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lucy waverman

Between packing lunches and snacks, and figuring out what to make for dinner, and with the adjustment from summer’s relaxed routines, September can be crunch time in the kitchen. Here are some organizational and planning tips to ensure everyone eats as well as possible this fall.

Make enough salad dressing to last the whole week. Quadruple quantities of oil, vinegar and mustard and mix in a blender (or with a hand blender). Store the dressing in the refrigerator, but remember to take it out half an hour before using, as oil thickens when chilled. Add other flavourings when needed, such as garlic, soy, maple syrup, honey, herbs and spices, to diversify the dressing’s taste.

Use sheet-pan baking to quickly get dinner on the table.unsplash/unsplash

Tray baking is one of the fastest and easiest methods to get dinner on the table. Use a large baking tray and line it with parchment for easier cleanup. I cut up the vegetables and the protein into smaller sizes, so they take less time to cook, toss with oil and seasonings then tumble it all onto a tray. If you like your chicken breasts or pork chops whole, cut the vegetables a little bigger. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and start baking. Here are some timing guides: Salmon, 12 to 14 minutes. Thinner fish, about 7 minutes. Boneless chicken breasts and thighs, about 20 to 25 minutes; on the bone, 10 minutes longer. Lamb and pork chops, 25 minutes. Potatoes, cut up, about 20 to 25 minutes. When everything is ready, toss on a platter to serve. Remember to use lots of veggies for health and colour. And throw on a few tomato slices, which melt to give a little sauce.

There is nothing wrong with having a sandwich supper. Baguette with cheese, tomatoes and cold meat with a store-bought pesto is a great meal with a bowl of soup.

Make twice as much rice or noodles for a stir-fry, save half and make bowls for supper the next night using leftover veggies, fish or chicken.

If you want soup, whiz leftovers in the blender with chicken stock, or cook a side of beans and lentils, making enough for a soup the next day.

Cook twice as much and freeze half in freezer bags, making sure to press out the air. Don’t forget to label and date them.

Make a large lasagna or other baked pasta on the weekend and have it twice. The freezer is your friend; don’t forget to label and date things before putting them in the freezer. One-pot pasta is easy to make ­ – and clean up. Cook pasta in a large pot, drain, return to pot and add in the sauce’s ingredients.

Use a meal service once or twice a week. Some send fresh ingredients that are prepped for cooking, along with the recipe – even the kids can prepare it – while others provide an entirely cooked meal with reheating instructions.

Dinner is served.

Need some advice about kitchen life and entertaining? Send your questions to lwaverman@globeandmail.com.

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