Do your weeknight dinners feel like rush hour? With simple ideas like meal prepping to filling your pantry up with ready-to-go ingredients, these tips on saving time in the kitchen will help you put together delicious dinners that your whole family will love- in no time at all!
We all know that life can be busy! And it can be hard to fit everything into your day.
After a busy day, the last thing you want to do is to arrive home, stare into the fridge and try to decide what to make for dinner. Supermarket trips at the end of the day take time and it’s never a good idea to shop while hungry! And takeaway can wind up being very expensive, and not always the healthiest choice. Instead, try these time saving tips for speedy weeknight dinners to have dinner on the table in record time!
Follow these easy tips on saving time in the kitchen
1. Plan your meals.
If you have a busy week ahead, plan your meals ahead of time. It helps with your budget and reduces food waste. Write down the meals you’d really like to eat during the week and prepare a shopping list including ingredients that you require.
We do a big grocery shop based on our meal plan once a fortnight. We also do a smaller, top-up shop for perishables like milk, veggies and bread the following week. Our meal plan is flexible and can be changed, as some nights we may not feel like what we’ve written down. But it means that we always have the ingredients we need, ready to go.
2. Meal prep.
Spend an hour every Sunday prepping your food for the week ahead. This may sound like a chore, but it’s easy and it saves you so much time in the long run. What you prepare depends on the meals you have chosen. But, you can;
- Peel, chop and store garlic, onions and vegetables
- Wash foods
- Cut salads and store in an airtight container
- Cook some rice/pasta/grains and store in the fridge or freezer
- Cut and/or marinate meat
- Make some quick, frequently used mixed spices (like burrito seasoning and chicken coating) that you can store in the pantry for immediate use.
3. Keep a well stocked pantry (and freezer).
With a well stocked pantry and freezer, you will always have countless meals in the making. Having versatile ingredients available as well as a few homemade grab-and-go homemade seasonings can make such a difference.
Here is a list of ‘must have’ pantry and freezer staples;
Dry pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, passata, creamed corn, corn kernels, liquid stock, flour, cornflour, baking powder, dried lentils, dried spices (paprika, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, herbs, chilli, etc), fresh garlic and ginger, onions, wraps/tortillas, homemade taco seasoning, homemade chicken coating, canned beans (black, kidney, chickpeas), Asian style sauces (soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese wine), oils (olive, canola, sesame, peanut), tuna, vinegar, nuts and UHT milk. Some packets of pre-cooked rice are also handy.
Curry paste, homemade pizza sauce, frozen pastry sheets, pita bread (keep frozen for quick and easy pizzas, or make and freeze pizza dough), meat (chicken, pork and beef mince, etc), frozen vegetables, bread.
If you have these items in your pantry and freezer at all times, you can throw together a huge selection of speedy meals.
4. Stock your kitchen with some good quality, time saving appliances.
My pressure cooker is possibly the best thing I have put into my kitchen. It doubles as a slow cooker, but it also cooks a large list of meals in half the time. I use it at least 3-4 times a week to prepare quick family dinners. It also minimises dishes, because everything is prepared in the one easy to wash pot. I use a Philips All-in-One cooker which I swear by. (I’m not getting paid to say this, I just absolutely love it). I also recommend a good quality rice cooker and food processor. I have a Bosch food processor which has so many useful attachments. It gets used most days in my house. They are so worth the investment, as they make cooking easier and will save you SO much time!
5. Double (or triple) recipes.
Whenever you find yourself cooking grains, cook extra. It’s just as easy to cook three cups of rice, quinoa or cous cous as it is to cook one. And then, store the remainder in the fridge or freezer to add to another meal. Pre-cooked rice makes a tasty and speedy fried rice, or a side for curries. If you are making bolognese sauce, pasta sauce, lasagne or curry, double the recipe and freeze the remaining half to re-heat for a quick weeknight meal, served over rice or pasta. And do the same with meat. If you are making a roast chicken, add another one to the oven at the same time and store the meat in the fridge or freezer to add to a weeknight meal.
6. Pick up a BBQ chicken, or roast your own on a Sunday.
Once cooked, shred the meat and store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. You can use this meat to make chicken tacos, soups, pastas, salads, or serve it with rice or veggies. Shredded chicken works perfectly in this creamy chicken pasta, Mexican chicken and vegetable soup, creamy chicken pies or chicken and corn soup.
7. Gather a collection of good slow cooker recipes.
There is nothing that feels (or smells!) better than walking into your house at the end of a long day and dinner is already cooked! There are some great recipes online (for warmer months too) that you can throw into a slow cooker, set and forget.
*Bonus tip on saving time in the kitchen; Grow your own veggies!
No matter where you live or how much space you have, invest some time and money in a veggie and herb garden to grow seasonal produce. It is so great to be able to walk outside and pick salad ingredients, fresh herbs and veggies. Growing your own vegetables is such a time saver. You will also save money, reduce waste and you will rarely run out of ingredients. Throughout the year, we have a huge range of produce from our garden to base our dinners around.
The great thing is, you don’t have to be a professional gardener (or in my case, even a good one) to create your own veggie and herb gardens. To help you get started, have a look at Family Garden Life for some fantastic tips on building your own gardens, kid friendly edible plants (and getting the kids involved in the process) and which veggies to plant. I highly recommend having a look there before you begin.
Try these fast and easy weeknight meals that can be prepped ahead;
- Roast pumpkin soup
- Easy homemade pizza and topping ideas
- Mexican chicken and vegetable soup
- Vegetarian chilli
Thanks for reading! For more quick and easy dinner ideas, try these pantry staple recipes which are perfect for stocking your freezer. If you try these tips for saving time in the kitchen, I would love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a comment or review below, or send me a message. For more food inspiration, tips and to share your own recipes and creations, head over to my Facebook Recipe Group.
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