7 Time-Saving Tips for Meal Planning

It's not that cooking dinner is necessarily difficult, it can just become tedious...especially if one person is responsible for the majority of it. Evening's are hectic enough and trying to get dinner on the table before heading out for sports & activities can be a challenge. On the flip side, I'm not willing to spend all of my rare free time prepping a week's worth of meals.

7-tips-dinner-fastInstead, I rely on time saving short-cuts to get dinner on the table quick, so we can get back out the door faster.

1- Shredded Chicken. Chicken recipes are the most searched dinner recipes online. Generally speaking, they're simple and relatively tough to screw-up. But, shredding cooked chicken can stretch options a little further. While 4 chicken breasts may feed 4-5 people, the same amount shredded can build several meals: tacos, salads, soups, bbq sliders, even to pasta for a quick meal.

2- Keep Staples on Hand. Coming up with dinner ideas every.single.night can be tough, but having a poorly stocked fridge or pantry makes it so much more challenging. Simplify the process and keep these 7 items on hand: fresh/frozen vegetables, organic marinara, black beans, dry pasta, tortilla wraps, block of cheese (mozzarella, colby jack, chihuahua, or goat), and frozen sustainable shrimp/chicken/or seitan. With these seven items you can mix & match protein/carb/fat to make several quick meals.

3- Pre-Cut Potatoes. Roasted or mashed potatoes on the menu? Pre-cut them to save time. Up to 12 hours ahead, you can wash & cut your potatoes. Put them in a bowl covered with cold water and put in the fridge until you're ready to use them. Then, drain & pat dry (if roasting).

4- Frozen Veggies. Spinach, broccoli, butternut squash...keep a bag of organic veggies in the freezer for a quick nutritional boost. Making pasta? Put frozen veggies in a colander in the sink while water is heating and noodles are cooking. Drain cooked noodles over vegetables: the boiling water will bring the veggies to a perfect temperature and the cold flash will stop noodles from over-cooking. Return everything back to the pot to add your favorite sauce or keep it simple with olive oil and fresh parm.

blog-dinner-25- Double Batch It. It doesn't really take any more time to assemble two pans of lasagna or enchiladas than it does to make one. Bake one now, cover the other with foil and a freeze in a freezer-safe container for another short -on-time dinner night. No need to thaw first, but you will need to increase baking time 15-30 minutes depending on the entree.

6- Cook Once Eat Twice. If you've made dinner, you've already made lunch too. Put leftovers directly into lunch containers for salads and wraps.

7- Repurpose Dinner. Since I'm the only one in the house who loves leftovers, extra food calls for a little creativity. Instead of the exact same meal twice in a row, change it up a bit...last night's grilled steak becomes tonight's steak fajitas. Shredded chicken tacos become pesto chicken pizzas. Tons of roasted veggies? Add some stock and beans or lentils for a filling vegetable soup.

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