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Meals in a Pinch: Smart Ways to Save Time

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When life seems to be rushing by and there’s never enough time or inspiration, it’s still possible to find quick and easy ways to make varied, healthy meals.

Take a pinch of organization and some basic techniques, stir in a wealth of ideas that are just the click of a mouse away, and voilà!

Shop smartly

You’ll save time if your freezer and pantry are well stocked. Keep basic ingredients on hand, including pasta, rice, legumes, olive oil and canola oil, wine vinegar, tomato sauce and canned tomatoes, a variety of condiments, cans of tuna, milk, plain yogurt, butter, cream, Canadian Parmesan and several types of firm cheese, like Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss, etc. When buying ripened cheese, choose the degree of ripeness based on when you’ll be serving the cheese Soft ripened cheese, for example, is softer when ripe. Just press the cheese with a fingertip to gauge its ripeness. If it’s for that evening, opt for a nicely ripened cheese. As soon as you use up an ingredient, put it on your grocery list.

Prepare ahead

Use weekends to cook two or three meals for the coming week. Go for casseroles, which usually require relatively little labour and can be reheated in a jiffy in the microwave. You really love to cook? Start your own cooking club!

Keep some flavour busters on hand

Saving time often means doubling a recipe and eating the same dish more than once during the week. To avoid having the impression of eating the same thing day after day, add a few flavourful yet versatile ingredients to your dish. Spices and herbs are great to play with. Added alone or incorporated in butter to make flavoured butter, they give an unexpected twist to any dish. Cheese is also a perfect ingredient for this. There are so many types of great tasting Canadian cheeses, you’ll never run out of ideas for creating different combinations.

Use the not-so-secret helper

Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of cooking and recipe based sites on the web. Although they are not all useful, some of them offer great tools to help you plan your meals or find the last minute inspiration you’re looking for. On this site for example,, there are more than 2,300 recipes to choose from. The user-friendly recipe finder helps you find recipes using filters like ’20-minute meals’, ‘our dietitians’ favourite’, ‘kid-friendly’, ‘top rated’ and many more. You can also search for recipes based on the main milk product, course or occasion. For example, you could search for a kid-friendly Thanksgiving recipe made with cheese, ready in 20 minutes.

Here’s a list of other websites that can help you plan your meals better or inspire you to try something new:
Exciting new and classic recipes from all your favourite cooking shows on the Food Network Canada.
Ideas and advice on how to boost your intake of fruit and vegetables, along with recipes.
More than 22,000 recipes submitted by home cooks like you and me. Users can also sign up to receive recipes by email.
Ideas on how to serve Canadian beef, plus advice on buying and cooking it, and on safefood handling.
In addition to pork recipes from the Ontario Pork Producers, this website features numerous recipes for accompaniments.
Suggestions from the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency on how to put eggs on the menu.
Billed as “The World’s Greatest Recipe Collection”, Epicurious offers a food dictionary, discussion groups, a section on wine and more.
A multitude of recipes that will delight anyone who loves pasta.
Budding chefs can showcase their talents with these simple recipes.
This search engine accesses recipes from a wide range of sources, in a huge variety of categories, from Ethiopian to Gluten-free.

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