We all want more time to spend with our partner and families. Cooking three nutritious meals a day can eat up all your time but there is a whole swag of ways you can gain some of that time back – they are simple and none involves making large and expensive purchases. Here are a few tips to get you on the right track. Unchain yourself from that stove and get back on the lounge to relax!
1. Meal planning – Make a list. Shop to the list. Put the list on the fridge and follow it.
2. The person that cooks has to put away the shopping. If you spend 10 minutes looking for the garlic, it’s time wasted.
3. Portion snacks out when you bring the shopping home. I put crackers into resealable snack bags, wash grapes and pack handful sized packs, then I put the muesli bars and other convenience snack packs all together in one box. It makes packing lunches a breeze. If you make your own snacks you can pack them up to.
4. Clean your fridge out before you go shopping. It makes you aware of waste and creates room for what is about to be bought home.
5. Frozen vegetables – They are snap frozen close to picking time and conveniently portioned. Use them in stir fries, soups stews and the slow cooker. You can even make your own stir-fry packs and freeze them.
6. Keep your five most used utensils beside the stove in a jar. I use tongs, a non-stick egg slice, vegetable peeler, a whisk and a large acrylic spoon.
7. Get a recipe stand for your cookbook or for Kidspot recipes so you can see what you are doing.
8. Label jars in your pantry. Even if it is using a Sharpie pen on an old jam label. To cook you have to be able to grab what you need quickly.
9. Make your kids do their homework in the kitchen with you if you have the space. If they are not right where you are they won’t be doing it.
10. Be practical about how you arrange your kitchen cupboards. In one cupboard I have coffee, tea and sugar with my coffee cups and a cup full of teaspoons. This is the cupboard above the kettle and close to the fridge.
11. Keep the kitchen benches clear of clutter so you can use the benches to cook!
12. Mise en place is French for “everything in place”. Get all your ingredients onto the bench before you start cooking. This will mean one trip to the fridge and pantry.
13. Keep a sink full of soapy water when cooking. Even if you have a dishwasher this will soak everything and make it easier to pack.
14. Cook once and eat twice. Save yourself time by cooking a meal for now and a meal for later. Batch cooking is a great way to get ahead for those days you will be busy with sport or are going out and leaving all the work to your partner.
15. Use your slow cooker. Avoid the rush and plan to relax.
16. Make your lunch at the same time you make lunch for your kids. You have all the food out and you only clean up once.
17. Pack the slow cooker the night before you need to put it on. The kitchen is already dirty from cooking dinner anyways. You can sear the meat and get things ready while tonight’s dinner is cooking for tomorrow. Pop it into the fridge and get it out of the fridge when you wake up to bring it to room temperature (DO NOT put a crock pot straight from the fridge onto heat as it will crack) and switch it on before you leave the house.
18. Keep your knife sharp. A blunt knife is dangerous and annoying. It makes it unpleasant to do food prep. I use a large cook’s knife and a small serrated one.
19. Have a stock of ready-made items so that if you need something in a hurry, you can just grab them from the freezer. I make mashed potato balls (freeze leftover mash on a tray and keep them in a resealable bag for emergencies), homemade sausage rolls, pizza bases and soup stock.
20. Always have a Plan B. Have a back-up meal in your pantry that you can cook in 10 minutes and you have ALL of the ingredients for.
Even if you use just a couple of these tips, you will save time cooking and have more time to do what you like best!