In a recent conversation with my younger sister, we were talking about how hard it is to find time to cook dinner when you’re busy with so many other obligations. Work, school, exercise, family, social engagements, etc. all take up time. How can we possibly accomplish everything AND cook dinner every night?
This blog post is full of ideas on how you can get dinner on the table fast without resorting to take-out meals or boxed dinners. I’ve even included some recipe links for you to check out below.
Ø First things first – PLAN AHEAD. It’s funny that I’m the one giving this advice, because I’m the worst at creating meal plans. I have a dream that one day I’ll be like my oldest sister and have a monthly meal chart on my calendar. So far that day has not come. If you’re good at planning ahead and can create a meal chart at the start of each week, then that is the way to go! If you’re like me, and that just isn’t going to happen, take a few minutes each evening and think through what you can make for dinner tomorrow. This will give you time to check for ingredients and think of a meal before the craziness of the day happens.
o Side note – another way to plan ahead is to create a master list of favorite recipes that you can look at to get inspiration for your weekly meals or take shopping with you so you can buy the right ingredients!
Ø Leading off of the last point, once you have an idea of what you’re going to make, start creating a game plan. While talking to my sister, she was trying to figure out when she could cook dinner when she was at school all day and then had to go to work all evening. We decided she could either wait until really late and eat after work (which would probably not be conducive to a cheerful working attitude), or she could do most of the prep work early on so she could throw her food together quick in a few minutes before going to work. If your meal requires cooked meat – cook the meat the night before or in the morning and put it in the fridge for later. If you need chopped vegetables, chop them up before you leave for work as you’re getting your breakfast ready. Your game plan could be as simple as getting all the ingredients out and gathering the refrigerated ingredients into one spot in the fridge so they’re easy to find.
Ø If you simply will not have time to cook dinner one night, you can utilize the wonderful invention known as the Crock-Pot and put your food in to be cooking all day long. Just make sure it’s a recipe that can be left in for as long as you’ll be gone. There are a surprising number of Crock-Pot recipes available in cookbooks and online. You can find a Crock-Pot recipe for just about whatever you have a hankering to make.
Ø When you do have time to cook, make extra and set aside some to freeze. Having a few freezer meals you can pull out when you’re short on time can be a real life saver. Just like the Crock-Pot meals, you can freeze just about anything. You can even freeze just part of the meal and cook the other part quick before dinner (freezing spaghetti sauce and cooking the pasta later).
Ø For those days when you’re eating on-the-go, make something ahead of time that doesn’t have to be heated up that you can take with you. My favorite gotta-run recipe is pasta salad. You can throw whatever veggies you have in with some pasta, squirt some dressing in, mix it up, and you’re good to go. You could also try chef salad, veggie burritos, or a pita sandwich.
There are lots of ways that you can fit home-cooked meals into your crazy schedule. And the great thing about cooking for yourself is you choose what goes in your food, you can make lots of food for a lot less money, and it’s easier to control portion size! So give it a try. Plan ahead just a little and use some of the tips above. If you come across any other great busy-schedule recipes, comment below so we can all try them out!