1 Month of Delicious Dinners

One month of delicious dinners

Dear Friends,

Many you have been asking me to post a sample dinner meal-plan. You’re curious about what I eat, but also in disbelief that most dinners take me 30 minutes or less to prep and cook. Well, it’s true…. and, just in time for the holiday season, I’m going post a meal plan AND tell you how I cut down on cook/prep time.

Please Note:

These are all dinners we cook regularly at home, however, I make substitutions for my own portion because I’m vegetarian. For instance, if we’re having ground turkey I’ll use tempeh or soy “beef”-crumbles instead. I also eat things like tofu, soy sausage, and soy chicken. Sometimes if there are plenty of veggies or beans, I’ll just nix the “meat” component altogether. 

All of the chicken and salmon referenced below is baked in the oven, with the exception of the stir fry.

Most of these meals take 30 minutes to make because I’m used to making them. I’ve become incredibly efficient–and you can too!

If a meal takes over 30 minutes to make, I’ve indicated it with two stars. We usually cook one or two of these a week, on days where we aren’t super busy.

Please kindly ignore any typos or design errors; I was super eager to post this for your benefit 🙂

My Best Tips for Cutting Down on Prep/Cook Time:

  • Get to know your grocery store. You’ll be shocked by how many time-saving products exist if you just take the time to find them. Once you know what’s available you can CHEAT. For example:
    • If the store offers pre-marinated meats (or pre-made mains like meatloaf), use those. I pre-portion and freeze them for later use. If these aren’t in budget, consider purchasing a marinade, a marinade seasoning pack, or preparing your own seasoning packs when you have time.
    •  Throw the marinade and meat together five minutes before bed so that you can just pop the meat into the oven the next night. Most meats cook in less than 30 minutes in the oven (as long as you use a high enough temp).
  • If you’re making a meal where meat isn’t the star (such as a salad or wrap)– cheat! We use vegetable-crusted crispy chicken available in our freezer aisle. Others enjoy the pre-grilled chicken you just pop in the microwave. Another option is to purchase a rotisserie chicken, carve it, and freeze the pieces for later use.
  • Steam-in-the-bag vegetables are a major time saver, as are canned beans and veg. Some stores even offer pre-cut vegetables. Just beware; these can be costly and often rot quickly.
    • It may take some trial and error to learn which vegetables are better fresh. For instance, I only like fresh green beans, zucchini, and spinach. But I’m ok with using canned corn, and things like canned boiled potatoes work well in soup.
  • Learn multitasking and time management. There are almost always prep/cook steps you can tackle at the same time. 
    • At times, I’ll be cutting veg while there is something in the microwave AND on the stove AND in the oven. It is totally possible to manage as long as you’ve nailed down your temperatures and timings.
      • If you’re new to cooking, be careful not to leave anything unattended for too long. It can easily stick or burn.
  • Practice. No, really. Unless you practice things like knife-skills, you’re going to be painfully slow. The same goes for multitasking (as mentioned above).
  • Defrost your meat in the fridge overnight (or two nights before if you need time to marinade it).
  • Boil in the bag rice and couscous take less than ten minutes to cook. No need to bother with fancy grains.
  • If you have more time or energy one night, treat your future self by doing some prep work. For example, sometimes I’ll peel and dice sweet potatoes a day or two in advance. 
    • If you’re like me and have a hard time cutting sweet potatoes and other similar veg, peel them, prick them, then microwave them for a minute or two. After this, chopping them will be much quicker, easier, and safer.
  • Your oven is your best friend. Who doesn’t love meals you can pop into the oven and forget about? 
  • I’ve only used my crockpot once, but they are also beloved time savers.
  • Want to roast sweet potatoes in less than 30 minutes? Cut them smaller. We find they taste better anyway.
  • Become substitution-savvy. Recipes and food bloggers often post complicated recipes, but there are almost always ways to cut down the cooking time. No, the recipe won’t taste exactly the same, but it will be faster and sometimes, it’ll taste better. For example:
    • If a recipe for shepherd’s pie calls for fresh mashed potatoes, I use quick-cooking mashed potatoes.
    • If a recipe calls for fresh broccoli, I sub already microwaved/steamed broccoli and adjust timings accordingly.
    • If a recipe calls for dried lentils or beans, I use canned and (again) adjust cooking times accordingly
    • If a recipe calls for fresh herbs, you can often use dried. The flavors won’t be as strong or as “fresh” but at least you don’t have to cut and wash fresh herbs

What are some of your favorite ways to cut down on cooking time? What recipes are on regular rotation in your home?

Peace and love,

Paige E.

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