When it comes to dinnertime, there are two things everyone wants to do: save time and money. After a long day at work, sometimes the last thing you want to do is spend ages in the kitchen to prepare a home-cooked meal. As a result, many families wind up hitting the drive-thru to save time. And they also think they’re doing their wallets a favor by getting fast, cheap meals as well. Unfortunately, many families are mistaken in thinking this is their only option.
The truth is, you can have healthy meals at home that are also quick and easy to make. What’s even better is that those meals don’t have to cost a fortune to make. You can keep it both budget-friendly and healthy while giving your family the nutrition their bodies need. To help you out, we’re sharing ten simple ways to save time and money when cooking for your family.
Plan Ahead & Meal Prep
If you aren’t already planning ahead when it comes to your meals and prepping for them in advance, you’re truly missing out. Dinnertime can be much easier and more affordable when you plan in advance. The reason it’s so effective is because it eliminates the last-minute decision making of trying to figure out what’s for dinner.
Not only that, but you’re also able to be strategic about the meals you plan. You can plan your weeknight dinners around what’s on sale at the store and what you already have. This allows you to make use of what’s in the kitchen, so nothing ever gets wasted. You’ll be able to throw out less expired items and make the most of what you purchase each week.
You can also take some time to meal prep each week by preparing certain ingredients in advance. For example, you can prep any fresh vegetables over the weekend so they’re ready to go during the week. Take the time to wash them and chop everything up based on the recipe’s requirements. Another great time-saver is to forgo peeling all your produce. Items like carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes contain skin that’s loaded with nutrients. Just make sure you thoroughly wash them before cooking.
Use In-Season Ingredients
Did you know that you’ll actually save money by purchasing ingredients that are currently in-season? When you can get fresh, flavorful ingredients for your dinner dish, you’ll have less work to do. You won’t need to add a ton of extra flavoring for it to taste just right. This will save you plenty of time and money when cooking.
Add Pasta or Rice to Create a Dish
Pasta and rice are two items many of us love. The good news is, they’re quite affordable so they can help you create a dinner that won’t break the bank. If you have any vegetables or meat you need to use, you can easily add them to pasta or rice to create a full meal that’s delicious.
Meat, veggies, and rice make for a great stir-fry night with you and your family. If you have pasta on hand, you can add meat and vegetables, and top with marinara or alfredo sauce. It’s fast and straightforward, while giving you a dish your family will love to eat.
Prepare Meals in a Slow Cooker
Is there anything better than one-pot meals? Not only are they often easier to whip up, but it also means there will be fewer dishes when you’re done cooking. When using a slow cooker to cook your meals, you can prepare ingredients, add them to the pot, and walk away.
When dinner is made in the slow cooker, you have a bit of freedom to go on about your day while it does its thing. This means you’ll spend less time over a hot stove and more time doing the things you need to accomplish. The slow cooker is perfect for preparing tougher cuts of meat that need to be cooked low and slow, but it’s also great for soups and so much more. Considering you can buy them at a variety of price points, they make a great investment for every kitchen.
Try a Meal Delivery Service
Another way to help you serve your family a perfectly portioned meal is to try a meal delivery service. There are a plethora of options on the market today that will help eliminate food waste. You just need to choose the service that’s right for you so your family will enjoy it.
A lot of meal delivery services even accommodate various food needs and allergies. For example, a close family member of mine has celiac disease. Therefore she can only eat gluten-free foods. The variety of food she can have eating at a restaurant is limited, but there are literally dozens of gluten-free meal delivery services that can accommodate her.
If you’re not a fan of cooking, you might want to try a meal delivery service that provides you with pre-made meals that you only need to heat up. That will save you some time in the kitchen! However, if you enjoy cooking, you can choose one of the options that send you recipes with pre-portioned ingredients. They give you exactly the right amount to whip up the dish in the recipe. It couldn’t be simpler than that!
Prepare Your Pans for Cooking
When you cook dinner, you probably add oil to a cold pan and wait for it to heat up, don’t you? Instead, why not put an empty pan on the stove and allow it to heat up while you prepare the ingredients for cooking? This means that your pan will have plenty of time to warm up and it’ll be ready for you when you need it. All you have to do is add oil and cook away!
Go For a Freezer-Friendly Dish
If you want to save time in the kitchen, consider creating some freezer-friendly meals your family will enjoy. You can cook up a meal and make extra for freezing so you can eat it at a later date. All you’d have to do is defrost it and heat it up, giving you a nutritious dinner in no time at all. It doesn’t get much easier!
Various soups and stews are perfect for freezing. You’ll love having them on hand during those cooler fall and winter nights. Another great option is to make a large batch of homemade marinara sauce to freeze and add to a quick pasta dish on another night.
Preserve Food with Vacuum-Sealing
Is there anything more frustrating than having to toss something because it went bad before you were able to use it? When it comes to cooking, probably not! If there’s meat, fruits, or vegetables you won’t be able to use in time, vacuum seal it and store it in the freezer.
This will help you make the most of the ingredients you’ve already purchased, while also protecting them from freezer burn. You’ll be able to use everything at a later date and it’ll still taste good. One great tip is to portion off smoothie ingredients (like fresh fruits and veggies) and grab them when needed. This means that produce won’t rot before you can enjoy it.
Serve the Right Portions
The best way to save money in the kitchen is to make sure you cook and serve the right portions for you and your family. Sadly, there is so much food waste throughout the country, and you can help eliminate that. If you find that you’re constantly throwing out leftovers that don’t get eaten or tossing foods because they expire before you’re able to cook them… Do something about it.
To eliminate food waste in your own kitchen, be smart about how you plan your meals for the week. Make sure you’re taking advantage of the ingredients you already have in your kitchen so you can use them before they go bad.
Also, make sure you aren’t cooking too much at dinner. If your family is unable to finish what’s on their plate, that’s a good sign that the portion size is probably too large. Unless you’re cooking extras to have leftover for your lunch tomorrow, scale back on how much food you’re actually cooking.
Clean Up As You Go
Let’s be real, no one likes the clean-up that cooking requires. Unfortunately, every meal can’t be a one-pot wonder. Not only will you have pots and pans to clean up, but you’ll likely have cutlery, cutting boards, and measuring cups that will need a wash. And odds are, you’ll have a few spills on the kitchen counter.
Instead of waiting until cooking is done, clean up some of your mess as you go along. You can fill the sink with water and add the dishes as you finish with them. It gives them time to soak so any mess will be quicker and easier to clean up. Once dinner is done, washing those dishes will be less of a daunting task.