You've already pared down your meals from fine cuisine to microwavable mac-and-cheese -- so is spending even less time cooking a possibility? Yes! Here's what moms from across the country are doing to save time in the kitchen and make more time for everywhere else.
A crock in the plan
Cut up meats and veggies in the morning and toss them into a crockpot. Plug it in before you head out so the food will cook while you're at work or doing errands.
-- Charmaine Markus, New Scotland, NY
Make a weekly menu
On the weekend, plan your dinners for the whole week, then shop accordingly. Be sure to make room for leftovers and sandwiches so you only have to cook a few nights a week.
-- Julia Baker, Chicago, IL
Whenever you cook, make more than you need and store the extras for another night.
-- Caroline Power Gangl, Hershey, PA
Stock your pantry with a variety of canned tomatoes, olives, and beans to spruce up dishes and boost your nutrient intake. Use the tomatoes and beans in a chili, toss the beans or olives over a salad, or mix any of them in a rice dish.
-- Jessica Mandell, East Brunswick, NJ
The big chill
Invest in a second fridge or freezer (secondhand will do). Stock it with frozen veggies, meats, and healthy leftovers. You'll always have the food on hand and ready to cook.
-- Jen Grogono, Austin, TX
Cut it out
Buy pre-chopped onions and garlic. They're more expensive, but the time you save on chopping is worth it.
-- Jennifer Mileti, Shaker Heights, OH
Wok this way
Chop up veggies and meat in the morning, and store them in the fridge. When it's time to make dinner, toss everything in a wok for a fast stir-fry. Experiment with different combinations to keep it interesting.
-- Charmaine Markus
Make dinner at lunchtime
While you're getting things out for lunch, gather the ingredients and utensils you plan to use for dinner as well. Cut up veggies for a salad or throw together a lasagna (with precooked noodles) that you'll cook later.
-- Dorie Valenti, Delmar, NY