Tips That Make Cooking Homemade Meals Quick and Easy
Finding the time to make a homemade meal every night can seem like an impossible challenge. Between work, helping with homework and all of the activities for your kids, you barely have time to eat, let alone make a complicated meal.
Rather than getting a take-out pizza, which isn't the healthiest or most cost-effective option, you can use these six meal preparation tips to create dishes that are simple to put together but taste like you've been cooking them all day. Not only do these tips save time, but they also make cooking enjoyable instead of a hassle.
1) Use a Pressure Cooker
Soups and stews are delicious but can take hours to simmer before they have that tasty melt-in-your-mouth texture. That's where the pressure cooker comes in, especially when you're under pressure to make a quick meal. Make meals in as little as 15 minutes (after chopping and after the cooker pressurizes) that taste like they've been cooking all day. Preparation with a pressure cooker is easy, just braising your meats, combining the other ingredients and setting the pressure cooker before your family enjoys a heavenly meal.
2) Prepare Staples in Bulk
Things like egg muffins, grilled chicken, grilled pork, ground beef and chopped vegetables make great bases for meals. Make these items at the beginning of the week and store them in resealable plastic bags, to have on hand for dinner, snacks, sandwiches, pasta dishes and heat-and-eat breakfasts. By making them in bulk to reheat in the microwave on busy mornings or evenings, you'll never be without a homemade meal at your fingertips.
3) Take Things Slow and Use a Crock-Pot
With just a handful of ingredients you can create delicious meals in your Crock-Pot. Using canned soup as the base, create decadent chicken, beef or lamb stews with little effort. Add some frozen veggies and you're good to go. Plus, you can set-and-forget these stews in your Crock-Pot before you leave for work and have a meal that tastes like you slaved over it for hours when you get home. You don't have to tell anyone the truth.
4) Wrap Up Meals in Foil to Bake
Combine your favorite fish, chicken or meat with frozen veggies and seasonings in foil and fold the foil to seal them in. Bake or grill these packets to create all-in-one meals that are ready in no time. Because all of the ingredients are cooking together within the foil, you get a rich, flavorful meal and cleanup is a snap. Even better, you can make each person a packet to tailor ingredients individually by family member, which is great for fussy eaters and those with food allergies.
5) Use the Microwave to Cook
Rather than just using it to reheat meals, make use of your microwave to actually cook tasty dishes for any time of day. Meals like risotto and quiche are time-consuming and a pain to prepare ordinarily. Instead, use your microwave to create things like creamy risotto, quick quiche, poached eggs, mug cakes or even hearty homemade soups and sauces in minutes, making preparation a breeze.
6) Make Flavor-Packed Cubes
When putting together meals during the week, it's time-consuming to look through all of your herbs and spices to get perfectly seasoned food. Avoid that problem by filling ice cube trays with olive oil, chicken stock or beef stock. Add seasonings and fresh herbs like sage, thyme and dill before freezing them. Not only does this prevent herbs from spoiling, it makes flavor-packed cubes that you can toss into all your meals, including your stews, soups, stir-fries and sauces.
- Food.com: Mom's Beef Stew (Pressure Cooker)
- PopSugar: 10 Make-Ahead Meal Prep Hacks That Will Make You Feel Really Good Later
- Food.com: Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings
- BettyCrocker.com: Easy Fish and Vegetable Packets
- MyRecipes.com: Creamy Butternut Squash Risotto
- Cooking Channel: Laura's Frozen Flavor Cubes
- Six Sisters' Stuff: 30 Delicious Tin Foil Dinners
- Greatist: 39 Delicious Things You Didn't Know You Could Make in a Microwave
Susan Paretts has contributed to a variety of publications about issues related to family and women's issues including Livestrong, eHow, Redbook, Our Everyday Life, Real Simple and Woman's Day among others. Her expertise is in topics related to nutrition, family, relationships and work-life balance for working moms.