ARTICLE / KITCHEN TIPS

7 Time-Saving Dinner Hacks

Clever ways to get dinner on the table, pronto. Sponsored by Tyson.

Sponsored by Tyson.

Your family’s hungry, but in between work, school, activities and all the other commitments you have to deal with, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to fix a time-intensive dinner every night of the week. So what’s a busy working adult to do? No worries! Try out some of these helpful suggestions to fast-track your ability to get a satisfying meal on the table in no time at all.


• No-chop recipes

Just think for a minute about how long it takes to scrub potatoes and peel carrots, clean mushrooms, chop onions and mince garlic. Streamline the cooking process by opting for recipes that don't require a lot of extensive preparation. Baby vegetables not only cook faster than their full-sized counterparts, but they can also be added whole to a dish with no peeling or chopping necessary. Just make sure all the pieces are roughly the same size so they’ll cook at the same rate. Complement your veggies with pre-made meatballs or mini-sausages — easy ingredients that add a ton of flavor without a ton of work. Try it out with this no-chop recipe:


• Pre-cooked chicken

Ready-to-eat shredded rotisserie or pre-cooked chicken is a time-crunched cook’s best friend, versatile enough to make appearances in all sorts of recipes and preparations. Simply heat it up and voila, it’s ready to stir into sauces or soups, toss straight into pastas, season for taco filling, or layer into sandwiches and wraps. Dinner doesn’t get much easier than that. In this wrap recipe, crispy pre-cooked chicken helps out:

Crispy Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps

• Sheet pan dinners

If you’ve got a sheet pan, you’ve got the foundation for a great dinner. Toss meat and vegetables with a little olive oil, a generous sprinkle of salt, a few grinds of pepper and a dusting of dried herbs, then shove it in the oven and set the timer. (Tip: Line the pan with aluminum foil to facilitate clean up.) Roasting everything on a sheet pan brings out caramelized slow-cooked flavors that will fool your family into thinking you spent all day in the kitchen. Round out the meal with a fresh green salad and slices of crusty bread. This sweet-and-savory sausage dinner combines cold-weather veggies with a bit of zippy mustard on a sheet pan:

Sheet Pan Chicken Sausages, Sweet Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, and Apples

• Slow cookers

Dust off that lonely Crock-Pot and put it to good use. Throw in your ingredients in the morning, set it to low and forget about it, knowing dinner will be hot and ready when you get home later in the day. Slow cookers are the perfect tool to tenderize otherwise tough cuts of meat for luscious stews, pot roast and pulled pork. Or, if you have the counter space and are willing to buy a new appliance, an Instant Pot creates similar results in a fraction of the time. This slow-cooker mac n' cheese recipe doubles down on the comfort food factor with kielbasa:

Slow Cooker Kielbasa Macaroni and Cheese

• Prep ahead

Planning ahead pays off, especially on days when it’s a mad rush just to get everyone out the door. Burritos, muffins and mini-quiches are easy to make ahead in a big batch on a Sunday afternoon, then freeze and reheat in the microwave all week long to supply your family with a quick, hot meal option any time of day. Handheld portable recipes like these are also easy to tote and eat in the car or on the go. Another great hack — assemble all the ingredients you need for a stew or soup in a large baggie and freeze. All you have to do is thaw, dump in a pot and cook for a no-brainer dinner. Single-serve egg bites offer a lot of protein and little fuss:

Turkey Sausage and Vegetable Egg Bites

• One-pot wonders

Why get every single dish in the kitchen dirty when you can cook a delicious meal all in one pot? Many casseroles, pastas and rice recipes only need a Dutch oven, a stockpot or a large saucepan to come together. Add all the building blocks, cover it and let it simmer, stirring occasionally for a low-stress comfort food dinner, usually ready within 30 minutes or less. Plus, using one pot simplifies dishwashing chores after the meal is done — bonus! Super-flavorful Cajun Dirty Rice Casserole keeps dishes to a minimum:

One-Pot Cajun Dirty Rice Casserole

• Quick cooking techniques

Some meals cook faster than others, and every minute matters on many weeknights. Sauteing or stir-frying, for instance, are two quick and easy ways to get dinner together in a flash, especially helpful when you’ve got hungry kids waiting to eat. Snappy vegetables, meat, savory sauces, noodles — what’s not to like? A quick toss in the pan, and dinner is ready! This Thai noodle bowl comes together in a flash:

Stir-Fry Thai Noodles with Chicken Meatballs

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