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3 ways to simplify dinnertime prep

Simplify dinnertime with these tips

Let's face it -- coming up with something for dinner each night can be stressful -- whether you have a family to cook for or not! Between grocery shopping, planning meals and trying to eat healthfully, the kitchen can feel like a workplace with a never-ending list of tasks.
But you can alleviate dinnertime stress by minimizing the amount of time spent deciding on what to make and preparing meals. How? Plan meals in advance and keep ingredients and recipes as simple as possible -- this way, the time you spend preparing meals will be efficient and effective. 

Simplify dinnertime prep Here are a few simple tips to minimize stress... and maximize your productivity:
1) Create a weekly dinner menu
"What's for dinner?" Avoid the stress of trying to come up with a different answer to this question every night by creating a weekly dinner menu. This allows an entire week of grocery shopping to be accomplished in one trip. 

Try to keep the recipes quick and easy so you can prepare a weeknight meal in 30 minutes or less. Use cookbooks and websites that cater specifically to simple meals (like our sister site, ChefMom.com). 

If you have kids, let them help with meal planning. Allow them to each choose dinner on a specific night of the week. You can structure this activity by having them page through a favorite cookbook or website to ensure that their choice is both healthy and reasonable with regard to your cooking ability. Get a lot more tips on cooking with children in this section of the site.

2) Pick a "shopping day"
Stop wasting time rushing to the corner store for staple items such as milk, butter and eggs. Instead, set aside time on a specific day of the week to accomplish your weekly grocery shopping. 

Be sure to consider the peak hours of the supermarket: Your shopping experience will be less frustrating if the store is less crowded and you don't have to spend 20 minutes in the deli line. Peak times at many grocery stores hit weekdays at around 5-6 pm. (Apparently, everyone gets off work and drops by the store to pick up something for dinner on the way home.)

3) Stop spending hours in the supermarket
Before you leave home, scan your refrigerator and pantry to decide what items you regularly consume, and enter these items onto a spreadsheet.  By doing this, you create a general grocery list that you can print weekly or download to a PDA/Blackberry/iPhone. The list can be easily edited anytime, especially as you change your weekly dinner menu.

There are also a number of checkbox-based grocery lists you can create on the web: find one interactive shopping list here, or create a list of heart-heatlhy foods here.

Better yet: See if any grocery stores in your area deliver. Safeway.com brings your shopping to your door to cities in Arizona, California, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Washington DC; while Peapod.com offers home delivery in Milwaukee and the Chicago area, as well as certain locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. With affordable delivery fees for online grocery shopping (even sometimes free if you have an online coupon code), you can skip the checkout hassles, loading the stuff into your car, and then unloading once you get home.

Enjoy your time

Incorporate these simple habits into your everyday planning and organizing. You may find that now you even have time to enjoy cooking!

Check out these features on grocery shopping:

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