I could write a book (or two) about how we are all busy, and we all want to be healthier, eat better, and become more organized. But we are all aware that time is what we need the most, so I’m just going to cut to the chase. Here are some AWESOME tips to make your time in the kitchen WAY more efficient and hopefully a bit more inspired. HAVE FUN COOKING!
1. Prep a few of your most commonly used veggies when you get home from the market, and store them that way. WHEN IT COMES TIME TO COOK, YOU’LL BE ABLE TO GRAB YOUR INGREDIENTS AND THROW THINGS TOGETHER IN A SNAP!
- Wash your lettuces and put them on a paper towel in a gallon bag in the fridge.
- Slice your bell peppers! It’s not likely that you’ll need a bell pepper WHOLE for any recipe.
- Slice half of your onion, then dice the other half. You’ll almost positively be using it in one of those two ways during the week.
- Slice your mushrooms. **HINT: NEVER WASH MUSHROOMS, THEY WILL BECOME TOUGH. Simply wipe them gently with a slightly damp paper towel.
2. When it’s time to start cooking, pull all of your spices and pantry items out before getting started. Set them in a convenient place on your counter tops so you can grab them in a hurry.
3. On Meal-Prep day, prep ALL of your veggies and fruits FIRST, and at one time. Stopping between recipes to prep the stuff for the next recipe will slow you down! Even if it takes 20 minutes to dice, slice, julienne, and chop, getting it done in the beginning means that you’ll be able to move on to the next steps with such ease that you’ll be prepping 3 or 4 meals AT ONE TIME!
4. Use your outdoor grill on meal prep day! You can grill nearly all of your proteins at the same time with a much larger surface-area than what you have in the kitchen. This will free up your stove-top and your oven, allowing you to prep multiple days-worth of food at one time. **BONUS! Do you have a spouse, roommate, or family member who LOVES to BBQ but isn’t much help in the kitchen? GET THEM GRILLING while you do the kitchen work! Meal prep day can be FAMILY DAY, especially if chatting around the BBQ is something you already love to do.
5. For MAJOR efficiency bonus points: Store your flour and sugar in zip-loc bags, in 1 C measurements! This will eliminate the “scoop and spill” thing that happens when we dip our measuring cup into the flour bag and make a mess all over ourselves and the counter tops. If a recipe calls for 3 cups of flour and 2 cups of sugar, just grab 3 pre-measured bags of flour, and 2 pre-measured bags of sugar. **HINT: This is great for brown sugar, too…but store it in ½ cup measurements. You can store your pre-measured bags in stack-able storage containers in your pantry, with the labels: “Flour”, “Sugar”, or “Brown Sugar” so they are easily stored and contained. Who doesn’t LOVE an organized pantry?
6. When you’re making batters for meal prep (ie: muffins, pancakes, waffles), make an extra batch or two of JUST THE DRY INGREDIENTS, and store it, pre-mixed in a zip-loc. Place a large label on the outside with directions to finish the recipe. For example, if you’re making pancakes, mix the flour, sugar, salt, and soda according to the recipe and place in the zip loc. Then, add a label to the outside that says, “PANCAKES: add one egg, 1 C milk, and stir”. BOOM! YOU JUST PREPPED FOR YOUR NEXT MEAL PREP!… MIND…BLOWN…
7. Acids & Vinegar mimic salt. They enhance foods just like salt does. Keep your flavored vinegars and citrus fruits near the stove so you can grab them easily and automatically stop over-salting your food!
8. Whenever possible, make twice as much as you need and freeze half. Soups and chilis are prime candidates.
9. GET A PAIRING GUIDE! My kitchen bible is Culinary Artistry, by Dornenberg and Page. It has a full listing of hundreds of foods and their perfect pairs. Want to make artichokes but not sure what goes well with them? Just turn to “A” and easily discover that basil, lemon, breadcrumbs, and hazelnuts are the PERFECT complement! It will get your culinary juices flowing, I PROMISE!
10. If you’re serving a lot of people, and don’t want a huge mess, make everything MINI. Make finger foods that are too cute to resist, but too small to require a plate, knife, or fork! Only offer napkins and no one will have the option to overload, PLUS you’ll have nearly NO mess!
11. When it comes to kids, if they make it, they’ll eat it. If they help you in the kitchen and you allow them to get creative, they’ll be excited to serve it and even happier to eat it: **HINT: Don’t want them to accidentally ruin dinner by putting a funky ingredient in an otherwise delicious recipe? Just pull out all of the options they can use ahead of time (within their eye-shot) and tell them they’re welcome to use anything from that lot. You’ve already decided that those options would go well, so they can’t mess up.
12. HEALTH TIP: Craving potato salad but don’t want all that guilt? Instead of heavy mayo in your salad, mix fat-free or low-fat sour cream and non fat greek yogurt and then add only 1 or 2 tbsp of mayo (if any at all!) Your salad will be creamy and amazing, and you’re significantly lightening it up. This works for ALL SORTS OF THINGS! Greek yogurt is so versitile and SO SUPER HEALTHY!
13. If you’re at a complete loss for what to make, and you have random ingredients but aren’t sure how to put them together, GOOGLE the ingredients. Seriously! Just type into the search bar the names of the ingredients you have. RECIPES WILL POP UP! You may have the start of something wonderful in your pantry and fridge! Sometimes NO SHOPPING AT ALL is required!