Quick and Easy Cooking

Getting a home-cooked dinner on the table on weeknights can feel impossible, but with the right recipes, it’s doable. Even if you’re a beginner cook, over time you’ll become more confident in the kitchen.

On this week’s episode of Dinner SOS, food director Chris Morocco 밀키트 and cookbook editor Shilpa Uskokovic help caller Gillian find weeknight-friendly recipes that lean on ingredients she can always have on hand. Plus, they give her tips to make cooking faster and more efficient.

Make meals in bulk.

Cooking meals in bulk can help cut down on time and food waste. It’s best to cook in large batches of ingredients that can be easily mixed and matched for different meal options. This will help you avoid wasting any food that isn’t used up within a few days or weeks. It also allows you to buy foods in larger quantities at discount prices at discount clubs like Costco and Sam’s or from the bulk bins at grocery stores, which can save you money in the long run.

A few hours a week spent cooking in bulk can mean meals ready to go in the fridge, which can save you the hassle of ordering delivery or grabbing something quick from the fast-food drive-through. Try recipes that work well in bulk, such as these rice bowls or this tamale casserole. Even a simple batch of freezer-friendly jam can be a great way to use up extra produce or other foods you may have on hand.

Make substitutions for healthier meals.

When cooking at home, it’s possible to create delicious meals using a variety of ingredients. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that certain foods may be better for you than others. If you’re looking to make a healthier meal, there are many simple substitutions you can use without sacrificing taste or texture. For example, applesauce can be used in place of oil, chia seeds or flax seeds can replace eggs in baking and maple syrup, honey or stevia can be added as natural sweeteners.

Cooking with healthy substitutions can help you cut down on sodium, sugar, saturated fats and trans fats, while reducing overall calories and increasing nutrient density. Smart substitutions can also allow you to prepare recipes for friends and family with food sensitivities, allergies or dietary restrictions. These easy changes can make a big difference when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. – Kristen Smith, MS, RDN.

Stock up on staples.

Having a well-stocked pantry of shelf stable foods makes it easy to whip up a quick meal. This can help reduce the stress of wondering what to eat for dinner on busy nights and make it easier to avoid fast food.

Stocking up on pantry staples can also save you money if you see them on sale. You can get great deals on things like canned beans, soups, tuna fish and mushrooms that can last for years in the cupboard without losing quality or going bad.

It’s also a good idea to keep in stock long-lasting items, such as chiles, salt (or better yet – high quality smoked or lemon sea salt), baking soda, pomegranate molasses and za’atar. These are the building blocks for so many meals and can be easily melded into other dishes to create new flavors. These are also excellent items to buy if there’s a supermarket shortage or disruption in supplies because they will be safer to store than fresh foods.

Keep it simple.

Keeping your meals simple is key to making cooking fast and easy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and uninspired, try picking up a new cookbook or browsing the web for quick recipes that only require a few ingredients. You can even find meal kits that come with everything you need for a healthy, delicious dinner. Then, when you’re at the grocery store, stock up on staples so you can make more meals without having to make a mile-long list of ingredients. If you can count the ingredients on one hand, even better! (Salt, pepper, sugar and one cooking fat don’t count).) Keeping things simple will help you save time, money and stress in the kitchen.