I’ve been thinking about this post a lot. A whole lot. It seems the crunch for time is universal. I’m certainly no expert, in fact I feel like I’m just beginning the journey myself, but I’m ready to share [and hoping you’ll share your own tips in the comments section].
1. When in doubt, prep it out. This one is near and dear to my heart. It’s no hyperbole when I say meal planning has completely changed our family. Perhaps it seems counter-intuitive that spending time making a meal plan would save you time, but I promise it does. It’s just like picking out your outfit the night before: if you already know what you’re making for dinner that night there’s no last minute shuffle and hustle. You can take a few minutes in the morning and gather all your ingredients, have your recipe ready, and do any early prep that you can. I strongly advise these three steps. I say to gather your ingredients because there’s nothing worse than going to grab that can of black beans or diced tomatoes and realizing you’re out. Have your recipe ready so that you’re not searching for it with a hungry tummy. And lastly, check out the recipe to see if there’s anything you can do before-hand. Having all your veggies chopped is a huge time saver and remembering to soak your beans is a must.
2. Mix it up. Grab a mix and know how to use it. I love this Bob’s Red Mill Veggie Soup Mix like I used tonight or maybe it’s an organic aseptic packaged soup. Pick something packaged [double check the ingredients list, just to be safe] and add some fresh or frozen vegetables to it.
3. Beat the clock, use a crock [or a pressure cooker]. There are tons of real food crock pot recipes that just say no to the condensed soups. Here’s a list that looks yummy. It may be a little bit of a learning curve to figure out what can go in and how long to cook it, but there’s nothing better than opening the front door to the sweet aroma of a hot dinner waiting for you [almost as good as someone else making it for you].
4. Double team ’em. So maybe this is super obvious to everyone else, but to get dinner on the table faster recruit some kitchen helpers. Husbands and children are hungry too, so put them to work! Kids are great at setting tables and doing light prep [taking grapes off the stems or washing produce]. Husbands love to have tasks [maybe?]. They just want you to give them some clear direction. Chuck is always willing to help, but sometimes I forget to ask.
5. Look out for the easy tip in. After I list out the six meals we’re going to have for the week I check to see if any of them have overlapping ingredients. Are there two rice dishes? Do two of the dinners have similar veggies so that I could do all the prep at once? If so I usually try to schedule those meals so that they’re within two days of each other so that I can cut down on my weeknight prep time.
So I thought I’d share a recipe that utilizes 4 of these 5 tips. I’d use all five but I didn’t even need any helpers.
Crockpot Vegetable Soup
1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Veggie Soup
6 cups water
3 bouillon cubes
spices you like [I did 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, some pepper, 2 bay leaves, garlic powder, and cumin.]
From a previous dinner I had a cabbage veggie mix. To get it you just make this recipe without the quinoa.
Put the soup mix, water, bouillon cubes, and spices in your crockpot. Set to low for 4 hours or high for 2. Stir occasionally.
[This particular soup mix has Green Split Peas, Yellow Split Peas, Barley, Lentils and Vegetable Pasta (Containing Whole Wheat Flour, Dehydrated Spinach, Tomato, Celery, Onion, Beets and Garlic) in the ingredients.]
About 30 minutes [if your veggies are coming from the fridge] or before serving [if you’re sauteing them that night] throw your veggies in and give it another stir.
Quick and yummy. Nutritious and delicious.