The ABCs of Shortcut Suppers

To make your weeknight dinners a breeze, we've assembled an alphabet of easy tips and tricks.

Tricks A-E

A is for apples

Apples are the ultimate snack food, but for a little variety, try tucking pieces into salad for a sweet, crunchy surprise. Or serve slices as a side dish in place of veggies.

B is for beans

Inexpensive and filling, beans are a great supper starter. Our quick chili packs 11g of protein and 12g of fiber per serving. Try our:

3-Bean Chili

C is for chicken

This perennial favorite is the best go-to dinner ingredient as it can star in many different dishes. Try these five delicious creations:

Chicken Caprese

Sweet 'n' Tangy Chicken

Sliced Mango Chicken

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad

Chicken Fingers and Salsa

D is for do-ahead

Pick a night to pre-prep a few meals — even if that means simply chopping peppers or slicing mushrooms and popping them in resealable bags. That way you can go from fridge to table in minutes. Try this with our 3-bean chili; drain and rinse the beans in advance.

E is for eggs

Eggs are one of the least expensive and easiest ways to get your protein. Why not stir up an omelet? We love breakfast for dinner!

Tricks F-J

F is for frozen foods

Ever come home to discover your kid needs help with a history report due the next morning? If so, reach into your freezer for an all-in-one meal kit. Simply heat, stir, and serve.

G is for greens

If the same old salad is the only way you eat greens, why not branch out and make something new? Try our one-dish dinner:

Spinach & Swiss Quiche

H is for hummus

This spread, made from ground chickpeas, is also great as a meal anchor. Spread onto pita, then top with cooked chicken strips, chopped cucumber, and a little feta cheese: Presto! Greek pizzas.

I is for instant-read thermometers

Not only for beef or poultry, these speedy temperature testers can be plunged into casseroles and leftovers to gauge warmth. Once the internal temperature registers at least 140 degrees, the dish is hot enough to eat.

J is for juice it up

Kids love juice drinks, but many brands sneak in high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. Look for Fizz Ed, brought to you by Apple & Eve, $4/4-pack, or Capri Sun 100% juice pouches, $3.25/10-pack. Available nationwide in grocery stores.

Tricks K-O

K is for ketchup

Try something new atop your burger or fries. Wholemato Organic Agave Ketchup is made with sweet agave nectar, which is less likely than traditional sugars to raise blood sugar levels. Available at health food stores, or visit wholemato.com for retailers in your area.

L is for leftovers

Nothing's easier than reheating a meal, and what's a better leftover than lasagna! Why not prep two smaller ones (instead of one 13-x-9-inch) and pop one in the freezer for the future. Simply thaw overnight in the fridge before baking. Try our:

Classic Lasagna

M is for meal planning

Finally answer "What's for dinner?" by writing up a weekly menu. Post it on the fridge, next to the school lunch list so your kids can check for themselves.

N is for noodles

This supper staple can be a quick snack too. On Sunday, cook some macaroni. Drain and toss with a little oil; spoon into bowls, and refrigerate. Your kids can heat a serving topped with grated cheese or marinara.

O is for one pot

For a dinner that's super-easy to clean up, stir up our one-pot skillet supper:

Fruity Chicken Stir-Fry

Tricks P-T

P is for pantry

Stock up on no-fuss side dishes — such as Knorr's Sides Plus Veggies — so when time is tight, you can focus on the main course.

Q is for quick-cook

Think thin — pork, chicken, even turkey cutlets will take less than 5 minutes to prepare in a hot skillet. Try our:

Pork with Pear Compote

R is for rice

Flavored versions of this versatile grain can be easily converted into a main event. Stir a little turkey sausage or some chicken pieces into quick-cooking Broccoli Rice au Gratin.

S is for sausage links

Need a quick meal? Reach for fully cooked Al Fresco Spinach & Feta sausages. A few minutes on the grill or in a skillet and they're ready to eat; add a salad for a speedy supper.

T is for tomatoes

Whether canned or fresh, this end-of-summer staple is great in casseroles, stirred into salsa, or cooked into sauce and spooned over linguine. Try our:

Speedy Pasta Sauce

Tricks U-Z

U is for use-by dates

Always check the printed date on sauces and, if necessary, rewrite on the top of the jar in permanent marker. Use tomato-based sauces within one week of opening and chicken, beef, or vegetable broth within two weeks.

V is for vegetables

You know that veggies are good for you and microwaving is the perfect way to quickly cook them. Place 4 cups of vegetables in a glass bowl and add 1/4 cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes.

W is for whole grains

Studies show that Americans want to add whole grains and fiber to their diets and better-for-you versions of family favorites are popping up all over grocery shelves. Sneak in healthier crackers, bread — even breakfast cereals and waffles — whenever possible.

X is for eXtra servings

When making dinner, increase the amount of meat or veggies called for in the recipe — that way you'll have extra for lunch the next day or an emergency late-night snack.

Y is for yogurt

Not just for breakfast, yogurt can be added to dressings and dips for a tangy hit of calcium; look for brands with immune system boosting active cultures.

Z is for zip-top bags

Cut cleanup in half by marinating meat, prepping ingredients, and even saving leftovers in resealable bags. Heavy-duty ones can be washed with soapy water and reused (except when raw meat is involved).

Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.