3 Make-Ahead Tips for a Positive Dinnertime

Investing just a little prep time can transform your meal into an nutritious and relaxing experience.

Posted in , Nov 8, 2018

Family dinner

As our lives get busier and busier, a peaceful, positive dinnertime can feel unattainable. Family members often scatter in the evenings, and our full days leave little time—or energy—to prepare healthy, tasty meals from scratch.

To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes, to every meal there is a season. A time for pizza, a time for take-out. But there is also a time for a home-cooked meal that starts with fresh ingredients and ends with a satisfied appetite.

These three make-ahead tips help me be flexible and creative with my weeknight dinners—without falling asleep at the table because I cooked myself into a frenzy!

1)  Don’t Make Everything
Ina Garten, the Food Network chef known as the “Barefoot Contessa,” advises making one or two things for a dinner party, and buying or assembling the rest. I find this advice very freeing—I can buy bagged salad, pre-cut vegetables and make some roast chicken pieces to round out a meal.

2)  Set It and Forget It
Of course, slow cooker meals are the ultimate in make-ahead eating. Walking in the door after a long day, to the delectable aroma of a simmering stew is so comforting. I take my make-ahead one step further with slow cooker meals by doing any prep work like chopping vegetables and measuring liquids the night before. In the morning, all I have to do is place everything in the cooker and hit “start”!

3)  Think “Casserole”
One-pot meals make for easy clean-up, but one-pan meals are made to be prepared in advance. A casserole is a time-tested satisfying meal—and provides leftovers for lunch the next day. Shepherd’s pie, chicken and mushroom, baked ziti or vegetable and cheese are some favorites—each contains protein, vegetables and lots of flavor. More to the point, prepared the evening before or on the weekend, casseroles are ready to slide directly from the refrigerator into the oven—and then onto your table!

What make-ahead tips help you enjoy dinnertime during the week?

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