5 best time-saving cooking tips

Healthy homemade dinners are important and on busy nights, sometimes it pays to cut corners in order to get a healthy meal on the tables fast. I've turned to a few key time-saving ingredients and cooking tricks to help me get dinner ready in a hurry. Here are my top 5 time-saving cooking tips.

-Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor

Shopping List

Tip 1. Plan Ahead

Gone are the days when I decided what was for dinner at 4 p.m. Now, I plan ahead. On Sunday, I take an inventory of what I have in the fridge and plan my meals for Monday through Friday. Then I make a list and go to the store. This eliminates the "What's for Dinner" conundrum and also can save a bit of cash if I plan my meals around ingredients that I already have on hand.

Canned Beans

Tip 2. Use Healthy Convenience Products Like Canned Beans

Dried beans are delicious, but they take several hours to cook (not to mention the hours they spend soaking before they even hit the pot). But they are a healthy staple (7 grams of fiber per 1/2-cup serving!) in my house for making healthy dinners. Canned beans do tend to harbor a lot of sodium so look for brands that have "reduced sodium" or "no salt added" on the label. Rinsing canned beans can also lower salt content by about 35%

Stave Off Weight Gain

Tip 3. Opt for Quick-Cooking Whole Grains

Getting dinner on the table quickly is hard enough, but keeping it healthy is an added challenge. We all know by now that we should be eating more whole grains, but they can be a challenge to fit into dinner when you're working with a time crunch. That's why I like quinoa. It takes only 15 to 20 minutes to cook and delivers 3 grams of fiber per 1/2-cup serving.

Frozen Vegetables

Tip 4. Don't Be Afraid to Use Frozen Vegetables

I love fresh vegetables, but they take time to prep and cook-especially if you want a variety on your plate. So if I'm making a stir-fry or a soup in a hurry, I'll opt for frozen vegetable "medleys" instead. I don't feel guilty choosing frozen-when fresh vegetables are out of season, choosing frozen may deliver more nutrients, since they are usually picked and frozen at the height of ripeness.


Tip 5. Pick Up Some Prepared Veggies

Unless you're a magician with a knife, it's easy to sock a bunch of time into chopping vegetables. I'm not a huge fan of buying vegetables in bags, but they do save a TON of time, so I use them when I'm in a hurry. Coleslaw mixes are great for recipes that call for shredded cabbage. Even bags of broccoli florets can "chop" a few minutes off of prep time.