How to Make Dinner Faster

Last week, I touched on an aspect of modern life that’s making a recent resurgence–the family dinner. For many though, the prospect of spending precious evening hours slaving over dinner and the subsequent clean-up is anything but enticing, no matter the benefits.

As a perfectionist and an adventurer, I can relate–it seems that any dinner I set my mind to always ends up as a 4-course meal that takes until midnight to clean-up. But there is a better and easier way–many, in fact–to make dinner a quick and pleasant experience. At the same time, it doesn’t mean abandoning all the things that make homemade dinner what it is–nutritious, healthy, and very tasty!

In no particular order, here are a few ideas for getting dinner out faster and making life just a bit easier for yourself:

  1. Use “passive cooking” devices that allow you to clean up and do other housework while you wait. These include the slow cooker, steamer and the oven.
  2. Do your pre-prep ahead of time. For example, cut all of your vegetables over the weekend and store them in Ziploc bags. They won’t be as fresh, but you’ll save time by having ingredients ready to cook.
  3. Plan your dinners in the morning and leave meats to thaw in the fridge for the day.
  4. Stick with what’s familiar, and avoid having to follow recipes you’re reading for the first time. Leave the gourmet dinners for a few select weeknights or the weekend.
  5. Cook once, serve three times (or more) by batch-cooking and using leftovers effectively.
  6. Become a better cook by learning knife techniques (helps you cut faster) and cooking/prep techniques that will help you avoid failures and get you to coordinate your meal better.
  7. Get ideas from others, like Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, and 3-5 ingredient recipe books you can find at your local bookstore.
  8. Use your freezer more, including storing meats, frozen home-made meals prepared ahead of time, and frozen “base” ingredients like ravioli you can top with a quickly-prepared sauce.
  9. Stock your pantry and refrigerator well, with generic ingredients like pasta, eggs, onions, peppers, tomatoes, broth, ham and bread, just to name a few of our own favorites. We can whip up almost anything when the right things are stocked away.
  10. Make clean-up a snap on tight nights by using plastic ware or preparing one-pot meals that don’t require a lot of washing.
  11. Get your spouse or the whole family to help out and take the stress off one person preparing the entire meal.

With a little pre-planning, making dinner at home every night doesn’t have to be a full-time job, and you can actually learn to enjoy the experience and spend the rest of your free time with family. Enjoy!

Photo by mtl2tky