Joanna Gaines may be famous for her trend-setting taste in interior design, but she’s currently making waves in the culinary world with the release of her first cookbook, Magnolia Table, and the opening of a restaurant of the same name in Waco, Texas. In the cookbook, Joanna writes about the process behind developing recipes—such as her eponymous biscuit recipe—and how she tested her recipes on her four children (she’s currently pregnant with a fifth) and her husband, Chip.
The cookbook is full of Gaines family–favorites that Joanna cooks regularly, but like any mom, she has to work to find enough time to prepare healthy, satisfying meals every night. When Real Simple spoke with Joanna at the launch of Magnolia Table, we asked for her best tips and tricks for simplifying her cooking process, and anyone can use her straightforward advice.
“If you plan in advance, that’s a huge deal for me,” Joanna said. On Sunday nights, Joanna asks each of her children and Chip what foods they are craving that week. She creates a meal plan for the week, writes a grocery list ahead of time, and knocks out all the grocery shopping at once so everything is ready to go when it’s time to cook.
“If I have any extra time, I try to do some of the meal prep earlier, especially on days that I know are going to be longer,” she added. “When I get home, I know I can literally throw everything together.”
Like non-HGTV stars, Joanna also relies on tried-and-true time-saving dishes: “I do a lot of casseroles these days,” she admitted.
Planning ahead is key—frantic last-minute grocery store runs can throw off any evening. “I think the biggest deal is not going to the grocery store right after I get off work,” Joanna said. “That’s just not as enjoyable. If I can pre-plan, if I have everything in the fridge by the time I get home, I actually really enjoy the process.”
There you have it: The simple act of planning ahead can make cooking a fun experience rather than a chore.