I hear it a lot: I'm too busy to cook! I have no time to prepare meals! I hate the kitchen! If you identify with any of these messages, read on—there are a few things you can do to make cooking more fun, without spending hours in the kitchen.
1. Plan ahead, make a grocery list, and stick to it.
This will be helpful when you hit the market after work at 7pm and you're too tired to think about dinner.
2. Create a list of items that you use regularly and keep it updated.
If you have a regular inventory and rotate it efficiently, you'll save time and avoid the stress of last minute shopping. You'll also be able to plan your buying efforts better and take advantage of bargains.
3. Chop once, use twice.
As you cook Monday's dinner, chop up the onion and the peppers you'll need for Tuesday’s dinner. When you cut up carrots for tomorrow’s lunch, cut enough for the whole week. You’ll be thankful for it the next day!
4. Stock up.
Certain products like rice, millet, kasha, beans, seeds, nuts, and dried fruits (for starters!) can be bought in bulk. These store well and make life easier if you've got them handy. You won't have to run to the supermarket every time you want to try a new recipe. Besides, price per pound for these is much lower than the price for the same goods prepackaged and wrapped. So buying in bulk saves you time and money!
5. Organize your kitchen.
There's no better way to save time in the kitchen than to have easy access to all of your tools and ingredients. Plot out the storage space in your kitchen and create an inventory of all the stuff you need to find a place for, then create a system. One good organizational strategy is to put like items together. Keep sections for the most frequently used items close to the central work areas like near the stove, sink and refrigerator. If you have peripheral storage, like in a kitchen island or breakfast room, reserve it for items you use less frequently.
6. Put your freezer to work.
Fill your freezer with some veggies, prepared side dishes, and even a healthy frozen meal for those days that don’t go as planned.
7. Use short cuts.
If you're on an extremely busy schedule and want to cook a homemade meal instead of ordering take out, don’t be afraid to use convenience items, like pre-chopped vegetables or minced garlic.
8. Clear your counter!
Before you begin to cook, clear off kitchen counters, empty the dishwasher, and pull out all of the ingredients you need. These steps will make dinner preparation less chaotic and help it go faster and smoother.
9. Make sure you have good quality knives and keep them sharpened.
This will speed up cutting herbs, scallions, and other foods.
10. Cook once, eat twice.
Never let your efforts go to waste! Cook enough to eat and have some leftovers for the next day or so. You can also freeze part of the meal and warm it up on another night when there is an emergency. This is a great time and money saver.
11. Keep clearing trash.
As you’re cooking, collect all your “trash” in a small container or bag by the sink rather than going back and forth to the kitchen trash can. You can empty it out when cooking is done.