We'll do almost anything to reclaim a bit of our weeknight time—except sacrifice a delicious dinner. Get the best of both worlds by using a make-ahead recipe: Do most of the work when you have time, like on weekends, and put just a few finishing touches on your dish when you're ready to eat. Here are five time-saving strategies to get your dinnertime off to a running start.
The strategy: Freeze then reheat
Soups are great meal options to store in the freezer and reheat on the fly. This butternut squash recipe can be whipped up when it's convenient for you and then frozen for months—though we don't think you'll be able to resist for that long. For safe freezing, cool the soups to room temperature first. Storing them in freezer-grade quart bags are great space savers in this scenario.
The strategy: Prep ahead
Roast the vegetables, cook the couscous, and even make the dressing in advance for this hearty vegetable salad. Use this technique in other recipes by keeping vegetables and grains in mind when deciding what to prepare on a weekend. Precooked ingredients like rice and quinoa can be quickly reinvigorated with a bit of heat and a splash of chicken broth.
The strategy: Marinate
Marinating meat is a hands-off way to inject flavor into a recipe. If the marinade is acid-free, you can keep meat in it for up to three days, but if you've added a bit of vinegar or citrus juice into the mix, don't marinate for longer than a day (the acid will break down the protein and affect the final texture of the dish—like ceviche gone rogue). After marinating, you can cook the resulting liquid down to a sauce.
The strategy: Assemble then bake
Put together this recipe this weekend and you could be eating homemade chicken pot pie on a whim any night. The dish freezes in its entirety, ready for you to pop it in the oven when you need a no-fuss hot meal. This strategy works well for casseroles too. The only thing you'll need to do night-of is preheat the oven.
The strategy: Just toss with sauce
Pasta is one of the ultimate time-saving and versatile ingredients. Prepare different sauces and pestos ahead of time so that boiling water is the only thing left to do before dinner. Pesto can be stored under a layer of oil in the fridge for up to a week. Get creative and think of different herb options (like this cilantro-peanut combo) so you can grab whatever strikes you in the moment.