11 Tips to Save 5 Hours a Week in the Kitchen (Really!)


One of the most natural places to connect with your family each day is at the dinner table. My experience and numerous studies show that eating meals together is one of the best things we can do for family—kids who eat dinner with their families more often do better in school, are healthier physically and emotionally, and develop better social skills.

But, we live in the real world and it’s not easy to juggle kids’ activities and work schedules and still have time to sit down to a real meal.

I asked my friend and meal planning guru, Aviva Goldfarb, for some easy to implement tips to save busy parents real time in the kitchen. Aviva is the creator of the family meal planning service, The Six O’Clock Scramble, and the author of a new best selling cookbook – so I trust her judgment!

While it may sound challenging, Aviva says we can cook dinner four to six nights each week…and actually SAVE time (not to mention saving at least $50 a week!). She promises the 11 tips below will help us make healthy and delicious homemade dinners that are even easier and faster than ordering take out—or even heating up a pizza!

Here’s what Aviva recommends to save time:

  1. KEEP IT SIMPLE: The key is to have a collection of recipes that are easy, quick, balanced, healthy and kid-friendly—many recipes take 20 minutes or less to prepare. Having these on hand in a convenient place makes it a snap to create a satisfying family dinner with minimal effort. (Here’s a 20 minute recipe you might love for Valentine’s Day) Time Saved: 20 minutes/day, or 100 minutes/week
  1. PREPARE A WEEKLY MENU: This will be a game changer for you. Preparing a weekly menu allows you to shop only once each week for ingredients (or order your groceries to be delivered!), avoiding those last minute trips to the grocery store. Time Saved: 60 minutes/week (about 2 extra trips to the store) HUGE!
  2. KEEP YOUR GROCERY LIST UPDATED AND SHOP WITH A LIST: When you use up an ingredient you consider a staple, write it on your grocery list right away so you’ll be fully stocked after your next trip to the store. If you’re a member of The Scramble, you can use their mobile grocery list, or if not, try Aviva’s favorite, Wunderlist. Time Saved: 20 minutes/week (about the time to dash into the grocery store for a forgotten item)
  3. KEEP YOUR KITCHEN WELL-STOCKED: With a well-stocked pantry, you can easily pull together a quick meal on those nights when things don’t go as planned. (Some of the go-to pantry items Aviva recommends to keep on hand include canned beans for burritos or taco salads, tortillas, eggs, diced tomatoes, salsa, quick-cooking brown rice, whole grain pasta, pre-made pizza crust or pizza dough, canned tuna or salmon, frozen shrimp, frozen meatballs and frozen veggies.) What’s more, if you’re well stocked with staples, grocery trips each week should be even faster. Time Saved: 10 minutes/week
  1. USE “SHORT CUTS” (CONVENIENCE ITEMS): We’re all about the kitchen hacks that help you get dinner on the table most quickly! Don’t be afraid to use pre-chopped vegetables, minced garlic, frozen chopped herbs, hard-boiled eggs, shredded cheese, frozen shredded hash browns, or prepared chicken or vegetable broth. If these short cuts help you to get that pot of soup on the table rather than ordering that less-than-healthy soup from the take-out place around the corner, then go for it! Time Saved: 25 minutes/week in chopping/prepping
  2. HAVE A SYSTEM FOR YOUR KITCHEN: Dinner prep will go much faster if you know where everything is in your kitchen. Keep your knives (make sure they’re sharp for speedier cooking!), spatulas and cutting boards right by the stove, your grains on the same shelf, and your vegetables all in the crisping drawer so you can grab and go. Time Saved: 15 minutes/week in speedier cooking
  3. DOUBLE 1 RECIPE EACH WEEK: And freeze it for another night. This is like having a dinner savings account – what a great feeling! Time Saved: 30 minutes/week (the time it might take to cook an extra meal)
  4. PREP IN ADVANCE FOR MEALS AND LUNCHES: Morning person? Make dinner prep part of your morning routine – setting the table as you unload the dishwasher, getting out the pans you’ll need, even throwing the ingredients for dinner in the slow cooker. If morning isn’t your best time of day, do a little marinating or chopping the night before while you’re cooking dinner. You’ll feel much less harried come the next day’s dinner. Time Saved: 25 minutes/week
  5. MAKE A PLAN AND ENLIST HELP: Simple but important—read the full recipe before cooking. And, recruit help even from small children. Young kids are perfectly capable of tearing lettuce, chopping cucumbers with a plastic knife or taking grapes off the stem for fruit salad. Older kids can make dinner from start to finish with a little practice. Remember, it takes a village—or at least a team–to feed a family! Time Saved: 30 minutes/week in work you have delegated
  6. EASE CLEANUP: As you’re cooking, collect all your “trash” in a small container by the sink rather than going back and forth to the kitchen trashcan. Composting, anyone? Time Saved: 5 minutes/week
  1. CLEAN STRATEGICALLY: Put the ingredients away as you use them and have a system for washing dishes. This saves time and water. Time Saved: 15 minutes/week

Believe it or not – implementing those simple tips will save you 5 hours per week in the kitchen – maybe more!

For more tips on how to save time and money, check out Aviva’s Six O’Clock Scramble service. You can try her service for free! YAY!

If you prefer the simple pleasure of paging through a real book, you’re in luck! Aviva just published her 4th cookbook and I think this one is the best one yet! The Six O’Clock Scramble Meal Planner: A Year of Quick, Delicious Meals to Help You Prevent and Manage Diabetes. This cookbook is for everyone who wants easy, healthy recipes. While the book is published by the American Diabetes Association, it is filled with easy, healthy recipes for the whole family to enjoy.

Here is a sample recipe from Aviva’s book for Carpool Chicken, which cooks in one dish while you drive the carpool.


Here are a few more features you’ll love about this book:

  • 160 delicious family-tested main dish recipes that require only 30 minutes or less to prepare
  • Recipes organized by season and by week to give you variety throughout the year—with shopping lists for each week!
  • Color photos for EVERY RECIPE!
  • Slow cooker options for most recipes
  • Recipes that are built on natural, fresh ingredients
  • Helpful tips to make cooking and shopping easier, saving you time and money


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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.