Health experts tout the health and social benefits of eating a meal together as a family, but parents cite too little time as a barrier to making this happen. On weeknights, families may have even less time to cook a meal due to busy schedules. Half-scratch cooking swaps don’t have to tank your food budget or hurt the nutritional quality of your dish, either! Here are a few of my favorite timesaving swaps to help families spend less time cooking and more time around the dinner table.
You can save time by buying vegetables in the form you need them. I like to buy spiralized vegetable noodles instead of making them myself. There’s no doubt that it will cost more to buy chopped vegetables since you’re paying for someone else to do it. If you need just a small amount, try buying it from the salad bar. Or, you can do some extra chopping on other nights when you have more time to cook.
Microwavable Rice & Grains
Have you ever mistakenly bought regular instead of instant rice? It’s a bummer. Instant rice saves serious time because it’s precooked. I like to keep a few bags of the frozen, microwavable brown rice or shelf-stable instant rice packs on-hand. It works great for simple, skillet meals. You don’t even need the microwave.
If a recipe calls for chicken breast, go ahead and use rotisserie chicken. Just check the ingredients for salt. Or better yet, look for one that earns Guiding Stars! If what you buy is higher in sodium, adjust your cooking accordingly. For instance, use no-salt-added broth in your chicken noodle soup.
Frozen vegetables can save you time and money. This is especially true when produce is out of season. There’s no need to thaw the vegetables if you’re preparing a recipe that can handle a little extra moisture like a soup or pasta dish. Frozen peppers and onion are super versatile. Also, you’ll never regret buying a frozen stir fry mix.
I love one-pan dinners. I really love sheet pan dinners. If you’re baking everything together you can use that time to get other things done. Like dishes, which is the reason that one-pan dinners are a huge timesaver. Way fewer dishes! No one has time to do dishes like it’s Thanksgiving on a Tuesday night.