’t over until I have cleaned, chopped and separated our dinner ingredients. It’s how I schedule my up-front time that saves me so much time when I go to cook the meal.
- Chop all veggies needed for the week. Why go through the tears of chopping onions three nights when I can do it once and get it over with? Like using fresh herbs and garlic? I keep chopped fresh herbs that I use the most such as parsley and thyme in glass storage jars. Peel and keep a jar of fresh garlic too.
- Utilize prepared veggies and other time savers like minced garlic. Doing it yourself may be cheaper, but sometimes, time is money and peace of mind is worth a few pennies.
- Portion proteins. Making shish kabob? Cut up the meat or chicken and put in a resealable bag. Sometimes I add the marinade and freeze it. As the meat defrosts, the marinade does its job.
- Make grains in large batches: Once again, if you like using the easy microwave pouches, go for it. In fact, I always keep a couple in my pantry for emergencies. Save some money and make your grains ahead of time. You can freeze portions and microwave them warm in minutes.
- Cook it once, eat it twice. I have trained my family that leftovers are extra tasty! I often make twice the main protein and re-heat it with fresh selection of vegetables. I make trays of roasted veggies (carrots, potatoes-regular and sweet, broccoli etc) that can last for multiple meals! Mashed potatoes on the menu? Make double and either freeze or reheat tomorrow night. You get my drift. This is why editing your DinnerTime Meal Planner is so key. If someone were to look at my DinnerTime Meal Planner they would wonder why there is no protein on Wednesday. But I know I’ve increased the servings of chicken on Tuesday’s plan, so I can serve it again on Wednesday.
- Cook-without-me-meals. Slow-cooker and make-ahead recipes are the best. I love when I turn on the oven and slide my pan in, or turn on my slow-cooker. I get to leave the kitchen! Make-ahead recipes such as lasagna, shepherd’s pie or chicken pot-pie are the perfect antidote to rushing around getting dinner on the table. Many casseroles and slow-cooker recipes are great doubled and enjoyed for another meal. Win win!
- Keep the kitchen clean. It’s psychological, I know, but a clean kitchen is a calm kitchen. You shouldn’t feel stressed when you enter your kitchen. This is a happy and fulfilling place. Everyone in the family needs to be on board with keeping the kitchen clean.
- Assign duties. Many hands make light work. Kids like to help. Little ones can get out the containers to store the prepped ingredients and the older ones can help chop etc. Studies show kids who help with the cooking tend to make more nutritious food choices. Duties should also include the cleaning up. Knowing that others are helping clean up, allows me to relax and enjoy our dinner together.