Five Ways to Plan Ahead For (Very) Early Fall Dinners

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I refuse to jump on the fall casserole bandwagon just yet. Rest assured: we've still got tomatoes and corn and warm Indian summer evenings to look forward to around here. But that being said, the reality of back to school and no more summer Fridays changes things a bit for some of us, and early morning school traffic changes things for the rest of us (at least here in Seattle). So I thought it was a good time to pause and think about quick ways to guarantee early fall dinner success.

With vibrant summer produce, it's really easy to get into patterns during the summer: dinners have been little more than big salads, sliced tomatoes and cheese, good bread and something on the grill. Judging by the frequency in which we sit down to this exact meal, I apparently need little else.

But things start to slowly change in the fall, and beginning to think through ways you can make your life easier is always a good thing. Here are five ways I prep ahead for meals in the fall.

Five Ways to Plan Ahead For Fall Dinners

  1. Cook a Pot of Grains: This is my weekly "chore" on Sundays. I choose a different grain (usually a hearty grain like farro, wheat berries or barley) and make a large pot that we can use in salads, pilaf-style dishes or porridge throughout the week. I find that it's a lifesaver.

  2. Prep Your Vegetables: It sounds silly that something as simple as prepping your vegetables can begin to seem like a chore, but I find that having lettuce washed and chopped and herbs picked really helps speed things along on a busy weeknight.

  3. Make Sauces and Dressings Ahead: If you're in the habit of making homemade dressing, whip up a batch at the very beginning of the week to use for dinners. And I love having a few different sauces around (a pesto, a spicy tomato sauce) that I can use as a base for a quick meal, too.

  4. Roast a Chicken: In addition to cooking a pot of grains, this is a great way to make weekly dinners easy as you can do so much with one roast chicken. Turn it into quick enchiladas, chicken salad, or deluxe panini sandwiches. If you're not much of a chicken-roaster, buy one from the store! You'll still get lots of mileage from it in your own kitchen.

  5. Meatballs for the Win: Whenever I make meatballs I double the recipe and freeze half of them. This ensures there's always a quick dinner on busy nights (or a protein-packed snack on hungry afternoons).
How do you plan ahead for fall dinners?

(Images: Faith Durand: Recipe: Cauliflower & Chicken Sausage Casserole)

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