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Home / Au Pair / Tricks for Getting Dinner on the Table Faster
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Published on August 19, 2012, by in Au Pair.

It’s like clockwork every evening. Everyone is finally home from school or work and the first words out of their mouths are, “What’s for dinner?” And while you want to serve your family a healthy, home-cooked meal, you’d rather not have to stand in the kitchen for the next hour to fix it.  Check out these stress-reducing tricks for getting dinner on the table faster each night:

  1. Create a menu.  The most important thing you can do every weekend to reduce weekday dinner stress is to come up with a menu for the following week. If you know what meals you are going to fix throughout the week things will go a lot smoother.  You won’t spend time standing and staring at the open refrigerator waiting for inspiration to strike.
  2. Make sure you have everything you need.  If you make up your menu in advance and include the ingredients necessary for each meal in your grocery list you should have a complete list for shopping.  By having everything you need already at home you won’t need to run by the store for any last minute ingredients after work.
  3. Do your prep work early.  By getting up a little earlier in the morning and prepping the ingredients for that night’s meal you will save yourself a lot of time and effort when you come home tired.  Gather up the vegetables that need to be chopped and chop them up and put them in zip top bags.  Put all of the individual ingredients into one big gallon sized zip top bag and label the bag.  If you’d like, you can prep for a few days’ worth of meals in advance.
  4. Utilize your slow cooker.  The slow cooker is a huge help on busy week nights.  Just put everything in the slow cooker before you leave for work and turn it on low.  You will come home to the delectable smell of a home cooked meal wafting through your house, and a dinner that’s ready to be served.  Add a salad and dinner is on the table in less than 10 minutes, and you barely broke a sweat.
  5. Brown hamburger or ground turkey in batches.  A great money and time saving tip is to buy your ground meat in bulk.  Break it up into portions that you will need for your family.  Brown up the meat and put it into quart sized freezer bags.  Label it with what it is and the date that you cooked it and toss it into the freezer.  On spaghetti night you can grab a bag right out of the freezer, defrost it in the microwave, and toss it into the sauce.
  6. Make up several casseroles on the weekend.  If you know that you will have a particularly busy week you might want to spend some time on Saturday or Sunday mixing up some casseroles.  Find casserole recipes that will freeze well.  Come home from the grocery store and start cooking.  If you use foil pans to freeze your casseroles in you won’t even need to wash up the dish after dinner.  Make sure you label everything with what it is and the date you put it in the freezer.  Try to use the oldest thing first so it doesn’t get freezer burned.
  7. Implement a family sandwich night.  Come up with some fun new recipes for sandwiches and start having a sandwich night once a week.  Throw a pot roast into the slow cooker and let it get fall apart tender all day that way when you come home you just have to add the barbeque sauce for pulled barbeque sandwiches.  Add some fruit and a salad and dinner is on the table in minutes.
  8. Try adding a theme night to your menu once a week.  This can be a baked potato bar where everyone helps themselves to the toppings, a taco night where everyone builds their own tacos, or a personal pizza night where everyone can construct their own pizzas.  For pizza night provide some store bought dough, English muffins, or French bread and set out the toppings for the kids to go to town building their perfect personal pizza creation.  Then toss them in the oven to bake and let everyone who’s already in the kitchen help you throw together a quick salad and some pudding for dessert.
  9. Take some help from the store.  Buying a rotisserie chicken instead of baking your own chicken is a smart way to save yourself time since so many recipes call for cooked chicken.  Throw together some chicken enchiladas by adding rotisserie chicken to some enchilada sauce and wrapping them in tortillas.  These can be made the morning of and covered with plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator.  All you have to do is pull them out and bake them when you get home.
  10. Leftover night is often the best night of the week.  Having one of those nights that you are just too tired to make anything?  Then don’t!  Fall back on leftovers. Doing so is a great way to save time, money and to keep the fridge free of spoiled-food.
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