In the fast paced world we live in, it’s very easy to fall into the dining out ritual because it’s easier and quicker, or so we tell ourselves.
The truth is, sometimes we end up spending more time waiting for a table at the restaurant and then waiting to get our food than we would have spent going home and preparing a good meal ourselves. Of course, we also spend a lot more money by eating out.
Everybody knows there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal, but how do you prepare a good and healthy home-cooked meal in a limited amount of time?
Well, I’ve got a few ways to get any meal on the table faster. Here they are:
- Prepare casseroles ahead of time - A day or two before you plan on serving your casserole, go ahead and mix all the ingredients together and do any cooking necessary to putting the casserole together. Then all you have to do on the day you’re eating your dish is stick it in the oven and bake it.
- Do all cutting at one time - If you know you’ll be using onion three nights this week, go ahead and chop enough onion for all three meals on the less busy night, then it’s ready when you need it later in the week.
- Let the kids help - Kids can be a huge help just by setting the table. Depending on their age they may be able to do other kitchen duties also.
- Have supplies out and ready - Place all your pots, pans, utensils and non-perishables on the counter the night before or in the morning before you leave the house, so that you don’t have to take time to get all these out when you’re ready to cook.
- Clean as you go - Try to clean as much as you can while your food is cooking. The more you get cleaned while you’re cooking the less you’ll have to do after mealtime is over.
- Use a plastic bag for garbage - Either use a bag your produce came out of or a plastic grocery bag for your garbage while in the kitchen. Less trips to the trash saves precious time. (Basically like Rachel Ray’s garbage bowl, but you don’t have the extra bowl to wash.)
- Label frozen foods well - Before placing uncooked casseroles in the freezer, include any cooking instructions on the item label. By doing this, you skip the step of having to drag out the cookbook to look this information up again.
- Enlist the help of kitchen appliances - Several great kitchen appliances are available to assist you in making quick and easy meals. Two of my favorites are the slow-cooker and the indoor grill. The slow-cooker allows you to get the meal going several hours before-hand and forget about it until time to eat. With the indoor grill, you can prepare meats in half the time of regular grilling, broiling or baking.
- Make double batches and freeze - If you’re going to be making a casserole, lasagna, enchiladas, soups or chilis, go ahead and double up on the recipe. Then eat half and freeze half. On a day you really don’t have a lot of time to cook, you can pull out one of these and have dinner on the table in no time.
- Plan meals in advance - Before I started planning my meals each week, I would spend half my cooking time standing in front of the pantry asking myself what I wanted to cook. By planning out your meals in advance, you skip that time consuming step altogether.
- Shred cheese yourself all at once - Since it’s more cost efficient to buy cheese in a block and shred it yourself, than buying it pre-shredded, shred the whole block and put it in a zip storage bag in the refrigerator. You get the same effect as you would if you bought the cheese already shredded.
- Keep meals simple - When you know time is going to be at a premium, try to keep meals as simple as possible and with as few ingredients as possible. The less you have to deal with the quicker you can get done and out of the kitchen.
- Prioritize by individual cooking times - Before you begin cooking, decide in what order you will need to cook each item so that they will all be ready at about the same time. You don’t want to first start on something that will only take 15 minutes to cook, when another menu item will take 30 minutes.
By implementing these 13 kitchen tips, you’ll be able to whip out a great home-cooked meal in no time. You’ll also be less tired because you have put less energy into preparing the meal.
Even when you enjoy cooking, as I do, there are times you simply cannot spend large amounts of time in the kitchen. These are things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me make the most of the time I do have in the kitchen.
I’m able to produce good and healthy meals for my family and still have quality time to spend with them too. It doesn’t get any better than that!
What ways have you found to cut time in the kitchen? I’d like to hear from you. I could always use some more tips for myself too.
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