While we would all love it if we had a chef to make all our meals, if you are like me that chore usually falls to you. I love to cook, but cooking every day for a house full of people means that sometimes you have to use a few shortcuts to make it all work. Over the years, I have developed a few quick and easy tools that make getting dinner on the table faster and easier. Here are my faves.
Crock Pots and Rice Cookers
These might actually be the same pot in your home, but the principle is to cook or set up ahead. With a rice cooker, I can set it up quickly in the morning and simply push start when I get home. Often, I will have something cooking in the crock pot to put over that rice when it is ready. Crock pots are wonderful since you can set your ingredients up marinating together overnight in the fridge, pop them in the crock pot that morning and come home to a meal that is just waiting to be eaten. Just google “crock pot” and whatever you want to cook to find hundreds of great recipes.
Prepackage Up Lunches
Sometimes we want a nice hot lunch and don’t want to spend the money on going out. This is where making extra big crock pot dinners and then sealing them up for freezing after really helps. We like to use a vacuum packaging machine for this as makes it all fast and easy. Just let what you have cooked cool a bit, store in vacuum bags that are only half filled and then run through the machine to seal up and stack in your freezer like cord wood. Instant tasty lunches or dinners for those days when even a crock pot isn’t fast enough.
Planning in Advance
If you take about an hour at the end of each week to plan the following week it pays back in spades. It helps to plan what you need to buy if you do the planning before you head to the grocery store or farmers market. Start with a simple four-meal menu, pull your grocery list from this and add in snacks and breakfast and lunch needs. In addition, we always have a pile of old bill envelopes (the perfect shape for lists!) sitting on the kitchen table. As we run low on something it goes on this list, then the menu items are added after at the end of the week. You will save money using this method as well.
Cook for Several Meals
If you are a single person you can actually cook for the entire week on Sunday night. I know many who often do this as it is easy, it is their day off and then they have a roast to make dinners with all week. If you are more a casserole person, try cooking something one day and making a casserole for several meals the next day. You may only have to cook a meal twice a week this way. They aren’t leftovers, they are creative uses of dinner!