Like many people you’re super busy these days. However, you appreciate the fact that eating out a lot costs a ton and frankly, it’s tough to find restaurants where you completely feel at ease with the ingredients. So how do you balance this? How do you create homemade meals without spending oodles of time cooking? Clearly you’d agree that your schedule cannot tolerate hours of chopping, stirring and simmering on weeknights.
Before expanding your schedule, reducing sleep, or giving into fast food demons, try using these tricks; you can turn out delicious meals with minimum effort.
- Cook from frozen
Most meats don’t need to be thawed before cooking. Boneless chicken breasts or tenders can be grilled, baked or put in the slow cooker straight from the freezer. You can even bread chicken tenders without thawing by running them under cool water to remove the ice glaze, then bread as usual. Fish fillets, such as Tilapia can also be cooked from frozen. Even roasts and larger cuts of meat can be done this way. Pop it in a pan and add the sauce or seasonings, then give them a longer cooking time.
- Slow cook it
There are many excellent recipes specifically for crock pots; they aren’t just for soups and stews. Or convert your favorite dishes for use in the slow cooker. Sliding into dinner time with the food already cooked and waiting to be dished up is a satisfying feeling.
- Skip the measuring
Pour a teaspoon of salt in the palm of your hand. Now try a tablespoon. Learning to eyeball measurements on herbs and spices will save you time in putting a dish together. These ingredients can be added to taste, so exactness is not necessary.
- Combine Steps
Why sauté onion and garlic separate from ground beef, when you can do it all together? Why cook veggies separate from the pasta, when you can throw them into the water during the last few minutes of cooking? Fewer steps mean less time and work for you.
- Skip Steps
In some recipes it’s possible to skip things such as browning meat. Yes, it might seal in the juices, but if its final destination is in a slow cooker it will be juicy enough. Skip the cracker or bread crumb toppings on casseroles and save not only time, but calories too.
- Use your freezer
Cook up several pounds of chicken or ground beef on the weekends, then freeze it to use later in the week. Simmer a big pot of soup one night and freeze the rest for a quick meal later. Double that batch of muffins and pop half into the freezer. All of these tricks speed up the meal prep.
- Use certain convenience items
Go for shredded cheese instead of in a block. Canned diced tomatoes taste better than most grocery store tomatoes. Better still, they are already chopped. Frozen diced onions and green peppers also save time. Instead of chopping and cooking fresh veggies for a stew or potpie, grab a bag of frozen stew vegetables. It’s not quite as good as cooking from fresh, but the difference is not enough to offset the time saved. And you get those little pearl onions in the bargain.
- Choose recipes with only a few ingredients
Using only 3 or 5 ingredients is much faster than gathering and preparing a long list of things. I reject most recipes with loads of ingredients, at least for weeknight dinners.
- Keep it simple
Every weekday meal doesn’t need to involve a main dish, 2 sides, bread and a dessert. Dinners like chicken fried rice or homemade nachos don’t need much to go with them. If you do need something to round out the meal, add a simple steamed veggie, tossed salad or fresh fruit.
By using these tricks, you’ll be able to get dinner on the table in a flash. Just think of all the ways you can use the time you’ve gained.
So, how do you cook lazily? Share your tips in the comments.