It’s no easy feat to get dinner on the table at the end of a long day. Sure you can get some takeout or microwave a frozen meal, but wouldn’t it be nice to sit down to a home-cooked meal full of fresh ingredients and flavors once in a while? Not to mention all the health benefits associated with eating at home and with family and friends. It may seem daunting to cook up meals during the week, but there are a few tips and tricks that will make it easier than you think.
- Prepare in advance. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Planning ahead is the number one way to ensure a nutritious and delicious dinner will be on the table at a relatively normal hour most nights of the week (you want to eat at 7 pm, not 9 pm, right?!). To make that happen, plan your menu and buy your groceries over the weekend; dice, slice, and chop as many ingredients as you can when you have the time; double or triple recipes so you have leftovers that will last a few days; make big batches of one pot meals that freeze well, like soups, stews, and casseroles; freeze burgers and chicken in single serving sizes that will quickly defrost.
- Use pre-made or ready to eat ingredients. Homemade doesn’t mean every single part of the meal has to be made from scratch. Make your life simpler by purchasing ready to use ingredients, such as jarred tomato sauce for pasta dishes, pre-cut vegetables like cubed winter squash and trimmed green beans, and salmon and veggie burgers from the freezer aisle. Just be sure to read the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts before you throw them in your grocery cart!
- Keep a fresh salad in the fridge. Chop up veggies and stock up on salad greens over the weekend and you’ll always have the vegetable portion of your plate filled whether or not you have time to cook. If you’re having a frozen dinner, put it on a plate with the salad for a more well-rounded meal; add some canned beans from the pantry and some shredded cheese for a more filling salad; or try Fresh Express’ Gourmet Café ready-to-serve salad bowls like Chopped Santa Fe and Kale Great Greens – quick and tasty meals with no prep required!
- Invest in a slow cooker. You still need to chop up vegetables and get your ingredients ready to throw in, but once everything is in the pot, you can head out the door in the morning and return to a delish home-cooked meal.
- Read ahead. How many times have you started cooking just to find that as you go along in the recipe you don’t have everything on hand? By reviewing the recipe first, you’ll also be able to prepare certain ingredients that take the longest time, like rice or pasta, so they’re ready to go once the rest of the recipe is done.
Find out where you can purchase Fresh Express Gourmet Cafe Salads by using our Store Locator Tool.
By Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN for Fresh Express