Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

20 minutes to mealtime

4/12/2021 by Matt McDavid


Spring is nature's "reboot" and a perfect time to refresh your meal plans. Spring into these habits to have healthier meals, and more time to meet spring and summer schedules. With a little planning and practice, you can cut mealtime prep to 20 minutes per night. 

Piecing together a healthy, balanced meal

To build healthy meals, focus on the food groups. Work to incorporate at least one choice from each of these food groups:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Dairy

Timesaving ideas

Try these timesaving ideas:

  • Plan meals for the week and post the meal plan in a shared space. 
  • Designate time to prepare food for the week. 
  • Free up extra time with frozen foods. 
  • Find your sous-chef, and get help from family members or roommates. 
  • Add on to prepared foods or meal kits to make a larger, well-rounded meal. 
  • Plan and prepare simple recipes with fewer ingredients. 
  • Limit the types of cooking methods or utensils. One skillet or baking pan is often enough. 
  • Use a slow cooker, Instant Pot or sous vide (low temperature, long time) cooking methods. 
  • Double the recipe and freeze leftovers for a future meal. 
  • Preheat faster with air fryers and toaster ovens. 
  • Incorporate the same ingredients for different meals. 

Quick meal ideas

Try these quick meal ideas: 

  • Chicken fajitas with rice and beans 
    Cut chicken into strips and saute. Add chopped onions and peppers. Rinse and drain low-sodium canned black beans and heat in the microwave. Warm corn tortillas. Reheat rice from a batch previously prepared. Add ingredients like cheese, salsa and sour cream as condiments. 
  • Shrimp alfredo and Italian blend vegetables 
    Boil fettuccini noodles. Thaw shrimp in the refrigerator the day before. Cook shrimp and minced garlic in a pan. Add a jar of alfredo sauce to the pan to heat up. Microwave frozen veggies while the rest of the dinner finishes on the stove. 
  • Chicken summer salad 
    Start with leafy greens on each plate. Cook chicken in a pan. Slice strawberries, cucumbers and tomatoes while the chicken cooks. Add blueberries, walnuts, sliced strawberries, cucumber and tomatoes to each salad. Top salads with chicken. Add dressing and cheese, as desired. 

Experience can save time

The more experience you have with preparing a given meal, the more tips and tricks you will pick up in terms of efficiency. Keep recipes and ingredient lists for successful meals for your household. You'll soon have a healthy repertoire of tried-and-true "20 minutes to mealtime" menus to spring for. 

Matthew McDavid is a dietetic intern at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.