I love to cook, which is pretty obvious when you see my recipe page, but even I know that there are always evenings when I barely have time to get dinner ready. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can reduce your time in the kitchen and make it easier to put together healthy, delicious meals for you and your family!
1. Prep Meals Ahead
This is the number one thing that I do to save time in the kitchen. Weekdays are usually pretty hectic for us, so I tend to either cook a couple of dishes on Sunday night, prep ingredients in advance when I do have the time, or use a slow cooker.
I use our slow cooker at least once a week to make hearty dishes like Teriyaki Beef and Vegetables, Beef Bean Chili, and Chicken Cacciatore. All I have to do is set my alarm clock 15 minutes early in the morning and then toss all the ingredients in the pot before I head out the door. While I’m at work, or running around doing errands, the slow cooker is doing all the work for me. It’s also great for nights when Garrett and I get home at different times and aren’t able to have dinner together – it’s warm and ready for whenever you get home.
2. Place Things Within Reach
Creating an efficient work space in your kitchen is key to reducing your time cooking. We’ve got a very tiny kitchen, so everything really is within arms reach, but if you’re always having to run across the kitchen to grab this and that, you might want to rearrange a few things.
I installed a spice rack on the wall near our stove and keep the oils and vinegars in the cupboard above. Pots are in the cupboard right across from the stove and pans are in the drawer underneath. If you like making oatmeal for breakfast, keep the ingredients in a cupboard near the stove. This principle even works in your refrigerator – buy clear plastic bins to house all the ingredients for making sandwiches for lunches. When you’re ready to put them together, just pull out the whole plastic bin instead of hunting down each ingredient in the fridge.
3. Do All the Veggie Cutting at Once
I find that when we have cut veggies already ready in the fridge, we’re much more likely to munch on them for snacks or toss them into salads, sandwiches and frittatas.
To save some time on this, I’ll chop up all the veggies at once for a couple of days worth of salads and such. If I already have the cutting board out one night while I’m making dinner, I’ll chop up some extra veggies for snacks while I’m at it.
4. Cook and Freeze Meat in Portions
Buy a value pack of ground beef, ground turkey, venison or stewing beef and brown up the whole package. You can freeze it in smaller quantities and then heat it up to add to a quick meal.
If marinating meat is your thing, separate meats into different portions and freeze along with a marinade. As your meat thaws, it will marinate in the scrumptious juices. This way you don’t have to take extra time to marinate your meat.
I also buy value packs of chicken breasts, bake them and the freeze them into portion-sized bags to thaw for lunches. They are a great addition to any salad or sandwich.
5. Keep Your Knives Sharp Dull knives are not only dangerous, but also inefficient as they make it harder to chop up your ingredients. Sharpen your knives at home or take them in to be done on a regular basis. You’ll notice a huge improvement with your chopping efficiency!
6. Make Double Batches and Freeze the Extras
If I’m already going to the trouble of making a dish that can be frozen, I’ll usually double the batch and toss some in the freezer. It’s really handy to be able to pull out a frozen meal in the morning and then just pop it in the oven when I get home. You get all the convenience of a frozen dinner, but you know that you’re feeding your family something with good quality ingredients and no preservatives.
I even make Whiskey’s Beef Stew Dog Food and freeze it in portions to thaw out during the week. It’s a great supplement to his dry food!
7. Cook Once, Eat Twice – Use Leftovers to Make New Meals!
Sometimes you can take the leftovers from one meal and make them into something even better the next night, or later that week.
- If we have taco salads one night, I’ll save the meat to make BBQ Nachos on the weekend.
- A ham dinner can be used to make a Cheesy Ham and Rice Bake the next night.
- Leftover grilled chicken is great for Chicken Black Bean Quesadillas.
8. Use Shortcuts
I would love to live in a world where I had all the time I needed to make sauces and spice mixes from scratch, but sometimes you just need to do shortcuts – and there is nothing wrong with that.
Many shortcuts are just as good as the homemade stuff anyways! I love to use this Passata as tomato sauce for many of my dishes. I keep our pantry stocked with boxes of beef broth, slow cooker beef stew seasoning mix and cans of soup.
9. One Pot Meals
One pot meals = less dishes 🙂
10. Clean While You Cook
I’m guilty of not washing dishes as I go, but I do try to put things away right after I use them. If I’m starting a recipe, I pull out all the ingredients that I need and then put them away after I’ve added them in. It also helps me to remember what ingredients I’ve already added.
Sometimes, I’m on the ball and I’ll wash the dishes as I go. Casserole is in the oven for 30 minutes? Use that time to wash up all the prep dishes, clean the counters and set the table.