(Family Features) If coordinating schedules to gather the family around the dinner table is a victory in its own right, finding enough time to prepare a well-rounded, flavorful meal may just be a medal-worthy accomplishment.
Whether a weeknight dinner or special occasion, you can shave precious minutes off your kitchen work and dedicate more moments to doing the things you love with these time-saving ideas that don’t sacrifice quality.
Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Organizing your thoughts and scouring the kitchen for ingredients can take as much time as preparing the meal itself. Instead of wondering what you’ll make and whether you have what you need to make it, take time to plan meals a week ahead whenever possible. Think through a complete menu, including main dishes and sides, and take inventory of the pantry and refrigerator so you can build an efficient grocery list.
Use Ingredients in Multiple Recipes
When planning and shopping for your weekly meals, consider which ingredients you may be able to repurpose. Not only does using ingredients across multiple dishes help minimize waste, it cuts down on prep time. If you’ll be using chopped onion in multiple recipes, go ahead and chop enough for every meal and save the unused portions in the refrigerator or freezer.
Turn to Your Pantry for Simple Sides
Flavorful side dishes can be surprisingly simple. For example, Idahoan helps you put real mashed potatoes on the table in just 5 minutes. They start with 100% real Idaho potatoes from local growers then wash, peel, boil and mash them like you would at home. After cooking each batch, they simply fresh-dry the mashed potatoes so they’re ready for you to prepare at home.
Make Larger Portions
Cooking once and eating twice (or more) is an easy equation for saving time. Intentionally making more than you need ensures fuss-free lunches or plenty of leftovers you can heat up quickly for nights when the family is running in different directions.
For many meals, the main dish protein takes the longest to prepare. If you can carve out some time over the weekend or one night a week, multitask and make several batches of proteins to use later in the week. Cooking the proteins concurrently lets you pack multiple days of preparation time into a single super-sized session.
Use Time-Saving Tools
Traditional methods have their time and place, but a weekday dinner isn’t it. Rely on tools to get the job done faster, like a slow cooker that works hard all day so you can enjoy its labor when you return home or a food processor that takes the effort out of slicing and dicing.
Time-Saving Upgrades for Delicious Sides
Mashed potatoes are a crowd-pleasing dish that can be incorporated in a wide range of menus. While they can often be time-consuming, an option like Idahoan can help you put real mashed potatoes on the table in just 5 minutes because they take the time to create mashed potatoes from scratch so you don’t have to. This allows you to embrace the staple side dish’s versatility by freeing up time for you to incorporate simple twists like these.
Mix it up with all the fixings. From vegetables like corn or caramelized onions to classic garnishes like chopped fresh herbs, you can mix and match toppings for a new take on a loaded smashed sensation.
Embrace Tex-Mex flair. Create your own version of ethnic favorites like traditional Mexican papas. Add lightly sauteed red and green peppers, green onion, green chilis and shredded cheese for a Tex-Mex potato dish perfect for pairing with tacos or enchiladas.
Get garlicky. Add minced garlic and grated Parmesan cheese for a savory burst of flavor that complements the traditional potato taste.
Find more ideas to put meals on the table quickly at Idahoan.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman cooking)