My time-saving kitchen tips

March 15, 2018 at 10:20 pm (Cooking tips, How to cook, Monthly menu plan)


There is never enough time. I thought life was busy before, but now that I have a toddler I really need all the extra time I can get. I’ve been striving to optimize our cooking routines, so that we spend less time planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. I’m still struggling, but here are a few strategies we’ve started using to save time in the kitchen:

  1. Pre-chopping seasoning staples like garlic, ginger and olives and freezing them:
    1. About once a month Derek chops up a huge batch of garlic and freezes it in this silicon mini ice cube tray (the small size). I think he usually does about 4 heads of garlic at a time, but it depends on the size of the head. He peels the garlic cloves by hand then chops them in our mini chopper. Each cube is about 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic, which is somewhere between 1 and 2 medium cloves of garlic.
    2. Also about once a month I chop up a bunch of ginger and freeze it in another silicon ice cube tray. I have a different ice cube tray I got for this purpose, but I don’t love it.
    3. Rather than pitting and chopping kalamata olives when we need them for a recipe, Derek will buy a large amount and pit them and chop them all at once, then we freeze them in glass jars in the right amount for pasta puttanesca or greek green beans. I’d love to just buy pre-pitted kalamata olives, but the ones we can buy have tasted pretty bad.
    4. Any other idea for staples I could prep and freeze in advance? Maybe onions?
  2. Making sauces in large quantities and freezing them. Specifically:
    1. I now make Annie’s Goddess dressing in large batches (4 cups at once) and freeze it in small jars (about 1/2 cup per jar).
    2. We now make a quadrupled recipe of sesame noodle sauce and freeze the extra 3 servings in small glass jars.
    3. I’d really like to find a stir-fry sauce I could make in advance and freeze, but I don’t have one yet. Any suggestions? Also I’d love another dressing recipe to go on salad or buddha bowls.
  3. Freezing staples:
    1. Whenever I make beans or whole grains or porridge I make extra and freeze the extras in glass jars.
    2. Whenever organic red, orange, or yellow bell peppers are on sale I buy a ton (maybe 8 to 12?) and roast them in the oven, then peel them and freeze them in these “bombs“.
    3. Other ideas for other veggies I could cook in advance and freeze? I do sometimes make pumpkin or squash or sweet potato puree and freeze the extras for pumpkin chia pudding.
  4. Freezing whole recipes or even meals when possible:
    1. When I make quinoa spinach croquettes I make a large batch and freeze them for quick weekday breakfasts.
    2. When I make beluga lentils and beets for dinner I freeze a container of sliced beets and lentils. Then to make a full dinner I just have to wash some salad greens and pull out a jar of Annie’s dressing from the freezer. If I have extra time I will toast some walnuts or pepitas to go with it.
    3. I’ve been making a really big batch of granola and then serving it for breakfast on rushed mornings (often mixed with muesli). I leave half out and freeze half, so that the nuts don’t go rancid.
    4. Other dishes I make extra of and freeze: lentil soup, caulitots, banana pancakes, hummus, baked oatmeal, black bean and sweet potato burritos, my Mom’s tofu chili.
  5. Relying more on frozen and jarred veggies.
    1. So far I’ve been making greek green beans with frozen green beans, frozen dill, jarred tomatoes, and my frozen garlic and kalamata olives (see above). All I have to do is chop up an onion, so it’s pretty fast.
    2. I’d love more such ideas for freezer dinners, but that’s my only one so far.  Of course, I do make use of frozen peas, corn, edamame and spinach as well. But those aren’t really whole meals.
  6. Going simpler. I’m trying to make simpler dinners, but it goes against my nature. It’s very much a work in progress. Specific suggestions are welcome.
  7. Setting things up in my instant pot in the morning so that they are done when we walk in the door in the evening. I haven’t really managed to use my instant pot to make recipes (mostly because Alma doesn’t yet like most “mixed” dishes). But I have used it to have lentils ready when we get home, or sweet potatoes, or brown rice.
  8. Using a queueing approach to menu planning. I’m trying to reduce time spent menu planning by using a new strategy of keeping track of what I make in a queue. Then when we’re menu planning I can just start at the top of the queue (with the oldest items) and pull off anything that looks good.

That’s it so far. Anyone else have other suggestions for me on how to save time in the kitchen?

Tips I’ve tried that haven’t worked so well for us:

  • Chopping up vegetables in bulk at the beginning of the week. They seem to get old tasting very quickly. I don’t understand why other people say this works well for them.
  • Roasting an extra tray of vegetables whenever we’re having roasted vegetables for dinner. Somehow no one likes the leftover roasted veggies as much as the fresh ones.

 

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2 Comments

  1. 2hours20people said,

    They sell frozen diced onions, so you should be able to freeze them yourself.

    Do you have any blue apples? They will help keep your cut up veggies (and non cut up veggies) fresher.

    We’ve been working out menu planning too. I have a google spreadsheet for the month with a slot for breakfast and dinner for each day (on Keto I only eat two meals a day). Once a month I fill in the calendar with what I want to eat. Then I have a tab for each recipe. Each tab also has the ingredients needed for the recipe separated out. Once a week I make a list that has all of the ingredients needed for the week together, and we shop from that list. In the past we’ve created a list that has everything we buy by where it is in our path through the store, but it’s been awhile since we’ve used that strategy.

    I used to be able to buy and eat frozen dinners, but I have yet to find one I can eat on my diet.

  2. austingardener said,

    When I open a can of coconut milk I use maybe 1/4 of the can and freeze the rest in ice cube trays.

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