How Do You Make Dinnertime Easier in Your House?

Real Simple readers share how they get supper on the table while keeping their sanity intact.

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

While I prepare dinner, I put on music and let my kids, ages three and four, have a dance party. When they ask for a taste of what’s cooking, I put out a plate of raw fruit and vegetables with dips. They get their vegetables in with no fuss, then later eat some protein and starch at the table.
Karen Ranieri
Danvers, Massachusetts.

My husband hates eating last night’s dinner, so I’ve had to master the art of doctoring leftovers. Mine really do taste like brand-new dishes. When I cook pork, I usually make pulled-pork tacos. The next night, I serve barbecued-pork sandwiches. On night number three, I add the remainder of the pork to omelets with cheese, onions, and black beans. Each dinner has a unique flavor.
Carmen Ballock-Bunt
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas

We have a rule in my family: Eat all the fresh fruit and vegetables in the house first, before digging into any canned or frozen foods. As a result, we never have to throw out rotten produce, and our groceries last longer. That means fewer shopping trips, too.
Stacey Reynolds
New Boston, Michigan

When I want to cut prep time in half, I bake a whole package of chicken breasts, then dice them up and freeze them in two-cup portions. It speeds up my process when a recipe calls for two cups of chopped chicken—which, for me, happens frequently.
Marcie Revord Waller
Franklin, Tennessee

Eating healthy is among my top priorities, but it’s not always one for my white-bread– and whole-milk–obsessed family. So I make sure I’m the only one in the kitchen while I’m getting dinner ready. Then my family can’t give me grief when I add flaxseed, wheat germ, and other good-for-you ingredients to their favorite recipes.
Shannon LeDuke
Saint Augustine, Florida

I use a large grill pan that accommodates the whole meal, which makes cleanup a breeze. I grill steaks, lamb chops, hamburgers, or salmon patties in the pan, and when the meat is almost done, I add fresh vegetables seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper. In no time, dinner is served.
Ann Benderoff
Farmington Hills, Michigan