1. Hang a grocery list on your fridge and update it whenever you run out of an ingredient.

Keep a dry erase or chalk board on your fridge, then just write down anything fresh you use the last of. That way, you won't forget to buy things like milk and eggs during your weekly shopping trip and will always have a stocked fridge ready for impromptu cooking.

2. And keep your pantry well stocked with staple ingredients like grains, spices, and oil as well.

A well-stocked pantry makes cooking easier — and having staples on hand allows you to both experiment and follow recipes without having to buy a laundry list of ingredients. A few good things to always have within reach are olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, canned goods (like beans or tomatoes), and your most-used grains or dry goods (like rice or pasta.)

3. Prep bases — like grains — in advance and keep them on hand to make cooking off-the-cuff a possibility.

Preparing grains (like rice) is often the most time consuming part of cooking, so why not get a head start and cook some during the weekend to have on hand during the week? That way, you can whip up a fried rice, grain bowl, or stir-fry in no time at all.

4. Cut the cooking time of veggies — like potatoes, sprouts and carrots — in half by pre-cooking them in the microwave.

Certain foods can take a long time to prepare — like potatoes — so they're not always ideal for weeknight cooking. One way to get around that is to par cook (or partially cook) them in the microwave. For potatoes, cook them until they're soft — about five minutes — then sauté or roast them until the outside is nice and brown. This technique can be used for veggies like brussels sprouts to get a head start and make sure the center is cooked through.

5. Use a bench scraper to make both cooking and cleaning less of a chore.

Professional chefs love using bench scrapers — and the simple tool can make cooking at home easier. They're great for scooping and transferring ingredients off your board and into a pot — and equally as great for cleaning up. Just scrape the mess off your board and into the trash.

6. Utilize your morning to get a head start on dinner.

For many people, mornings are when you're the freshest and most motivated. By prepping ingredients for dinner before work or class, you can make sure it's easy to put together when you're exhausted. (Because no one wants to chop onions after a long day.)

7. Get your dinner (or breakfast) cooking several hours in advance so it's ready when you're hungry.

Slow cookers are the perfect tool to help new cooks venture into the kitchen. And lots of slow cooker recipes just tell you dump everything in and let it cook for several hours — so they're the perfect thing to get going in the morning. You can also utilize them to cook breakfast — getting things like oats started the night before and having them ready when you wake up.

8. Store prepped ingredients like minced garlic and diced onions in your freezer to make cooking less of a burden.

Ingredients like minced garlic, diced onions, and diced peppers freeze surprisingly well and can make weeknight cooking faster. For onions and peppers, freezing and storing them in Ziploc bags works great. For garlic, freezing them in covered ice cube trays is a smart way to grab just what you need.

9. Prep the same ingredient several different ways so you don't get bored of it.

For people living by themselves, the problem with cooking at home is having to eat the same thing over and over again. One way around this is to be conscious about prepping the same ingredient in several different ways. For carrots, you could dice half of them for a stir-fry and shred the remaining for a salad. For chicken, you can shred half in a slow cooker and roast the remaining to use with grains.

10. Plan out a week's worth of dinners so you can prep and shop all in one go.

You don't have to plan every meal, but planning just some of your meals ahead of time can help make cooking during the week easier. This way, when you go shopping on the weekend, you'll know exactly what to get and you won't need to make several trips to the grocery store during the week.


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