How Do You Save Time in the Kitchen?

| 7/26/2011 11:40:52 AM

Tags: kitchen tips, question to readers, saving time,

Kitchen Timer

There's a reason lots of folks rely on pre-packaged and take-out foods: It's easy. If simply finding time to cook is one of the biggest hurdles to making healthy meals at home, then it must be a good idea to share time-saving strategies with one another. I'll get us started:

  • Time Saver #1: Batch-process your veggies. 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 the way you like to use them.
  • Time Saver #2: Soak beans overnight. This is a no-brainer and huge time-saver. Beans can be used in so many different ways, so why not soak some tonight, just in case?
  • Time Saver #3: Make double batches. Next time you build a lasagna or roll up enchiladas, make an extra pan and freeze it for a quick dinner sometime in the near future.
  • Time Saver #4: Use a slow cooker to eliminate time spent standing over the stove. Added benefit: This is a great way to use less expensive ingredients, such as tougher cuts of meat, that benefit from low-and-slow heat.

Your turn! Share your best time-saving tips below.

8/29/2011 11:33:10 AM

Chicken or beef stock is my staple for delicious, nutritious fast food. You can get a gallon of stock from one chicken or chicken frame. I like to do a double recipe! It takes half an hour of prep, and then you ignore it while it simmers for 24 hours with carrots, celery, onion. After skimming the fat, I freeze it by the quart and thaw them one at a time so I always have a quart of stock in the fridge. I sautee onion, add stock and whatever else I have around (vegetables, rice, legumes, meats). SO good.

8/26/2011 8:28:30 PM

If I make a batch of pancake batter, I make sure to add a little yogurt, buttermilk or kefir. That way it will last a long while in the fridge, and I can make more without going through all the mess.

8/12/2011 11:27:47 AM

The simplest and easiest way to save time in the kitchen is to clean up as you go. I find that when I have done some batch cooking or other large cooking chore, if I leave it too long, the dishes pile up and it's not cumulative, it's EXPLOSIVE the amount of dishes you then have to do. I find if I rinse and put it away or put it in the dishwasher right away, by the time my food is in the oven or crock, the kitchen is clean!

jill nussinow
8/12/2011 9:28:29 AM

While a crockpot may do wonders and help with time management, you cannot get dinner out quickly with a crockpot. On the other hand, a pressure cooker is fast and easy and can change your life in the kitchen. Whether you are cooking beans in less than half an hour or the same for a whole chicken. Additionally, you save energy as well as time. If you don't have a modern pressure cooker, you might be missing the best time saving kitchen appliance (cookware) available.

8/12/2011 9:24:30 AM

I try to do advance-prep whenever I can, with the fabulous benefit of the freezer. A few examples: when I open a can of chipotle peppers, I plop tablespoons-full onto plastic wrap, then seal in a bag and into the freezer they go. Same goes for chopped ginger. Any kind of peppers go into bags in the freezer after being de-seeded; their texture suffers a bit, but the flavor remains. Past-their-prime bananas go into the freezer until there are enough for muffins. When I make an overabundance of pesto, I alternately save it by the tablespoon-full as above, or roll it into a log (pretty easy to slice off what you need if you have a sharp knife).

8/12/2011 7:42:24 AM

When cooking a turkey or other large meat like roasts, we take the excess meat and put it in bottles, cover with hot gravy or drippings and pressure can them later in the evening. They are usually done by the time we go to bed and we have the main ingredient for another 3-5 meals right on hand, no need to defrost, just wrap in flatbread or tortillas, or serve on rolls or cook some rice or pasta to go with it.

8/6/2011 9:29:52 PM

kate thompson: I've been cooking bacon in the oven for years and battled the greasy mess, but never thought of using the broiler pan the way you describe, thanks!

kate thompson
8/2/2011 7:11:57 PM

When I buy sausage, I patty and freeze one batch, and crumble/cook another. Both stay in the freezer until needed for a recipe. Today I made pizza with whole wheat tortillas, the sausage, and veggies. Putting them together took about 5 min. Cooked in oven for 13 min. When I buy bacon, I cook the whole package (sometimes 2) in the oven inside the ceramic-coated broiler pan (not on top of it, but inside it, with the grill lid on so the grease doesn't spatter all over the oven). The drained bacon also goes in the freezer, and when we're ready to eat some, I put what we need in a skillet just until it's hot. Makes the whole bacon-egg breakfast thing really fast.

8/2/2011 12:37:58 PM

In the summer, I dust off the crock pot and I try to use my stove as little as possible. I adjust favorite recipes for the crock pot and then cook them....outside! I am lucky enough to have a screened porch, and this keeps all of the heat out of the house. An enclosed garage would work well too. I even make jams and preserves this way.

7/30/2011 7:12:18 AM

One quick handy idea when making a lot of egg salad is to mash the eggs with either a potato masher or ricer. It makes quick work of a long process. Of course you still have to peel them ;)

7/30/2011 6:32:36 AM

I am cooking for oly 2 but love to make my "fast foods". Large batches frozen into meal size portions work great for 2. Spaghetti sauce is the best, I put in everything I can think of to make it. With a food mill I cnn freeze my own tomato sauce or just freeze the tomatoes whole, if I have room, then thaw and put through mill without having to cook down or peel first, that saves tons of time but it takes up more room for whole ones but its lots faster. I freeze meal servings in flat containers then bag into a 2 gallon ziploc bag so they stack up neatly in my freezer drawer. I also do the same with my beef barley soup, this I put into single servings so we can do this even if one of us is out and it is a meal for one. I am still learning to make a good chicken noodle soup but will do the same way in single ervings, I am fortunate a friend has started raising meat chickens along with their egg layers so am getting about as local as possible since my lilfe style doesn't work for any animals except for cats and dogs.

kate phillips
7/29/2011 3:41:05 PM

for me, alone, juicing and raw foods eliminate heat and bother...for family cooking, i often bake late in the evening, while my husband reads to me, or early in the day. variety is a luxury, so repeat meals and leftovers do simplify. agree with the wash as you go method

pa gardner
7/29/2011 1:58:05 PM

I live alone and have physical challenges that zap energy and ability for meal preparation about half of each week. I like to make oven dinners, with 3 or 4 items all cooking at once, better than crockpot meals. I may have a 1-dish casserole meal, a meatloaf or roast, vegetables and dessert all cooking at once. Sometimes the vegetables cook with the meat, othertimes separately. Rice can be baked in quantity for 45min to 1hr plus, depending on white/brown and quantity. Breads or muffins can also be oven partners with planning. I eat one portion, refrigerate another 1 or 2, then freeze the rest in serving portions for ny not as good days. I'll do the same with stove-top soups, stews, and stir-frys, and of course crockpot meals too. I DO NOT chop veggies in advance, as some vitamins are lost once cut, and if I have a week of down days they may spoil before use. I also cook down leftover meat bones with onion and maybe carrots or celery etc., and freeze broth and remaining meat in "soup-ready" containers to add more veggies, herbs seasonings and noodles,potatoes or leftover rice for quick meals. A great way to use up the extra veggies after an oven meal the night before.

7/29/2011 1:51:58 PM

While I'm watching TV or a movie, I perform time-consuming kitchen tasks such as peeling garlic (which I then keep in the refrigerator in a glass jar for several weeks), cracking nuts, and shelling or snapping beans. Then these ingredients are all ready to go when I'm making dinner.

jeanette romine
7/29/2011 10:10:18 AM

This tip goes along with making an extra dish for the freezer. Do you have a recipe that you use often? As I'm measuring out the spices or dry ingredients for the one recipe Ill do the same for the extra by putting it in a snack baggie or a piece of foil that I will wrap up and label. Its great when your in a hurry.

pam p
7/29/2011 9:49:54 AM

Pressure cookers work wonders for quick one pot meals, great space savers for those of us with small kitchens and during the summer time and electric pressure cooker doesn't compete with our air conditioning.

7/29/2011 9:22:43 AM

Also, I highly recommend buying at least one very good multi-purpose knife. The amount of time and frustration you'll save is well worth the price. A mandolin is also a nice tool for bulk processing of veggies. I use this when I'm slicing my pile of carrots to fill my fridge container.

7/29/2011 9:10:40 AM

This goes along with pre-processing your veggies, but I've found that you just can't do that with a lot of veggies because they get dried out, shriveled up, etc. BUT I do keep a large container of diced onions in the fridge (which I use in pretty much everything I cook), and just refill it when it runs out, and I save a lot of time in food prep that way. Also, I peel and slice carrots and keep them in a container of water in the fridge - they stay nice and crisp and are ready to use.

margaret schaefer
7/27/2011 7:16:03 PM

Tonight cleaning the fridge was a fabulous dinner. First I sauteed onion and garlic from the garden, added wilted peppers, and "past their date" mushrooms. Found the first hot pepper from the garden, chopped fine. In went corn from the farmers market a week and a half ago, and a can of black beans. Dinner was ready to be heaped into a tortilla that had been in fridge for a while. A bit of cheese on top and dinner is ready. oh, yeah, I added some salsa from last year that had been open for a week or two.

frankie odom
7/27/2011 10:35:06 AM

Forget to take meat out for dinner? You can steam your meat and have it ready and tender in 30 minutes (or longer). I take my frozen chops or chicken out and put into a frying pan with a cup or so of water. Add spices and cover. Flip meat over about 15 minutes. Add water as needed.

frankie odom
7/27/2011 10:22:41 AM

I learned this trick from working in restaurants. I cook my roast overnight at 200 degrees. I put it in before I go to bed and take it out when I get up, usually 8 to 10 hours of cooking. I let it cool for about an hour and put it into the refrigerator. An hour or so before dinner, I put it back into the oven with onions and potatoes at 350 degrees. If you forget to put the potatoes in, you can pop them in the microwave and precook them and then drop them in the juices from the roast. The roast will be so tender. Also, during the winter months, it helps to warm the house. During the summer, it keeps you from heating the house up during the day.

7/27/2011 8:30:29 AM

mrsvickers: That's a great suggestion. And the smaller your kitchen is, the more helpful this trick will be. I know from experience! -Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News

7/26/2011 5:09:22 PM

The first thing I do when start cooking is to run a sink of hot soapy water so I can clean as I go. When the meal is done, only the dishes on the table need to be washed!

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