Samsung and Twitter Moms are asking "With Our Busy Schedules, What Are Your 3 Valid Tips for Getting Dinner Ready in a Flash?"

With two small children, three business and a household to run, I'm generally going non-stop all day long. Most of the time I'm running like a chicken with it's head cut off. When it comes to making dinner I always feel it's important to give my family something that is healthy and nutritious. I don't use frozen meals or prepackaged dinners. All of the meals I make are from scratch. Now, that doesn't mean I don't use the occasional box of mac and cheese or sometimes throw some sausage links in the oven! Generally, I'm whipping up a quick meal that is easy to make and tastes great, without all the preservatives that are in the frozen meals. How do I do it?

Three tips:

-Plan the menu.
I grocery shop once a week. Before I go to the store I make my list but, before I make my list I make a menu for the upcoming week. To save money, I plan my menu taking leftovers into consideration. I make larger meals that will last two days. Planning the menu, planning for leftovers and cooking meals from scratch is a real money saver. I shop for a family of four and, before toiletries, can usually spend under $40 per week. While a lot of people want to use frozen meals as a "quick fix", it's actually much cheaper and so very much better for your family to make those meals from scratch. And it doesn't take that much longer. I may spend 10 more minutes in my kitchen but, when I quit cooking all the frozen meals, my hubby and I both lost weight.

-Concoctions and Modifications
This is a tip my mom taught me. When I was growing up she was always making things for dinner that she'd never made before. If it seems like it would taste good together then throw it together! One of the easy things I like to do is take a recipe I already have and modify it. Here's an example. My grandmother always made the very best chicken and rice casserole. Modification #1 - Using chicken on the bone means the casserole has to cook for two hours. I don't have that kind of time and I always forget to put it in soon enough. Using white chunk chicken in the can means way less cooking time. Modification #2 - minute rice prepared before the casserole is put together. Modification #3 - One day I decided to put something really healthy in it. I had some spinach so I cooked and strained that and was putting it in the mix when my son walked in. Of course he freaked out and wanted to know what that nasty stuff was. For fear of him revolting against dinner before it was even made I replied "This? Oh, you don't want any of this. It's dinosaur guts." His face went from disgusted to intrigued to incredibly happy. By the time dinner was ready he was so anxious to try the dinosaur guts that he didn't even consider not liking it. "Dinosaur Guts" is now one of his favorite meals and it thrills me to know he's eating all that spinach! I modify my recipes all the time to create faster and yummier meals.

-One pot
I love one pot meals. Spaghetti gets made a lot in my house. So does Goulash and several other recipes I use for making a fast meal all in one big pot. Since Goulash is one of our faves I'll share that one with you.
1 lb. ground meat (I always use turkey)
Veggies (here's the great part- use what you like and use canned or frozen. I usually use green beans and corn but, sometimes I use broccoli)
1 can of diced tomatoes (again, use what you like. my kids don't like big chunks of tomatoes so I use petite diced and usually get the italian seasoned kind)
Brown your meat and throw in your other ingredients. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. If your veggies are frozen then cook before you put in the pot. If they are fresh then steam first.
I like to let that simmer while I prepare a box of shells and cheese. (keep the cheese sauce aside)
Pour the cooked shells into the meat and veggie mix. Add the cheese sauce and mix. If you want it saucier then add some water.
That's it. You don't want to let it simmer longer once you add the shells to the mix. If they are already cooked and you continue to simmer then they'll get really mushy.
That's how I make most of my meals. Throw stuff together. No measuring or recipes.

One more quick tip for making meal time fast and easy -
Clean as you go. If water is boiling then wash the pan you cooked meat in. If something is simmering then wash your utensils or empty the dishwasher. If I clean as I go I don't feel so overwhelmed with cleaning when dinner is over.

And remember, if you plan your menu with leftovers in mind then you can make a meal from scratch but, only have to do it every other night!

How do you get dinner ready in a flash?