Time Saver: Get Dinner Ready in Under 30 Minutes

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Getting dinner on the table can be a tremendous task. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent, working, or stay at home parent, we all have plenty of responsibilities to keep up with. Prepping a healthy dinner can be overwhelming with after-school activities and the many commitments we discover ourselves being responsible for. And yet… people have to eat, and nightly take-out isn’t a healthy or cost-effective option for most of us.

Striving for Healthy, Home-cooked Meals?

If you’re like me, healthy, home-cooked meals a priority for you despite all of the demands of life. If it’s your goal to feed your family fresh food as often as possible while saving money and time, then read on for tips on how to plan, shop and prep to ensure that dinner’s on the table almost every night.

Shopping Lists Save Time

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When you become a parent, making lists becomes second nature. If you steer away from lists, you’re leaving a huge time saver on the table. Have you ever returned from the grocery store only to find you’ve forgotten what you actually ran out to get? If you’re like me, you’ll see that keeping a running list is the only way to keep the house stocked up. Keep the list in a central location or accessible by everyone in the house (like on Google Keep). It’ll cut down on multiple trips and prevent rage monsters from appearing when things run out.

Make the List Work for You

While you’re at it – make your list do even more for you. Instead of just writing down what you need, when you need it, create a template that includes the things you most commonly buy like eggs and milk. Then, print the list each week and just add any additional items you might need each week.
If you’re really organized, you might even create your list so that it matches up with the physical layout of the grocery store aisles. In fact, this is why I love Google Keep so much. I put things on it all week, then before I step foot in the store, I make sure it matches up with the layout of the store. Not only do I get through the store more quickly, but I also don’t often forget the things I need.

Plan Ahead for Efficiency

It may be hard to come up with dinner ideas on Sunday, but doing it on the fly is costing you time. Instead, plan ahead. Sit down and produce a schedule for the week (or at least a general idea of what you’ll be making and serving for the 5-day work week). Match this planning up with your grocery schedule so that you can take advantage of weekly sales. So if you usually grocery-shop on Monday, you might say to yourself: “Pork is on sale. I can get a roast and cook it in the crockpot. The remains become tacos for Tuesday. Mid-week we can have a vegetarian meal. Thursday is potluck. Friday, we make homemade pizza.
Now write down the list of ingredients you’ll need to cook these dinners. You don’t need to plan down to the last detail. Veggies, sides, and those sorts of things can be flexible. If you do this regularly, you’ll spend less time running to the store for last-minute ingredients. Dinner will also get on the table faster with everything planned in advance.

Save Time and Cut Out Daily Prep

We all like to serve fresh food, but sometimes our lives are just too busy. To supplement, utilize frozen sides. Frozen foods are a huge time saver, and even whole meals can be frozen and thawed later. Stock up on your favorite bagged vegetable selections from the frozen foods aisle.

Plan Some Quick Meals

Have one or two “heat and eat” options for a busy night. There are plenty of healthy options that aren’t “TV dinners.” Chicken nuggets thrown in the oven or toaster oven can be ready quickly. Frozen French fries can be baked in less than 20 minutes, with easy tray cleanup after.
Soup is also a meal that can be ready in no time at all. Whether you buy soup or make it, it can be frozen in single servings and thawed with warm water, then heated on the stove in a saucepan. Just watch out for those canned soups. Many of them are high in sodium.

Stock the Refrigerator

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Stock the fridge up with starches like rice, pasta, and whole-grain sides. A stocked fridge makes it easy to grab and go. This can be an added bonus if you have picky eaters since they can grab the starches they like without creating more work for you.
You might also consider putting some salads and raw veggies in the refrigerator for days you don’t want to turn on the oven. I know I like to keep this one in my arsenal for days that nothing goes as planned and we have to run out the door before we can even finish dinner.

​Plan a Dedicated Day

Plan and shop for a cooking day. Plan for this to be a day when you have time to get it all done. You can make more complicated meals that would take several hours to complete from prep to finish. Once you have the more difficult meals cooked, portion them out and free them. I favor plastic and glass containers. For things like meat sauce, you can also use mason jars. If you use a canning-type method, it’ll keep without having to freeze it.

Keep It Clean

Another overlooked way to get things done rapidly is to clean as you go. Clean as you go. Items like peelers, colanders, and boiling pots don’t require much soap to get clean. A quick soap down and rise will get them cleaned and out of the way. Wash and put knives away immediately after use. Not only does it get the kitchen cleaned up, but it also prevents accidental injury.
Another time-saving measure is to soak or wash your pans as soon as you are done cooking with them. By doing this, you’ll eliminate the need to scrub them because food won’t have a chance to stick. If you keep up with everything as you go, you’ll just have some dishes, silverware, and serving bowls to throw in the dishwasher. It can be as simple as that.
Now it’s your turn. Share your favorite shortcuts with us! We can all use as many as possible.​
time saver get dinner ready in under 30 minutes
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