7 ways to get dinner on the table…fast!

by Sarah on 11/09/2011

Always nice to get the family some food on the table.

With a recent study, once again, promoting the benefits of family dinners, parents are under even more pressure to get healthy, nutritious meals on the table each night.

How do parents, however, rise to the challenge of preparing the evening meal, again and again?

Here’s a few ideas to help make the challenge a little bit easier.

1. A spare minute

Take advantage of opportunities during the day (or during the week) to do some ahead-of-time meal preparation. Those with young children, who still take day-time naps, can use that time to make a start on the evening meal; chop vegetables, marinate meat, make sauces, all can be done ahead of time and kept in the fridge or freezer until ready. No nap time? Try stealing a quiet minute or two on a Sunday afternoon to do some meal prepping for the week ahead.

2. Simplicity

As much as a full roast dinner with all the trimmings is absolutely wonderful, it’s not exactly the easiest or quickest of meals to prepare. During the week, when time is at a premium, try and keep meals simple. Grilled meat and steamed vegetables, baked fish with roasted root vegetables, pesto and pasta, all are simple and quick to get ready. Reserve more elaborate dinners for weekends when you have an extra pair of hands (to help with the kids) and some extra time to spend making the evening meal.

3. Get the kids involved

I’m a big fan of teaching kids about food through cooking, so why not employ your little charges to help out in the kitchen? Get your kids tossing salads, peeling vegetables or mixing marinades. Getting your kids in the kitchen not only teaches them about food, it also teaches them how to cook and gives you a bit of extra help to get dinner ready (especially as the kids get older).

4. Slow cook

The humble slow cooker is a rather helpful piece of kitchen equipment that helps make dinner preparation that little bit easier. Slow cookers work by using a slow heat over an extended period of time to cook, especially those meals using tougher cuts of meat. Soups and stews can be prepared at the start of the day, combined in the slow cooker and set to stew away all day, leaving a home cooked meal ready and waiting when you walk in the door that evening. Take a look at Stephanie O’Dea’s blog for a whole host of slow cooker recipes.

5. Make double

Batch cooking is a fantastic way of building up a freezer full of nutritious, healthy, family friendly meals. Plan to make meals that can be doubled – soups, stews, lasagnas and pasta sauces all work well – so you can eat half for dinner and freeze the other half to be reheated for a quick meal on another night.

6. Meal plan

Writing up a weekly (or fortnightly) meal plan is one way of helping get organised enough so that when 5 o’clock rolls around you already know what you are going to prepare for dinner that night. Meal plans can help guide grocery shopping, help plan for the week ahead and help to avoid the dreaded, “what’s for dinner?” question. Nicole over at Planning with Kids has an excellent section on meal planning. You can see it here.

7. Breakfast for dinner

On those nights when you literally have 10 minutes to get dinner ready and are scrambling to get a decent meal together, why not try breakfast for dinner? Natural muesli with yogurt and berries, sauteed spinach with scrambled eggs and wholewheat bread, a yogurt based, nut butter containing smoothie. All are balanced meals in their own right, are easy to prepare and usually go down well with kids. Need inspiration? Take at look at this post over at Simple Bites.

How do you get dinner on the table quickly? Feel free to leave any suggestions below.

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

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