The Ultimate Guide To Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners

Freshly prepared Weekly Dinners or Meals by Local Chefs!

Freshly prepared Weekly Dinners or Meals by Local Chefs

27 Jan 2019

 “I don’t have time to cook dinner tonight…”

 

If you’ve ever muttered or even thought this sentiment, you’re certainly not alone! Here at SareFood, we understand that between careers, relationships, errands, and obligations, it can feel like a feat of epic proportions to get dinner on the table on any given weeknight. And for those of us who are also health-conscious? The thought of preparing a quick and delicious meal that won’t derail your diet can seem pretty near impossible. (Add picky eaters into the mix, and you’re really in trouble!)

 

So if late nights and tight schedules have you hopelessly dependent on takeout and you’re tired of Googling “food delivery near me,” listen up: you have other options! Whether you’re cooking for one, two, or a rambunctious family of 10, check out our Ultimate Guide for getting quick, easy, and healthy dinners on the table any night of the week.

Do it Like a Pro Chef

 

After a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen. Luckily, there are a few tricks used by our SareFood pro chefs that’ll help you shave time off each step of the dinner making process. These tried-and-true tips will help you spend less time cooking and more time relaxing!

 

●      Make water boil faster with salt and a lid

 

Whether you’re making pasta, rice, or steaming your veggies, Pro Chefs know that by adding a few shakes of salt to the pot of water raises its boiling point so it heats up faster. Topping it with a lid traps heat to further shorten the process. What’s more, the increased temperature of the salted water will help to cut down on overall cooking time.

 

●      Practice mise en place

 

Don’t speak French? We’ll translate for you. Mise en place means “put in place” or “everything in its place” and is a time management technique practiced by pro chefs around the world. You gather all of your ingredients and cooking utensils where you will be preparing your meal before you start cooking and then chop, pour, and measure. Spending time on prep up front will save you time during and after the cooking process. It also makes cleanup easier because you can use your cooking tools multiple times during the cooking process without having to clean them. 

 

●      Cook in large batches and season before eating

 

It’s no secret that cooking foods in large batches and reusing the leftovers can save you oodles of time throughout the week. So when you decide to do your big meal prep, keep the food as plain as possible and season it just before eating for maximum versatility. For example, if you’re cooking up a big batch of ground beef, keep it the seasoning neutral with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder so you can use it throughout the week for tacos (add taco seasoning), shepherd’s pie, or to add to a bolognese sauce.

 

Collect Quick-to-Prepare Recipes

This may take a tiny bit of preparation, but don’t worry, it’ll save you time in the long run! Whether you prefer a desktop folder or a good old-fashioned recipe box filled with handwritten note cards, start collecting quick meal ideas that you can use in a pinch.

 

With so many food blogs out there, it’s easier than ever to find recipes for quick, simple, and healthy meals that you can prepare in 15 minutes or less. What’s more, the steps are easily accessible from your phone, so whether you’re buying the ingredients at the grocery store or you’re ready to cook in the kitchen, you can pull up the recipe whenever you need it. (Or print it out for that recipe box!)

 

To refine your search for speedy recipes, try scoping out for one-pot or one-pan meals, and look for slow cooker recipes, too. Slow-cooked, one-pot meals take little more effort than throwing all the ingredients into the crockpot and letting it simmer all day.

Do some Sunday Night Meal Prepping

Spending some time planning meals on your day off can save you hours during the week. Consider cooking big batches of versatile foods that you can use in a bunch of different recipes (like the ground beef example mentioned above). You can make soups or marinade meats, then put them in the freezer and thaw them when you need quick dinners for the next week or two.

 

Your once-a-week prep day should include planning out a strategic grocery list. Try choosing foods that you can use in multiple recipes for a clever way to save time and money! For instance, mozzarella cheese could be used for pizza or chicken parmesan, you can make burritos, quesadillas, or sandwich wraps with flour tortillas, and romaine can be used in sandwiches or to make salads throughout the week. Get the idea?

Opt for one-pot meals

These may be the holy grail of easy weeknight eating! Save time on cooking and cleaning by choosing recipes that you can make in one pan or pot. Sear steak and asparagus in the same frying pan, or roast a chicken with vegetables for an easy, no fuss, nutritious meal option. Oh, and let’s not forget crockpots and their newer cousin, the Instant Pot. Simple recipes that require minimal dishes are always a great idea … and there’s plenty of ‘em!

Ditch the recipes, altogether

Maybe you’ve been following directions all day, and the last thing you want to do is read guidelines on how to make dinner. That’s okay! There are plenty of ideas that you can run with using only ingredients that your family loves, or (let’s face it), whatever you happen to have in the kitchen.

 

As a bonus for families with youngsters, many of these meals are simple enough for the kiddos to lend a hand in the kitchen, and the steps don’t need to be precise. This not only lightens your load, it’s a great way to spend time together after a long day while avoiding a post-school case of boredom.

 

Dishes that allow each person to pick and choose what’s on their plate are great options for finicky eaters so you’ll hear more “yums” than “yucks” when it comes time for dinner! What’s more, you can often use up any odds and ends you have left in your kitchen, like fresh or frozen veggies, canned beans or sauces, boxed noodles, opened bags of cheese, or meats.

 

Let these quick, healthy, and prepare-it-yourself options inspire your dinners this week! And the best part? There’s no recipe required.

 

●      Pasta

○      Use whole wheat or veggie noodles

○      Mix in red sauce or olive oil, meat, veggies, and cheese

 

●      Tacos

○      Stuff with meat, shrimp, or fish, veggies, and serve with salsa, sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt

 

●      Quesadillas

○      Use whole wheat tortillas

○      Fill with cheese, protein, veggies, and serve with sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, or salsa

 

●      Stir-fry

○      Use brown rice, lo mein noodles, or whole wheat spaghetti

○      Toss in some meat or shrimp, veggies, and sauce

 

●      Omelets

○      These cook up in no time!

○      Fold in any kind of cheese, veggies, or meat

 

●      Grilled cheese

○      Use whole wheat bread

○      Add spinach, tomato, bacon, buffalo chicken

●      Soups

○      Pick a broth base and add any meat or veggies you want

○      Top with garnishes like sour cream or tortilla strips

 

 

Stock up on easy-to-prepare foods[1] 

It’s a fine line: finding foods that you can make in a pinch that is also healthy for you and your family. Luckily, there are plenty of easy, healthy meal prep options that can inspire delicious and wholesome meals, if you just know what to look for!

 

●      Fresh veggies

You read that right! Veggies like broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, and zucchini can be steamed or sauteed in minutes flat. If you’re really feeling fancy, you can throw ‘em in a frying pan with some seasoning and garlic or top with a bit of fresh parmesan, and voilà: a tasty, healthy side dish that’s anything from boring.

 

By the way, have you tried zoodles? These noodle-shaped zucchini strings can be bought or made with a spiralizer. Swap your regular spaghetti for these, and your dinner will have more vitamins, more fiber, and way fewer calories! They can be cooked in a flash and topped with sauce, cheese, meatballs, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

 

●      Frozen veggies

Similarly, stocking up on frozen veggies is always a good idea! Grab a bag from the freezer whenever you need to whip up a quick side dish or stir-fry. Riced veggies like cauliflower or broccoli -- which are shaved so they have the appearance and texture of rice -- are wonderful low-carb options to add to your favorite Asian or Mexican-inspired dishes. Or, just serve them with a little salt and butter!

 

●      Whole wheat pasta and brown rice

If you simply can’t live without these versatile carbs, that’s ok, just opt for healthier versions. Whole wheat pasta and brown rice have more nutrition than their refined counterparts, but cook up just as easily.

 

●      Jarred sauces

Let us preface this by saying that it is essential to read the nutrition labels on sauces, which can be filled with sugar, sodium, and other additives. However, if you choose options with organic ingredients (in other words, ones you can pronounce) and low sugar and sodium content, they can help you whip up a simple meal in no time.

 

Marinades, pasta sauces, and salad dressings can all come in handy when you need to whip up a flavorful dinner in a pinch.

 

●      Frozen shrimp

Shrimp is high in protein, low in calories, and totally yummy! Get the peeled, pre-cooked kind, and it’ll brown in the frying pan within a few minutes. Add it to salads, pasta, stir-fries, and even tacos to pack a protein punch that’s also diet-friendly.

 

●      Rotisserie chicken

Looking for a grab-n-go dinner on your way home from work? Rotisserie chickens, available at most local grocery stores, may be one of the healthiest “fast food” options you can choose from! Shred it for sandwiches, tacos, or salads, or just slice it up and eat it in all its roasted glory.

Explore the Local Food Scene

●      If you’re a St. Louis local who finds yourself too frazzled to put an ounce of effort into making a meal, you’re in luck: you’re within driving, delivery, or even walking distance to some of the best restaurants in the country. There’s no shame in ordering out every so often, and when you do, make sure to take advantage of the thriving food scene that’s buzzing right in your own city!

●      Vegetarians and vegans have no shortage of options when it comes to veggie-centered eateries, and meat lovers can also rejoice in a host of healthy options. You can also “travel” the world through your taste buds by trying street food from the Philippines or dishes derived from Bosnia, Chinese food, barbecue joints, and everything in between. Oh, and don’t worry, there are plenty of food places that deliver.

●      And let’s not forget about some of the local fare that hails from right here in St. Louis! Iit may not be classified as “healthy,” but on special occasion splurge nights, you may opt for this one-of-a-kind cuisine. (It’s all about balance, right?)

●      In fact, our fair city has a few classic dishes that are revered by locals and sought after by tourists. When you really want to feel in touch with your roots, order up some toasted ravioli complete with marinara dipping sauce, or maybe you’re in the mood for a hearty pork steak. If it’s pizza you’re craving, make sure to get it St. Louis-style with Provel cheese, and when you want to treat yourself, a piece of gooey butter cake or a frosty concrete might do the trick.

 

Needless to say, these aren’t the most nutritious of foods to enjoy every day. But you owe it to your hometown to sample all the flavors it has to offer, at least once in a while -- and make sure any visitors are given a taste, too!

Add a healthy twist to convenience foods

●      The phrase “convenience foods” doesn’t exactly evoke images of health, but it can be a better alternative than expensive or calorie-dense fast food options. When you prepare these heat-and-eat meals at home, you can add a few tweaks to make them healthier.

●      If mac ‘n cheese is all the kids will eat, try to add some nutrition into the mix. Stir in some veggies and protein for a more balanced meal, like broccoli and buffalo chicken or peas and tuna.

●      Frozen pizzas can also be upgraded with fresh toppings. Opt for a plain cheese pie, then add tons of peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, you name it. If you have leftover meat in the fridge, chop it up and throw it on top, while you’re at it!

●      And let’s not forget the beauty of an eclectic side salad. Throw some greens and any veggies you have on hand in a bowl and toss it up. This is one of the best ways to round out your plate and empty out the produce in your fridge!

Check out a local meal delivery service in St Louis

You know how some of the best ideas are the simplest? The concept of a meal delivery service is one of them … get ready to have your mind blown!

 

SareFood is a meal delivery service in St. Louis that combines the convenience of delivery with the effortlessness and options of having a personal Chef. In short, ordering from SareFood is the easiest, healthiest, most convenient way for you and your family to enjoy healthy, restaurant quality meals with virtually no effort required.

 

Unlike other meal delivery services that provide ingredients that require cooking. SareFood meal delivery comes cooked and ready to eat -- just heat (if applicable) and enjoy! This St. Louis-based company is a meal delivery service by local chefs who love to cook and share their food with you.

 

Hop on to the SareFood website to can choose from a variety of chefs with different specialties, from organic to vegan to ethnically-inspired foods. You can pick each dish that you’d like prepared for your family, and they’ll be prepared locally and delivered fresh to your home every Wednesday and Saturday, making meal planning simpler than ever before.

 

Being pressed for time on any given weeknight is a struggle that most people can relate to. With a little planning, creativity and a few local resources, it is possible to enjoy quick, easy, and healthy dinners any night of the week!

 

For busy folks and families, SareFood is the fastest and best prepared meal delivery service option out there, and it’s available near you.

 

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