The Ultimate Guide to Getting Dinner Ready Fast

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Dinner Ready Fast

After a tiring day, cooking dinner and sitting down for a family meal together may not be your top priority, after all mealtimes can feel very overwhelming especially after a long day.

As you know Around The Table is passionate about making family mealtimes easier and helping families to gather around the table as often as possible. We recognise that midweek meals, in particular, can be challenging and can even feel all too hard at times.

To reduce the challenge, try to keep mid-week meals as simple as they need to be. Prioritise your time eating together, where the real rewards are, versus preparing the meal. As an example, if you had the luxury of an hour for your mealtime routine, we would suggesting spending your time and energy where you and your children will gain the most benefit. This would mean 40-50 minutes of that hour connecting, communicating and sharing around the table, and 10-20 minutes cooking, serving and clearing. Of course, the luxury of an hour mid-week isn't always realistic, but the principle of prioritising the majority of your time at the table versus in the kitchen works however long you have. 

To help you to reduce time in the kitchen mid-week, detailed are 7 different methods that will allow your family to spend more time together by simplifying mid-week mealtimes. They are:

  1. Involve everyone in the family in meal preparation.

This sounds really obvious but most families seem to have a “home chef” who manages everything mealtimes, but are you using your little family of suet chefs enough? Whether its chopping ingredients, stirring a pot or keeping an eye on the oven there are a lot of little tasks that can really help to speed up the process. Not to forget that table setting and the clear-up are all up for delegation too.

  1. Cook family favourites (new recipes = increased time)

When a new recipe says 5 minutes, the first time you make it, we guarantee it will take at least double if not triple the time! Reading and double checking and going back to confirm the quantities all takes time. Save experimenting with new recipes to the weekends when you can really enjoy the experience. Co-incidentally family favourite meals also make connecting over dinner easier mid-week too.

  1. Meal plan

Organising what you will be eating each night is not only a great cost save, reducing so much waste, but it also speeds up the cooking process as you know exactly what you are going to be eating and can prepare ahead when possible. 

  1. Bulk cook

Cook large batches of your families favourites on the weekend. Anything that freezes and defrosts well is suitable for this method, it can be such a relief after a long day to find your trusty Bolognaise sauce ready to go! 

  1. Re-invent left overs

Many families do not like the thought of eating the same meal two nights in a row, but gosh how much time (and money) does eating leftovers save! So, to keep everyone happy try re-inventing leftovers. Our tips is to make night 2 of any meal more fun than the first to increase the interest. Meals ideas are:

Taco > Nachos or Mexican Pizza
Bolognaise > Jacket potatoes with sour cream and coleslaw
Casserole > Meat Pies with peas and mash
Spaghetti & Meatballs > Meatball Subs with Salad
Pulled pork & Baked Vegetables > Sliders or Mexican Pizza


  1. “Cook from open”

This means using a combination of ready-made meals with some homestyle touches, think purchasing a BBQ Chicken and adding vegetables or a salad, perhaps a pre-made lasagne with make a salad or maybe it could be a Costco ready-made meal that you bulk up with extra vegetables or noodles. It allows you to add some healthier touches or items that your family enjoys to a pre-made meal and saves a lot of preparation time.

  1. Meal delivery service

Whilst this is not the cheapest way of preparing a meal it does also remove the thinking behind making dinner (which can be brutal at times). Although beware of the meal delivery services that involve a lot of preparation steps (see point 2 above) as time can really get away from you and it may just be grocery shopping time that you save.

  1. Eat Out

If you have had one of those days, or you've forgotten to get something out to eat for dinner, eat out! It can be as simple or as fancy as you like, but be sure to grab your Around The Table cards with you and make the most of it! Not only does it give you the night off, it provides more time to connect and enjoy the time together. Of course, it is listed as the final option because it’s an expensive way to remember to get something out for dinner.

Why isn't Take-Away or Ordering In on the list? It’s not because we are anti-take-away but because we know this format of dinner often breaks all the family dinner rules. Take-away usually signifies that everyone has the night off. The home-chef, the table setters and unfortunately the family conversation. It usually signifies that you or your family just don’t have any energy left, so dinner location and routine is up for grabs. As such, we have learnt that at times you just need to lean in and acknowledge that it is the rule breaking meal, and is considered a treat so it is “treated accordingly”.

Across the 7 different methods we hope you found a practical tip to suit your family, making mealtimes easier and enable you to come together for mid-week mealtimes more often.  If so, why not use this opportunity to make a change and start modifying your families mealtime routine today.  

Read the full list of benefits associated to engaging in sit down family dinners HERE.




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