20 Time-Saving Cooking Hacks You Need to Know

Do you want to eat healthier and have less stressful dinner-times? Maybe you’re hoping to actually enjoy time with your 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 dinner time easy (without calling out for pizza!) Below is a list of 20 cooking hacks that will save you time and stress at dinnertime.

pot on the stove with text 20 time saving cooking hacks busy moms need to know

Planning Dinner

First, the top priority for making dinner-time less stressful is planning ahead.  There are several flexible options for planning ahead, you don’t have to fully plan the week’s meals in advance (although that is helpful).  Take a look at the following planning options for a few ideas.

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.

chopped bell peppers on a cutting board

Prepping Dinner

Next on the list is dinner prep.  The tools you use and taking advantage of “spare” time can help you seriously get a leg up in this department!

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Cut Vegetables in Advance

Carrots, Celery, or Onions can be cut, diced, chopped and stored so that they are ready when you need them.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. Pre-chopped Veggies

Grocery stores offer pre-chopped veggies in the produce section or the frozen food areas.

15. 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!

Pasta with pesto sauce basil and tomatoes on it.

Cooking Dinner

Now you’re at the final step, cooking. The good news is, there are even a few hacks that can help your cooking efforts be multiplied!

16. 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.

17. 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!

18. 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!

19. 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.

20. Cook with Parchment

Make clean up a snap, by covering baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Planning – Prepping – Executing

Any combination of these 20 cooking tips can help you avoid dinner-time chaos.  Planning ahead, prepping your food, and leveraging a variety of cooking tools will help your dinner routine to go smoothly.  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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  1. Kayleigh says

    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.

    • Melissa @ Our Happy Hive says

      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. Seppy says

    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!!


    • Melissa @ Our Happy Hive says

      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. samantha says

    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. ElizabethMillerSliwa says

    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. Flossie McCowald | SuperMomHacks says

    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!

  6. Leah says

    I️ so need all of these tips in my life!! I️ feel like I️ don’t even have time to sit down and implement them though haha

  7. Amanda says

    Great tips! I always have great intentions of meal planning and whatnot – but I never actually do it. You inspire to me to try it again.

  8. Lucy says

    Anything to meal time easier is a win as far as I’m concerned. Love the idea of the freezer bag to slow cooker. I’m going to be trying that one!

  9. Niamh says

    Love the overnight oats idea! I hate feeling rushed in the mornings, and love the idea of past me looking out for me and having the breakfast ready 😛

  10. Mila says

    Your cooking tips are some of my favorite ones. We love to cook, so it takes up most of the time in our household. There are so many great ways to try trimming that time down.

  11. Rachel G says

    I always try to get as much of the dinner prep done as I can in the morning before work (because I’m an early bird and very energetic in the mornings!) so that when I come home, making dinner is easy, and I’m not tempted to just skip it!

  12. Yolanda says

    Great tips here! I used to make overnight oats (with different flavours) all the time and then I stopped. Thanks for the reminder to start again. I also need to start making quinoa/rice in advance too.

  13. Lindsay | Splendiferous Mama says

    I have recently been more strict about meal planning and that step alone has helped cut down on my stress so much! I often double up on recipes which has helped a lot. Thanks for the tip about potatoes, that’s such a good idea 🙂

  14. Kate says

    These are genius ideas! I should have thought to use parchment to reduce clean-up a long time ago. So simple and so smart! I need to add these to my life and have a prep day.

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