Ree Drummond knows what it’s like to a busy mom trying to get dinner on the table for a big family. The mom of five is no stranger to the struggle of coming up with creative, quick and easy dinner ideas— but over the years, she’s come up with a few simple, smart shortcuts that she swears by.
“When you are the main person who cooks in your household, it just makes life more worth living,” she tells TODAY.com.
Drummond, whose new cookbook “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinner’s Ready!” comes out on Oct. 24, took a break from ranch life and stopped by TODAY to share the weeknight cooking tips that save her sanity. Her secret? “A combination of prepping ahead of time and store-bought ingredients.”
1. Prep common ingredients in advance
“One thing that I really got into doing when the kids were young was just having ingredients that I use all the time — minced garlic, chopped onions — ready to go and prepped at the beginning of the week,” Drummond says. While you can purchase pre-cut vegetables from the grocery store, preparing them yourself results in fresher ingredients. But by doing the prep work in advance, you’ll still save yourself precious time during the week. “You can keep them in plastic storage bags or put them in glass refrigerator dishes. It cuts so much time not having to chop and dice every single meal,” she says.
2. Cook big batches of meat and repurpose throughout the week
Similarly, Drummond likes to cook big batches of ground beef and grilled chicken all at once, then put them to use in different recipes throughout the week.
“You can brown five, 10 pounds of ground beef at a time, portion it into smaller bags and freeze them. Then you can make taco meat and add it to a pan with sauce to bring it back to life or add it to spaghetti sauce,” she tells TODAY.com.
If stored properly, precooked meat like ground beef and grilled chicken will last for about three to four days in the refrigerator, or three to six months in the freezer.
“The great thing there is you can look for family packs of meat that are marked down or more bang for your buck and then split them up,” says Drummond.
3. Don’t be afraid of store-bought ingredients
Shop smart and stock up on high-quality store-bought ingredients to make weeknight cooking so much easier but just as delicious.
“We just talked about, on the show, store-bought pesto. Store-bought pesto is just basil, garlic — it’s the same ingredients. It’s just made ahead of time,” says Drummond, who shared her recipe for Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta on the 3rd hour of TODAY.
Ree Drummond’s easy weeknight recipes
We love this easy, fresh take on classic spaghetti and meatballs. Make your own quick pesto in a food processor (or just buy a premade version), then toss it with cherry tomatoes and roast alongside beef meatballs until cooked. While the tomatoes and meatballs roast, cook a pot of pasta, then assemble together into one delicious dinner.
Inspired by the viral TikTok feta pasta, this easy (and we mean easy!) baked pasta dish pairs an entire log of goat cheese with cherry tomatoes, basil and campanelle pasta for one cozy vegetarian meal.
Broccoli and cauliflower have never tasted so good. While you cook a box of pasta, broil the two cruciferous vegetables with onion, garlic, heavy cream, broth and pesto until tender and crispy. The whole thing comes together in just 15 minutes. What’s not to love?
There are so many ways to dress up a package of store-bought gnocchi, but this may just be the best version. Arrange gnocchi, asparagus, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes on a single sheet tray, toss with pesto and olive oil, and bake until the gnocchi is golden and crisp. Not only does the recipe take just 20 minutes, but cleanup will be even faster.
On a chilly weeknight, nothing hits the spot quite like lasagna. Fortunately, this shortcut-friendly version is so much less labor intensive than the layered baked pasta dish. It features a duo of ground beef and sausage, plus ricotta dumplings, for an herby, creamy finish.