Real Simple readers reveal how they make mealtime less of a chore each day.

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I live by the words “It’s never too early to start prepping dinner.” Whenever 
 I have a few minutes during the day or 
 on the weekend, 
 I do something for dinner ahead of time, whether it’s chopping an onion, throwing together 
 a quick salad, 
 or making pasta 
 or quinoa. —Emily Smith, Greenville, 
 South Carolina

I use what I have 
in the kitchen 
and create meals that are loosely based on a recipe, or no recipe at all. —@paulajsheldon

Make sure the tools, pots, and food items you use the most are the most accessible items 
on every surface and in every cabinet and drawer. While you’re at it, put everything you haven’t used in a year up high. —Liora Seltzer, New York City

Keep your staple ingredients on 
hand at all times. 
Fresh herbs, good olive oil, lemon, Parmesan, capers—if the pantry is stocked with versatile and quality ingredients, you 
are guaranteed a good meal every night of the week. —Tig Filson, Cumberland, Maine

While I’m cooking, 
I keep a “garbage bowl” on the counter (for veggie scraps, wrappers, egg shells, etc.) to cut down on trips 
 to the trash can. I put everything in something that’s already dirty, like 
 an empty spinach container or gently used Tupperware, so I’m not adding to the dirty-dish pile. —Ariana Lake, Stephentown, 
 New York

Rotisserie chicken. 
I take it home 
 and repackage it: 
 It’s ready when 
I need to make quiche, chicken soup, chicken salad, you name it. It saves so much time and is easy and economical! —Amy Tooley Radachi, Dayton, Ohio

I have my two teenagers each cook one night a week. They have to include a vegetable, and dinner can’t 
 be takeout. During the school year, 
 it’s typically some variation of pasta or tacos. But it doesn’t matter—I get to come home to a fully cooked meal. —Janet Kinard, Atlanta

Meal delivery services. It’s the new date night! —Katherine Mooney, Sedona, Arizona

I always fill the sink with hot soapy water for cleaning as I go. I can wash and reuse utensils, and when I’m done, the kitchen doesn’t have to be cleaned. —Helen Bouslaugh, Woodland, California

While prepping meals, we chop extra onions, garlic, or tomatoes and store them in small, lidded containers. For the next few days, we can use them for omelets and garnishes without having to prep again. —Tina Hom Chen, Redding, Connecticut

I married a man 
who loves to cook. —Megan Waite, Fredericksburg, Virginia

I use two Instant Pots: one for 
the main or meat dish and the other for the side or dessert. They cook quickly, and clean- up is a snap. —Chris Stephens, Luttrell, Tennessee

I’ve accepted that I’m in a season of life when I need to spend a little bit more money to buy the prechopped produce. My prep work is minimal, and I can spend time with my son and husband instead! —Kristin Jones, Turner, Montana

I’ve learned to turn leftovers into something completely different. Meatloaf becomes taco meat; chili becomes tamale pie. The 
trick is to add fresh elements and stay within the same flavor family. —Mary Pielenz Hampton, Bozeman, Montana

Whoever gets 
off work first has 
 to cook dinner. 
The kids clean up afterward. This works well for our family because 
my husband and I work various 
shifts throughout the week. —Brandy Biswell, Puyallup, Washington

I do the shopping and the prep, 
and my spouse executes the meal! —Caitlin Zinsser, Oak Park, Illinois

I order groceries online and pick them up at my local store. —Nancy Harris, Mansfield, Texas