There’s a reason lots of folks rely on prepackaged and takeout foods: It’s easy. If simply finding time to cook is one of the most common obstacles to making healthy meals at home, then sharing our best timesaving ideas with each other sounds like a great idea. For starters:
Timesaver #1: Batch-Process Produce. When you get home from the grocery store or farmers market, take a few minutes to rinse, spin, chop and properly store your fruits and veggies so they’ll be ready to use.
Timesaver #2: Soak Beans Overnight. This is a no-brainer. Beans can be used in so many different ways, so why not soak some tonight, just in case?
Timesaver #3: Make Double Batches. Next time you build a lasagna, roll up enchiladas or layer a vegetable gratin, make an extra pan and freeze it for a quick dinner in the near future.
Timesaver #4: Use a Slow Cooker to eliminate time spent standing over the stove. Added benefit: Using a slow cooker is a great way to make use of less-expensive ingredients that benefit from low-and-slow heat, such as tougher cuts of meat, and beans and rice.
Your Best Timesaving Kitchen Tips
• For recipes that she uses time and time again, Jeanette Romine of Libory, Neb., measures out the required spices and dry ingredients and stores them in labeled packets for later use.
• Frankie Odom of Middleburg, Fla., learned a trick working in restaurants. Put a roast in the oven before bed (at 200 degrees Fahrenheit), then pop it into the fridge in the morning. An hour before dinner, put it back in the oven (350 degrees) and add potatoes and onions. She says the roast ends up wonderfully tender, with the extra perk of heating up the house in winter and preventing it from getting too hot during the daytime in summer.
• Whenever Lindsay Koehler of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sees an opportunity to do advance prep, she seizes it — with the help of the freezer. When she opens a can of chipotle peppers or chops ginger, for example, extras get divvied up by the tablespoonful, and into a freezer bag they go. Past-their-prime bananas accumulate in the freezer until there are enough to bake muffins. Pesto gets frozen in a log, then sliced off with a sharp knife to use as needed.
• Anytime she cooks a turkey or other large roast, Elizabethe Walton in Palmyra, N.Y., puts the extra meat into jars covered with the drippings, so she can pressure-can it after dinner. The job is usually done by bedtime, and the family then has the main ingredient for several wraps, sandwiches and rice or pasta dishes ready to go, with no need to defrost.
• Jill Nussinow of Santa Rosa, Calif., thinks pressure cookers are “fast and easy and can change your life.” She says without one, you’re missing out on “the best timesaving kitchen appliance available.” (Oh boy, do we agree! See Choosing a Pressure Cooker. — MOTHER)
• Breakfast is a snap at Kate Thompson’s house in Dyersburg, Tenn. When she buys sausage, she patties half of it up, then crumbles and cooks the other half. Both portions go into the freezer until needed for a recipe. When she buys bacon, she cooks the whole package in a broiler pan in the oven and freezes it, too. She says reheating the meat in a pan is quick and “makes the whole bacon-egg breakfast thing really fast.”
• Heather Franklin keeps a large container of diced onions in her refrigerator in Houston pretty much all the time, because she uses them in virtually every dish.
• When she’s watching TV in Homewood, Ill., Ginger Li performs time-consuming tasks, such as cracking nuts, shelling beans or peeling garlic. These often-used ingredients are then ready to go whenever she needs them.
• Annie Sires (La Plata, Md.) and Danielle Vickers (Wylie, Texas) are both big believers in the timesaving power of cleaning up as you go.
• Laura Simons of Aurora, Colo., cooks her carbs early in the week so she’ll have gallon-sized bags at the ready of brown rice, pasta, potatoes, quinoa and more. That way she can make about any dish in the spur of the moment.
• Kathleen Phillips of Mansfield, Pa., eats a lot of raw and juiced meals to save time, but when she needs to be in the kitchen for a while to make baked goods, her husband sits down and reads to her to pass the time. Awww.