I’m all for spending time in the kitchen — but not a minute more than necessary. I try to do whatever I can to shave off a minute here, a minute there, to simplify tasks, to multi-task, to have ingredients do double duty. Little efficiencies can mount up, giving me more time to spend . . . at the spa, or reading magazines, or watching all the TV shows I like to watch. Ah, such a rough life.
Here are a few of the ways I gain a few more minutes for myself. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with yours. I would love to hear them!
- I cook hamburger four pounds at a time in a crockpot with an all-important crockpot liner. Put it on low and it can cook for eight hours. On high, it will probably take four. You don’t have to mess with it while it’s cooking. Just use a strong kitchen utensil when it’s done to break it up into small pieces. Drain the grease. Ladle it into four quart freezer bags and label them.
- Do the same thing with sausage. Lots of recipes I make frequently use sausage. I’m way ahead when I can just pull a bag of the cooked stuff out of the freezer and quickly thaw it. (I’ve been known to stick the bag into a big bowl of hot water, when necessary.
- When you cook bacon that needs to be chopped to use in a recipe, use your kitchen shears to cut it into small pieces before you cook it. It will cook much faster. Drain and use.
- Cook a bunch more bacon than you actually need. Freeze the overage for later use.
- Get a sense for how much chopped onion, bell pepper, celery you use in the course of a week. Go ahead and get lots ready. As long as you store them in separate containers so they don’t slime each other, they will keep quite well for several days. (Assuming you’re starting with fresh produce, of course. If you have been dumpster diving again, there’s not much I can do for you.)
- If, like me, you tend to use a lot of caramelized onions (and, if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?!? They are so fabulous!), go ahead and caramelize a big batch to use in dollops all week long.
- Don’t waste your time cutting up cucumbers in advance. They lead the slime patrol.
- Put your most-used pantry items where you can easily grab them. The last thing you want to do is risk life and limb getting on a stepladder to get down something you use once a day.
- When you’re ironing cloth napkins, stack them up in a stack of 5 and iron all at once. If If you spray them with water and use your steam setting, the heat will penetrate through the stack. Ironing them one at a time is a time-waster.
- Keep a cruet with a stainless steel tip on it filled with olive oil near your stove, and another one with canola oil. When you need a little splash, this saves having to remove the cap of a normal container.
- Think through your menus for the week ahead of time so you can make a comprehensive list and do double-duty where possible.
- Place a large bowl on your counter while you’re doing food prep to use for garbage and trash so you are not constantly running to the trash can.
- While you’re already in the kitchen doing one thing, do something else that doesn’t need much involvement from you. For example, while you are sautéeing onions, you could be microwaving sweet potatoes or boiling eggs for deviled eggs.
- Use protection. Wearing aprons will cut down on time treating spots on clothes. Lining baking sheets with parchment paper if you’re cooking something like our World’s Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies or with foil if you are roasting messy meats or vegetables in the oven. Use crockpot liners not only for crockpot-scrubbing avoidance, but also to line casserole dishes. Your fingernails and hands will thank you.