Dinnertime can be hectic, so we’ve compiled the top 10 Quick Dinner Tips for Prep, Cook & Cleanup to make mealtime an actual pleasure in partnership with Frigidaire.
When I was a kid, I definitely took for granted all the time that goes into planning, prepping, cooking and cleaning up after a simple weeknight meal. As an adult, I now can totally appreciate how easy it is to just skip the whole ordeal and order something in on those busy nights of the week. It happens.Some weeks, it happens a lot.
As a foodie dietitian, I think restaurant food is totally fine as an occasional treat, but my number one tip for boosting nutrition and cutting back on unnecessarily calories is to reduce your meals out.
So to help you get into the kitchen without the drama, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 quick dinner tips for healthy meal planning, cooking and cleanup.
The Ultimate Quick Dinner Tips
Tip 1: Create a Meal Plan for the Week
Cooking dinner takes longer (or doesn’t happen at all) when you don’t have a plan. When you have a day off, take a look online for some great healthy recipes (oh weird, I found some here for you) and decide what you want to make for dinner each night.
I always recommend that the last day of the week include ingredients that are either scraps from the previous nights (a stir fry is always a great way to use up odds and ends) or a lot of frozen and pantry staples. That way, if something important were to come up at some point in the week (like an unexpected late meeting) and dinner just wasn’t going to happen, then at least you don’t waste fresh food that will quickly go bad.
Tip 2: Prep Ahead
One of my favourite quick dinner tips is to do a little prep work on the weekend when you have the time. I generally will make a huge batch of quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes that can easily be thrown into salads or used as side dishes. Then I grill or bake a few pounds of chicken breasts for fast sandwiches or salads, and chop up a bunch of veggies for easy assembly style meals. The more you do ahead, the less you have to do when you’re exhausted after an 8 hour work day and spin class.
Tip 3: Stock up on Quick Cooking Staples
One of the keys to a quick dinner is quick cooking food. Frozen shrimp is a go-to protein that I always keep on hand because once it’s thawed in the fridge over night, it literally takes 5 minutes to cook. Likewise, couscous takes pretty much just as long as it would take you to boil water in your kettle, and frozen veggies are already pre-blanched so they heat up in no time.
Tip 4: Take Grocery Store Short Cuts
You do not need to make everything from scratch to serve a healthy family meal. This is one of those quick dinner tips that I really want people to understand. I buy a rotisserie chicken at least once each week on my way home from the gym; I serve half of it for dinner and then I use the other half in lunch sandwiches or salads the next day.
Also, check out your grocery store’s salad bar! Yes, it may cost you more money, but if the alternative is take out or restaurant food, you’ll definitely save money (not to mention calories or fat) in the long run.
Tip 5: Empty Your Dishwasher Before You Start
Once when we were kids, our dishwasher broke for a few months and wow, did I ever start to appreciate what a helpful piece of technology that is for getting dinner done faster. I’m pretty sure my mom just stopped cooking all together without a dishwasher. As an adult with my own kitchen, I couldn’t live without my Frigidaire dishwasher.
It has this amazing DishSense technology that analyzes the dishware inside and automatically selects the best cleaning cycle. Plus, its OrbitClean Spray provides 4 times the water coverage so I don’t get delayed having to re-do any of the loads. I always recommend making sure that you have unloaded the dishwasher from the mornings load before you even start cooking dinner so that you have a clean and empty dishwasher to load up with dinner dishes and run before bed.
Tip 6: Take Out Your Ingredients First
I’m not suggesting you have to be an octopus and grab every spice and sauce from the cupboard in one impressive performance of athleticism. I’m just saying it’s a good idea to be prepared.
These are the kind of quick dinner tips that can really shave down your time in the kitchen. I always read my recipe thoroughly before starting dinner, and get out all of the ingredients I know I will need before I even start. This also helps me not forget any ingredients when I really get going and everyone is begging me for dinner STAT.
Tip 7: Use a “GB”
Okay so I stole this one from Rachel Ray who really did teach me a lot about getting meals finished in a hurry. A “GB” is a Garbage Bowl” and it’s basically a bowl or little bag that you set up to catch any scraps as you do your chopping and slicing.
I usually line a big bowl with a small grocery bag that I later transfer to the garbage because it saves me from the scraps ending up all over my kitchen counter or from me spilling and dropping bits as I walk them to the main garbage bag across the kitchen.
Tip 8: Tidy As You Wait
My mom would always tell me to cleanup as I go, but a more specific and time effective quick dinner tip is to actually tidy as you wait. There will likely always be food that has to finish cooking without you actually doing much – a sauce that’s simmering, or a casserole that’s baking.
Instead of standing there scrolling through instagram foodporn (OK, I’m totally guilty of this), start to put away the ingredients you’ve already used, wash any pots or pans you don’t need or set the table.
Tip 9: Simply Cookware
This is where one-pot meals (like my Cassoulet) really come in handy. One of my favourite quick dinner tips is to cut back on cleaning time by just not having to clean so much in general. If I’m cooking a spring pasta or grain dish, and adding veggies, I’ll throw my broccoli florets or asparagus into the pasta cooking water half way through and just drain everything out together.
You can do the same with all of your grains by cooking it in an excess of liquid (more than the usual ratio) and simply just draining everything out like you would pasta.
Tip 10: Set the Table like a Boss
If your dining room is separate from your kitchen, running back and forth with glasses, place mats, dishes and cutlery can be exhausting. I recommend investing in a little bar cart, tray or basket that you can stock once, transport once, and then at the end of the meal, everything can be loaded back up and brought to the dishwasher in one shot.
And just like that, dinner is done.
Do you have any great quick dinner tips that you swear by?
Do you do any of these things in your own home to speed up the dinnertime cooking and cleanup routine?
Leave me a comment below with some of your hacks!
Disclaimer: This post was created in paid partnership with Frigidaire, however, as always, all opinions are genuine.
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.