10 tips to reduce time in the kitchen
Demands on your time are high. Between work, appointments, getting kids to and from school and to other activities, it’s hard to find time for yourself or your family. The best way you can get time back during a week is by being more productive. I have found meals are a great opportunity to save time. Sure, there is the option to eat out, but that’s pricey and may not always be the healthiest option. Instead, here are a few ways to make hot, healthy meals at home and still have time to enjoy your family or your own time. Productivity adds up, the same meal can take 30 minutes with a plan or 1.5-2 hours without. Over the course of 7 days, if you don’t have a plan for lunches and dinners, that is an extra 14-21 hours lost!
Here are 10 ideas that I have found help to improve productivity around meals:
- Have a meal rolodex: In our house, we have a 10-15 rotating dinner recipes that are staples. I like them, the kids like them and they are straight forward to cook midweek. I have gone so far as to list out all the ingredients in a spreadsheet so that I can quickly create a shopping list (it even pre-populates the shopping list! #excelgeek).
- Meal plan: before you do groceries, sit down and map out the meals of the week. Be as specific as possible. You may have 3-4 options for breakfast that work each week, but it doesn’t hurt to know exactly what you’re making and when. If you’re like me, thinking first thing in the morning is hard!
- Do some meal prep on the weekend: I know, weekends are your time, but a bit of time on the weekend saves hours midweek. We will cut veggies, do some simple cooking (boil eggs, sauté onions), and measure out ingredients so that midweek is just assembly and cooking. If you want to make the prep process feel like your time, throw on a podcast, some tunes, or stream a show while you slice, dice, and mix. The other great benefit is less washing up during the weekdays.
- Prep without kids: This may not be the most popular comment, but nothing slows things down like having the kids around. Wait for the kids to go to bed or while they are out at an activity before you start to prepare for the week to come. This might sound lame to many, but we will often meal prep over a glass of wine on a Friday night. Date nights have changed a bit.
- Leverage the prep: Make 2-3 recipes with the same prepared ingredients. Fajitas, stir fries, salads, and pasta can all use julienned peppers and onions, and the same ingredients can make a great side for barbecued steak or chicken.
- Make more than you need and reheat: If you liked it the first time for dinner, why not eat it again later in the week? Lava Lunch’s heated totes make it easy for you to reheat your meal in the morning and keep it hot for the day. If you are someone who doesn’t like leftovers, it may be how you are reheating the meal. Microwaves can make food texture rubbery and reduce the flavor of the original meal. To maintain flavors and textures, reheat the meal the way it was cooked (warm up a pasta in a saucepan, roast chicken in the oven, etc.).
- Transform the leftovers: I get it. There are people out there that don’t like leftovers no matter how they are reheated. Fear not, we have a solution – use your leftovers to create another meal. We tend to have a roast on Sunday which can then become the protein for sandwiches, salads, or pasta during the week.
- Limit the dishes: Washing dishes takes time too. Mid-week we tend to do more “one-pot wonders” (casseroles, stir-fries, pastas, soups) and save the more complex meals for the weekend. You can also leverage the downtime during cooking to clean. Waiting for onions to go translucent? Take that time to clean your prep dishes. Your future self will thank you!
- Get the kids involved: We all had children so we can put our feet up while they bring us a beer and we watch the game or stream a show right???? Maybe not, but why not get them to help where they can. Our little ones are young but they already like to help. Bonus benefit: we have found our children tend to be willing to try more of the food they prepare which increases the probability of them eating a health and balanced meal. I wouldn’t say they make meal prep quicker yet, but we like to think this is an investment for the future!
- Keep the kitchen clean: I know I am asking you to do more work with our last tip, but it helps. A tidy kitchen, or at least tidy work area will make you more productive as you can access all the tools you need quickly to make a hot, tasty meal for your family.