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Top 5 dinner shortcuts for the busy mom

Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps ...

Weeknight meal shortcuts

Between work deadlines, family obligations, church commitments and cleaning the house, who has time to spend hours preparing dinner? With so little time, but no desire for fast food every night, what's a mom to do?

woman cooking dinner

Surprisingly, it is possible to make home-cooked meals every night that don't take an eternity to prepare. With a few simple dinner shortcuts, we can make your life a little simpler. Spend more time helping your kids with their homework, playing games as a family and cuddling on the couch with your husband instead of cooking. Oh — and don't worry — quality and flavor will not be sacrificed.

Have a few staple meals on hand

Always have a few "go-to" meals on hand that the family loves. Think spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers and pizza. These are all easy to cook and require minimal time and effort. If you've had an extra-stressful day and don't feel like cooking or ran late coming home from work, having staple meals on hand at all times is a lifesaver.

Prepare meals ahead of time

This one takes some discipline, but will make your week run 10 times more efficiently. Every Sunday, after going to the grocery store, spend an hour slicing and dicing all your veggies for the week. Place in big zip-closed bags, label with the date the meal is for and freeze. This works great for stir-frys, soups and casseroles. When you come home from work, simply dump the preprepared homemade dinner on the stove and relax.

Two words — slow cooker

For busy moms, there truly is no greater invention than the slow cooker (OK — and coffee). Everything from soups to stews to apple crisps can be prepared in no more than 10 minutes in the morning and ready to eat by the evening. For moms who stay home, ingredients can be thrown in during morning naps instead of trying to cook amid the chaos that ensues during the evening (let's not pretend babies don't scream the second we start dinner).

Don't cook

Yes, you read that right. Don't cook, but don't eat out either. Instead, plan on having a picnic-style dinner one night. Crackers and cheese, apples and peanut butter, deli-style lunch meat sandwiches, and fresh fruits and veggies make for a fun, satisfying meal. Also, don't underestimate the power of cold pastas and chicken or tuna salads. These can be made the night before after everyone's gone to bed, and refrigerated until the next night's dinner.

Check out these crock pot chicken recipes >>

Delegate

Finally, don't carry the dinner burden all on your own. Instead, get the whole family involved and assign everyone tasks to make the process run smoother. Teens can make side dishes and help menu-plan, kids can set the table and help out with dishes, and your husband can man the grill. Even toddlers can help out by carrying napkins and placemats to the table. By delegating tasks, not only are you saving yourself time and energy, you're also spending time together as a family — which effectively kills two birds with one stone.

More on mealtime shortcuts

Simple shortcuts for successful family meals
Shortcuts in the kitchen: Quick ways to homemade flavor
Fast, nutritious meals for your family

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