Five ways to make dinner FASTER
I work every weekday afternoon, but I don’t get to work many mornings (usually one a week). That means my afternoons are JAMMED with things to do, and I’m working until the very last second before dinner.
Then … oh, right … I have to make dinner?
In this way, I’m pretty similar to a parent who works outside of the home. Except many of these parents are good cooks, and I am most definitely not. (I’m a baker, though)
Since making dinner (quickly!) is a struggle for me, I’ve put together some of my patent-pending methods for speeding up the process.
- Plan as if your life depended on it. I’m amazed when people have the ability to walk into their kitchen at 5 p.m and *wonder* what they feel like making for dinner. If I tried to throw dinner together on a whim, we’d end up eating rice with canned soup and maybe some half-thawed cookie dough. I have a written-out meal plan that takes into account which days are busier for us, which meals will give plenty of leftovers for lunches, and which fresh ingredients in the fridge should be used up first. It’s like a manifesto, really. Our meals are definitely not fancy, but they are planned, dammit. We eat what the paper says.
- Make love to your slowcooker. I could kiss my slowcooker, I love it so much. It saves my butt MULTIPLE times a week. Now, there are a lot of gross slowcooker recipes out there. We tend to stick to pretty basic things: salsa chicken (which we use for wraps, tacos, and nachos), meat sauce for pasta, pulled pork, etc. If I’m throwing everything in at breakfast-time, I set it on “Low,” and if it’s lunchtime, I put it on “High.” Then I forget all about it.
|I baked these turkey meatballs at lunchtime (recipe here) and tossed them in the slowcooker for the afternoon
- … and then have a three-way with the bread-maker. Our bread-maker gets a lot of use, BUT we never, ever use it for actually making bread. (It doesn’t fit properly in the toaster) We use it for making homemade hamburger buns and rolls, but our go-to recipe is pizza dough. I throw alll of the ingredients in at lunchtime, hit the switch, and it’s ready to toss onto the pans as soon as I’m done working. Which brings me to my next point …
- Start making dinner at breakfast-time (or lunchtime). I don’t have any time in the afternoons, but I do have a few minutes here and there while my kids are eating breakfast or lunch. I grate cheese, cut up vegetables, brown ground beef, cook chicken, etc. and then it’s much faster to pull dinner together that night. If I’m really ambitious, I’ll make most of the meal at lunchtime and toss it into the slowcooker to stay warm until supper. This works well for things like taco meat, pasta sauce, and Sloppy Joes — just add a little extra liquid to keep it from drying out.
|I put the pork in the slowcooker at breakfast-time, and prepped these roasted sweet potatoes at lunchtime.
- Set yourself up for success. That sounds very self-helpy, doesn’t it? What I mean is: if I’m making pasta for dinner, sometimes I’ll take a few minutes at lunch time to fill the pot with water, add salt, and put it on the stove — and I’ll set the box of pasta right there, next to the stove. I’ll dig out my beloved microwave veggie-cooker (this one, from Pampered Chef) and sit it on the counter so I can run upstairs at 5 p.m. and toss frozen broccoli into it. It sounds like overkill, but it makes a huge difference on the really busy evenings.
What are your favourite dinner-prep tips? And can someone please tell me it’s a rice-maker, because I totally want one. They look fun.