7 Weeknight Cooking Tips Healthy Home Cooks Swear By

Putting a healthy, homemade meal on the table doesn’t have to take long.

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woman chopping food_ weeknight food prep tips

Toss Out Takeout

Do you know what you're having for dinner tonight? Or tomorrow? If your answer is "takeout" read on. We talked to Jessica Begg, a registered dietitian and founder of Flourish Nutrition in Vancouver, for ideas to avoid the last-minute dinner panic.

Here are seven great food prep ideas that will save you time, without compromising your family's healthy diet.

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woman meal planning_ weeknight food prep tips

1. Plan ahead

To help families maintain good eating habits, Begg always recommends making a plan. "When people get home at five and there's nothing available, they aren't going to go to the store," she says. "Healthy eating does require forethought, and that's what people kind of struggle with." Each week, sit down and plan your meals, make a grocery list and buy everything in one trip.

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women cooking dinner _ weeknight food prep tips

2. Think big

Why prepare just one meal when you can make two or three? If you plan ahead and get enough ingredients, you can whip up extra servings and feed your family for a couple of days. "If you're going to cook, always put in the effort to make lunches or meals for later on, whether you freeze them or eat them the next day," says Begg. Try super-sizing recipes for soup, stew or chili on weekends.

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making sandwiches_weeknight food prep tips

3. Create spin-off meals

Even if you don't make big batches, you can save time by planning for your next meal each time you cook. For example, prepare an extra chicken breast, steak or fish fillet with tonight's dinner, then use it for sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas or salads tomorrow. "All of those things you can usually morph into something else," says Begg. "It just requires more thought."

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couple eating dinner_weeknight food prep tips

4. Have a backup plan

Begg suggests planning one or two "backup meals"-dinners you can quickly put together from ingredients in your freezer and pantry. "An example would be having pasta, frozen veggies and maybe some frozen meat on hand, so that no matter what, you can always pull a meal together." To jog your memory, make a list of easy family favourites and stick it to the fridge.

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chopped food_weeknight food prep tips

5. Use pre-washed, pre-cut veggies

They cost more, but you can't beat the convenience of pre-cut vegetables. "If you often buy a whole bunch of vegetables that end up going bad, it may be more cost-effective to buy the prepackaged things, if you're more likely to eat them," says Begg. Add the veggies to pasta sauce or salads, or use them to boost the often-lacklustre nutrition of frozen pizzas or microwavable dinners. (Just avoid frozen veggies loaded with sauce or butter.)

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stirfry_ weeknight food prep tips

6. Cut down on clean-up

Save time by using just one or two pots or pans to make dinner, like casseroles and stir-fries. You can also make the use of your time by putting away unused ingredients and washing cutting boards and knives while your meal simmers away.

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philips airfryer

7. Invest in smart appliances

If you find yourself at the drive-thru more times than you'd like to admit, consider purchasing a Philips Airfryer. The Philips Viva Collection Air Fryer has preset programs that will help you make perfectly crispy and tender meat, fish, drumsticks and frozen fries at home.  It tastes like fried food, but it's healthier since you hardly use any oil.

And if you don't already have one, buy a slow cooker. It can be a lifesaver at the end of a busy day. The night before, chop up healthy ingredients for a stew, toss them into the pot and refrigerate. In the morning, transfer the pot to the slow cooker and turn it on-you don't need to hang around while it works.