If you’re like me, preparing dinner seems to take longer than you have. You can’t sauté, dice, and pre-heat the oven with a toddler under your feet! So, if you’re also like me, and daydream of finding extra time to meal prep a month’s worth of freezer meals, or collecting recipes for your crock pot or Instant Pot to cut time, this list is for you!
1. “Throw Together Quickly” Meals
First on my list is to find a few meals that you can easily make to save time one evening. Sure, this comes in handy on busy nights, but I have another reason for it– by making one of your fail-proof, easy to make dinners on a night you have a little more time, you save a little time to complete some of the other ideas on this list! Favorite “fast meals” here include purchasing pre-made ravioli and mixing in Italian sausage and spinach, buying lettuce with a Cesar Salad kit included, tossing with some grilled chicken and wrapping in tortillas, or using fish sticks (toddler friendly!) to make fish tacos quickly. Check out this post for four-ingredient meals. This post as well as this post have some great fast meals!
2. Prep Fruits and Vegetables for the Week
Spend an hour or so (when you can!) on cleaning and chopping fruits and veggies for the week. This way you have raw, fresh food to eat on hand for meals and snacks, as well as having them ready to throw into meals. Dress up salads, smoothies, oatmeal, and so many other recipes with extra veggies or fruit!
3. Prep More to Freeze!
If you have a few extra minutes, keep chopping! Many fruits and vegetables freeze well. Dicing up an onion and freezing it in a freezer safe container makes meal prep a breeze. Take out a handful of frozen onions to throw into many different meals: casseroles, pastas, meatloaf, etc. If it’s going to be cooked, chances are you’ll never be able to tell it wasn’t a freshly chopped. Tomatoes are great in sauces and stews! Other veggies that freeze well for later cooking: pepper strips, corn, or garlic. Try it out and see what you like.
Fruits that are frozen are great for baking with or blended into smoothies. Both the vegetables and fruits will definitely be softer once thawed, so the freezer method is best for when it’ll be sautéed, cooked, or just where texture won’t affect the meal.
4. Cook Multi-Use Ingredients Ahead of Time
Pre-cook some ingredients. For instance, check out this post on shredded chicken! Having one ingredient prepped ahead of time, like chicken, can make many meals come together quickly.
5. Make a Little Extra To Freeze!
Lastly, my favorite way to save time is to cook double of what I actually need for dinner that night. By doing this, I only spend a couple extra minutes actually cooking and portioning out, but I end up with two or three meals! Casseroles, pastas, and crockpot meals are all ideal for this. For the excess, I like to use either Pyrex freezer-to-oven safe dishes, or purchase some foil tins to save on cleaning time later. I then cover with tin foil, clearly label with name, date, and cooking instructions. Just pop it in the freezer and you get a freezer meal, or two, for later. Typical casserole or crock pot type recipes can usually be divided into three separate meals for my family!
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