My husband is a whiz in the kitchen—he can chop an onion with lightening speed and pull together easy, healthy dinners in 20 minutes flat. Sure, he used to work as a private chef so he knows a thing or two about cooking. Yet ever since we were dating and he used to cooked for me (it’s was as romantic as it sounds!), I’ve always wanted to learn how to chop vegetables like a pro and how to cook faster.
Although I love to cook and can hold my own in the kitchen, between a whirlwind day of balancing work with distance learning/school and activities, there’s just no time. Plus, when the kids are vying for a snack at 5pm and cranky, all you want to do is sit down to a stress-free dinner.
Fortunately, making healthy and delicious meals doesn’t require hiring a personal chef or spending more than 30 minutes in the kitchen. With a bit of know-how, you can pull together family meals in no time at all.
HOW TO COOK FASTER
With some easy, simple strategies, you can speed up your time in the kitchen and get dinner on the table quickly.
DO A FEW MINUTES OF MEAL PREP
One of the best ways I have found to get dinner on table quickly is to carve out 1 or 2 hours on the weekends, or find pockets of time before my kids wake up in the morning or after they’ve gone to sleep to do some meal prep.
It doesn’t take much time at all to wash, cut, and prep vegetables for example, but if you do it ahead of time, you can save some serious time during the dinner rush.
Invest in a set of clear, glass containers to store your prepped food which keeps it fresh and helps you quickly find what you need.
Even better—having cut-up vegetables on hand can be used throughout the week for school lunches and snacks.
Related: 67 School Snack Ideas for Kids
GROUP SIMILAR TASKS TOGETHER
One of the best ways to be more productive and save time on any task or household chore is to practice batching: grouping same or similar tasks together like washing, peeling, and cutting up your vegetables all at once.
Or, if you have to prepare carrots, for example, wash all of them, then peel all of them, then cut off all the ends, and then cut them all lengthwise, instead of washing a few, cutting a few, etc.
That’s not to say, however, that you can’t also multi-task because doing so can help you save time in the kitchen as well.
For example, you can boil water for pasta and cook beans at the same time you’re cooking the meal.
Or while you’re cooking dinner, you can make a batch of quinoa or make a healthy salad dressing.
READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE —AND THEN READ IT AGAIN
How many times do you find what seems like a great recipe you can make in 30 minutes but once you scroll through to the steps, you find that it actually takes 20 minutes of prep?
Or you start to cook only to find out that you needed to thaw shrimp or marinate meat hours ago.
That’s why if you want to find ways to cook quicker, make sure you read the entire recipe ahead of time and make sure you understand each step before you get started.
HAVE AN ORGANIZED KITCHEN
Instead of pulling out all of your ingredients, kitchen tools, and cookware in a piecemeal fashion which can slow you down, pull out everything at once.
Another thing to consider is how your kitchen is organized. If you have a large kitchen and you have all of your cooking oils on one side and your spices on the other, for example, you may want to set up your kitchen so the most commonly used ingredients and kitchen tools are closer and easier to access.
Also, if your garbage can isn’t near your center aisle or where you’re chopping, for example, put out a bowl to gather kitchen scraps so you don’t have to walk back and forth each time.
PREP INGREDIENTS ALL AT ONCE
When you watch cooking segments or cooking shows, the chefs make it look so easy and quick to pull together meals.
Sure, it’s TV but one of the secrets to cooking faster is to prep all of your ingredients ahead of time and have them ready to go.
Rather than washing and cutting individual vegetables or reading through your recipe and realizing that you need melted, but cooled butter, you’ll save time if you have everything you need prepped and on the countertop.
USE YOUR LEFTOVERS
It seems pretty obvious, but one of the best ways to save time in the kitchen is to eat leftovers which can also cut down on food waste.
Leftover salmon can be transformed into salmon salad and steak can be turned into fajitas, for example.
Leftover veggies can be repurposed into a stir-fry, stew, soup, or frittata, and just about any main dish can be paired with a quick mixed greens salad.
SERVE BREAKFAST FOR DINNER
If you want to cook faster, forget dinner altogether, and serve breakfast instead.
Serving breakfast for dinner may even be an effective way to encourage your picky eaters to eat their vegetables.
Some great breakfast for dinner ideas include:
- Avocado toast
- Breakfast casserole
- Breakfast pizza
- Breakfast quesadilla
- Breakfast tacos
- Chicken and waffles
- Egg burritos
- Egg “muffins”
- Egg sandwiches
- Egg wraps
- Omelet-stuffed peppers
- Savory muffins or bread with vegetables like zucchini or pumpkin
- Scrambled eggs
- Shrimp and grits
- Steak and eggs
- Vegetable omelets
SLICE YOUR FOOD THIN
The thinner you slice vegetables, beef, chicken, fish, tempeh, etc., the quicker they’ll cook regardless of the cooking method.
One of the best ways to cook faster is to batch cook.
Instead of making a small serving of vegetables and rice for each meal for example, make larger portions that can be used in other meals throughout the week.
You can also double a recipe that you can turn into a freezer meal and reheat another time.
PRE-HEAT YOUR SHEET PAN
I love sheet pan meals because they make for easy, healthy dinners but to cook the meal even faster and make sure everything is cooked evenly, pop the sheet pan in the oven while it’s pre-heating.
COOK FASTER WITH APPLIANCES
If you were to peak in my kitchen, you’d know I love to cook just by the sheer amount of appliances I have: Vitamix (my favorite), Crock-Pot, KitchenAid stand mixer, and immersion blender as well as other kitchen tools and gadgets.
TRY MEAL PLANNING
One of the best secrets to getting dinner on the table quickly is to meal plan.
With meal planning, you know exactly what you’re going to cook for dinner, how much time it will take, and you’ll be able to cut down on the number of trips to the grocery store because you’re buying all of your ingredients at one time.
Before you go grocery shopping, pull out your recipes or cookbooks or search for new recipes.
Then, write out all the ingredients you’ll need and add them to your grocery shopping list.
Need a free template? Download my printable Free Healthy Grocery List.
If you’re unsure where to start or meal planning on your own is too time consuming, consider a meal planning service like The Dinner Daily, which I’ve been using for a few months now.
Not only does The Dinner Daily do all the meal planning for you, but they have healthy, delicious recipes that are built around your local store’s sales so you also save money. Even better—most recipes take only 30 minutes to make.
Sign up now and get 2 weeks free.
FILL IN WITH GROCERY STORE INGREDIENTS
If you want to get dinner on the table quickly, there’s no shame in taking shortcuts.
It may be more expensive but instead of spending time washing, peeling, and chopping vegetables, pick them at the grocery store.
Most grocery stores have ready to go ingredients like mirepoix, chopped garlic, butternut squash, parsnip, turnip, and spiralized vegetables like zucchini, carrots, and beets, as well as bagged salad kits.
RELY ON FROZEN ITEMS
One of the best ways I save time in the kitchen is to incorporate frozen foods into our meals like frozen shrimp, corn, and peas.
These days, you can get just about anything frozen including cauliflower rice, quinoa, and beans.
COOK FAST, EASY MEALS
You might want to try that new recipe you saw on Instagram for French Cassoulet or stuffed shells, for example, but it’s best to leave time-consuming recipes for the weekend or a rainy day when you have more time.
Instead, stick with recipes that take no more than 30 minutes to prep and cook in order to get dinner on the table quickly.
GET DINNER STARTED EARLY
If you can carve out time the night before or in the morning, you can prep ingredients so that all you have to do is assemble them and pop dinner in the oven later on.
You can also pull dinner together ahead of time and put it in the fridge so that you all you have to do is cook it.
Feeding your family isn’t only your responsibility.
Although your partner may not like to cook or feel comfortable in the kitchen, anyone can make a salad and or boil pasta so come up with a plan that works for your family so you can cook faster and get a healthy dinner on the table.
CLEAN AS YOU GO TO COOK FASTER
Like I said, my husband is a fast cook but one of the downsides to that (and one of my pet peeves) is that he leaves a mess: sauce on the countertop, herbs on the floor, etc.
I prefer to clean the kitchen as I go. Not only does it free up space in the sink and on the countertop to rinse and prep vegetables and work more efficiently, but when there’s less clutter, my mind is more focused and I feel less overwhelmed by having to get dinner on the table quickly.
I also like cleaning the dishes as I go so that there’s less clean-up to do later. While dinner is cooking, I’ll wash the cutting boards and knives, load the dishwasher, and wipe down the countertops.