7 Ways To Get Dinner On The Table Faster

Cooking dinner at home can be time-consuming—especially when you’re making a meal for the whole family. But there’s also a lot of upside: You have the flexibility to control all the ingredients and portion sizes, plus you avoid an expensive tab and delivery fees. And it doesn’t have to be a drag. A few simple strategies are all it takes to get the family meal on the table quickly—while still serving up dishes that are delicious.

Here are some great tips and tricks for whipping up globally inspired meals with elevated flavors, even on the busiest days.

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Make A Plan

It may cost you some time on Sunday evening, but plotting out your dinners ahead of time can pay off big-time during the week. When you already know what you’re cooking—and when—you can take stock of what you have (or don’t have) and avoid last-minute ingredient substitutions or trips to the grocery store. Making a list and shopping for exactly what you need can also save both time and money on your weekly haul, since you’ll be more likely to stay on track and avoid impulse purchases. And of course, when you know what’s on the menu each night, you can also get right to work without spending ages pondering as the dinner bell looms.

Keep Your Pantry Stocked

If you always have a few versatile staples on hand—grains and canned goods like diced tomatoes and beans, for example—and rely on easy weeknight-dinner recipes, you’ll be less likely to have to run to the store before you can begin cooking. And products like Near East’s Heat & Eat Long Grain & Wild Rice and Heat & Eat Rice Pilaf make for quick go-with-anything sides and bases. Plus, they microwave in 90 seconds for convenient prep.

Near East Heat & Eat Long Grain & Wild Rice

Heat & Eat Long Grain & Wild Rice

Near East Heat & Eat Long Grain & Wild Rice

Buy Precut Veggies

This eliminates the need to wash, peel, and chop—a time-consuming task, particularly if knife skills aren’t your forte. You’re not necessarily limited to the traditional mirepoix trio (carrots, celery, and onion), either. These days you can find ready-to-cook produce for all kinds of dishes, from aromatics like peppers and garlic to heartier veggies like butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.

roasted chicken

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Take Advantage Of Rotisserie Chicken

A precooked one eliminates the need for you to cook a protein—a savings of nearly an hour in some recipes. And it can be used in a wide variety of internationally inspired dishes, from enchiladas to tikka masala, when paired with the right spices and sauces. Serve your protein with a vegetable and a side like Near East Boxed Couscous—available in nine flavors—and you’ll have a meal in under 20 minutes.

Make It Thin

If you are using fresh ingredients or cooking your protein yourself (or both), however, you can accelerate your recipe’s active time by slicing everything thinly. For example, when you cut a thick chicken breast into tenderloins (or pound it thinner) or chop potatoes and carrots into smaller wedges, they’ll cook to perfection significantly faster.

Tap Your Air Fryer

A traditional full-size oven can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to heat up, but because they are so much smaller, air fryers come to temperature much more quickly. Many don’t even require preheating at all. Thanks to super-convection (the way the powerful fan inside blows heat into and around the food), they also cook food faster—often in about half the time the oven would take.

asian woman stored leftovers food in plastic container put into refrigerator

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Repurpose Leftovers

Leftovers don’t have to be a rinse and repeat of the night before. When you roast a chicken, you’ll likely have enough meat for more than one night’s worth. So use it as the base protein for two totally different meals: arroz con pollo one night and loaded grain bowls the next, say. You can do the same thing with a side like Near East Boxed Couscous, too: Cook the whole box one night and reserve half for the following.

Near East Couscous