Not long ago, an article in the Atlantic called “The Myth of Easy Cooking” went viral on most of my news feeds. The comments, especially from fellow working parents, telegraphed a quiet, tired gratitude that someone — anyone! — had finally exposed “the 30-minute meal” as a fiction. You know it well: you set out to make that simple chicken tetrazzini you saw made on TV, then you’re eating 90 minutes later and you spend 30 minutes washing up and cursing Rachael Ray. Finally, we had permission to just open up a can of something and feed it to our families.
Yet as I read further, nodding in agreement, a creeping sensation of shame took over: I’m sure I’ve parroted the “30 minute” promise to you more than once in this space. I admit, making meals from scratch takes physical effort and thought, things often in short supply at the end of a lawyer’s day. My advice? Use the same habits that make you kick ass at the office. Here are my top five lawyerly tips for slashing the time you spend in the kitchen each night.
Have a strategy
Meal planning saves time spent figuring out what to cook, reduces food waste and cuts down your grocery bill. Pick a theme or a set of meals that use the same ingredients or flavour profiles, so you can use leftover ingredients for future meals. Example: roast chicken on Sunday means you can whip up easy chicken quesadillas on Monday.
Prep in advance
After your weekend grocery-store shop, pre-wash and chop produce you’ll use later in the week. Sound painful? Splurge for the pre-chopped goods: minced garlic and ginger in jars, and pre-cut heartier vegetables like squash and cabbage.
Think through your recipe from start to finish. Begin with whatever step takes the longest and forces you to wait (like boiling water or caramelizing onions), and use the idle time to prep or clean. If the recipe calls for plenty of chopped elements, get a scrap bowl ready on the counter: this keeps your cutting board clear and minimizes trips to the green bin.
Have a plan B
If you don’t already have a quick “fallback” recipe you can make with your eyes closed, learn one. Then, have those ingredients in the house for whenever you run out of inspiration. Cooking new dishes takes mental effort and extra time. Over time, try to get comfortable with a few favourites that don’t require all that brainpower.
Some days, you just gotta ditch the meal plan and open up that can. Personally, I’m a sucker for Chef Boyardee, which also scores points with my toddler.
Sara Chan is in-house counsel at Corus Entertainment, food enthusiast and unprofessional home chef. Her favourite food group is pork. Check out more of Sara’s great recipes.
This story is from our Summer 2016 issue.
Illustration by Jeannie Phan