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Avoid takeout and tasteless dinners with these quick-to-table hacks

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Getting dinner on the table every evening can be very overwhelming. In this article, we share tools and shortcuts to help you expedite your meals, without sacrificing flavor.

FROZEN FOODS

There is absolutely no shame in stocking up on frozen fruits and vegetables and using frozen foods can save precious time, as there’s no real preparation involved. They can be the key to balancing out a plate or adding to dishes like pasta and salads for more nutrition. In order to easily thaw them, it’s best to place them in a strainer and rinse with water, but this isn’t necessary. If you’re really short on time, just throw frozen vegetables into a skillet over medium-high heat with a little olive oil and they’ll be done in no time.

ONE POT, ONE PAN

One-pot and sheet pan dinners save time and make cleaning up after dinner a breeze. There’s something so satisfying about a meal that comes together in one piece of cookware and, these days, there is no shortage of one-pot and sheet pan recipes to save you time (and dishes) throughout the week. The best part? You can place the finished product on the dinner table as is. Just remember to place it on a trivet to protect the surface underneath. Dutch ovens work particularly well for this style of cooking since they ensure even cooking and can be transferred from the stovetop to oven, making them very versatile. Other wonderful cookware choices for all-in-one dinners include paella pans, Instant Pots and cast iron skillets.

One-pot and sheet pan dinners save time and make cleaning up after dinner a breeze.

ORGANIZATION IS KEY

For easy weeknight meals, an organized kitchen is half the battle. Clearly labeling items in your pantry and freezer is a great start so that you’re never guessing how old something is or whether a spice is paprika or cayenne powder. Secondly, be smart about how you use your space. You likely don’t need a set of twelve water glasses in your cabinet, or various cooking gadgets that you barely ever use, like a garlic press or avocado slicer jammed in one of your drawers. Either donate them or store them somewhere else. 

Your counter space is precious real estate so, depending on the size of your kitchen, you may need to be very picky about what appliances you wish to display. As for drawers, use drawer inserts instead of haphazardly throwing things in there and you’re sure to thank yourself later, when you can easily find what it is you're looking for. When you’re cooking, stay organized by pre-arranging the ingredients you will be using (mise en place) and keeping a scrap bowl handy so you can easily and quickly discard items like egg shells as you go.

Your counter space is precious real estate so, depending on the size of your kitchen, you may need to be very picky about what appliances you wish to display.

MEAL PLANNING

Meal planning can seem overwhelming, but if you organize yourself you can save yourself a lot of work throughout the week. Instead of struggling to come up with a dinner plan every night of the week, it’s much easier to plan out meals for a whole week at a time. It might sound like a daunting process but it can actually save you time and money in the long run. It helps if you break down meal planning into three categories: selecting recipes, shopping for ingredients, and prepping your meals. Everyone’s schedule is different, but we find planning the week’s meals and grocery shopping on a Saturday and then taking time to prep your meals on Sunday is the easiest. That’s why we release Weekly Menu by Dollop every Friday so you have time to prepare for the following week.

Adding a theme to dinner can be a fun way to help you organize what you’ll need for the week. Think Taco Tuesdays and Meatloaf Mondays. If you have kids, think about letting them vote at least once a week for their desired theme. Other ways to find recipe inspiration are through cooking blogs, asking friends and family to share their favorites, on Pinterest and, of course, by subscribing to Weekly Menu by Dollop, where we provide you with a 5-day menu and tailored grocery list.

Instead of struggling to come up with a dinner plan every night of the week, it’s much easier to plan out meals for a whole week at a time.

Meal planning can save you a lot of money, especially If you’re able to double up on ingredients for your meals. There are so many versatile fruits and vegetables. Pasta is one of our favorite repeats, as there are so many different ways to prepare it, from baked macaroni and cheese to lasagna. Ultimately, meal planning is a personal process and differs for everyone. As long as your strategy works for you, that’s all that matters. Meal planning should ultimately get you excited about cooking!