It's that time again: back to school. And even if you don't have kids in your family, there's a quicker pace this month that can make getting dinner on the table even more of a challenge.
We could all use more time, but of course there are only so many hours in the day, so today we're sharing our favorite tips for staying sane, saving time, and eating well!
1. Marie Kondo Your Kitchen
It may seem like a stretch to link organized cabinets and a tidy refrigerator with quicker meal prep, but there's a reason why so many restaurant chefs neatly measure out their ingredients before starting to cook -- if your kitchen is disorganized, it not only takes you longer to find what you need, but you likely won't enjoy working in it as much.
Making sure cabinets and drawers are tidy and fruits and veggies are washed and prepped helps ensure you're diving right into dinner prep when duty calls.
2. Meal Plan Smarter
Maybe you're a fan of our meal plans and this is already a part of your weekly routine. Maybe you aspire to be a meal planner, but have had trouble getting going. Well, as much as I love our meal plans, I'm here to tell you that planning to cook five new recipes each week is too many! It's just overwhelming. And when we get overwhelmed, we tend to .... order pizza.
Here's an idea: choose 2-3 recipes per week and fill in the rest with leftovers and a "no recipe" (see #3, below).
If it's in the budget, an occasional take-out night frees up time, too. This way, the time you spend meal planning is cut in half as is the time you're actually spending in the kitchen cooking.
3. Fall in Love With the "No Recipe" Recipe
In our house, we love the "no recipe" recipe: basically a great meal that you make either off the cuff, by repurposing leftovers, or by assembling staples that the whole family will love.
A few examples from our kitchen: sausage and polenta, pasta with any sautéed veggies you've got in the fridge, seasonal frittata, quesadillas using leftover shredded chicken, pork or beef. Here are a whole bunch of ideas from the Simply Recipes team!
You get the picture. I still plan for the "no recipe," making sure I have the ingredients on hand but it takes up far less brain power (and time) than making a new-to-me recipe.
I know, I know, for some of us admitting that we can't do it all is tough (having kids helped me get over this hurdle!) While I typically like running into the grocery store and shopping for the week, there are times when it feels downright overwhelming to cram into my schedule. So if you live in an area where grocery delivery is possible, it can be a lifesaver on those truly harried weeks.
Even better than just online grocery shopping is shopping by recipe! Did you know you can do that from any recipe on Simply Recipes? Just click the red "Order Ingredients" button at the bottom of the ingredient list -- we call this Relish! Talk about time saving.
5. Take Shortcuts Where You Can
There are no medals for ensuring that everything coming out of your kitchen is homemade or farmers market fresh. A few shortcuts that we're fans of:
- Embrace frozen veggies, my friends! They're often packaged at the peak of freshness and have comparable nutrition as the fresh veggies you'd buy at the store today.
- Jarred pasta sauce is another weeknight savior when it's not in the cards to make your own.
- Pre-steamed beets and cooked lentils that you find on some store shelves can be quickly folded into a hearty weeknight salad.
Does this make you lazy or less of a cook? No! It makes you smart and savvy at filling in the days of the week in which you're not preparing an actual recipe. We've all got to have a few tricks up our sleeve.