Planes, trains, and automobiles. We are always going. When you are a busy person, there never seems to be enough time. How can you possibly cook gourmet when there is no time to cook? This is one of the greatest constraints for busy people. How do you possibly balance long days at work, travel, and keeping your family healthy and entertaining when there is no time to cook? It can feel overwhelming. And you can plan things in advance, only to get up to the date and find yourself bogged down in a work project or having to get on an airplane to visit a customer. Let me help you because you can stay gourmet when life gets in the way.


Tips and tricks when you have no time to cook:

  1. Plan as far in advance as you can. While there may still be unforeseen events that come up, you will be more likely to have success if you plan. Whether this is a dinner party or date night, put your event on the calendar and start laying out a plan. You do this at work to be successful – why not incorporate these same skills in your home life to make it easier?
  2. Do parts of your cooking in advance. Caterers don’t cook everything at the last minute, and neither do restaurants. Plan out your event and decide which parts can be cooked in advance and frozen or kept in the refrigerator. Some meals even taste better after a few days of getting happy in the refrigerator, such as Ragu Bolognese. Many desserts can be baked and frozen. Plan to incorporate those types of menus when you are busy.
  3. Don’t take on a big cooking challenge. This is not the time to try the three-page recipe in your new cooking magazine. Gourmet can be simple. When I’m busy, I try to avoid menus with more than 5-6 ingredients and no more than 3-4 steps. Simplify. Have a few standby menus that you make well and are easy for these times.
  4. Get help. I’ve always got a group of people hanging out in the kitchen with me when they come for dinner, even though I have many places for them in my home. If that’s the case, give everyone a little something to do. One person can make cocktails for the group and refresh wine glasses; another can chop last-minute herbs. Most people love participating, so let that happen.
  5. Use the power of drones – or UPS. Buy online! This will save you tons of time going to different stores. At the least, buy your wines online and have them delivered.
  6. Shop efficiently. Lay out your shopping list in the format of a grocery store. You can waste a lot of time and energy zigzagging around a store. When you decide upon your menu and make your list, think about how your grocery store is laid out and keep your list in groups, such as vegetables/meats/cheese/staples/bakery. You’ll save a lot of time.
  7. Prep your home in advance. Especially if you are working on the day of your party, be sure to set the table the night before, have your linens ironed a week or two earlier, get flowers a few days earlier, and chill wines. These small tasks can all be done before the dinner so that you can concentrate on the items that need to be completed that day.
  8. Make planning a part of your life. If you are always busy, make weekly meal planning a part of your life. There is nothing worse than coming home tired and hungry only to find an empty refrigerator. If you plan weekly for your meals and obtain all of the ingredients at one time, you’ll always have the food items you need to throw together a quick dinner. Spread the effort, too. Switch off weeks with your spouse to shop for groceries and get your kids involved in simple tasks like setting the table so that you don’t have to do it all.
  9. Have a well-stocked pantry. Try to have a few dinners that can be made from your pantry and keep them stocked at all times. If you keep dried porcini mushrooms, arborio rice, and chicken stock in the pantry, you can always pull together Risotto con Funghi at any time. This works for last-minute guests, too.
  10. Don’t stress, be happy. I know this one is the toughest, but being able to roll with the punches and having a good outlook on life is essential. Try not to let the lack of time make you stressed. Don’t strive for perfection with every meal. We won’t be in this moment again, so look at every dinner with your family as a blessing. You may have to cut a few corners here and there, but being together and sharing a meal is more important than being perfect. Do the best you can and enjoy life.
  11. Forgetting an ingredient. There is nothing more frustrating than getting home from a trip to the grocery store and forgetting to pick up an important ingredient for your recipe. Trust me, I learned how to work around this because I’m forgetful sometimes, and I lived in the mountains. So, if I forgot something, I had to work around not having it! You will be able to get good at this if you remain calm and think about what else you have that you can substitute, such as capers for olives or oranges for lemons. You can also consider making the item. Italian grandmothers have never used bread crumbs in a can or stock from a box. Use Google to help you find substitutes and you’ll be surprised what you can do!