Sometimes I grow too many melons and didn’t know what to do with them all. I’ll have to remember this for next summer: Watermelon Fruit Leather. Apparently it’s just watermelon juice and sugar.
Here are some tips that are saving me a lot of time in the kitchen already. I know they’re working because suddenly there are entire evenings where all I have to do is heat something up or throw an already-assembled dish in the pan. It’s pretty great.
How To Save Time In The Kitchen
Make Meal Plans. Don’t just plan what to eat for dinner in the week, get organized. Think through all the ingredients you’ll need, check what’s on hand and what’s not, and make a detailed list. Ideally you’ll need to do only one shopping trip for the week.
Multitask. If I’m in the kitchen making dinner, I’m probably doing three or four other things too. For example, last night I was making salmon and veggies for dinner, but I was also cutting up apples to dry in the dehydrator, roasting a butternut squash for soup, freezing excess blueberries, and cleaning up. I get a lot accomplished whenever I’m in the kitchen.
Mise en Place. This French term “putting in place” means to take everything out before you start cooking so that it’s all right in front of you. You save time when you’re not going to the refrigerator 800 times to make one meal.
Do Prep All At Once. If you know you’re going to be doing something twice in the week, it’s more efficient to do it all together at once. For example, if I’m chopping vegetables for one meal, I’ll look through my meal plan and chop any other vegetables I need for the week. If I’m cooking bacon for a quiche, I’ll cook an extra piece or two to throw in a bistro salad the next day at lunch.
Cook Extra Food To Freeze. Recently, I made stuffed shells for dinner. I intentionally made a double batch and froze the extra into dinner-sized containers. One night this week, I’ll pull those shells out and heat them up, and it will be so easy.
Make Freezer Meals. You can take the above a step farther and make a ton of meals up front and freeze them for easy access. Check out this post 100 Freezer Meals in 5 Hours for inspiration.
Make Leftovers You’ll Actually Eat. Make meals you won’t mind having twice in a week and then have leftover night. Last leftover night, my husband had veggie quiche and I had spaghetti with meat sauce and Savvy Jr. had a little bit of both.
Double Duty Your Oven. If I’m cooking something in the oven, chances are I’m also cooking something else too. Use the oven as much as you can during the time that it’s on. You’ll save time and money on your energy bill.
Preserve Things Right Away. If you know you’re not going to use all of something, take a minute to preserve it on the spot. Say you’re using part of a can of corn and know you’re not going to eat the rest. Stick it in a container, label it, and put it in the freezer right away. You’ll save time and eliminate the chance of the food going bad.
Have A Baking Day. If you like to bake, do it all at once. I recently made banana blueberry muffins, two loaves of bread, and lemon curd in one afternoon. All it took was staggering my time. While the bread dough was rising, I mixed the muffin batter. While the muffins were cooking, I made the lemon curd. I came out with a ton of food for my family in not all that much time.
What are your tips for saving time in the kitchen?
I’m 5’3″, so jeans are frequently too long for me. I’ve thought about hemming them, but didn’t want to ruin the look of the jeans. But if you’re braver than I am, here’s a tutorial for How To Shorten Your Jeans And Keep The Store-Bought Look.
When combined with the right ingredients, beer is a great addition for a cocktail. And St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to try a Beer Cocktail out. Here’s some recipes that look promising:
Lot 49 (plus a few more)
Weissen Sour (and more)
This article 10 Secrets the Airlines Don’t Want You to Know has some good pointers on dealing with airlines when they mess up. For example:
Say ‘no’ to vouchers — you’re entitled to cold, hard cash
Do not settle for vouchers. They’re the airline equivalent of Geoffrey Dollars. If you’re bumped from a flight because it’s overbooked, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has compensation rules of up to $1,300 in cash if the airline fails to rearrange plans within two hours of your flight. The airlines often offer passengers a travel voucher instead (like every time, let’s be real). They’re also required to tell you that you can get a check on the spot. It’s like your flight delay Miranda rights.
Aren’t airlines the worst sometimes?
According to my recent Time Audit, I spend 9 hours a week cleaning my house. I’m still not sure how I managed to spend so much time on my house, but I think it went something like this:
* On the weekends, I would do a half-day deep clean that would take 5 hours and piss me off exceedingly.
* Throughout the week, I would ignore the house, then do a bunch of cleaning all at once. So I would ignore the house on Sunday-Tuesday, then have to clean for three hours on Wednesday.
* The unaccounted for time must then be little things: putting the dishes away, wiping down the counter before making dinner, dealing with the laundry, and so forth. (I did to some cleaning every day, but only the bare minimum.)
Basically, my house would get dirty, I’d spend a lot of time cleaning it, let it get dirty again, and spend even more time cleaning it. It was inefficient and dumb.
So I came up with a system that seems to work a lot better and saves me time. It goes like this:
Every day, clean for 20 minutes
On the weekend, clean for 1-2 hours.
Total time spent: 3-3.5 hours
Time saved: 5.5 hours.
Why does this work? It’s because with the 20 minutes cleaning, the house isn’t allowed to get that dirty.
I’m finding that 20 minutes seems to hit the sweet spot where I do that one or two extra things that keeps the house up. So before, I would put away the dishes and sweep the floor, which would take 12 minutes, and then stop. Now I do that and still have another 8 minutes to fill, so I’ll put away the laundry or clean out the sink or put away my son’s toys. In essence, it forces me to attend to that extra bit of mess that used to accumulate and take me so much time to clean at the end of the week.
I’m pretty amazed at the difference this is making. My house is a lot cleaner and I’m cleaning it less. (It helps that I’m more organized now, too.) Keeping up the house through the week seems to be a more efficient way to clean.
How do you save time when you clean?
It’s time to plan this year’s garden. And right on schedule, the seed catalogs are appearing in the mail.
Have you ever noticed how the majority of these catalogs have the same plants in them? In every magazine, there are the same broccoli, tomatoes, beans, and carrots seeds you can get anywhere. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can get boring, especially when you start to realize the swath of edible plants out there just waiting to be tried out.
Luckily, several seed companies do go out of the their way to provide access to a more interesting variety of plants. Here are three see I like:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This company, which goes out of its way to “promote and preserve our agricultural and culinary heritage”, provides vegetable seeds that you don’t normally see in the hardware store–purple carrots, white eggplants, peppermint tomatoes, striped beets, purple bell peppers. They are “non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated, and non-patented seeds.” Order Baker Creek’s free–and rather beautiful–catalog here.
One Green World. While this company doesn’t offer vegetables, it does offer other fascinating-sounding trees, vines, and fruits. What exactly is a Tasmania Vine (pictured above)? What does a silverberry taste like? When I finally get around to planting honeyberries or a tea bush, I will look here first. Request a catalog here.
Bountiful Gardens. This is a great seed company that offers “untreated open-pollinated non-GMO seed of heirloom quality for vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, green manures, compost and carbon crops.” Not only do they have the usual vegetables, they have categories like “mushroom kits” or “unusual hot-weather heirlooms” or “grains, fibers and oil crops.” You can get the Bountiful Gardens catalog here.
What is your favorite seed company? Why?
St Patrick’s Day is coming up. What do you think of cupcakes for dessert this year?
Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (Not kid friendly.)