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One of the things I hear most often from my clients is, "I don't have enough time to cook!" Amen. I get it. It doesn't matter if you are a stay at home mom, a career professional with no kids, or both, weeknight dinners can be stressful. However, with a little planning and some helpful tips, dinner can be a more relaxing and enjoyable experience.
1. Plan menus.
This is the number one thing you can do to make your life easier. Set a time (the same time every week) when you sit down with your cookbooks and online tools and plan what you are going to eat for the week. A great online tool and app for this is Pepperplate. There are also websites and services, like Once a Month Mom, that allow you to get an entire month's worth of recipes you can make ahead of time and freeze. Then stick to the schedule. Knowing ahead of time what your plan is can be a huge stress reducer.
2. Prepare some food in advance.
Now that you've menu-planned (and even if you haven't), prep your ingredients for the week. One hour on the weekend saves you so much time when it counts during the busy week. You can chop onions, wash and chop your veggies, cook some rice. Better yet, make a soup for the week so one of your meals is already taken care of. The more you do on the weekend, the less you have to do during the week.
3. Keep a running grocery list.
Create a system of keeping track of staples so you're never without an ingredient. Keep a magnet notepad on the fridge, for example, and the moment you run out of something, put it on the list.
4. Develop "go-to" meals.
Find some quick and easy recipes that your family likes and create a "go-to" recipe folder. Make sure you are also keeping your pantry stocked, so you're prepared for those nights when you're running short on time and need to whip something together. Part of having a stocked pantry is also having meat and veggies waiting for you in the freezer.
5. Make leftovers.
Whenever you make a meal that will freeze well, make extra and freeze it. It's a relief knowing that on days you need it, dinner is already in the freezer. Also consider making more food than you need for the night. Leftovers can make a great lunch the next day, or a reinvented meal a night or two later. For example, if you've planned to make baked chicken one night, make extra and use the chicken for chicken and rice soup.