If you know me in real life, or have spent time reading my blog, you know that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen in an effort to stretch my husband’s paycheck as far as it can possibly go. As I have said before, I believe that the kitchen is the area we have the most control over in terms of how much, or how little, money we spend.
While I consider it my job to make his paycheck go as far as it can and I do enjoy working in my kitchen, I don’t want to be in it 24/7. Because of that, I am always looking for ways to streamline my kitchen activities.
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1. Meal Planning – I enjoy meal planning. I know, I’m weird. I know people who fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to making dinner every night, but it just doesn’t work for me. One of the reasons is because I do make so much from scratch. I don’t buy hamburger buns; I make them. So if I decide we should have hamburgers that night, I will need to make home made buns. If I walk into the kitchen at 6 pm, haven’t started dinner, and the family is already hungry, burgers are not happening.
Meal planning is a necessity for me. To make things easier, I have a list of our favorites that I rotate on a regular basis. This makes planning and shopping easier.
Sometimes I meal plan to a tee, filling out each day with all meals, snacks, and desserts. Other times, I have lists for each category. I use the back of leftover bills, junk mail, etc. to jot down my menus. Others have found wonderful success with various types of meal planning software. Find what works for you so that you will stick with it. This is not a one-size-fits-all idea here. And, if flying by the seat of your pants works for you, then keep at it.
2. Thinking Ahead – I often say that I am thinking about my next meal before the current one is even finished. This is not only because I happen to love eating, but because I can fall behind in the kitchen very quickly. I will discuss some more of these ideas further in upcoming posts, but for now I will tell you that I am always preparing for the next meal. Sometimes dinner requires my full attention. Other times, I have a few minutes to complete another task while I am already cooking.
I can whip up a batch of milk (we drink powdered milk that I mix in my Vita-Mix), I can soak oats for breakfast the next morning (we soak our steel cut oats so that they cook faster and have a texture that we prefer), or start dough for bread, pizza, or buns. This may look different for your family, but the idea is to think ahead so that you don’t find yourself ordering pizza or grabbing take-out. Neither of those options are available where I live or because of financial constraints, so planning ahead is imperative to saving time and money in the kitchen.
3. Cooking in Bulk – Carrying the last step further, I often cook things in bulk. If I am making a casserole, making 2 doesn’t take much more time. I cook one, and put the second in the freezer.
This can be a lifesaver on a night when I am busy, out of the house without the family, or just don’t have the energy to cook.
When I am baking bread, making hamburger buns, tortilla dough, pizza dough, or cookies, I will often double, triple, or quadruple the recipe. We can eat some fresh that night, and freeze the rest. Stay tuned for future posts detailing what freezes well and what doesn’t.
4. Dishes – As a family of 4 who eats 99% of our meals, snacks, and desserts made from scratch, I run our dishwasher daily. I try to run it in the evening after dinner (or dessert or snack, as the case may be. 2 teenagers. Enough said.) Running it in the evening gives the dishes time to dry completely overnight. I don’t like the puddles that form on the bottom of the glasses, so I remove them from the dishwasher and set them in a drying rack on the counter. That way, I don’t have to take the time to dry each cup before I put it away.
I also encourage my family to grab dishes from the dishwasher or dish rack rather than taking them from the cupboard. It just saves the extra step of putting those dishes away. I also try to clean up as I cook. There’s nothing worse than heading into the kitchen already feeling like you don’t have the energy to cook dinner to find the sink full of dirty dishes. It is my goal to clean up the dishes after each meal so that I get to start with a fresh, clean kitchen at the next meal. Hopefully you have trained your family members to bring their own dishes to the sink and rinse them for you. Every little bit helps!
Hopefully these simple tips will save you a little time in the kitchen so you can get back to doing what you want to be doing.
What tips have saved you time in the kitchen? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.Print This Post