It happens to us all. We start the week with the best intentions of cooking dinner at home but then hunger hits or life throws us a curve ball. Before we know it, those aspirations quickly crumble, and it’s suddenly easy to find an excuse not to cook. If your excuses are like mine, then I’m sure they’re totally valid — but that doesn’t mean they’re unsolvable! Check out these solutions to even your most dire “let’s just get takeout” situations and make cooking at home easier.
Solution 1: Browse the MyFitnessPal blog, Pinterest or other food blogs to find healthy recipes your whole family will love and bookmark them. Search an ingredient you are craving or have on hand and see what recipes pop up.
Solution 2: Make and freeze extra batches of family favorites ahead of time. On days you’re not feeling very inspired, you can just pull out a freezer meal and heat it up.
Solution 3: Get a new cookbook. You don’t even have to buy one — check one out at the library or trade with a friend. You can also do a recipe swap with coworkers and friends to learn their favorite dinner recipes. This can be as simple as posting on Facebook and asking for participants.
Solution 1: Test out a meal kit delivery service. After you’ve chosen your meals for the week, the company sends you pre-measured, packaged ingredients and a recipe to follow, so you don’t have to waste any time shopping — or looking for recipes.
Solution 2: Utilize grocery pick-up options. Welcome to the future — just place your order online and pick it up at the grocery store or even have them deliver straight to your doorstep.
Solution 3: Keep your pantry stocked with items like grains, beans, canned tomatoes and dry pasta and stock your freezer with lean proteins and frozen veggies and sides. Have a few meals in mind that can be thrown together using just those pantry and freezer items when needed.
Solution 1: There are tons of recipes you can make in less than 30 minutes. Sure, fast food might be even faster, but is your health worth the time it would take you to make a better-for-you meal? Here are 10 dinners ready in less than 30 minutes to get you started.
Solution 2: Breakfast for dinner can be super quick and healthy. Whip up a fried egg with avocado toast or sautéed sweet potato on some mixed greens in less than 20 minutes.
Solution 3: A lot of grocery stores offer fresh meals that require little prep and take only 30 minutes from start to finish and many give you options for sides. Another quick solution? Buy a rotisserie chicken and add it to salads, pasta or burritos for an instant, delicious meal.
Solution 1: Meal prep for the week, so you can just heat and eat! Plan out your meals for the week so you know what’s coming and you don’t have to think or pull together ingredients at the end of a busy day.
Solution 2: Don’t feel pressure to cook every night. On those nights you do prepare a meal, plan to cook some extra so you have leftovers to use on other nights. These batch-cooked recipes give you extra servings to store in the refrigerator or freezer and provide a homemade dinner in a cinch even on the busiest nights.
Solution 3: Prep key components of meals so you can throw them together in different combinations throughout the week. For example, quinoa, sautéed vegetables and a protein can be combined to make tacos, salads or grain bowls all week, no matter your mood.
Solution 1: Delivery meal kits make it easy to succeed at cooking, no advanced food skills needed! Step-by-step directions make you feel like a top chef without overwhelming you.
Solution 2: Choose realistic recipes with simple ingredients and minimal, easy steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Pro tip: Read the entire recipe before you start cooking. This eliminates surprises and you’ll know what to expect.
Solution 3: Don’t take on more than you need to — the entire meal doesn’t have to be from scratch. Make the main dish and supplement with quick, minimally processed food products like steam-in-the-bag veggies, ready-to-heat pouches of whole grains and salad kits.
Solution 1: Make slow-cooker meals. Set it up in the morning and come home to a deliciously fragrant, warm meal. There are even slow cookers you can control from your phone, so you can make sure your dinner is perfect before you get home.
Solution 2: Get everyone to pitch in and help, including the kids. The more hands helping, the faster the meal will be done. Just give the safer duties to the little ones, like building salads or setting the table.
Solution 3: Avoid having to cook late in the day by planning and prepping your meals on the weekend. Then, all you have to do is heat up and assemble.
Solution 1: Cook and eat with who is home. You still get the benefits of family meals even if you’re missing one or two individuals.
Solution 2: Save your missing family members a plate and stick it in the microwave for when they get home. They will be grateful for a warm meal at the end of a busy day.
Solution 3: Have some pre-portioned meals in the fridge ready to heat and eat. Put their names on it to make sure other family members don’t eat it before they get home!
Solution 1: Get them involved in preparing the meals. Children are more likely to eat foods they helped make, especially if they can customize their own meal to their preferences.
Solution 2: Let your kids pick some of the dishes to cook each week. Although you might have to set some ground rules with this one, your selective eaters are going to love eating meals they picked out.
Solution 3: Be consistent in making home-cooked meals. Once the kids know you can’t be talked into ordering chicken nuggets, they’ll be more likely to eat what you serve.
Solution 1: Scan the weekly grocery ads before shopping, and then look up budget-friendly recipes that use the sale items. Pinterest has endless resources for people looking to make healthy meals on a tight budget.
Solution 2: Buy fruits and vegetables in season. Not only will the flavor be great, but they’ll also be better quality and cheaper.
Solution 3: Buy canned and frozen foods. Frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak ripeness, so sometimes they can be even better for us than fresh ones. Try to buy no- or low-sodium canned foods and always rinse before using.
Solution 1: Recruit the troops! It can be daunting to see the mountain of dishes after you’ve cooked a beautiful meal, so ask your family or dinner mates to pitch in. Set a rule that says if you cook, they clean!
Solution 2: Make one-pan or one-pot dishes. You’ll only have to wash your cutting board, knife and a single pot or pan. For sheet pan dinners, line the pan with foil for super-fast clean up.
Solution 3: Clean as you go and keep the trash next to you while you prep. Scoop scraps into the trash, continue wiping the counter with a damp towel and wash dishes whenever you hit a lull in cooking to minimize the mess at the end.