Monday, October 12, 2015

Kitchen Time Savers that Really Work

I follow a few food blogs and lots of Instagram accounts of chefs and food bloggers - and at times I feel like, I am the only one cooking in a tiny, dark, badly designed kitchen, with cheap counter tops and broken cabinet doors. (Seriously! I have a broken cabinet door)

I think, I would like to cook much more if I was in a beautiful spacious kitchen. I would make better meals if I had expensive pots and pans in designer colors and really cool modern stools around a huge granite island in the middle of a kitchen that is the size of my current backyard! - All those things lead to making cheaper, healthier, better meals..... right?  Right?!?

Actually they don't. - And even if I had the opportunity to give myself a "dream kitchen", I'd no doubt rather have a "dream family room" or gasp!!! a Craft Room! But I can do lots of things that make working in my kitchen more pleasant. Being organized, and having a positive work space doesn't actually have much to do with sinks so big you could bath a tween in them or stoves with 8 gas burners.

I am not actually going to count this as a tip, but I am going to say it because, Seriously! it makes the biggest difference in the whole wide world... Meal Plan!  I don't want to sound like a broken record, but it makes all the difference in the world - on your stress level, your budget and your health.

Organize Your Space -  Keep frequently used items such as cooking oils/sprays, spatulas, cutting boards, and spices within easy reach. This will save you from having to search for them later. I used to have a wild drawer full of kitchen tools - I could never find anything in there and it became a dumping ground for any dish that my kids had no idea where it went. Have your spices where you can see them, Have your like items grouped together in your pantry,

Prepare Your Space Before You Cook - Take a few minutes before you actually start cooking to pull your kitchen together. Make sure you clean the clutter off your counters, have someone empty the dishwasher, get ALL your ingredients out of the fridge and pantry. If you are going to need special tools like whisks or a specific pan - make sure those are clean and ready to use. Read through your recipe and do one last check of all the steps so you aren't caught by surprise when step 4 says, "let it rest for 3 hours".

Prep, Prep, Prep & Chop, Chop, Chop - Take some time and prep as much as you can before you need to cook. Chop vegetables when you buy them. Take large packages of meat and separate them into servings or make patties. Wash lettuce and store it ready-to-use. Make snack bags of veggies that are ready to grab and go, Or put them all together for each meal you will be using them in.

I will tell your the parable of the cantaloupe.  Everyone of my children LOVES cantaloupe. And so I buy cantaloupe, I especially buy a lot when it is on sale - but you cannot leave it laying around - smells, the fruit flies are horrible, and it takes up space.....  But unless I cut up those cantaloupe they will not get eaten. They will sit on my counter until they go mushy, and soft and moldy, because no one will cut them up to eat them. Don't let lack of preparation be your downfall. (This means I don't grocery shop unless I factor in time for Prep - I don't put things "away" until I have completed this step) If I put a bag of carrots - unwashed, unpeeled,& unchopped in my fridge it will go Un-Eaten.

Double the Recipe - If you can afford to, and have the fridge / freezer space, cook a second one of what you are making.  If you are cooking a casserole they make fantastic freezer meals, if you are cooking something that you feel wouldn't freeze well, pack up individual lunches for the next day or coming week. Opening the fridge and realizing that you have left over Lo Mien from last night that you can eat for lunch instead of packing a sandwich is a fantastic surprise. If you have a few people in your household that pack lunches this can be a great way to not only save money. Or just double the sauce - if you are making a red sauce, use it tonight for spaghetti and later in the week of lasagna or chicken parmesan.

Clean As You Go - Fill up your sink with soapy water and wash dishes as you go, or if you already emptied your dishwasher, rinse your dishes and load it as you are cooking - this will keep your work space from getting over crowded by messy dishes (keep cross-contamination down) and save you from that feeling of dread when you finish cooking and then realize you have 45 minutes of clean-up ahead of you.

Someday perhaps we will all have magazine style kitchens and food will magically appear in our ovens like in the old cooking shows - but until then, It doesn't have to be the worst time of the day. It can actually with a little planning be one of the best times of the day for you And your family !