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10 shortcuts to make dinner faster

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Posted: February 2013

A healthy weeknight supper in 30 minutes or less? It’s easy if you’re prepared.

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Cara Rosenbloom, RD
An inexpensive mandolin can help you prep vegetables for salads and stir-fries

It’s a whole lot easier to make meals in under 30 minutes if your kitchen is filled with the right ingredients and you take time to plan ahead. Here are 10 tips to consider when you shop and cook:

1. Minimally-processed packaged foods are convenient time savers. Read food labels and choose items with the shortest ingredient lists and the least amount of added sugar and salt. Keep these staples on-hand:

  • Ready-to-eat salad
  • Bagged carrots
  • Frozen vegetables such as peas, broccoli, kale, peppers and green beans
  • Reduced sodium tomato sauce
  • Whole grain pizza dough or corn tortillas
  • Quick-cooking whole grain pasta and rice
  • Canned beans and lentils with no salt added
  • Greek yogurt
  • Canned fish
  • Nut butters

2. Befriend your butcher. On-site butchers in grocery stores can trim your meat, fish or poultry to your exact specifications. Here are some time savers you can ask for:

3. Check the cooking time when buying rice, noodles and other grains.

4. Buy an inexpensive mandolin ($10) for quick and easy vegetable slicing. In less than five minutes, you can have a bowl brimming with thinly sliced carrot, parsnip, celery, beet, cucumber and red pepper. Add these vegetables to salad greens or dress them as-is for a crunchy, lettuce-free salad. Simple! You can also use these ingredients as a base for stew or soup, such as Hearty root vegetable soup.

5. Have sandwiches for dinner! They can be prepared in under 10 minutes. Serve a variety of whole grain breads with tuna salad, reduced-fat cheese, leftover chicken breast or roast beef, hummus and a mound of vegetables. Peanut butter with banana is a fun option too. Try yummy Tofu hummus tortillas.

6. Do some prep work on your day off. Fill containers with peeled carrots, washed lettuce, celery, broccoli and cauliflower florets, sliced mushrooms and peppers. Then use them to create simple salads or stir-fries on busy week nights.

7. More free time on your day off? Cook batches of easy-to-freeze dinner options. Try Bowl of chili soup, Vegetarian chili or Carrot lentil soup.

8. Enjoy breakfast at 6 p.m. Many quick recipes come from the morning meal, but are equally nutritious at dinner. Try:

9. Transform your leftovers! Be creative with the meat, potatoes, vegetables and rice from last night’s meal. Combine them in a salad or sandwiches or even a soup. Or, make a pie! Try Family favourite shepherd’s pie or Spaghetti pie.

10. Embrace seafood. From sole and haddock to quick-cooking shrimp and scallops, you can have a homemade dinner in about 10 minutes (including the brown rice and side salad). Try Shrimp and cauliflower curry.

Being prepared is another key time-saver. By planning in advance, you’ll always remember to defrost frozen meat or preheat the oven when you begin meal preparation.

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