In my book, eating healthy does not mean having to slave away in the kitchen for hours. As much as I like to cook, I dislike having to do dishes and standing in the kitchen after a long day at work as much as the next person. Somehow, I still find ways to cook up healthy and delicious meals all the time. Here are my favorite tips for getting these meals on the table faster and easier:

1. Shop Early
I like to plan my meals ahead for about 5 days at a time so that I only have to shop once or maybe twice during the week. This saves me a tremendous amount of time. If you’re unsure what your significant other or kids might have going on during one of the days, simply keep that dinner open, keeping a simple backup (sandwiches and a tossed salad, for example) in mind. Worried about your bread going stale if you shop in advance? Here are some tips on that: http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/breadtag.asp

2. Cut Ahead
If you have a dish on your weekly menu that you know will require a lot of cutting, save that dish for a Monday or Friday. I prefer Mondays because I’ll simply do my cutting on Sunday evening or afternoon, store the veggies or meats in the fridge, and toss them in a pot or pan the next day. Fridays work as well, though you might be a bit tired or burned out from the week.

3. Freeze Your Herbs
I like to eliminate or reduce the need for fats and oils in my dishes by flavoring them with fresh herbs. But, what to do with those huge piles of thyme and rosemary sprigs? I tend to freeze my leftover herbs. Some say they lose some flavor that way, but I hardly ever notice this and save a ton of money by not throwing out leftover herbs. We used to grow fresh basil by the window sill, which is even more economical. The basil plant died after a while, but we still have a curry leaf plant growing in our kitchen. Hugely popular in Indian cooking!

4. Microwave Your Garlic
This may sound weird, but if you’ve got a recipe with a lot of garlic in it, you can greatly reduce the time you spend peeling the garlic by microwaving the individual garlic cloves on a small plate for about 8-10 seconds. If you microwave them for longer than that, they will start to cook, but if you stick to the 8-10 seconds, the skins will peel off very easily. Voila!

5. Repeat
Need to use up a whole eggplant, but know you won’t be able to use it all up in one dish? Create two! Since buying in bulk is often more economical, I’ll often by more of a veggie or meat and will either freeze or use up the product (if it’s not freezer friendly) by creating two completely different dishes. This way, we don’t get tired of eating the same thing. For example, I’ve made Asian style spicy garlic eggplant and eggplant fajitas (recipe coming soon!) in the same week before. Works out great. And yes, you can still be ambitious and plan to make lamb bourguignon one day. Just plan it for a weekend, holiday, or some time when you really do want to spend time in the kitchen.