I get it.  You know that replacing highly-processed frozen and boxed dinners with real, whole food is important, but life is busy and often stressful.  So the idea of “cooking dinner” every day can be daunting.  It might even make you feel like a kitchen slave. (No fun!)

So I’ll let you in on a secret.

You can enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals without cooking every day.

Here are my top 5 tips for getting dinner on the table with a minimum of effort.

Cook Once Eat Twice (or Thrice!)

This one is my favorite.  Many recipes can be doubled, or even tripled, allowing you to feed your family 2 or 3 dinners for that one evening’s hour of effort. Eat one serving the night you prepare it, and another several days later.

If what you are cooking freezes well (no potatoes!) you can wrap up the third serving and freeze it for dinner next week or the week after .  I always do this when I make Turkey-Veggie Meatballs.  I already have the cutting board and grater out, it all gets mixed together, and there is plenty of room in the oven.  Why would I make only one batch?

Use Your Slow-Cooker

Slow cookers are excellent for cooking beans, soups and stews, and tough (lower cost) cuts of meat.  I love to walk in the door from a busy day, and smell dinner pretty much done.  All I have to do is throw together a side salad and supper is served.

One Pot Meals

For many people, it’s not the cooking that is the hassle.  It’s the dreaded C-L-E-A-N-U-P.   Meals that are cooked in one pot or baked in one dish reduce the amount of work that goes on in the kitchen after dinner.

Often I run across recipes that instruct me to cook something on the stove, then pour it into a casserole dish and place it in the oven for a not-strictly-necessary final broil.  No way!  In our house, if it’s cooked, it’s cooked.  No need to waste extra time or dirty extra dishes.

Make it a Family Affair

Yep, it’s time to have the kids put down their smart phones and game controllers and step into the kitchen.  Why should you have to do all the work by yourself?

Besides, cooking dinner together is a great way to spend valuable time with the people most important to you.  Enlist your family members’ help to grate, cut, stir, shred or set the table.

There is always an age appropriate activity that your school age child or teen can help with.  Preparing meals together as a family not only makes it easier, it brings the family closer.

Sort a’ Cook

At least twice a week, I sort a’ cook.  Meals made from shredded rotisserie chicken with a few ingredients tossed in, or canned beans going into quesadillas or burritos, just don’t count as “cooking.”  It’s just too easy!  All I am really doing is warming some things up.  These kinds of meals are excellent for busy work days.

Pick one or two of these tips and implement them in your weekly dinner routine.  It will help you get more home-cooked meals on the table without becoming a kitchen slave!