We'd all like to make getting dinner on the table a little (okay, a lot) easier. The good news is that making it happen doesn't require magic, or even necessarily a ton of effort. It simply asks you for a little forward thinking, and to take some small steps today that your future self will thank you for when it comes time to make dinner throughout the week.
1. Batch cook for at least one meal.
Consider batch cooking a gift to your future self. If you're already in the kitchen and doing the work, carve out a bit of extra time and gather more ingredients to cook foods or meals that can carry you through the week and beyond. Roasting a few sweet potatoes for dinner? Throw in a few extra, or take advantage of the hot oven to roast veggies for salads, tacos, and grain bowls for the week. Craving breakfast sandwiches? Instead of one or two, make a dozen, the stash them in the freezer for breakfast or lunch for days to come. Batch cooking asks for upfront work, and rewards you with easy, effortless meals later.
2. Defrost those freezer meals you made a while ago.
Perhaps you're already well-versed in batch cooking and stocking your freezer. You put in the work, so don't forget to take advantage of it! Take an inventory of the meals stocked in the freezer, then defrost and heat them up for easier dinners.
3. Make a meal plan.
If you're not doing it already, there's no time like the present to start meal planning. Stop waiting for a week when you have a less busy schedule and work isn't stressful because, let's be honest, there will always be a reason to put it off. Whether you're most comfortable committing to a night or two a week, or a full week of dinners, meal planning saves time and effort!
New to meal planning? Start here.
4. Stock your pantry with the most helpful essentials.
Strategically stocking your pantry can be one of the most helpful things you can do to make prep and cooking easier. In fact, it can make all the difference in mastering 30-minute meals. Your pantry is home to the core ingredients that build the foundation for easier, smarter weeknight cooking. It won't have every last ingredient, and there's no one-size-fits-all master list of what to buy, but start with stocking the foods and ingredients you like and actually want to cook.
5. Wash (and dry) leafy greens and herbs before you need them.
There's no reason to wait until you're ready to prep a salad or braise those collards. Wash your leafy greens and herbs now, then grab them when you need them. Do be sure to also thoroughly dry them, as they'll get slimy and spoil when stored with too much water. It's a simple step, but one that will save you time later.
6. Make a vinaigrette that can pull double duty as a dressing and marinade.
Think bigger the next time you shake up a vinaigrette. Make your vinaigrette a multitasker that can work as a dressing for salads and grain bowls or a sauce and marinade. And instead of making just enough for a single salad, make enough for the whole week. Stored in a sealed container, it will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.
Know the basics: How To Make a Basic Vinaigrette
7. Take an inventory of the ingredients you have on hand.
Take a look through the fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what you have on hand. Identifying what you already have can often times be the easiest way to decide what to cook for dinner. That head of cauliflower hanging out in the back of the fridge could mean roasted cauliflower tacos for Taco Tuesday, while frozen sausage can be turned into a quick, saucy ragu.
Your turn! What are the strategic things you do now that make cooking in the week to come easier?