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So it’s six o’clock on a Tuesday night and you’ve just gotten home. There are five thousand things to do but the one that’s the most pressing is dinner. You can’t order take-out again so cooking it is. How do you handle it? Well, we can’t really make your life less hectic, but we can help cut down on cooking time and help you prepare for the nights when putting something homemade on the table seems impossible.

Here are some kitchen shortcuts to make dinners just a little easier (and obviously totally delicious).

Contain that cauliflower

Cauliflower is a delicious veggie just on its own or it can make a killer rice substitute or a pizza crust, but cutting a whole head can be horrendous. Those little white florets get everywhere and can put your whole work space out of commission for a time while you clean them away. That’s a hassle you could do without.

Instead of cutting on the counter, contain all that mess to a bowl by putting the head of cauliflower in upside-down and cutting around the base to remove the florets. You might need to do this twice to separate all the good stuff from the stem, but once you’re done, you’ll have a bowl full of cauliflower and a completely clean work space.

Rescue a split sauce

How devastating is the moment your cream sauce starts to separate and you know for a fact it’s broken? Looks like somebody is spending another 15 minutes remaking this sauce. Oh no you’re not. Instead of scrapping a sauce or adding more oil to try to resurrect it, what it really needs is a touch of tepid water. Whisk in a small amount of water that’s just slightly warmer than room temperature and your sauce should come back to life beautifully. Crisis averted.

Five-minute meatballs

Meatballs are an easy dinner either on pasta, with gravy, in a sub or glazed in BBQ sauce, but the process of making them is not exactly a weeknight activity. Sure, you could buy them frozen or make them ahead of time, but that doesn’t help you if you’re standing in the kitchen on a Wednesday night without a dinner plan. If you have some sausages, those insides are already ground up and seasoned. Sounds like a meatball to us. The visual might not be pretty, but if you snip the end off a sausage, you can squeeze out custom-sized meatballs like a tube of toothpaste. Ta-da!

It all starts with a pot of water

Regardless of what you’re making for dinner, the likelihood that it will require boiling water at some point is fairly high. Whether you use it for boiling potatoes, pasta, rice, quinoa or some other grain, set a pot to boil as soon as you get home or when you start making dinner to save time once you decide what you’re making.

If you’re concerned about your ratio for grains, don’t be. To make things easier on yourself, cook your grains based on time instead of water ratio. Set a timer to let your rice or quinoa cook and then drain them once it goes off. Not only does it mean you don’t have to do any measuring, you’ll never burn a pot of rice again.

Freezer files

Instead of leaving leftover sauces in the fridge until they go bad or freezing them in containers, make yourself a little freezer filing cabinet of sauces that you can easily flip through and defrost on nights you don’t have time to make one. Just put the sauce in a sealable bag and lay it flat to freeze. Then label it with a name and date and file it away in a drawer or basket in your freezer.

This also works for soups, chilis and other liquidy meals.

Pre-chill your summer salad

Summer is coming at some point, and when it does chilled bean or tuna salads will be a yummy go-to meal. An inconvenient step to making your favourite non-green salad is the “chill” stage afterwards. Instead of waiting half an hour to eat your bean salad, pre-chill your ingredients by keeping a couple cans in the fridge instead of the pantry. If you prefer your canned fruit cold keep those cans in the fridge too.