The Cook's Cheat Sheet

Make quick cooking go even faster with these kitchen tools and prep secrets.
The Cook's Cheat Sheet

Traffic made you late. The kids have soccer practice tonight. And you’re starving. How do you fix dinner without giving into fast food or freezer-to-microwave mush? With the help of our cook’s cheat sheet, you need look no further than your kitchen cupboard. A little creative pre-planning and a kitchen stocked with staples means delicious, healthy meals that are only minutes away.

Quick cook's crash course
So let's get started. Prepare for nights like these by keeping the following tactics in mind:

Invest in the right cookware
Good steamers, nonstick pans and microwave-safe dishes will always help you out in a pinch. Woks and large, nonstick skillets with lids are great for stir-frying. And slow cookers let soups, stews and chili cook all day when you’re out.

Use quick, easy cooking methods
Stir-frying, sautéing, steaming and microwaving are fast — they cut back on fat and help retain nutrients.

Keep it simple
Use packaged products like pasta sauces and ready-to-eat salads, or create a buffet of leftovers when you’re really in a hurry.

Prepare some items in advance
As you’re waiting for tonight’s noodles to boil, slice up tomorrow night’s flank steak. Place the beef in plastic bags with a marinade, and it’ll be ready to grill when you get home.

Combine steps and save yourself time
Make boiling water do double duty. First add pasta, then throw in frozen vegetables for the last few minutes. Or prepare chicken tenders and rice together in the same skillet.

Stock up on smart standbys
Keeping all the right ingredients on hand will guarantee a nutritious meal, even on short notice. Make a list of frequently used items and attach it to your refrigerator door. Every weekend, check for items that you’re running low on, and take a trip to the store to replace them. Here’s our list to get you started:

In your refrigerator:

  • Eggs (or egg substitute)
  • Fat-free Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh fruit
  • Green onions
  • Jar of minced garlic
  • Low-fat shredded cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-sodium soy sauce
  • Pre-washed and sliced veggies
  • Ready-to-eat salad bags
  • Reduced-calorie margarine
  • Fat-free milk

In your freezer:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Frozen pasta such as tortellini or ravioli
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Lean meat and pork
  • Leftovers!
  • Salad-size shrimp
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