Right now my 7 1/2 year old is the only one of my children that has us busy with activities and sports (it will only get more hectic as my boys get bigger!.) Even so, I’m finding that quite often, I need to get dinner on the table fast, and sometimes those drive-thrus look enticing! Here are some tips I use to cut down on my cooking time.
Lasso the Leftovers
If your family has a meal that they really enjoy eating as leftovers, make that the night before a busy evening, and re-heat. If you have a chest or upright freezer, you can double your recipes and freeze the “leftovers.” Tip: If you freeze items flat in a zippered bag (doubled, just in case!) they will thaw quickly in a sink of cool water if you forget to take it out of the freezer!
Ditch the Prep Work
Did you know you can pre-cook meats and freeze them, to cut down on your cooking time? Freeze flat to thaw quickly. Consider pre-prepping ingredients you use often, such as washing and chopping veggies, labeling & freezing them. My food processor was money well spent, as it makes prep a breeze!
Be a Copycat
If you were looking at a grocery store or drive-thru for a quick meal, what would you get? Make a homemade version! The recipe in the picture above is homemade hamburger helper. Pre-mix your “sauce packets” and pre-cook your meat to make it a snap. Next time you make homemade pizza, double the recipe, slightly undercook one and freeze it. Make chicken tenders, freeze, and warm them on a rack in the oven. You can even make your own “skillet meals” by slicing, seasoning and cooking chicken, then freezing it with sliced veggies to sautee later. Lots of kids are a fan of “breakfast for dinner” and pancakes, waffles or french toast warm up from the freezer in a jiffy!
Slow & Steady Wins the Race
The slow cooker is your friend, and the recipes are practically endless (and generally quite forgiving.) Plop a pork roast in, add some water and slather with BBQ sauce, then shred and serve on rolls. Chicken cooked with a jar of salsa, or any meat with beans, veggies…whatever you desire makes an easy meal. If you have pre-chopped veggies, prep is even easier. If there are recipes you like to make often, try freezing the ingredients together. You can set up your slow cooker the night before, storing the crock in the fridge. In the morning, pop the crock back in the slow cooker and turn it on. Use your slow cooker to “lasso your leftovers” as well. Soups can be warmed in the crock pot (add extra liquid) so your meal is warm when you get home.
There are loads of slow cooker recipes out there; even recipes for side dishes and breakfast items! Slow cookers are excellent for nights when everyone might not be home to eat at the same time. Leave it on low & each person can eat when they are ready.
They may not be the “greenest” thing, but I’ve fallen in love with slow cooker liners. If you don’t use them, make sure to soak your slow cooker right away to avoid tons of scrubbing!
I hope some of these tips are useful, but no one will tattle if you decide to grab a pizza on the way home sometimes!