No matter what your day includes everyone wants to get supper on the table faster.
Supper time is usually the busiest time of day. I also find it the hardest time of the day. Everyone is tired, hungry and ready to unwind.
Today I want to share 10 insanely easy ways to get supper on the table faster.
. A little bit of planning ahead can go a long to way to making dinner time less stressful.
Cook the main dish in the morning
Take advantage of when your energy and motivation is highest.
For me this is midmorning, when my toddler is fed and happy to play on her own.
Other food to cook ahead of time:
- ground beef (chicken or turkey) for tacos, lasagna, chilli
- poached chicken thighs for chicken pot pie
- roasted butternut squash for lasagna, mac n cheese or quesadillas
- roasted sweet potato for enchiladas, quinoa bowls
- rice which is always a good staple to have on hand ready to go for rice bowls, broccoli, chicken and rice, burritos
2. Marinate and freeze fresh meat
After getting home from the store set aside time to freeze fresh meat into meal size portions.
The main types of meat I buy are chicken thighs (bone in or boneless skinless), chicken drumsticks and the thigh and drumstick attached. Less often ground beef or chicken, pork chops and sausage.
When I buy chicken thighs I use the Shake n Bake recipe from this cookbook and marinate the meat in the freezer in a large plastic bag. Then when I take the meat out to defrost the evening before cooking it, one step of the recipe is already complete.
You could also use any marinade recipe and freeze your meat.
3. Prep as much food as possible in the morning
Preparing part of the recipe you plan to cook for supper in advance can save a lot of time.
How to prepare for a recipe in the morning:
- take out the recipe you are making for supper
- go down the ingredient list and prepare any ingredients that can sit out ahead of time or in the fridge. Read the recipe carefully. Leave out things that don’t get mixed until after cooking.
- wash, peel and chop vegetables (onion, garlic, bell peppers) and store covered in the fridge
- measure out spices into a small container and set aside for later
- wash and open any cans (tomatoes, beans, corn, soups)
- rinse canned beans and mix with any ingredients that are not cooked
- if a cream soup is mixed with say enchilada sauce and sour cream, do that now and store covered in the fridge (sour cream enchiladas)
- pour a cream soup over chicken and put it in the dish it is cooked in and cover and place in the fridge until cooking time
4. Buy some convenience food
A lot of times I try to steer clear of convenience food because it’s more expensive and wasteful. Yet some days I’m tired and don’t want to take the extra step to prepare the food myself.
Also if convenience food will help your family eat healthier then do it!
Convenience foods I buy to get supper on the table faster :
- washed lettuce (spring mix, or romaine)
- frozen butternut squash
- frozen broccoli
- frozen perogies
- salad dressing
- pasta sauce
- sweet potato fries
- taco seasoning packs
- chicken bouillion
- bbq sauce
Convenience foods I don’t buy
- shredded cheese
- frozen lasagna
- single serve meals
- microwave rice
- hummus (buy some tahini and make it in the blender)
- pesto (another easy thing to make in the blender)
5. Subdivide large portions of meat
If you buy meat in bulk then this step is a must. I find the containers meat is packaged in a pain to open and store. Especially in the freezer.
Instead, I like to divide enough meat from the tray for one meal and some leftovers. Do this right when you get home from the store.
I use large freezer bags or you can use these reusable ones.
If you have a kitchen scale you can weigh out meat like ground beef so you have equal portions for tacos or lasagna.
6. Cook a large amount of food and divide it for later uses
One thing I like to cook in bulk is rice. If I’m making rice I’ll make a double portion and then freeze half.
Later I if I’m making stir fry or need a rice dish to round out a meal I defrost some rice.
Another meal that is easy to divide up and freeze for leftovers or lunches is chilli. I make my chilli in the crockpot. When I put it away to ensure it cool properly I divide it into single-serving containers. I freeze the portions we won’t’ eat in the next few days.
This is also my backup lunch for my husband if I run out of time to make him something.
Foods to cook in bulk
- chicken, shred for later
- taco meat
- pesto (freeze in ice cube tray)
- chicken stock (add to rice when cooking)
7. Have one frozen ready to go meal
I always like to have an emergency meal in the freezer for nights when I don’t want to cook. For us, that’s frozen pizza or hamburgers.
For your family, it could be chicken nuggets and fries. As long as your not eating this type of food every night it’s perfectly fine to have it in your freezer as back up. Plus it’s cheaper than eating out or using a meal service.
8. Use your slow cooker
Using your slow cooker does take some advanced planning but on a busy day it can be very helpful.
If I’m going to use my slow cooker I try to prepare as much of the recipe as I can the night before. I place the ceramic part of the slow cooker in the fridge ready to go. In the morning I place it into the cooking dish and turn it on to cook all day.
9. Double the recipe and freeze for later
If you have extra time and enough ingredients double the recipe and freeze half for later.
A great meal to double and freeze is lasagna. To reheat cover with aluminum foil and cook in a preheated 375 F oven for 50 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 10 more minutes. Or defrost in the fridge overnight and cook as the recipe says.
Freeze ahead meals:
10. Stock your pantry to get supper on the table faster
Even if you don’t meal plan try to stock your pantry with foods your family eats on a regular basis.
Stock your pantry with these staples:
- pasta (lasagna, spaghetti)
- pasta sauce
- breadcrumbs or panko crumbs
- cream soup (mushroom, chicken)
- bbq sauce
- canned tomatoes (crushed, diced)
- tomato paste
- canned beans (black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- frozen pie crust for quiche or chicken pot pie
- frozen vegetables
- frozen fruit
- spices (chilli powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper)
With these basics, you can make different meals by just picking up some meat, dairy or fresh vegetables.
Easy pantry meals:
- chilli with the beans, tomatoes, spices and frozen vegetables (corn or bell peppers)
- chicken pot pie with the pie crust, whole milk, frozen veggies and thyme
- breaded chicken drumsticks with bbq sauce and breadcrumbs (follow oven directions at bottom of the recipe.)