Who doesn’t wish they had a couple more hours in the day, or a kitchen fairy to come to our aid at family dinnertime, or even a spouse or kids who were more eager or able to pitch in around the house? While we continue to fantasize about ways to get more done in days that too often make us feel squeezed to our limit, here are some practical tips we’ve developed on how to save time in the kitchen:
1. Plan ahead, make a grocery list, and stick to it.
This will keep you from standing in front of the fridge or pantry at 5:30 or 6 pm in a panic about what to serve for family dinner.
2. Keep an updated grocery list.
When you use up an ingredient that you consider a staple, write it on your grocery list right away so you’ll be fully stocked after your next grocery trip, and won’t have to squeeze in any emergency trips to the store. Teach your family to do this too and you’ll all have your essentials on hand when you need them.
3. Make sure you have good quality knives and keep them sharpened.
A good pair of kitchen scissors can also make easier work of cutting herbs, scallions and other foods. Check out The Scramble Store to see some of our favorites.
4. Keep a well-stocked freezer.
Stock your freezer with some veggies, prepared side dishes, even a healthy frozen meal (homemade or store-bought) for those days that family dinners don’t go as planned.
5. Use convenience items or ‘short cuts’
If time is a higher priority for you than money, don’t be afraid to use convenience items. In other words, if buying pre-chopped vegetables, hard-boiled eggs or minced garlic helps you get that family dinner on the table rather than ordering that less-than-healthy takeout or delivery meal, then go for it.
6. Have a system for your kitchen.
If you know where the vegetables are in your refrigerator (I keep one drawer for fruit and one for veggies), and can quickly lay your hands on the black beans, dinner prep will go a lot faster.
7. Clean before you cook.
Before you start cooking, clear off the kitchen counters, empty the dishwasher (or delegate this task to another family member), and pull out all of the ingredients. These steps make dinner preparation a lot less chaotic.
8. Double your recipes.
If you cook twice what you need for one meal, you can freeze half of the meal and warm it up on another night.
9. Use a trash bowl.
As you’re cooking, collect all your ‘trash’ in a small container by the sink rather than going back and forth to the kitchen trashcan. You can empty it out when you’re done cooking (preferably into a compost bin!).
10. Advance prep saves time.
Do food prep in advance for meals and lunches. Before you clean up from Tuesday evening’s dinner, chop up the onion and the peppers that you’ll need for Wednesday’s dinner and when you’re cutting up carrots for tomorrow’s lunch, cut enough for the whole week. You’ll want to kiss yourself tomorrow!
We hope this tips on how to save time in the kitchen are helpful. Of course, the biggest time saver is having someone else doing all that thinking and planning for you! Try the Scramble meal planning service (first two-weeks are free!) and see how much time you save on family dinners.