Monday Mission: Your Top 3 Time-Saving Strategies

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Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to increase your kitchen efficiency…and tell others your magic tricks too!

This is the last of the “top 3 tips” for the four pillars of Kitchen Stewardship:

Top 3 Time Saving Tips for Healthy Living

You can’t deny that cooking real food takes longer than convenience food – it’s called “convenience” for good reason!

But home cooks and nutritionist mamas all over find ways to make their time in the kitchen more stream-lined, less hectic, and simply more doable. I know there are some rock star tips out there, and I can’t wait to hear what you think saves you the MOST time (or sanity).

Just like the other Monday Missions this month, the real mission is to share the love – so type out your top 3 and then share in the comments on this post or with your own community of friends.

I’m sure you’re wondering what my top 3 are…and I am, too! I do sooooo many little bitty strategies to save time and sanity. Plus I’m not sure if I succeed! Am I sane? Am I? Am I? Honestly, the jury is out most days. Winking smile

But I wouldn’t ask you to do something I’m not willing to do myself, so I’ll buckle down and turn the thinker on….here goes!

My Top 3 Kitchen Time-Saving Strategies

Clock - free to use

Number One: Making in Bulk

Particularly on those crazy days when I feel like I have negative amounts of time, like I wake up behind the game already (you know those days?), I am never more thankful that I was able to cook ahead on other days. You know, the days where I can barely keep up. Winking smile

I make muffins, dressings, and granola in triple and quadruple batches, usually, and I almost always make either a double batch of soup or just a really big recipe (new soup coming tomorrow!). Soup leftovers are lifesavers, I’m telling you.

I make other things in double, too, but for whatever reason soup is more like the loaves and fishes than other dishes. It just stretches, without seeming like I’m in the kitchen all day or spending an arm and a leg on ingredients. (Like making 5 pounds of homemade chicken nuggets all at once and freezing them for lunches. Sure, it saves time, but you feel like you need to take out a loan to buy organic chicken breasts and it takes forever to get them all through the egging-breading system!)

winter soup 500x500 reg price

Did you grab this soup cookbook yet? I made one soup already last week and have two more planned for this week. I loooooove soup! This is a great, great book at $9.97. It comes with a free printable, “chicken stock cheat sheet,” when you buy here at KS.

Bottom line: making food in bulk saves time getting out ingredients, time doing dishes, and really helps make real food possible and also fast when you reap the benefits of your bulk cooking – that’s REAL convenience food, folks, when you gave yourself the gift of planning ahead!

Number Two: Doubling up on Dishes

Cheeseburger Soup (1) (475x317)

I feel like I’ve shared this tip a zillion times, but hopefully it’s a new idea for someone out there. Whenever I can, I try to use a dish, appliance or utensil, at least twice before adding to to Mt. Dishes.

For example:

  • If I’m measuring salt and baking soda, back into the drawer go my measuring spoons. Those are not dirty yet!
  • If I’m shredding cheese in a food processor, I’ll make chickpea wraps, blender hummus, or black bean burgers immediately after, no washing in between. Or I could shred cheese for that amazing cheeseburger soup pictured above, then make biscuits in the food processor right afterward. Nothing wrong with a little cheesy biscuits!! (Make the soup a double batch and watch time practically appear before your eyes!)
  • I use my blender double time a lot – for pancake batter and smoothies, to chop nuts and then make batter or smoothies, to puree strawberries for homemade fruit rolls and then make smoothies…you get the picture. So think about it – what do YOU use your appliances or maybe mixing bowls for that could double up without washing in between?

Number Three: Packing Lunches While Putting Away Dinner

cheesy beef and mac w veggies lunch fb

This tip is from my eBook The Healthy Lunch Box, and it’s priceless – but you have to remember to do it and be really on the ball. I don’t think I’ve done this one well since January kicked off, but I’m trying to get back on the horse, for real. So many snow days…

Anyway, the strategy is to utilize the time of putting away dinner to partially (or fully) pack school lunches. For example:

  • Before the spoon comes out of homemade ranch dressing, put a plop into each kid’s Lunchbot (also found on Amazon), and toss in some cut carrots and cukes leftover from dinner too. (That’s actually a Planetbox and an ECOlunchbox 3-in-1 pictured above.)
  • If you can use any of dinner leftovers for lunch, make it happen as you’re storing the leftovers rather than getting everything out again later that evening or the next morning!
  • If I’m smart – and I’m not – I’d wrangle my kids to help pack their own lunches right after dinner too, since that’s a time they’re mostly captive and fairly content. Smile

If I was more organized, I’d probably save more time…but I struggle with that. Here’s one of my attempts to get my kitchen organized with some decent tips for you!

125+ Gluten-Free Slow-Cooker Recipes

And while you’re thinking about slow cookers, check out this amazing roundup of gluten-free slow cooker recipes.

Pin it for later. 

Don’t forget to share your best efficiency tips in the comments!

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25 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Amanda says

    We’re gluten-free, so I grind most of our flour. Gluten free recipes use several different kinds of flours for each recipe so it gets time consuming getting all of the different flours out and hoping that I’m not low on one. When I have the grain mill out to grind flour, I try to make a huge batch of pre-made “convenience” mixes of recipes we use a lot (pancakes, muffins, tortillas, biscuits, etc.) I have them labeled with the directions to finish making so it takes less than 5 minutes to add the wet ingredients and get them cooking when the time comes. This saves so much time and also allows hubby to help without having to find the recipes.

    The second time saver is baking eggs and bacon. It saves so much time standing over the stove and frees up my hands to be doing something else. If I don’t have much to bake, I’ll use the small toaster oven. Lots of people don’t know that you can make great eggs for a breakfast sandwich in a muffin tin or even make “boiled” eggs in the oven.

  2. cindy says

    Does the 30% off for the crockpot books only work for the ebook??? trying to buy the print and wont except the code

    • says

      Yes, that’s true – sorry I didn’t clarify that! It’s impossible to add coupons to Amazon and much harder to offer discounts for print books because of the overhead. I do have the print Crock On! and it’s so nice to have…but not discounted. Sorry about that! :) Katie

  3. Karyn says

    I detailed meal plan seems to help me the most. I plan our breakfasts and dinners for the week (lunches are usual leftovers) and I also write down any thawing and prep work I need to so I don’t suddenly realize I was planning pot roast but never took it out of the freezer. I also try to do as much as I can the night before while I have husband’s help with the kids (put soup in the crockpot or mix dry ingredients up for pancakes in the morning, etc).

    • Karyn says

      Make that “detailed meal planning seems to help me the most” – toddler got foot stuck and I didn’t edit my comments!

  4. Pam says

    Meal planning has saved us money, but not any time. Not eating out means more time in the kitchen. Then there is the time spent doing the actual meal planning and list making.
    I already conserve dishes and serve stuff directly out of whatever it was cooked in. Double batching works great when baking, but for meals it just dirties double the dishes (think 2 crock pots instead of 1).
    Most everyone suggests having a day or partial day to cook ahead. I can’t seem to find such a day, or even a few hours.
    I still use food prep shortcuts that probably aren’t the healthiest but truly do save time. Like when I make potato soup I use a bag of frozen precut hash browns because it takes 20 seconds to open the bag and dump it in. Plus no clean up. Washing, peeling, and cutting potatoes plus clean up takes at least 30 minutes. Also the reason that I sadly still use instant mashed potatoes. Takes 6 minutes not 1+ hours. Precut frozen veggies are a big staple item here too.
    Honestly, the time factor has been my biggest stumbling block in our journey to healthier eating. I always look forward to suggestions on time saving tips, but haven’t found too many that work for us yet. Keep the ideas coming!

    • says

      It IS a tough one for sure, because where are you going to get more time?

      I have a couple thoughts for you:
      1. If you meal plan with meals that sort of ‘connect’ together, it can save you time – like making a big batch of rice one night and using it the next in a super simple casserole, using spinach a few times so you can buy a big bag and not waste it, or baking a few squash all at once (saving dishes) and using it 3x in the week.
      2. When I make double batches, I use a big pot so I am still only washing one pot, one knife, cutting board, etc. And later when we have the frozen leftover, oh! what a joy to have almost no dinner prep that day. Yeah, my crockpot isn’t quite big enough for doubles most of the time – but you might like Mama and Baby Love’s freezer-to-slow-cooker cookbook – she assembles double the meals in one sitting, then freezes them, and then it’s just “dump and turn on” for the slow cooker later on.
      3. Frozen veggies are a great shortcut! In fact, they may have more nutrients than the broccoli that I let sit in my fridge for a week since they are frozen so close to being picked. So don’t beat yourself up over that one. And if the hashbrowns have ingredients = potatoes, then that’s just a smart move too! I’m guessing the instant potatoes have other weird ingredients, but I’m not sure – and honestly, white potatoes aren’t the most nutrient-dense part of your meal anyway, so if you are making a meal with quality meat and another vegetable, instant mashed can’t be too terrible. It’s all about prioritizing WHICH shortcuts aren’t so bad for you. :) I also don’t peel my potatoes for mashed potatoes, so it’s just scrub, whack into a couple chunks (no dicing here) and boil. They don’t take much longer than bakers.

      Hope that gives you a few more ideas! Keep up the good work!! :) Katie

      • Pam says

        I thought I had heard that about frozen veggies somewhere before :) My frozen taters are just potatoes and water. The instant ones have a bit of junk, but I buy the ones with the least amount of junk. And yes, we have meat, a starch, a veggie, and a fruit with almost every dinner. The meal “connecting” sounds like something I may be able to do. Thanks for the tips!

      • Tammy says

        Hey ladies, thanks for all the good ideas.(Double use on the appliances, I do “reuse” my sheet pan that I cook bacon in to make the potatoes for breakfast or french fries or make a nice “bacony” tasting gravy for another time). Cooking a pound of bacon even if it’s not for breakfast also makes for that hmmm, I feel like a BLT possible without the wait or mess. I also make a huge batch of muffin mix which sits on the counter, waiting for the liquids and mix ins, seasonal fruits are flash frozen and waiting for use. I shop in bulk,prep and flash freeze for the month, sometimes with my grand children’s help. I am lucky enough to have two freezers out in the garage. During basketball season we have late games 2-3 times a week which makes for hectic late evenings, the last things I want to do is spend money on fast foods or find myself trying to get something on the table when we’re walking in from the game. During the Super bowl, I washed, separated and preseasoned all meat purchases. I made four meatloaves, 2 meals worth of meatballs, browned 4 pounds of ground beef and chopped onions, green & red peppers and potatoes. I also made 16 cups of brown rice and 16 white rice. Which I pack into meal portion sizes in a ziplock freezer bag (flatter storage in the freezer which I do reuse) sometimes with the accompanying meat. My version of freezer meal packets. I also have mini loaves of quick breads in the freezer for “drop by entertaining”snacks and frozen veggies are my friend. I “morphed” the roasted chicken from Saturday into a pot of chicken vegetable soup for my husbands lunch and for after school. I cook the pasta of choice under al dente and put it in a plastic bag to add to the bowl or container before adding the soup for reheating. I found that adding pasta to the soup lead to “mushy” pasta that got complaints from folks who will mostly eat anything as long as it tastes good. I make muffins and flash freeze them for quick morning bites and after school snacks. I try to make enough sourdough pancakes and waffles to last the month,but they never do..smh. I picked up a tidbit from Jamie Oliver about mashed potatoes. Most cooks peel and boil the potatoes in water,drain them then add milk. Meanwhile the nutrients are thrown away with the water, don’t peel them and boil them in milk one less step all the nutrients. I also use different bouillons or stocks mixed half in half with milk to add extra flavor. Don’t be afraid to use the microwave or your crock pot (Thanksgiving) to “cook” mashed potatoes. For me “stove top” mashed potatoes and cooking are for “slower experimental days”. This morning I took one of the meatloaves from the freezer, cut 4 stalks of celery in half, two carrots,1 whole onion and 3 cloves of chopped garlic. I put the celery stalks and carrots crosswise in the crock pot and placed the meat loaf on top added in the onions and garlic on top and around the sides. The celery and carrots keep the meat loaf from “sitting” in the rendered fat. Put the crock on slow, when I return home I will remove the celery,carrots & onions, puree them and add them to a garlic/chipolte bouillon mix for gravy while the mashed potatoes are cooking in the microwave. With the addition of a salad, you have mealtime with no stress.

  5. Abi Craig says

    I have to say that your three are probably my top ones as well. One small thing I have learned to do is label my homemade “mix and potion” containers with the recipe or instructions, so I don’t have to dig for the recipe or remember what website I found it on when I run out. I have put labels on my baking powder container, sunflower butter jar, vanilla jar, stevia extract (that bottle’s too small for all the instructions, so I labeled it with the website), all-purpose cleaner and laundry detergent. I’m always wishing for more time-savers and short-cuts, so will look forward to everyone’s suggestions.

  6. Molly says

    I am not a good cook, and have felt like a failure for years now in pursuing the “real food” eating habits — I just can’t cook fancy, or with fancy ingredients, and I feel like a lot of the real food culture (especially when you are receiving it from foodie blogs) requires a creativity in the kitchen that I don’t think I’ll ever have.

    Therefore, I have subscribed to the KISS method of real food which, of course, means “keep it simple, stupid.” I have two kids three and under and a husband who eats like them — I put no more than three ingredients in our main dish! Often, there are only three ingredients – or items (like a piece of homemade bread or a tortilla) – on our plates altogether. I did this to save my sanity and it has inadvertently saved me time. There’s not as much to worry about and not nearly as much multi-tasking or recipe reading in the kitchen.

    Even better, since I have left the multi-ingredient, multi-step recipes behind, I have had less complaints from the table! When I cook with less, I find there is less to mess up — huge for someone like me who really doesn’t belong in the kitchen!!!

    Also, since we eat a lot of leftovers, the “plainer” I cook something to start with, the more I can get from it later…plain chicken roasted turns into burritos the next night turns into chicken in pasta after that and then finally into soup with the broth. Same goes for ground beef and rice! Definitely a time saver.

    Thanks for the post!

    • BeccaM says

      Anyone can belong in the kitchen! It sounds like you’re finding some ways that work for you. I love being able to reuse meat in several dishes. That really saves time!

      I used to dislike cooking and sometimes feel like a failure, but in the last year, when I started giving myself freedom to experiment and be released from using recipes, I suddenly LOVE it! :-)

    • says

      You know, I hate to disagree with you Molly, and it’s okay if you dislike being in the kitchen, but I’d say anyone savvy enough to use meat and recreate 2-3 other meals out of it IS pretty skilled in the kitchen! Sounds like you figured out how to belong there in spite of yourself. 😉

      Keep up the good work – your family is eating real food, enjoying it, and you don’t hate cooking every time you think about it. Yay! :) Katie

      • Molly says

        Well, the people have gotta eat, as it goes! My role as cook in this household comes mostly out of necessity; unless, of course, we wanted to go broke buying convenience foods. That’s where the “stewardship” part of following KS comes in!

        And the good thing is that everything has the opportunity to be a grace-filled learning process, if we let it! For me, that has been cooking — a humbling process indeed!

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to our comments. :)

  7. BeccaM says

    Here are a few things I do that I *think* help save time… :-)

    1. I buy 2 pack whole chickens at BJ’s (like Sam’s) and roast them. It’s as easy as opening the package, sprinkling a few spices, and baking! And I have enough leftovers to put in a second supper recipe, or to use for sandwiches the next day (not to mention the chicken stock from the bones).

    2. I do things the night before: I have a menu plan, so I check out what I am making the next day, and soak everything that needs soaking and defrost stuff on the counter or fridge overnight.

    3. I freeze leftovers in small containers so if we run out of leftovers for my husband’s lunches, I usually have something I can pull out of the freezer at 11 pm at night when I am pulling out my hair wondering what he can have for lunch :-) (Of course, most of the time I am in a rush and don’t label it, thinking “Of course I will remember that such and such is in there…” and of course, I don’t, so it’s a mystery lunch for my husband… “You’ll find out by lunchtime, when it defrosts, Honey!” :-) )

  8. says

    Here are My Top 3 Time-Savers! This is a great series–I wish I’d been able to write posts for the other topics in their weeks, but my whole family has been sick all month with bronchitis, our most lingering illness ever. :( We are finally getting better now…and I am proud to say that we only ordered food delivered ONCE during the whole ordeal, thanks to a stocked-up pantry and some good stuff in the freezer!

  9. casey says

    I just reused my blender last night! I was making cauliflower mac ‘n cheese and I’d blended the cauliflower and some other stuff to amke sauce. I had some pre-cooked sausage I needed to use up before it went bad so I then used the blender to chop it and threw it in with the pasta.
    I often reuse my cuisinart – depending on what I’m making sometimes I do rinse it or wipe it out with a damp towel.

  10. Kelly says

    I don’t just reuse pans etc — I put them in the fridge and use them a few days in a row. Most of what I put in the food processor, (fruit & veggies) if I rinse it in hot water soon enough it’s essentially clean. I also reuse my meal containers a few times before washing. If leftover food is good for a few days in the fridge, the bits left in the container are okay too.

    When I get recipes from the internet I save them on my phone. That’s handier than the computer or my recipe book. But the cabinet door would be even handier for my favorites, and I’ve gotta write the recipe on my baking powder and pumpkin pie spice. I also need to write down the ones I’ve made up and memorized, because all that remembering probably slows me down.

    I’ve always cooked enough to have plenty of leftovers, but I’ve decided to start cooking meat for a month at a time. 3-4 pounds each of a few different meats, freeze them and then every meal I just need to pull out a package of meat and pick two frozen veggies. I mostly eat the same things all the time, so that makes it easy. The silver lining of food sensitivities.

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