On those days when you simply don’t have enough time or you need to get food on the table quickly, try these tips. From faster cooking methods to recipe shortcuts, these ideas will help you get dinner ready in a fraction of the time.
1. Look for a different method of preparation.
If you want to cut down on the actual cooking time, check to see if there are different ways to prepare the meal. For example, I love roasting chickpeas in the oven but it can be faster to toast them on the stovetop. Rather than 30 or 40 minutes in the oven, you can get that same golden brown exterior in a fraction of the time. (Get the details for stovetop chickpeas here.) Or you might find a hands-free method which means you can clean up or prepare a side dish while dinner is cooking. This Dutch Oven Risotto is one of my favorites because I can pop it in the oven and focus on other things while it cooks!
2. Aim for semi-homemade.
Cooking doesn’t have to be an all or nothing event. Sometimes I like making enchilada sauce from scratch and sometimes I grab a jar off the shelf so I can get dinner in the oven in 10 minutes. I check for things like added sugar, excess sodium, and chemicals or preservatives. Luckily, there are a lot of really great healthy products out there!
My favorite storebought products
- Sauces- Buying enchilada sauce, pasta sauce, or stir fry sauce makes dinner easy.
- Salsa- It’s great for tacos but I also love using salsa as a soup base for extra flavor.
- Salad dressing– I usually have three different salad dressings in the fridge so it’s easy to switch up my salad game.
3. Try mini meal prep.
I’m not generally a meal prepper but sometimes I’ll do a couple of steps on the weekend to save time during the week. If I know I want to make soup, I might pre-chop the celery, carrots, and onion so my mirepoix is ready to go! If I’m already chopping vegetables, cutting a few more saves me time because I only have to clean up once.
My favorite mini meal prep steps
- Pre-chop vegetables for soups or stews
- Make a batch of rice or quinoa in the rice cooker
- Wash and chop romaine lettuce, kale, or other leafy greens
- Make a batch of hummus for snacking or easy sandwiches and wraps
- Slice and freeze bananas for easy smoothies
4. Repurpose leftovers.
Have a bunch of leftover quinoa from your Greek quinoa salad? Use it to make vegetable fried rice! Have a few extra vegetables chopped up for snacking? Throw them into a pita with some hummus for an easy wrap. Most proteins can be tossed onto a salad for a quick and filling dinner. Don’t assume that leftovers have to be eaten as-is!
5. Enlist the help of the microwave
From steaming veggies to toasting nuts, this is an obvious shortcut that I sometimes overlook. For things like sweet potatoes or spaghetti squash, cooking them in the microwave can reduce cooking times by about 40 minutes.
Easy microwave tasks
- Roasting sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, acorn squash.
- Toasting nuts like pine nuts or almonds.
- Steam vegetables like broccoli or carrots.
I hope these tips help you get dinner on the table a little faster! While I enjoy cooking, I also completely understand the stress of trying to get dinner on the table after a long or a busy evening so these are the shortcuts I use in my kitchen.
I also have a whole collection of 15-minute recipes, no additional shortcuts required!