As anyone who has moved across the country can tell you—the process of uprooting your life and relocating in a new city, a new neighborhood, and a new home is beyond challenging. Between the packing, the unpacking, the navigating new streets (read: getting lost on new streets; darn you GPS), you arrive home exhausted… and hungry.
This presents a challenge in and of itself, because the last thing you have time for is setting up your kitchen—let alone finding the energy to cook a from-scratch meal. Whatever is keeping you out of your kitchen (renovations can be a nightmare), there are a few ways you can still feed yourself and your family nutritious, wholesome meals. Here are four tips for getting dinner on the table with minimal effort—and without a takeout menu.
1. Rely on pre-prepped ingredients.
You can barely find space on the counter to chop veggies, but the real issue is that you have no idea which moving box is currently hiding the chef’s knife. Forget about it, and embrace the convenience of prepped ingredients. Lettuce comes triple-washed and cut into bite-size pieces. Butternut squash is sold in the produce department peeled and cut, ready to be roasted or simmered into soup. Sweet potatoes are now spiralized for you. Chicken thighs are pre-marinated. Salmon burgers are seasoned and formed into patties. These shortcuts may cost a little more, but the time and sanity you save is priceless. Recipe: These sheet pan roasted veggies can be done in no time if you buy pre-chopped/pre-cubed/pre-sliced veggies.
2. Supplement with fully-cooked sides or mains.
I’ll happily throw together a salad if I don’t have to roast a whole bird, so a hot and tender rotisserie chicken is always welcome at my kitchen. So is prepared pesto—I have yet to meet someone who finds the task of washing food processor blades enjoyable. Also frequently spotted in my grocery cart: deli-made chicken salad (just add Triscuits and fruit for a totally serviceable meal) and good bakery bread. Nobody said you had to cook every part of dinner. Recipe: This tortellini salad is made with the barest minimum of effort.
3. Embrace the sheet pan dinner.
If you don’t have the space or energy to cook a feast, you certainly won’t feel up for doing dozens of dishes. Skip the headache of scouring pots and casserole dishes with a sheet pan dinner. This genius idea makes smart use of the real estate on one single rimmed sheet pan. Why sear chicken on the stovetop, roast veggies in the oven, and toss a salad in a separate bowl when you don’t have to? Recipe: These sheet pan nachos are also made with rotisserie chicken and whatever easy toppings you can think of.
4. Go outside.
Got a grill? Use it! Although we often think of outdoor grills as a way to make meaty mains shine, you can easily cook an entire dinner al fresco. Slicing vegetables into small pieces and using a grill basket, so they don’t fall through the grates, means they will cook quicker. Bread can be brushed with a little oil and grilled to round out the meal. You can even make dessert on the barbecue. Recipe: Try these salmon packets with asparagus for a quick outdoor meal.
At the end of the day, remember this: You don’t have to be a hero. You just have to get dinner on the table. Sometimes, that’s enough.