5 Tips for getting dinner on the table

Erica Sagon

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What's for dinner? The dreaded question that makes moms and dads panicky, especially on school nights. After making sure everyone gets to soccer practice, piano lessons, and swim meets on time and then back home, you're left wondering how you'll possibly squeeze in a home cooked dinner, too.

Woman chopping vegetables

As tempting as it may be, skip the fast food run. With a bit of pre-planning and some great go-to dinner recipes, you can make a quick, delicious meal for your family and feel good about what everyone is eating. We've got smart shortcuts, tips and tricks that will help you get healthy dinners on the table faster any night of the week.

1Start with a whole roasted chicken from your grocery store's deli

Inexpensive and mildly seasoned, a pre-cooked chicken can be a huge timesaver for weeknight chicken recipes. Shred it and use it to make chicken salad, enchiladas, tacos and more. With this store bought secret, you don't have to shy away from recipes that involve cooking chicken when you're pressed for time.

2Chop fruit and veggies on Sundays

Get out the cutting board and your best knife for a power chopping session and you'll have fresh ingredients that are ready to go for the rest of the week. This will shave minutes off of your dinner prep each night of the week and you'll be more likely to incorporate produce into dishes if it's already washed and chopped (especially labor intensive items like pineapple). Slice red peppers and onions so that they're ready for Tuesday night's stir fry recipe, and cut up a pineapple to snack on throughout the week.

3Plan a dinner swap with another family in the neighborhood

The idea is that you provide dinner for their family one night a week, and they provide dinner for your family one night the following week. When you're choosing what to make, think of dishes that share well and freeze well, and that are ample enough for leftovers: lasagna, casseroles, stews and chili, for example. Then, plan to double the recipe – one dish goes to the neighbor's house and the other feeds your family that night. If you're already making one pan of enchiladas it's just as easy to make two.

4Ask the kids to pitch in

Whether it's packing up leftovers or loading the dishwasher, giving kids a task or two is a great way to teach responsibility while helping you get dinner on the table faster. Dole out rewards if you'd like – say, a special dessert if the table is set on time for a week straight.

5Freeze large batches of sauces into individual portions

Fill the compartments of ice cube trays or muffin pans with homemade pesto or tomato sauce, then freeze. When they're solid, pop the individual servings out and seal in a freezer bag. Rather than reach for a jarred sauce next time you make pasta, you'll have from scratch options that simply need reheating. These individual portions are great for busy weeknights when schedules vary and you need to have dinner ready at a moment's notice.

Simple dinner recipes to try on busy school nights

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