10 Minute Meals: 5 Ways to Get Food on The Table FAST

10 Minute Meals Notebook Square

Today I am so happy to introduce you to my dear friend Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam and 10 Minute Dinners.  Not only is Jen one of the sweetest, kindest, and most genuine people you will ever meet, she is also FULL of wisdom, especially when it comes to getting food on the table fast!  Today’s post is SUCH a treat and I am so excited to share it with you!  I got some great ideas and I know you will too!

This is a guest post from Jen of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

I close the van door with my foot, grocery bags lining each arm like a carefully trained circus acrobat. I rush into the kitchen unloading the bounty and am greeted with calls from upstairs.

Hey Mom! What’s for dinner?

My inner voice screams, Didn’t I just make dinner yesterday?!

As a mom of five, I understand busy schedules, deadlines, unending “chauffeur” jobs paired alongside that constant nag that somewhere along the line, something’s been forgotten.

For many of us, when our balancing act gets off kilter, homemade meals are the first thing to go since it’s much easier to grab convenience food on the run. When that starts to happen in my home, I go back to five simple, yet life changing strategies I began implementing years ago.

On those particularly chaotic weeks, my goal is to be very intentional about our meal time.  I want not only to  spend less time preparing the food, but more time connecting over a shared meal.  All while keeping our food budget to a minimum, of course!

10 Minute Meals FB

Doesn’t ten minutes of food prep sound like a dream come true? Implement these easy ideas and you will be thrilled to see how quickly a wholesome meal can come together on the spur of the moment.

 

meal notebook

1. Set up Fast Family Favorites

When dinner time is rushed, it’s safe to say we all tend to get stuck in a rut of making the same meals over and over. First off, let’s break that habit together and set ourselves up for success.

One evening over dessert, gather your family together to brainstorm some of your favorite, fast family meal ideas. Make a list of at least 15 – 20 tried and true recipes. If you need to do so, pull out some old cookbook and magazines to trigger those creative juices. If you have kids, include them in this process. It gives them a voice and ownership of the family decision making process. They’ll be much more willing to be a kitchen helper if you need some assistance during meal prep if they know the meal they chose is on the agenda.

Once your list is complete, print the recipes out or write them down. Yes, I want you to have a physical copy of each one. Use this to create a simple meals solutions notebook which will be your “cooking brain” when you’re overwhelmed and need someone–or some thing–to think for you. (Am I the only one who needs that help?) With your meal solutions notebook in hand, you’ve already done the thinking.

This notebook, which can be as simple as a three ring binder, holds recipes of all your fast, family favorite recipes, the ingredients needed, and our shopping lists. I even add quick snack ideas and kid friendly recipes that they can make for themselves.

Next, take your list and designate a pantry shelf or bin where some of the the non refrigerated recipe staples will be stored. When I race through the door and haven’t a clue what I am making for dinner that night, I need to be assured that I will always have ingredients for some of our fast, family favorites. I don’t want to count on easy burritos, only to find I am out of the necessary tomato sauce or tortillas. Those should already be in stock on that fast favorites shelf/bin. Don’t try and keep all the ingredients from your entire top 15 list because that may get overwhelming, but just make sure that you always keep at least five recipes in stock.

 

10 Minute Meals 5

2. Implement C.O.S.T. Cooking Strategies

One of my greatest feats is trying to determine how nearly every meal can become a “Cook Once, Serve Twice or Three Times” adventure. I am not talking about left overs, although I definitely recommend them and doubling recipes is always a recommendation. My family would be lost without leftover, but I do know that many won’t eat them.

C.O.S.T Cooking sets apart the meal and completely recreates it. Every protein cooked becomes another recipe without any complaints.

For instance, a simple Crock Pot BBQ Chicken over rice or noodles, becomes BBQ pizza the next evening. Depending on how much chicken I have prepared, BBQ quesadillas, tortillas or our favorite BBQ sandwiches made this a three time winner.

A second examples is our family’s favorite Asian Pork Tenderloin recipe. First showcased as a main dish served with rice and vegetables, we rounded out our “Take Two” meals by serving it sliced on a warm hoagie roll topped with provolone cheese for a quick and hot sandwich. Even the biggest left over naysayers will be none the wiser.

When you begin thinking with C.O.S.T Cooking meals in mind, you knock extra dinners out of the way without much effort.

 

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3.  Do a Once-a-Week Power Cooking Hour

In my opinion, the best use of one hour a week is my “Power Cooking Hour.” It’s simple, become the Kitchen Manager that you are and challenge yourself to work against the clock. I love a good competition, so I set the timer for one hour. I then cook, chop, dice, prep and freeze as many items as I can in that time period.

In one hour of concentrated time, I am able to break down certain kitchen tasks enough to prep for 8-10 meals in just that one hour.

When I first started my Power Cooking Hour, I prepped 15 meals, making it possible to execute that goal of a ten minute dinner for weeks. I couldn’t believe how much I got done and after that, I was committed to setting that time aside regularly.

While prepackaged foods are incredibly convenient, they come with both a hefty price tag and typically, many extra preservatives. I do keep a few convenience items on hand, but I’ve realized that by using this hour strategically, I can create my own convenience items so simply.

Think through what quick items you find yourself being drawn to at the grocery store. Walk down the freezer aisle and figure out how to recreate them.

Here are just a few tasks that I take on during my Power Cooking Hour:

  • Cook rice in bulk (love my rice cooker), then separate into quart size portions.
  • Cook Crock Pot full of beans for additions to meals, taco dip and homemade re-fried beans.
  • Do some bulk baking - it’s just as easy to make up batter for four banana breads loaves, as it is just one loaf.
  • Seasoned Ground beef packages: Fry or use the crock pot to cook up large quantities of ground beef at one time. Since we love Mexican and Italian meals, I then add garlic, onions and chopped peppers right to the beef. Once that is finished, I separate the mixture into freezer bags and add the appropriate seasonings.
  • Make burrito filling. Using the above mentioned taco meat or grilled chicken, separate into freezer containers or bags, then add your favorite fillings – rice, beans, etc.
  • Chop individual bags of onions, peppers and other veggies we eat often. Some stay in fridge for snacks, while others head to the freezer.
  • Make DIY green smoothie packages.  We love the prepackaged smoothie mixes found in the freezer section, but they are costly and doesn’t feed our large family. I began creating my own by mixing our favorite fruits, yogurt, chia seeds, and spinach. Yes, healthy smoothies on the go.
  • Grill or bake chicken in bulk. When we grill out, I always grill up at least ten pounds at a time. Today I checked out the price of 1/2 pound of prepackaged grilled chicken – $5.45. That’s crazy! You can make two pounds of your own grilled chicken for the same price. If you bake chicken or throw it in the crock pot, always make more chicken that you will eat, so that you have extras. Once cooled, then slice, shred and chop into individual meal size freezer bags for quick additions to salads, soups, sandwiches and casseroles all week long. Making up these meal packets is such a great time saver.

This Power Cooking Hour is multitasking at its finest. You will be amazed that the more often you give it a try, the more skilled you will become at having multiple items cooking and baking at once. It’s truly worth the extra effort.

 

Freezer-Meal-Breakfast-Skillet

4. Have Breakfast for Dinner

I have yet to determine who deemed certain “foods” as breakfast items. That just seems wrong. Honestly, I love some ham, eggs and hash brown casserole in the evening just as much as a good steak. Our kids think a hot breakfast for dinner is a “treat,” so I am more than happy to oblige since it’s easy to get some nourishing on the table quickly..

I’ve found that a DIY breakfast burrito bar is not only the perfect option when serving large groups, but it’s also a wonderful way to clean out the fridge from any miscellaneous items. We serve our “bars” buffet style with everything from eggs, cheese, steak, ham, veggies, salsa, sour cream etc. The list is unending with what you can add to your buffet line.

 

Meal-making-as-a-group

5.  Start or Join a Cooking Group

There’s nothing better than a night out on the town with some great friends, yet when I started getting together with friends for cooking nights, it mixed the best of both worlds. It brought back the cozy feel of a good ‘ole fashioned quilting bee, but substituted food for fabric. It makes the tedious of everyday cooking so much more fun. There are so many options with how to implement these, but you decide what works best with your friends.

Here are three options I’ve done:

  • One-for One Meal Swap.  Make all the meals at your own home and drop them off at friends’ homes. Then they reciprocate.
  • Host a meal making party in someone’s home. Everyone brings all the ingredients for their assigned main dish x the number of people involved. So if I was assigned a Chicken Pot Pie, I would bring enough ingredients for five pot pies (if five friends were involved).
  • One person organizes, sets the menu, and buys all the pantry staple ingredients. The others cover the cost of the ingredients, but brings their own meat, chicken etc. The next month, another person organizes and does the purchasing.

 10 Minute Meals FB 2

And finally, after you’ve worked so hard to make these meals happen, don’t forget to sit down, relax, unwind and enjoy them.  A tip that has soothed many hectic days is my personal understanding of the power of ambiance. We eat by candlelight nearly every dinner. Even if it’s frozen pizza or Mac and Cheese, I turn off the lights, play some soft music and let those candles flicker. It sets a tone at the table that soothes, calms, and relaxes our soul.  I can have five baskets of laundry sitting on the sofa behind me, but during that time, there’s nothing else in the world that’s more important than those gathered around our table.

Hopefully those five simple strategies will help you get dinners on the table more quickly, save you a lot of money on the grocery budget, but more importantly, give you some needed encouragement to share time around the dinner table with family and friends.

Enjoy!

10 Minute Meals--5 Ways to Get Food on the Table FAST!

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What are some of your best strategies for getting dinner on the table?

As a mom of five blessings, Jen Schmidt has learned to balance and embrace both the beauty and bedlam of every day life and shares about that journey on her blog, aptly named, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Her practical, yet tangible, lifestyle ideas encourages others to open their eyes to a “living on less, but living Life to the full” mentality focusing on being jenintentional with your every day. You can find her on any given day dreaming about a cleanhouse, whipping up 10 Minute Dinners (and sharing them on that blog), thrift store hunting, spray painting anything in her way or inviting you to share a cup of coffee on her front porch that took 17 years to build.

 

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{ 22 comments… add one }

  • Tracie March 21,

    These are great! I love the idea of having a meal notebook and shelf full of favorite meals all ready to go. We also love breakfast for dinner!

    Reply
  • Anonymous March 21,

    What great timing! I was just looking up 10 minute meals yesterday and also thinking about ways to cut down food waste. Love these ideas! Now if i could just get hubby on board with breakfast dinner (my girls call it silly supper and they love it!)

    Reply
    • Anonymous April 2,

      Bacon??

      Reply
  • Vicki Lesage March 21,

    I love the notebook idea! I have a list of our favorites but I think doing the actual notebook will be even better. This is going to be my weekend project!

    Reply
  • Susan @ SunfowerHugs.blogspot.com March 21,

    Reading one of her posts about cooking ground beef in bulk and she mentions draining it in a colander. It was noted because even though it was an easy tip, many people use a spoon and using a colander is such a time saver. This is a method I already use.

    But then she mentions while the meat is in the colander to rinse it to reduce the fat. I have never heard of that so I Googled it and found this article: http://www.foodsafety.wisc.edu/assets/pdf_files/reducing%20fat%20in%20ground%20beef.pdf
    It is a study of how when you cook the ground beef, drain the fat AND rinse it you can reduce the fat content of 70/30 meat from 30 grams of fat to 4 grams of fat! This is such an incredible thing to find out! I have been spending a fortune on 90/10 meat when I could have been buying 70/30 this whole time and just rinsing it!!! Spread the word!

    Reply
    • Anonymous March 21,

      I always rinse my ground beef.

      Reply
      • Samm March 22,

        higher quality meat is more meat and less fat per weight. So when you drain and rinse off all the fat, you have more meat left with the leaner cuts.

        Reply
  • Claire March 21,

    What do you do with the leftover rice? Freeze it? It doesn’t get gummy that way? My kids love rice so I would love to know how to do this!

    Reply
    • Anonymous March 21,

      You can use it for meat balls, bread dough, or rice pudding! I have found many uses for it just as left over mashed potatoes!

      Reply
    • Cookie March 22,

      You can steam it in a colander. Will taste fresh every single time. You can also use left over rice for Chinese fried rice.

      Reply
  • Elke Feuer March 21,

    Great article! This is just what I needed. I love your idea of power cooking during the week and using favorite family meals. I also signed up to the 10 minute meals newsletter. Easy meals, here I come! :-)

    Reply
  • Pam March 21,

    I need to make the notebook. Great idea. Today I canned 7 quarts and 7 pints of 15 bean soup and ham. Also froze 3 quarts. Lots of quick meals. I will make more in the next few days of a variety of meals.

    Reply
  • Skinny Latte Mommy March 21,

    I am basically obsessed with your blog! This post was super helpful to me as a mom :)

    I have a current giveaway with TONS of boutique accessories for little boys and girls that I thought you might be interested in.

    xoxo,
    Skinny Latte Mommy

    Reply
  • Jennifer March 22,

    This is great. For the past two years, since my daughter was born, I have been struggling to get meals on the table. Usually we just eat out… which wastes a lot of time and money! My goal is to pare eating out to twice a month, within six months time. These tips will be a great jump-starter for me!

    Reply
  • Pam March 23,

    Hi Ruth, Brilliants ideas for saving time with meals. I find so much inspiration here. I shared a link to your cleaning lists on my blog today. I love them so.

    Reply
  • Chetana March 24,

    This one is just awesome to read. 10 minutes and so much… can’t believe that. Do you have something where I can feed a small gang in a very short time?

    Reply
  • Jaime April 5,

    These tips are great! Just what I need. Thanks!

    Reply
  • evening bags silver May 8,

    Amazing! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a completely different topic but it has pretty much the
    same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

    Reply
  • Brooke @ Piggy Bank Savers May 19,

    Breakfast for dinner is always our go-to for rushed evenings! I absolutely LOVE the idea of keeping your favorite quick recipes in a binder, definitely adding that to my projects for the week! Thanks for the great idea!

    Reply
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    Hey I knokw this is off tipic but I was wondering if you knew off any widgets I could add
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    Reply
  • Vicki Sparks September 11,

    Love all of your recipes and ideas so far. Keep up
    the good work. And send all of your tips, recipes and
    Shortcuts to my email address.

    Reply
  • 網站搜尋引擎優化 September 27,

    Hi there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my neew apple iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look frward to aall your posts!
    Carry on the fantastic work!

    Reply

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