Five easy ways to make time to cook every evening

We all know that frozen ready meals, takeaways and endless sandwiches don’t make for great dinners. But sometimes it’s hard to find the time and energy to cook after a long day in the office. None of us want to come home, exhausted and hungry, and spend an hour chopping vegetables and cooking.

What we need is a healthy meal as quickly as possible. These are some of my failsafe tips for ensuring that preparing dinner is easy and fast.

1. Get everything ready in the morning

When you’re preparing your healthy packed lunch, allow an extra five minutes to sort out everything for your evening meal:

  • Transfer anything that needs to defrost (eg. prawns, chicken) from the freezer to fridge
  • Weigh the pasta/rice/potatoes
  • Grab any pots and pans you need and set them out
  • Dig out that jar of sauce or tin of chopped tomatoes from the cupboard
  • Check the vegetables are easy to access in the fridge

2. Buy bags of ready prepared vegetables

If you’re making a stir-fry, casserole, or anything that requires a lot of different chopped vegetables, it might well be worth buying these ready prepared. Supermarkets do a huge range of bagged stir fry veggies, and whilst you’ll get cheaper ones by buying loose, it’s worth going for the pre-prepared sort if time is at a premium.

3. Eat meals that require little “hands on” cooking

Some dinners need you to stand in the kitchen constantly stirring one pan, adding to another, and trying to keep a third from bubbling over. When you’re tired and busy, dishes that can be left to simmer on their own are best. Soups and stews are ideal, and simple meals such as baked potatoes with salad hardly require any preparation time.

4. Make double, freeze half

The majority of dishes can be refrigerated and reheated the next day, or frozen for use the following week. (Remember never to reheat rice, though.) When you’re making a bolognaise sauce, for example, double all the ingredients and keep half for another day – it will take a few minutes longer to prepare, but could easily save you three quarters of an hour on another night.

5. Take it in turns to cook

Agree at the start of the week with your partner or housemate which nights you’ll each be cooking on. This gives you both the chance to plan ahead and to be organised, and avoids any arguments when you come home from work about who’s had the worst day and consequently doesn’t want to cook…

One caveat is that you may find that you need to explain some basic healthy eating principles if you end up being served huge bowls of creamy cheesy pasta… (why not print out some of the recipes from The Office Diet for inspiration?)

(Image above by tschaut)

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