School’s back in session, work is in full force, and I’m having flashbacks to last Spring. The difference is I’m older and wiser this time around. Instead of trying to “do it all”, I’ve learned what shortcuts save me the most time and sanity without sacrificing my health.
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Time-Saving Dinner Hack #1: Frozen broccoli (or cauliflower, etc.)
Our friend hosted us for dinner one night (pre-covid), and I asked how she got her broccoli florets to be so uniform and bite sized. She told me she buys them pre-cut and frozen. “No more chopping, no more cleaning bugs!” she said. I resisted this at first, but after our third bug-infested broccoli delivery during lockdown, I made the switch. I may never go back. Note: plan to cook slower and lower. I cook fresh broccoli at 425 for 25 minutes. Frozen broccoli takes 45 minutes at 350.
Time-Saving Dinner Hack #2: Pre-cut/spiralized produce
I love zucchini noodles and butternut squash. I have a spiralizer to make “zoodles”, and I know how to cut a squash. My husband used to be against the upcharge of buying prepared produce, but he also used to have an uninterrupted workday and didn’t have to share desk space with a 2nd grader. Now we let Whole Foods spiralize our vegetables for us. Ditto ricing our cauliflower. And having a large container of pre-washed spinach means when I have 5 minutes to make dinner, I still get my greens in because it takes so little time to sauté.
Time-Saving Dinner Hack #3: Could be homemade, isn’t homemade
There was a time when OF COURSE I made my own pesto sauce, coconut yogurt, and sourdough bread. That time is not now. I’ve found my swaps where the ingredients are pure enough to be from scratch, but someone else did the work. For pesto, it’s Gotham Greens vegan pesto. For tomato sauce, it’s Rao’s marinara. For coconut yogurt, it’s Coconut Cult original coconut yogurt, which is sold at half the suggested retail price at Whole Foods. For sourdough, I buy the gluten-free sourdough from Coco Bakes, and I do the subscription to bring the cost down.
Time-Saving Dinner Hack #4: When in doubt, make breakfast
Breakfast for dinner is so quick and easy that it’s even become a weekly fixture on our dinner menu. For us, this looks like eggs and/or avocado on toast. For our greens and vegetables, we’ll either have spinach (see above) or a side salad. Sometimes, we give the kids baby carrots and cucumbers while we’re toasting the bread and cooking the eggs, and call it a day.
A lot of people are successful at doing their meal prep on a Sunday to have meals ready for most of the week. If meal prepping works for you, great. This was never our style because the last thing we want to do is spend hours on a Sunday shopping, chopping and cooking. This gave me the Sunday scaries.
The above hacks save enough time so we don’t feel the need to meal prep. These tips mean cooking dinner is more efficient than ordering take out while also being healthier. The major thing is to still plan ahead, whether that’s meal planning or having a standing weekly delivery slot from the grocery store.
I’d love to know what you do to give yourself a little breathing room. Feel free to share your time-saving hacks below!