Save time cooking and make healthier food choices with a few simple changes.

When you’re trying to make mindful, conscious food choices, cooking more at home is the first step. It’s easier to work with whole foods when you’re cooking from scratch and you’ll be surprised how much money you can save when you’re not buying a last-minute lunch.

But when you take into account work, family, hobbies, pets and housework it can feel like there’s no time left over to cook every day. Thankfully, you can enjoy homemade meals on the regular by harnessing some simple tips to save time cooking.

Finding quick and easy recipes that suit your schedule can be half the battle (you’ll find plenty on the free Drop Recipes app), but the next step is carving out the time to actually make them. You can save time cooking by working in appliances and cooking techniques that are made for busy people.

We spoke to some of our favorite food bloggers to find out how they manage to cook as much as they do, and run their own businesses (the hustle is real).

Three containers of meal prep food.

1. Meal Planning

It might not seem like it at first, but meal planning is going to be your best friend if you want to save time cooking.

Pick a day once a week (Sunday is popular) to plan meals and write a grocery list.
You can use a Meal Prep Planner template, online spreadsheet or bullet journal.

Once you have your groceries, prep what you can in bulk. Batch cook meals for the week, and pre-chop vegetables to store in an airtight container in the fridge. Putting on some music or a podcast and investing time in better food choices for yourself is the ultimate combination of self-care and saving time.

If you don’t want to choose and just want to cook, use a meal plan service. The Stone Soup has seasonal meal plan variations for different dietary requirements such as vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, carb lovers and more.

It even has a “Waste Avoidance Strategy” to help you work around your schedule.

"It takes the stress out of deciding what to cook each day because you're doing it in advance.
It saves time because you can buy everything you need for the week in one trip, instead of having to trek to the store every day on the way home from work.
And it means you're way more likely to cook healthy meals if you have the ingredients in the house."

Jules ClancyCreator of The Stone Soup (Six Ingredient Dinners)
A plate of sheet pan salmon and vegetables.

2. Sheet Pan Meals

Nailing these = save hours.

Spend less time cleaning up and prepping with these easy recipes. Similar to one-pot recipes, these are easy meals that are made with just one sheet pan.

"One tray bakes — the perfect type of recipe for quick, easy midweek meals. Add a piece of salmon, some chopped veggies and sweet potato to an oven tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices and you're ready to go."

Tris AlexandraCreator of Tris Alexandra Nutrition
The Drop Recipes app, a guided recipe app that can save time cooking, shown on an iPhone and iPad.

3. Keep your favorite recipes together for inspiration

Knowing how to cook, and knowing what to cook when it’s 6:30p.m. and you’re tired, hungry, and just want something that’s not going to make you feel terrible after are two very different beasts.
Create a collection of your favorite go-to recipes so you never waste time looking for inspiration when you need something fast.

The Stone Soup uses this method as part of their simple meal plan strategy:

“The other thing that has really helped me and my students is creating a collection of simple go-to recipes for dinners. I always have the ingredients on hand for a few of these go-to meals which take the pressure off. I know whatever happens I can make one of my go-to meals.”

Jules ClancyCreator of The Stone Soup (Six Ingredient Dinners)

You can save a collection of your favorites recipes to your profile on the free Drop Recipes app.

A simple meal in a bowl, made of meat, green vegetables and simple ingredients to save time cooking.

4. Simplify and stick to recipes with few ingredients

If you’re fed up with buying niche ingredients for a recipe only to never use them again, this one’s for you.

The Stone Soup revolutionized their cooking by deciding to simplify and focus on creating recipes with six ingredients or less. This not only saves time cooking, but prepping and cleaning as well.

Zucchini Parmigiana

Quick Beef Tacos

Cauliflower ‘Pizza’

A person removing an item of food from a shelf.

5. Pantry Party

As part of your meal planning, make sure that you always have the essentials in stock.

The Passionate Pantry gives the pantry a quick check once a week to see what needs to be topped up.

“If you have a reasonably stocked pantry you can always make a quick and simple meal if time is short. As long as you have basic vegetables on hand, and items in the fridge/freezer, along with vinegars (red, white, apple cider); olive oil; seasonings (sea salt flakes, cracked pepper, spices); stock; pasta; rice; dry noodles; tinned lentils and beans; tinned tomatoes, paste and puree; tinned tuna or salmon; and coconut milk or cream, then a meal is never too far away.”

Gina HughesCreator of The Passionate Pantry

Pasta Carbonara

Asian Noodle Salad

Chickpea and Lemon Soup

And Cooking with Tenina recommends getting creative with what you have when you don’t have time to hit the store.

“Save time on shopping and cook only from your pantry one night a week. Dig around back there and you are sure to find a tin of tuna or two, a bag of pasta, tinned beans and perhaps even something decadent like truffle salt, bought on a whim a long time ago. Get creative, put them all together for something.”

Tenina HolderCreator of Cooking with Tenina
Green smoothies beside fresh fruit and vegetables.

6. Smooth Operators

You can save time cooking breakfast with a little pre-preparation, and make grab-and-go breakfasts to keep you energetic on busy days.

Tris Alexandra swears by smoothie bags:

“Chop up some fruit (I also sneak some veggies such as cucumber, spinach, or lightly steamed cauliflower and zucchini), sort into freezer bags and freeze, ready to pop into your blender for delicious smoothies.”

Tris AlexandraCreator of Tris Alexandra Nutrition
A person removing food from an Instant Pot; an appliance that can be used to save time cooking.

7. Set it and Forget It

Whatever you have in your kitchen — a slow cooker, an Instant Pot®, a Thermomix®— if you can walk away from your dinner while it’s cooking, you can use that time for something else.

"The slow cooker is my best friend on the weekends. Literally throwing a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning as you race out the door is the friendliest mum tip there is!"

Tenina HolderCreator of Cooking with Tenina

Slow-Cooker Pork Ragu with Tomatoes and Fennel

Thermomix Almond Chicken Curry with Yoghurt

Instant Pot Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches with Slaw

It doesn’t have to be a whole meal either — Tris Alexandra uses hers to make a nutrient-rich bone broth in bulk, then freezes it in ice-cube trays and adds it to soups, sauces, casseroles, slow cooker recipes and more for added flavor and nutrients.

Tris’ Slow Cooker Bone Broth recipe

A bowl of spaghetti bolognese, an example of a meal that can be made in bulk to save time cooking.

8: Cook Once, Eat Twice

This tip is really a two-parter, because you can use it in different ways. Take a leaf out of Tris Alexandra Nutrition‘s book and always double up on anything that’s freezer friendly.

"Anytime I plan to cook a dinner recipe that is freezer friendly, I'll cook a double batch and freeze a serve. You will thank yourself later on those nights you come home late or don't feel like cooking."

Tris AlexandraCreator of Tris Alexandra Nutrition

Quick Beef Bolognese

Quickest-Ever Tomato Pasta Sauce

Sweet Potato and Spinach Frittata

Or copy Cooking with Tenina when it comes to repurposing leftovers — you’ll still save time cooking, and you’re less likely to get bored with what you’re eating.

"I love to cook once and eat twice. I am not a left-over kind of girl so I repurpose what we have not eaten one night in another way. For example, if you have a roast dinner on Sunday night, you can create a flatbread with shredded left-over roast meat and salsa verde with salad for Monday night. You will never be bored and left-overs kind of take on a new challenge once you start the Cook Once Eat Twice game!"

Tenina HolderCreator of Cooking with Tenina
Caoimhe Carton

Caoimhe Carton

Oh hai. I'm one of the marketeers at Drop HQ. I'm a vegetarian Dubliner, and am currently seeking advice on keeping plants alive at my desk. Please send all plant advice and inquiries to caoimhe@getdrop.com.