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Seven Ways to Save Time Cooking Dinner
Wednesday, November 5, 2008 • Posted November 5, 2008

Do you have trouble getting dinner finished on time? Maybe you just feel that it’s all just too much trouble so you stop by the fast food restaurant and pick up dinner on your way home. Fixing quick and nutritious meals doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are seven ways to make meal planning easier:

1. Do your meal planning in advance. Choose simple, quick-to-fix meals for the days that you know you will be rushed. Plan a week’s worth of meals and shop for all the groceries for those meals on weekends. Having the ingredients on hand, together with a plan to use them, will help eliminate the temptation of picking up a pizza on your way home from work. Your meal plan doesn’t have to include anything more than a meat (fish or poultry), a vegetable, a salad and a dessert. If you do a one-dish meal that has your meat and veggies in it, you can add some bread and/or a salad and go!

2. Get help from your family. Choose one night a week for each family member and make it his or her responsibility to plan and cook that day’s dinner. Even children as young as 10 years old can help with meal planning and preparation. If one family member cooks, another should be assigned the cleanup chores when dinner is finished.

3. Cook extra for future use. When you have extra time to cook, make enough food for more than one meal. For instance, grill extra chicken on the weekend and use the leftovers for chicken pot pie or pasta during the week. If you make lasagna, instead of making one, make two. Put one of them in the freezer for unexpected company.

4. Have a neighborhood dinner swap. One night each week, a neighborhood family cooks enough to feed another family in the neighborhood. The next morning, each neighbor involved in the swap gives another neighbor their leftovers. Leftovers are great if they’re not YOUR leftovers! Just the other day I was talking about doing this with a friend, because you always have lots of leftovers when you’re just cooking for 2!

5. Use your crock pot. Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and put a beef roast, onions, potatoes and carrots into your crock pot. Add some herbs and spices, put on the lid, and cook on low for eight to ten hours. Dinner will be ready when you get home from work. I LOVE my crock pot, especially in the winter. I use it so much cooking for programs and it is so easy (and keeps your food safe and warm) when you have to take food some where.

6. Keep nutritious frozen meals in your freezer. On those nights when you get home from work too late to cook, let family members choose the frozen dinner they like best. Many of the frozen meals available these days are nutritious and tasty. Just be careful about eating too many of the packaged frozen meals, they usually contain A LOT of salt. They’re usually still better for you than fast food, though!

7. Keep your pantry stocked. Make sure that you keep your pantry filled with staples that you use every day. Also have enough produce in your refrigerator that you can use for a quick meal. It’s easier to figure out what to cook if you have the ingredients on hand for different choices.

Planning ahead makes it easier to fix those dinnertime meals when you are rushed and won’t feel like planning that night’s dinner. If you keep a notebook with dinners you have planned, you can use those dinner plans over and over again. Make a note of the dinners that your family seems to like the best. I like to keep a list posted on my fridge so I can glance at it and find something quickly that I know we like. If you don’t have a memory for recipes or you’re one of those cooks who likes to be precise, you might want to keep a notebook with your family’s favorite recipes in it on top of your fridge. Maybe I should try this, and then my husband couldn’t say, “I liked this better the last time you made it.”

Source: The Pennypincher e-zine, a newsletter I subscribe to. The above article is based on ideas from Jude Wright. You can subscribe to this ezine or just visit their website at www.allthingsfrugal.com

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