10 Time-Saving Strategies for Fall Cooking

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Fall cooking often means slow roasts, rich braises, and casseroles bubbling away in the oven. These comforting meals are ideal for cooking over the weekend, but for everyday cooking, we need something satisfying and we need it fast. To do this, you have to have a few tricks up your sleeve. These are the 10 habits that save time and energy for everyday fall cooking.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

1. Start the week with a big-batch braise.

Braising turns inexpensive cuts of meats into super-satiating dinners with just a little bit of liquid and time in a low-and-slow oven. Save time during the week by making a big-batch braise during the weekend, or start your Monday off with a big-batch braise from the slow cooker to eat all week long.

2. Roast extra vegetables.

This is a year-round tip that pays dividends in the fall: Anytime you roast sweet potatoes, squash, or beets, make the biggest batch you can muster. Not only will you cut down on prep time later, but you’ll also have a reserve of tender, already cooked veggies to turn into soups, bulk up salads, or stuff into tacos.

Brush up on the basics: How To Roast Any Vegetable

3. Buy the pre-chopped squash.

Speaking of winter squash, don’t hesitate to buy the peeled and prepped versions of butternut or acorn squash. The price is well worth the time saved when you can open the bag or carton and roast a sweet-and-savory side instead of peeling and dicing a whole squash.

4. Buy the bagged, shaved Brussels sprouts too.

Shredded brussels sprouts not only save you from slicing and dicing sprouts for salads or slaws, but they can also be quickly sautéed in a little butter and tossed with mustard and apple cider vinegar for a perfect pairing for pork chops. Throw them into stir-fries and soups and watch them cook in a tenth of the time of their cabbage cousins.

Learn how to make ’em sing: 5 Tips for Better Brussels Sprouts

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

5. Always have broth in the pantry.

Fall is unofficially hot soup season, so don’t hesitate to use store-bought broth to make quick soups part of your weekly dinner rotation. Not only will you have a base for soup handy for any night of the week, but you can also use it for quick pastas and pan sauces.

6. Buy the dough.

Keeping store-bought puff pastry, pie, and pizza dough on hand means you can have pot pie, winter vegetable tarts, or seasonal pizza with a day’s notice. You can also use these store-bought shortcuts for impressive dinners for guests or quick-cooking weeknight desserts.

Store-bought dough is your friend: 20 Recipes to Make with Purchased Dough

7. Eat breakfast for dinner.

Breakfast for dinner is more than a just time- and money-saving habit — it is also a wonderful way to use up leftovers. Turn yesterday’s roasted vegetable into a satisfying hash or make the weekend’s waffles into a base for chicken schnitzel.

8. Open a can of pumpkin purée for more than pie.

Keeping pumpkin purée on hand is not just smart for quickly making muffins or a loaf of quick bread — it’s also a wondrous thickener for chili and stews, and as a creamy sauce for pasta.

(Image credit: Chungah Rhee)

9. Memorize a sheet pan supper.

Sheet pan suppers are the ultimate one-pan dinner and perfect for the cool weeknights when you don’t mind cranking up the oven. You can roast both vegetables and proteins on a single pan in about 40 minutes, and you only have one pan to clean after dinner.

Get a few recipes: 5 Sheet Pan Miracle Meals

10. Solve breakfast (and snacks) with quick breads.

Fall baking can mean lovingly prepared pies or it can mean quick and simple muffins or bread loaves. Muffins and quick breads can serve as breakfast, snacks, and desserts, whether they are pumpkin or pear.

What are your best strategies for quick weeknight cooking in the fall?