Without a doubt, one of the most common barriers to a healthy lifestyle is lack of time. And, it seems like time diminishes even more when there are more mouths to feed. That’s why we want to share 7 kitchen “hacks” that, with a little bit of prep, will help you save time and make preparing a healthy dinner a breeze.
1. Keep ready-to-go pantry staples on hand.
We really can’t stress the importance of a well-stocked pantry. Grocery shopping becomes much more enjoyable when you just have to grab a couple of fresh ingredients, like meat, eggs, and veggies. Make sure to stock your pantry with whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, canned beans, spices, and dressings.
“I keep beans, lentils, and chickpeas on hand (frozen or canned) to make quick weeknight meals. This way, I can whip up a complete meal in a fraction of the time it would take me to cook meat or poultry. One of my go-to meals with chickpeas are these salad in a jars.” - Nazima Qureshi RD, MPH, CPT, Owner of Nutrition by Nazima
2. Set it and forget it.
Standing over a stovetop to make sure dinner doesn’t burn can be one of the most “active” components of cooking. Skip the whole waiting for the water to boil ‘step’ and get yourself a crockpot to make easy soups, stews, and one-pot protein dishes.
“The crock pot is by far my favorite kitchen appliance. It's ideal for busy families as you can quickly prep your ingredients in the morning before work, toss them in the crock pot, and come home to a meal that's ready to eat! Check out my 7 tips for cooking with a crock pot” - Chrissy from Snacking in Sneakers
3. Prepare single ingredients ahead of time.
Contrary to what others tell you, you don’t have to spend your whole weekend preparing 5 nights of gourmet meals. Just prepare a few ingredients so they are ready to go when you are.
Take an hour on Sunday to hard boil eggs, grill chicken, and chop veggies. You can use this to throw together a quick salad or breakfast.
4. Start a family cookbook.
Aside from time, lack of inspiration can also get in the way of making healthy food. Especially when the go-to alternative is pizza or Chinese food. Engage your family in a project to help make everyone an active participant in choosing weeknight meals. This could mean having family members create a grocery shopping list together, tear out recipes from magazines, or even creating a family cookbook.
“Start a kitchen journal; keep track of meal ideas you and your family liked to give you inspiration in your less creative days. If you want to be even more organized, give the book categories for easy referencing, like entree, side dish, or dessert.” Lauren, RD
5. Always keep a few fresh herbs and spices on hand.
If you’re already relying on pantry items and crockpot meals, it’s important to add a “fresh” component to your meals to keep them interesting. It could mean starting your dish with fresh garlic, or topping your dish with fresh parsley, cilantro, or arugula to give it an extra burst of flavor.
“I always have fresh garlic and a garlic press in my kitchen. It's such a versatile ingredient used in at least a dozen of my favorite recipes that I use for busy weeknight meals, and having a garlic press definitely saves chopping time.” - Kim Melton, RD
6. Make a large batch of a family favorite for a quick dinner.
Between soccer practice and other after-school activities, it might not always be possible for everyone to sit down to dinner together. Make a large batch of chili, or whole wheat pasta with chicken and veggies, so everyone in the family can reheat it when they’re ready to eat.
7. Embrace the freezer.
Your freezer is like a second pantry. Stock it with frozen fruits for quick smoothies, veggies like spinach or broccoli to add to soups or stir fries, and grains, like brown rice and quinoa (yes, you can buy these frozen)! This saves a ton of time and you don’t have to worry about these ingredients going bad.
What are your favorite kitchen “hacks?” Let us know in the comments below!