Time Saving Tips for Weeknight Cooking

Dinner time can often be a hectic time of day, and while I enjoy cooking, during the week I get stressed if I’m trying to make something too complicated or time-consuming. Here are a few tips that help me stay sane while trying to feed my family.

Weeknight Cooking Tips


  1. Create a dinner Pinterest board exclusively for quick & easy meals. I love Pinterest. Sure, it’s fun to scroll to find inspiration, or DIY ideas that I’ll probably never do, but mostly I use Pinterest as an organization tool. I read a lot of food blogs, and any time I come across a recipe I think my family would eat, I pin it to my What’s for Dinner? Pinterest board. I haven’t always done the best job of this, but I try to only pin recipes that look quick, easy, and totally do-able for a midweek meal.
  1. Create a separate board (folder, document, etc.) for meals that you already made and loved. This is one I need to take my own advice on, because I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been trying to remember a recipe I made a month ago that we really liked and searching like crazy to try to find it. Having a special board or location for winner recipes makes a handy reference when you’re feeling stumped for ideas. Be sure to include notes for future reference, like things you changed or added to a recipe make it work for your family. 
  1. Plan your meals ahead of time. I know, meal planning isn’t always the most enjoyable activity, but believe me, it pays off. When you have a plan for your week, you’re much more likely to cook dinner and ignore the tempting call of pizza delivery. When I’m deciding on meals for the week, I think about what we have going on and try to plan accordingly. For example, if it’s a night I know I’ll be later than usual, I stick with recipes that have little prep time and few ingredients. I also plan ahead by thawing frozen ingredients ahead of time, so I don’t have to deal with battling frozen meat on the night we’re supposed to be eating it.
  1. If possible, share dinner duties. Most nights, my husband is home before Jona and I get there, so if I need him too, he can do things like pound out chicken breasts (a task I hate) or get water boiling for pasta. Some nights I’ll come home to a dinner that’s halfway cooked, which is so nice! If you’re the one who cooks every meal, you could ask your significant other to help out with clean-up duty so you don’t feel like you’re doing all the work. Also, get your kids involved, especially if they’re at an age where they can actually be helpful. (That sounds great in theory right now, but I think letting my toddler help on a busy weeknight would add a good hour to the cooking/clean-up process. No thank you.)
  1. Serve a mix of homemade and already-prepared dishes. Listen, no one is going to send the Pioneer Woman over to your house to make sure that corn bread didn’t come from a box. We try to eat mostly real, unprocessed food, but it’s just not realistic for every component of a meal to be from scratch. For example, you could have a homemade main dish and serve steam-in-microwave veggies alongside. Or heat up a frozen pizza, but balance it out with a freshly made salad. The important thing here is that you’re feeding your family, so don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
  1. Keep a well-stocked pantry of staples. Sometimes, you’re going to need a backup plan, so it’s a good idea to keep your pantry filled with meal-making staples like pasta, canned tuna, olives, and beans (that would make a great dish right there!) so that you don’t have to make an emergency Chipotle run. Not that those aren’t necessary from time to time.

Do you have any tips for dinner time success?

Shea lives in Olathe with her husband Aaron, children Jona and Violet, and their spoiled mutt Ellie. She’s a busy working mom who finds her balance in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes that her picky toddler won’t touch. At the end of a long day, you’ll either find her curled up on the couch with a good book, or busy writing posts for her life and style blog, Shea Lennon, where she hopes to inspire women to look good and live well on a budget. Whether she’s reading or blogging, she’ll likely be accompanied by a bowl of ice cream (the chocolatier, the better) or a glass of wine. And on a good night, both.


  1. Great tips! I am a huge fan of planning out meals ahead of time. We make a grocery list based on 4-5meals we plan on having throughout the week. It has helped with time too because I don’t worry about what I am going to make for dinner-I already know!

  2. I totally do all of this. I have my grocery shopping down to a science and I only have to go once a month. I meal plan, so the list is solely based on what meals I will be preparing in that time frame. Of course I will have to make a few stops to pick up extra things we may run out of, like cheese and such, but for the most part, that 1 and done day is perfect for us. When it’s about time for the big shop, I make a huge Pinterest board that’s private and it’s what I base my list on. (:

    We also share the dinner duties 50/ 50 and I gotta say, life would be soooo hard any other way!

    I totally agree that it’s all about feeding your family a balanced meal, and that everyone is happy in the process. Things can be from scratch, from a box, who cares. Most of us work full time or part time jobs on top of being full time parents and need to accept we can’t add hours to the day. (;

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