Make a meal plan for the week – I usually start with the weekly grocery ad to see what’s on sale and in season. I also try to choose weeknight recipes that won’t take more than 30 minutes. I only grocery shop once a week, so I plan my use of produce for the week based on shelf life. A bag of carrots will last much longer in the fridge than a bag of spinach, so the spinach gets used up first and the carrots get saved for later in the week. I write my menu plan and grocery list on the same paper – that way, if I’m in the store and they don’t have exactly what I need, I can refer back to my original menu and adjust accordingly.
Prepare in advance – On Sundays, I take about an hour to get my ingredients ready for the week. I wash and cut up as much produce as is feasible, grate cheese, make sauces, etc. I don’t cut up anything that will discolor or degrade too quickly, so sometimes I only get two or three day’s worth of produce processed. But you know what? It still saves me a lot of time during the week.
Along the same lines, make sure you have all the basics in your pantry. I always have an assortment of grains and beans, a few different types of oils, olives, a variety of nuts, canned tomatoes and salt packed capers. I also try to keep bittersweet chocolate in the house for baking emergencies.
Once I’ve taken the time to prepare in advance for the upcoming week, I find that it’s quite feasible to have a healthy and delicious meal on the table without too much hassle. I’d love to hear from all of you – what are your tips for making quick meals? What are the pantry and freezer staples that you can’t live without?