Cooking can seem like a daunting task at the end of a long day, however there are ways to shorten cooking and clean up sessions. Here is a list of ways to save time in the kitchen.
PREPARE YOUR MEALS
Sit down in advance and plan a menu for the week. Take stock of what you have in your kitchen and what you will need for the week. Go to the grocery store with a list of specific items and ingredients. By ensuring that your kitchen is stocked with things you will need, you will be less likely to have to make runs to the store in the middle of a recipe or be tempted to order in if a key ingredient is missing.
WASH AND STORE FOOD
As soon as you get home from the grocery store wash your vegetables and fruit. If you wash them right away, you can grab an apple for the road or munch on grapes while you are cooking. You won’t have to worry about washing your vegetables before you cut them up for soup or rinsing off your chives to top your baked potato. Pre-rinsing your fruits and vegetables is a time saver.
Sunday night before the workweek starts, cook up your hamburger and George Foreman your chicken breast. Precooked hamburger can easily be tossed into spaghetti sauce, thrown into a cheeseburger pie, or added to a casserole or soup. Precooked chicken breast is a convenient salad topper, a quick protein snack, and can be used in wraps and on sandwiches.
SOMETIMES SETTLE FOR STORE MADE
Although we’d all love to roll out own pizza dough, make our own soup stock, and knead our own piecrust, there is a reality. Don’t feel guilty for occasionally using a Duncan Hines brownie mix for your daughter’s class treats or splurging for pre-sliced veggies or bagged salad. As a last minute meal, a frozen pizza or can of soup isn’t the end of the world.
WASH AS YOU GO
If you keep the kitchen clean as you work you will have a lot less work waiting for you at the end. While water is boiling clean the counters or wash the cutting board you just chopped vegetables on.
LEFT OVERS ARE KEY
Make large batches of things you like. Instead of making one chicken, bake two and use the extra meat for dumplings or sandwiches the next day. Cook extra spaghetti sauce for spaghetti pie the next night, or use excess sauce for pizza. Cook a larger roast beef and make sandwiches or toss it in pan with beef stock and vegetables for homemade soup.
ENGAGE YOUR FAMILY
Cooking can sometimes feel like time wasted, so instead use meal preparation as family time. Have your children help set the table, chop vegetables, or even do their homework in the room with you. If you stop thinking of cooking as being wasteful, you may start to enjoy yourself.
A microwave is not the enemy. Instead of waiting for rice to cook on the stove for a half hour, pop it in the microwave for three minutes. Don’t waste time and water thawing chicken under cold water. Simply pop it into the microwave and your chicken will be ready to cook within minutes.
A crock-pot has been my salvation. Dump whatever you want for dinner in the crock-pot on your way out the door in the morning and it will be ready when you get home. I’ve made soups, roasts, and pastas, even desserts. Not only is it easy and convenient, but it makes the most flavorful and tender meat I’ve ever tasted. Invest in a crock-pot cookbook and learn how to cook anything under the sun with zero effort. You can even put everything you plan to cook into the crock pot the night before, stick it in the refrigerator and simply take it out and plug it in as your race out the door in the morning. As an added bonus you will only have one pan to clean!
I love cooking, but time constraints can take their toll. These have been my saving graces in a pinch.