If Delia Smith can cheat and use instant mash then I'm sure we can all cheat a little in the kitchen. No one wants to spend hours in their kitchen cooking a meal so I thought I'd share some of my ideas that I've used over the years.
Planning your meals in advance will save you time. There have been many days when I've not planned dinner and got home from work not knowing what to cook. When you're hungry and tired it's difficult to think and you end up snacking on junk before finally deciding what to cook and end up having a late dinner. Or even worse you reach for the phone and order an expensive unhealthy take away!
When making meals I always make double the amount when cooking things like curries, chillies or bolognese sauces and freeze half. That way there's always a quick healthy meal in the freezer to zap in the microwave when I can't be bothered to cook. Just heat it up, boil some rice or pasta to go with it and dinner is done with hardly any effort!
It takes time to measure out all the ingredients to make a white/bechamel or cheese sauce and whisk it all up until it's nice and smooth. I always have packets of white sauce and cheese sauce in my kitchen cupboard - you just need to add boiling water. Of course, you can't beat a home-made cheese or bechamel sauce but if you're in a rush it's a good compromise.
Another packet that's useful to have in your cupboard is a sponge mix. There are so many quick and simple cakes and puddings you can make using a basic sponge mix as a base where you just have to add an egg and some water. An example of a pudding I've made recently is pineapple upside-down cake. You can always experiment by adding different fruit and spices like all spice, ginger or cinnamon. You can even use the mix to make cupcakes. And if you're really strapped for time instead of making custard from scratch using custard powder (which often goes wrong for me!) just use a tin or carton of ready made custard.
One quick and tasty pudding my partner always makes is treacle sponge pudding. It takes less than 5 minutes to cook in the microwave. A quick search on Google will give you lots of microwave pudding recipes. Lovely jubley!
Another cheat I often do is using tins of Batchelors condensed soup as a base for sauces. Cook some pasta and mix with a tin of tomato soup, some milk and some garlic and herb cream cheese and there you have a quick tasty pasta dish. The mushroom soup is great to use when making a chicken pie. Cook your chicken, onion or leeks and mushrooms then add a tin of mushroom soup with some milk. Once heated through and the right consistency put it in a pie dish and top with some puff pastry. Bung it in the oven and serve with boiled potatoes and veg. Done!