A Busy Mom's Favorite Cooking Hacks to Make Easier and Cheaper Meals

Mother, Daughter and Son Preparing Spaghetti and Vegetables for Lunch over a Cutting Board


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Mother, Daughter and Son Preparing Spaghetti and Vegetables for Lunch over a Cutting Board

Mother Knows Best

Unless you've got unlimited time and unwavering skills in the kitchen, cooking meals at home can be, well, a pain in the ass. As a mom of four who loves to cook but doesn't love the chaos that ensues while I do so (ahem, the baby emptying my cabinets and the toddler climbing on the counter to snag veggies off the cutting board) I am always on the hunt for shortcuts and ingredient swaps to make my time in the kitchen less stressful. From TikTok tips to some suggested shortcuts that aren't all that safe, there's a lot of noise to weed through but never fear, dear reader — some hacks actually hack it. Here are some of my tried-and-true methods.

Creamy Chicken and Dumplings

Refrigerated Biscuit Dough for Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings are the quintessential comfort food, but mixing and rolling dough for homemade dumplings can get time consuming, especially when you consider the mess of flour scattered everywhere. My go-to chicken and dumplings recipe is easy by nature since it's a slow cooker rendition, but what makes it even less of a hassle is the refrigerated biscuits it calls for in place of traditional, homemade dumplings. Hello, delicious little dough bombs.

Apple Cinnamon Pie Filling

Apple Pie Filling Instead of Fresh Apples

Cinnamon apples are a delicacy as far as I'm concerned. Not only are they simple and scrumptious, they translate across any pocket of the culinary world: a topping for French toast, a companion for pork loin, and, of course, apple pie. Instead of peeling, coring, and slicing apples before tossing them in with a handful of other ingredients and cooking them just to add them to another recipe, grab a can of apple pie filling. It's cheap, it's good, and it makes things a whole lot easier. 

Family Making A Cake Together In The Kitchen

Dump-and-Bake Desserts

Did you know that you can make about a million and one different dump-and-bake desserts using a boxed cake mix and a sliced stick of butter? You can add things like canned peaches, Oreos, frosting, and cinnamon roll dough with those two staple ingredients, and you don't even need to mix anything. Layer it all in a baking dish and pop it in the oven. There's even a TikTok user who has an entire feed's worth of renditions to try out. Extra busy day ahead and no time to wait around for the oven to do its thing? Grab some canned peaches, vanilla cake mix, and butter and throw it all in the slow cooker for some super easy peach cobbler.

Baked Cheese Ravioli Lasagna

Ravioli Lasagna

Lasagna is King when it comes to pasta. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most expensive and time consuming pasta dishes to make. If you're low on time and funds, you can grab some frozen ravioli in place of the lasagna noodles and ricotta, since cheese-filled ravioli has it conveniently nestled within the noodle already. Jarred sauce makes ravioli lasagna even easier to prepare, and it's the way to go if you're low on time.

Colorful chocolate covered sweet donuts with sweet sprinkles dessert closeup top view
Stefan Tomic/istockphoto

Cake Mix Doughnuts

Buying a box of doughnuts isn't a cheap endeavor and let's face it, sometimes you just don't have time to head to a bakery in the morning to grab a fresh dozen. Grab a box of cake mix and make a batch of baked donuts at home instead. Breakfast game changer.