20 Time-Saving Cooking Hacks You Need to Know

We all want to eat healthier, have less stressful dinner times, and actually enjoy time with our loved ones instead of being in a frenzied state from trying to get dinner ready. With a baby and a 3 year old I’ve tried about every trick in the book to try and make dinnertime easy (without calling out for pizza!) Below is a list of 20 cooking hacks that will save you time and stress at dinnertime.

save time, dinner, dinnertime, cooking hacks, kitchen



Planning Dinner
  1. Plan your meals ahead – One of the first things you can do to make dinnertime easier is to plan ahead. Check out my article (Menu Planning Services You Must Check Out) to read about services that can help you get a dinner plan for the week.
  2. Prep Day – If possible, have a prep day where you prepare 2-3 meals in advance. You can then save them in the refrigerator and heat them up during the week. This is one of my favorite prep strategies, making the weekdays sooo much easier but it typically requires a couple of hours on a Saturday or Sunday to make it work.
  3. Slow Cooker Freezer Meals – These types of recipes allow you to throw a bunch of raw ingredients into a Ziploc bag and store it in the freezer. When the time comes you remove the contents of the bag and put it in your slow cooker and voila dinner is ready when you get home!
  4. One-pot recipes – Have a list of one pot recipes your family loves that are easy go-to recipes. For us, it’s pesto pasta with fresh and sundried tomatoes. It’s easy and great to do in a pinch!
  5. Overnight oats – This one actually makes the morning rush easier. Use a mason jar, add some milk or almond milk, oats, fruit and nuts of choice. Each morning for the rest of the week you have a ready to-go meal.
  6. Have a few Frozen Meals in Place –While often not as healthy as a home cooked meal, it typically beats the nutritional void of pizza delivery! We like to have vegetable lasagna on hand for those nights when we’re in a pinch.

save time, dinner, dinnertime, cooking hacks, kitchen

Prepping Dinner
  1. Use a food processor – I LOVE LOVE LOVE my food processor! It’s wonderful when I’m doing batch cooking or cooking a dish with lots of veggies. It totally beats using a knife and cutting board.
  2. Passive Cook Potatoes – On an evening when you’re at home, put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in the oven for an hour. You can clean the house, watch your favorite show, or even get caught up on emails. When the potatoes are done, you can store them in the refrigerator for several days and use them for baked potatoes or grill them for hash browns.
  3. Batch cook Rice or Quinoa – At the beginning of the week, cook several cups of rice or quinoa. It can be frozen or stored in the fridge. It can later be the foundation of a meal or served as a side dish.
  4. Wash Fruits and Vegetables in Advance – I love it when I wash the lettuce in advance and store it in a container so that I can quickly make a salad come mealtime. This works for tomatoes, carrots, grapes, berries etc.
  5. Cut Vegetables in Advance – Carrots, Celery, or Onions can be cut, diced, chopped and stored so that they are ready when you need them.
  6. Thrive Life Chopped Veggies – One of my friends sells a freeze-dried product by Thrive Life. I buy cans of dehydrated or freeze-dried onions as well as bell peppers. I add a little water and just like that I have diced veggies with minimal work. Check them out here if you haven’t already.
  7. Mise En Place – A French term that means, “putting in place” – Think of a cooking show where they have all of the ingredients precut and measured. It allows you to throw things into the pot as you go and not have to pause to prep items while cooking.
  8. Pre-chopped Veggies – Grocery stores offer pre-chopped veggies in the produce section or the frozen food areas.
  9. Cut with Kitchen Shears – Last but not least, use scissors!!! Kitchen shears are great for cutting vegetables, herbs, even the fat off meat. They can be so precise and easy to use!

save time, dinner, dinnertime, cooking hacks, kitchen

Cooking Dinner
  1. Cook Once Use Multiple Ways – My mom is a master at this. No left over goes to waste in her house! She bakes chickens, and then they become chicken soup, and chicken spaghetti. She’s a genius at reinventing the main dish throughout the week.
  2. Slow Cooker – Throw and go! In the fall and winter, this is a go-to appliance for me. It’s wonderful to come home and dinner is ready to eat!
  3. Double the Recipe – Double or triple the recipe and freeze the extras. It takes a lot less time to cook more of a dish than it does to make it several times. In days or weeks to come, you have a yummy homemade dish that only has to be defrosted!
  4. Microwave – When cooking root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes etc., cook them for a few minutes in the microwave. This will cut down the time required in the oven.
  5. Cook with Parchment – Make clean up a snap, by covering baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Here’s to a stress-free dinner! Let me know if you have tried any of these dinnertime cooking hacks or there are other’s you’ve used and loved!

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the Thrive Life shout out Melissa! I also use Tip #9 a lot – we have a few different kitchen shears for different purposes. They are great for quickly chopping up food for our baby and toddler too. Also, here is a “prep day” tip for people with a good selection of freeze dried ingredients. Make mason jar meals with your freeze dried food! I’ve done soups, casseroles, rice dishes and pastas all this way. And it is SO FAST! I can make a mason jar meal at a pace of about 5 minutes per jar, because all it entails is measuring and pouring ingredients. And don’t forget to tape a note to the jar with your instructions for how to rehydrate and heat it up.

    • oh…I’m seriously interested in an InstantPot…it might be on my Christmas list this year 🙂 I need all the help I can get and I’ve heard really great things about the IP!

  2. Great tips!!! I use some of these but lately I haven’t had time on weekends to cook for the week so it’s been VERY simple dinners (i.e. eggs and salad…) so I need to get back on that….

    One thing that helps (and I just did this tonight!) is to prepare a meal the night before (i.e. marinate and prepare the meat) and tomorrow evening I’ll just have to cook it – it cuts the cooking time in half so instead of being in the kitchen an hour tomorrow, I spent 30 minutes today and 30 minutes tomorrow!!

    http://www.elleisforlove.com

    • Great tip! Every little bit of prep helps…doing one part today and the other part tomorrow is a very practical way to help dinner time be less busy! Thanks for sharing!

  3. If you have a hard time with cold overnight oats, steel cut oats in the crock pot overnight are wonderful. Use almond milk for really creamy oats! Leftovers also hold up well for reheating.

  4. Great advice. All of it. I’m such a bad planner, but things jive SO much better when I do. I’ve also found that making twice as much at once and then freezing half for future use helps tremendously as well.

  5. These are great tips! Several I already do (reinvent leftovers, PARCHMENT!!!, use the crockpot, keep standbys in the freezer [usually leftovers from a previous meal]), but others (prep crock pot ingredients in ziploc and store, prepped in freezer – GENIUS!) are new to me, and you’d better believe I’ll be adding them to my repertoire! 🙂 Thanks for the great post!

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