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Tips to Save Time Cooking

I recently revealed that on a fairly average week, we spend a little less than 13 hours cooking.  That's a lot for some families, but there are ways to spend your time in the kitchen efficiently and still prepare whole food driven meals.  Here are some tips:

  • Prepare or pack lunch the night before, ideally as you are cleaning up dinner leftovers.
  • Prep veggies for the week on a single day.  Cut apples can be kept fresh in the fridge with a splash of lemon juice, carrot sticks can be kept upright in a little water, washed dry greens will keep for a few days in a barely closed container.
  • Build bread baking into your weekend routine.  Maybe start it before brunch, allow to rise during, and bake after.  Or, start on saturday night, rise overnight in the fridge, and bake on Sunday morning.
  • Unload or load the dishwasher as breakfast is cooking.  I typically put a pot of oatmeal on the stove, heat up water for french press, and then unload the dishwasher as those are cooking.  By the time I sit down five minutes later, the kitchen is ready for the day.
  • Keep knives sharp.  Sharp knives cut better, saving you time and making the task more satisfying.
  • Plan simple meals.  Home made cooking need not be complicated.  Soups are great simple meals often made in one pot.  Vegetables can be roasted alongside a simply seasoned serving of meat or tofu and served with a salad.
  • Use leftovers.  Eat them as is for lunch or transform into the next night's meal.
  • Eat fresh raw foods.  Sides at dinner are often cut fruit or veggies.  Lunch usually includes a whole piece of fruit.  Snacks are nuts, dried fruit, or veggie sticks.  Not only are raw foods easy to prepare, they are great ways to get vitamins and fiber in your diet.
  • Use high heat quick cooking methods.  Trim foods into bite sized portions and cook over high heat for a stir fry.  Invest in a pressure cooker to cut roasting and bean cooking times by half or more.  Use a hot pan and sauté individual servings of meat or tofu.
  • Try quick cooking grains.  Pasta, quinoa, and couscous can all be made in under 30 minutes.  Look for whole grain varieties to get a little more fiber in your diet.
  • Double your recipes.  Freeze the extra portion for a quick heat and eat dinner sometime later.  This works especially well for soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • Practice.  The more often you trim carrots, peel potatoes, or bone chicken, the faster you become.  As you become more proficient at cooking, it will also become more fun.

What helps you save time cooking?