Do these 8 things to save time in the kitchen

Between work, family and trying to have some semblance of a personal life, it can be hard to find time to cook a healthy meal.

But with a little bit of planning, you can set yourself up for success and avoid defaulting to fast and unhealthy take-out meal options.

Here are a few tricks to help you save time in the kitchen and support a healthy lifestyle.

1. Master one-pot meals.

Whether it’s a pan, pot or slow cooker, one-pot meals mean a limited number of ingredients, so there’s less prep work and fewer dishes to clean up when you’re done. Look for recipes with lean protein, vegetables and fiber-filled carbs for a balanced meal.

2. Prep food and have pertinent cooking utensils out before you begin cooking.

The French call this “mise en place” – everything in its place. By having everything prepped ahead of time, you’re not searching, measuring or multitasking, which can sometimes mean overlooked steps or burned food. 

3. Buy pre-chopped, pre-shredded and pre-sliced food.

If your budget allows for it, you can save prep time when you buy ingredients that are already prepared for you. You’ll spend more money, but it may balance out when compared to eating out.

4. Batch cook for the week.

Set aside time on the weekend to plan meals for the week ahead. Prep and cook ingredients so they can be stored for later use in the refrigerator or freezer. So if Monday’s soup requires 2 cups of cooked rice, cook and store it in your refrigerator with the rest of the ingredients for the soup so you can save time and stay organized.

5. Get creative with leftovers.

Look for ways to use tonight’s meal for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. For example, beans and rice today could be tomorrow’s base for an enchilada casserole. This is yet another way to spend less time on meal prep.

6. Avoid trying new recipes during the week when you have limited time.

Stick with your tried and true recipes during the week so you won’t be rushing to get ingredients together or closely checking the recipe card to ensure you did it all just right. 

7. Organize your grocery list by store sections.

This one is huge for me because I can spend a lot of time in the grocery store comparison shopping. By writing my list in sections, I don’t overlook any items I know I’ll need for recipes. Group together produce, dairy, dry goods, meats, etc., so you’ll spend less time rushing from one end of the store to the other because you forgot to get that one item. 

8. Shop during non-peak hours and ask staff when shipments arrive.

If possible, try to shop in the morning for the best selection and on the days when new ads come out. Avoid shopping on weekends, especially on Sunday right after church, an hour before a televised sporting event or weekdays between 4 and 6 p.m. when people are getting off work. That way, you won’t be weaving in and out of carts or waiting to check out.

Mara Weber is a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.