5 Weeknight Dinner Hacks
After a full day of work, shuttling the kids to soccer, ballet, karate and violin practice, and lending a hand with homework, getting dinner on the table can feel like a mammoth task. We understand your temptation to order takeout and call it a day, but preparing a healthy and delicious meal at home doesn’t have to be stressful or time consuming. These five tips will help you cook dinner in a snap:
Prep in Advance
Using just a few of your weekend hours to prep food can really take the pressure off during the week. Get into the habit of making a meal plan and then hit the grocery store to pick up everything you need. Organizing your fridge when you get home makes the process even quicker—simply store ingredients according to recipe so they’re easy to grab.
Want dinner prep to be even easier? Try getting these tasks done before Monday:
- Wash and chop vegetables
- Cook rice, quinoa and other grains
- Marinate fish and other meats
- Make whole meals to refrigerate or freeze
Try Meal Kits
Meal kits are taking the nation by storm—for good reason, too! Companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated let you choose which meals you want to eat, and then send you a box filled with every ingredient (and instruction!) you need to successfully cook the recipe for your family.
Though kits may be more expensive than shopping for meals on your own, getting them delivered a few days a week—particularly for busy evenings—can be a saving grace. Filled with ingredients and spices you may never have tried before, meal kits also give you the chance to try something new.
Leverage Pantry Staples
A well-stocked pantry is the secret weapon every busy home cook needs. Having a few staples on-hand means you’re only ever 15 minutes away from dinner.
Here are the things you should always have in your fridge, freezer and pantry:
- Frozen vegetables (great for stir-frys and side dishes)
- Frozen Tilapia (easy to cook up in a pan or in the oven)
- Ready-to-cook grains and starches like bulgur wheat, whole grain pasta or rice
- Canned beans and pulses (to bulk up salads or Buddha bowls with extra protein)
Consider One-Pot Meals
Cooking a balanced meal can sometimes feel like a balancing act! But just because you want each plate to have a protein, a vegetable and a starch doesn’t mean you need three pans and twice as many dirty dishes.
Try these healthy and delicious one-pot meals we love:
- Mexican Sheet Pan Tilapia and Vegetables
- Thai-Inspired Slow Cooker Tilapia
- Sheet Pan Butter Garlic Tilapia
Ask the Whole Family to Help
Making dinner doesn’t have to be a solitary task—in fact, getting kids to help can ease the load in many ways. It obviously helps to speed up the cooking process, but inviting kids into the kitchen also gives you a great opportunity to talk to them about their days—even the youngest can help!
Here’s are some fun ways to get kids involved at every age:
- Under 5: snapping green beans, washing produce, stirring batters or doughs
- 5 to 7: sprinkling spices and herbs, battering fish for frying or baking, arranging foods on sheet pans
- 7 to 10: supervised chopping of easy-to-cut ingredients (like zucchini), supervised stirring of foods on the stovetop
- 10 and up: chopping of ingredients (with some supervision), following recipes
Family dinner should be a time when parents and children can come together to enjoy a delicious, healthy meal—and it shouldn’t be stressful to make this a reality in your home! With these tips, your family can unite around the table every night of the week.
For more delicious home-cooked meal ideas, check out these simple, healthy preparations that make impressive presentations.
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