Don’t Have Time to Make Dinner? These 10 Tips Should Help
Just because your schedule gets hectic doesn't mean your diet needs to suffer.
The two most common road blocks for cooking healthy meals are time and money. There's a misconception that clean eating needs to be super time consuming, with hours spent slaving over a hot stove, and super expensive, because vegetables and lean proteins are too pricey.
But it doesn't have to be.
One of our Cooking Light Diet members though, Katie Winters Hazen, had this exact problem. She'd joined the Community Facebook group and had been monitoring all the posts and comments there until finally deciding to share her dilemma. Katie is a mom to four kids, works a full-time job, and is trying to manage making delicious Cooking Light recipes every night.
Well, the Cooking Light Diet community answered her call, and provided Katie with lots of different tips on how to prepare healthy and delicious meals quickly, and for cheap. Here are some of those responses.
Use Kitchen Equipment Wisely
Many Cooking Light Diet recipes incorporate time-saving kitchen equipment, like slow cookers and instant pots. Slow cookers make for super simple dump and go meals. Member Diana Bilich Smith said, "One of my favorites is the slow cooker Ropa Vieja which my family loves. I would definitely double that one up and then you would have it for a couple of dinners."
Instant pots are also a great tool for speeding up cooking. You can find some great instant pot recipes that cut down time here, like oatmeal, soup, and meatballs.
Prepare Dishes in Advance
A common Cooking Light Diet favorite is the Chicken Verde Enchiladas, and they're very quick to assemble in advance. Community member Julie Klussman Sanchez recommended assembling the enchiladas on Sunday, keeping them refrigerated until ready to eat, and then popping them in the oven to cook through when dinner rolls around.
They're so good member Jay Shaw said, "The Chicken Verde Enchiladas are pretty quick and relatively inexpensive, and delicious. My son swears they taste like they came from an authentic Mexican restaurant."
Make a 20-Minute Meal
If dinner took an hour to make every night, everyone would be running out to grab fast food before soccer practice. That's just not realistic. That's why our 20-Minute Main Dish Recipes are essential for those super busy nights. You can throw together a delicious, family-friendly feast of quesadillas, lamb chops, chicken, and my personal favorite, Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw.
Get The Family Involved
Community member Una Walker says, "Get the kids involved, if they’re old enough. Especially with prepping, like cutting veggies for the week or just for snacks. It’ll get them to appreciate all the work that goes into a meal."
Recipes that involve minimal work but contain a lot of ingredients, like the Szechuan Chicken Stir-Fry, are perfect for a family to cook together. While you prep the sauce and chicken, kids can slice up peppers, onions, and garlic (with adult supervision, of course!) for a super-quick dinner.
Cook One-Pot Meals
We love quick and easy one-pot meals—that's why we develop so many! A community favorite is the One-Pot Pasta With Spinach and Tomatoes, which is a very inexpensive meal that comes together in just 30 minutes.
Have Go-To Dinners
It's always nice to come home for dinner and have a plan in mind, but that's not always realistic. Diet members like to have a few go-to meals up their sleeves. Cooking Light Diet member Kim Markham loves the Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi, a super fast meal that can be thrown together with a bag of frozen shrimp, butter, orzo, and spices. Dinner will be ready in a snap.
Cook Once, Eat Three Times
One trick we love to use here at Cooking Light is the cook once, eat thrice rule. Some recipes include similar ingredients, so if you make one main element on Sunday, you can create three entirely different meals for the week.
Make a batch of roasted veggies and toss them into our Farro Burrito Bowls, stack them onto Grilled Caponata Panini, and finish them off as a breakfast for dinner in a Grilled Vegetable Frittata. It's a time and money saving hack you'll love.
Everyone Loves Pizza
Some nights are just so busy you'll want to order take-out pizza for a fast family meal. Instead, keep some frozen crusts or refrigerated dough on hand for a super easy, throw-together meal. Recipes like our Artichoke Arugula Pizza with Prosciutto have all the deliciousness of takeout but way less calories. You can find more of our healthy pizza recipes here.
Some people just can't handle repeating meals or leftovers, and that's totally ok. If you are someone who can, try and repeat the same lunches and snacks throughout the week to keep costs and time in check.
The Romaine, Celery, and Parmesan Salad is a personal favorite to repeat. I'll make five on Sunday, with little bags of carrots on the side, and have them ready to go every day. Just switch up your meals week to week, and it will make meal prepping a breeze.
One List, Three Dinners
If you're looking to truly cut down cost, jump on Cooking Light print edition's one list, three dinners. We provide a single shopping list that lowers your weekly grocery bill, while giving you the tools to make three healthy dishes.
Stock up on ingredients like Tilapia, veggies, and tortillas for one night of Fire-Roasted Tomato Basil Soup, a second night of Blackened Tilapia Tacos with Basil-Lime Mayo, and finish off with Sheet Pan Baked Tilapia with Roasted Vegetables.
The single list makes for a quick shop, and the recipes are so fast and delicious you'll love eating healthy.