Here are a few ideas for making your preparation time shorter for your upcoming home dinners:

Briefly plan ahead. You don’t have to write out a whole schedule for your work, but read through the recipe a day or two ahead of time and imagine the steps you will need to take. Maybe even discuss the recipe with a cohort if you have the luxury. Try to think about the basic skills you already possess and relate them to the steps in the recipe. For instance, if the recipe tells you to heat a skillet or frying pan, then add oil and the product, you are doing basic sauté steps and you can simply do what you already know to get the recipe moving forward in a timely fashion.

Organize!! I always get all of the items in the recipe out where I can see them. Then I cut and sort. Most 30 minute meals require as much or more preparation time than cooking time. A typical stir fry takes 20 minutes to get the ingredients cut and sorted, then only 3 to 5 minutes to cook.

Asian is Easy! The flavors that make up the rich, sweet, sour and spicy tastes of Asian cuisine are mostly shelf stable. Most can live for long periods of time on the pantry shelf, and those refrigerated items also will keep for months. Flavors such as hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, mirin, soy, fish sauce, black vinegar, rice vinegar, Chinese chili sauce, etc. require no refrigeration and can be mixed together in a wide variety of ways and easily adapt themselves to other flavors like chilies, curry, citrus juices, miso, assorted vegetables, mushrooms…the list is almost endless and they all work with a wide variety of poultry, seafood and meats. Also, these flavors can be mixed ahead and added at the end of the cooking process to simply flavor the entrée, or be used as a marinade. Keep thin, Asian style noodles in the pantry as well as rice. I like Basmati rice, as it cooks in twenty minutes and has a better flavor and nutritional profile than our more common long grain white rice.

Grow fresh herbs. Whether in the window box or in your garden, fresh herbs are relatively easy to grow, (even for a brown thumb like me!) and can instantly add a big burst of wonderful flavor to most dishes.

Cut down on shopping time. Shop the center of the store once or twice a month and the perimeter of the store two to three times a week.

Recruit help. Cooking time can be family time.