By: Alison Marras
December 10, 2019
(updated April 20, 2021)
Ah, the weeknight dinners conundrum! After a long day of work, we would love a delicious, healthy dinner… but we are often crunched for time and need food on the table fast. And oftentimes, it seems jarring to have to cook a meal on the fly when we are usually spent after a day of doing #allthethings. Whether we are cooking for 1 or a whole family, the challenges are so real. But when we take a step back and implement some smart strategies that don’t take a ton of time, we can set ourselves up for success. And since we aim for consistency over perfection here because that’s what actually works… I’m sharing 7 time-saving tips to get quick and healthy weeknight meals on the table consistently.
So let’s dive in and quit feeling overwhelmed or ordering Thai for the 3rd night in a row because you simply can’t get it together, you’ll feel a lot better knowing you are in control of your dinner vs. at the mercy of whoever is delivering nearby! And for those with food sensitivities, this tends to be mega stressful (or straight up BORING because of meal repeats)… but doesn’t have to be.
Bonus: Download this Sheet Pan Formula Infographic to stick on your fridge. It’s the only sheet pan recipe you’ll ever need to use with ingredients you have on hand!
Despite a common misconception that frozen foods are somehow unhealthy, they can actually be even better than fresh especially when the food is out of season. As long as there are no additives and you’re sticking with the Dirty Dozen for organic foods… the produce is actually flash-frozen right at the perfect time ensuring no rotten veggies/fruits.
This is a major timesaver AND food saver, so you’re eliminating waste and the stress of having to use something up before it spoils in your fridge. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy fresh produce… but only when I have something in mind for it or know I have the time to use it. The rest can be stacked and ready to go in the freezer.
My favorite frozen veggies and fruit include:
By simply making extra servings, you’ll have leftover lunch or dinner and maximize your time in the kitchen! If you’re cooking for 1… cook for 2. Cooking for 4? Cook for 6 and have some packed lunch! It won’t take you any more time, so you might as well.
While you don’t have to commit to a 4-hour marathon meal prep day on your weekends to be successful… taking an hour or two to make the meals that take longer OR prepping yourself for easy weeknight cooking is really helpful! Turn on the music, or that show you’ve been meaning to catch up on… roast some vegetables, or at least cut them up so you don’t have to on the weekdays. Get that soup going. Make a whole chicken to feed you all week long. Don’t forget some epic sauces like a little pesto to last you in the fridge and enhance all your meals! You can start that and go off to relax, enjoy time with friends and family, or soak in a bath! Or let’s be real… do that laundry, too. This is multi-tasking at its finest.
SO KEY! This is a common blocker when we think to make that steak, chicken breast, or fish will just take too long and make a mess… so we just can’t even. NOT TRUE. Simply stock up on thin cuts of all your meat and seafood so they’ll defrost quickly (and honestly, you can also cook them while still frozen). Try getting some frozen shrimp and scallops that take just 10 minutes or so to defrost.
How about the non-frozen options? You know, boiled eggs, cans of wild sustainable tuna and salmon, and nitrate-, nitrite-free bacon and cold cuts (I like Applegate organic brands for turkey and ham). You can always throw some on a bed of greens and have yourself a delish and balanced bowl.
As a big advocate for DINNER FOR BREAKFAST (all about the start savory), we can reverse it since it’s all the same anyway. If all else fails, you can whip up a quick omelet or hash! It’s still better than sketchy takeout or pantry cookies, am I right? Nourish yourself no matter what.
Having a smart pantry to go-to for the quick proteins I mentioned above and other goodies that require little to no cooking, OR that will help enhance your cooking, either way… you’ll be a winner. Check out some of my favorite pantry staples here! I love using Thrive Market or Amazon Fresh to shop online for my pantry items and produce, work with whatever is available to you.
And at last, nobody wants to come home and do dishes… admit it! Having a handy sheet pan and cast-iron skillet that you can throw some veggies and protein into to cook all together is the best solution. Just make sure you have your proteins and veggie chopped small and in a similar size, and keep an eye on things. If done successfully, you just saved on dishes, your sanity, and TIME. I have plenty of recipes like this in my winter meal plan, Mindful Meals you can check out! (pictured throughout this post)
Have a plan. You don’t have to spend hours putting together a meal plan and making a huge mess in your kitchen with marathon meal preps… but if you’re committed to nourishing yourself and making it a no-brainer, a little bit of upfront planning is the best. I created my Mindful Meal Planning System for this exact reason… to take the guesswork out of it for you! You’ll have 6-weeks of done-for-you grocery lists, step-by-step meal planning how-to’s, a full schedule, and mindful eating tips to support your digestion. You’ll be stocked with plenty of healthy weeknight dinners and meals! This is something I do for so many of my 1:1 clients and I’m making it available to everyone with tons of anti-inflammatory quick, tasty recipes to save you time and have you feeling amazing.
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