I just got yesterday’s oatmeal going on the stove.
No, we haven’t been waiting for breakfast for 24 hours – two-day oatmeal is one of the "shoddy shortcuts" I take every week in an attempt to save a few minutes in the kitchen.
Believe me, I spend enough time there already.
"Mommy, play with me!"
Wow, you’re over thinking all of this.
I love overthinking things, thankyouverymuch.
And truly, as much as one might say that saving 30 seconds shouldn’t matter, it does.
When a toddler is literally hanging on your leg, having things in arm’s reach is vital – since you can’t actually take those easy four steps across the kitchen without a 1-minute extraction process.
When you walk in the door about 5 minutes after you should have started lunch, saving 30 seconds on four different tasks makes the difference between being late for afternoon preschool and being right on time, barely.
When you’ve already called the family for supper and they’re nearly finished setting the table, spending two more minutes getting the salad veggies cut is kind of annoying to the rest of them.
I’m guessing I do at least two hundred tasks every day in the kitchen, if you count every item I take out, put away, cut, measure, pour, package, throw away…maybe well over two hundred, in fact.
If I can save 30-60 seconds on even 10% of what I do, that’s an extra 10-20 minutes to spend reading with my kids.
I know time doesn’t really work that way – I can’t really reclaim every half minute I spend in the kitchen in the form of 20 minutes of compressed time – but if I can hear this phrase one or two fewer times in a day, I’m happy: "Mom, are you done yet? You said ‘one more minute’ and I think it’s been a longggggg time…"
All the little things I do in the kitchen to cut corners and save time contribute to a happier family, and they enable us to Eat Well, Spend Less – AND not go absolutely crazy in the process.
Balancing Your Time
Kitchen Stewardship has always been built upon keeping the balance between the four pillars of stewardship:
- family’s health/nutrition
It’s never been an easy undertaking.
I suppose that’s why people actually bother to read my stuff, hoping for some magical ideas to do it all.
I have no magic bullet, only lots of little thoughts that hopefully come together in a sanity-saving manner.
Here’s a little excerpt from my upcoming eBook, Better Than a Box:
I’m going to be completely honest with you here. Please don’t close your reader or toss the book out the window, emailing me for a refund.
Using this strategy and these recipes will cost you. You will spend more time preparing meals than with the processed versions.
I’m so sorry.
There’s no getting around that.
And there isn’t.
If anyone tells you that making homemade cream of chicken soup takes zero time longer than buying Campbell’s, they’re either lying or delusional and don’t know what they’re saying.
But all is not lost!
There may not be a way for make-from-scratch cooking to magically take the same amount of time as crappy convenience foods, but there are plenty of strategies to implement to save time on the process.
You can get organized in the kitchen. Shed things you don’t need and consciously place the items you use most. (Did you know cluttered counters don’t actually help you work faster?)
Or you can skip steps, not wash your dishes, and strategically double up your cooking prep to save time later.
Since hopefully, cutting corners on nutrition isn’t an option for you, you’re not going to grab a pizza every time you feel pressed for time in the kitchen (um, every day!?!).
I’ve had a document on my computer for about two years called "shoddy shortcuts." It was this idea I had for a fun series/carnival, all about the tiny ways I save time and cut corners to make cooking and clean up go faster.
Someday I’ll still run it and ask all of you to join in, but for today’s "saving time" theme for the Eat Well, Spend Less series, I thought I’d give you a little peek at all the real life examples I’ve been collecting all that time:
1. Never Use the Food Processor for Just One Thing
Back when I wrote this one, my food processor was in the basement because I didn’t have room in my kitchen. I always made good use of it when I dragged it upstairs, like this:
- sliced potatoes to fry up for supper, rinsed
- chopped apples for 5-spice apple chutney from GNOWFGLINS (3 cups), rinsed
- minced garlic for burgers and to add to potatoes, scraped out
- Then the grand finale: after dinner I turned an entire beef heart into ground meat…then browned it in the pan I cooked potatoes in!
- This was all in my church clothes, because I didn’t take the time to change after 5:00 p.m. Saturday Mass (during which I MIGHT have planned out all that food processing in my head…).
There are many, many more examples of my food processor cheats that I’ll share with you someday. For the items above, I could have used a knife for the first three, but it would have taken longer. I could have used a mandolin to slice potatoes, knife-chopped the apples, a garlic press for the garlic and a meat grinder for the heart, but then I would have had many more dishes. I like my way!
2. creative storage solutions
When you make everything from scratch, you either buy and throw away lots of plastic bags (not so eco-friendly) or you wash lots of zippered bags and plastic boxes and glass jars. Here are just a few ways I avoid both dishes and waste:
- I used to put my homemade whole wheat tortillas, rolls, and pancakes in empty bread bags. Never throw away a bread bag! Now I don’t buy bread, so this idea is obsolete, but I try to use store packaging over once or twice when I can.
- I’ve been known to stick one leftover roll in another container, like a covered Pyrex that only has about 4 homemade granola bars left.
- I regularly hang onto empty boxes and bags and put the same item, like sliced or shredded cheese or crispy nuts, back in without washing them (the jar in the photo above is a great example – it always holds almonds, so I don’t wash it every time it’s empty). I even keep empties in the fridge when necessary.
3. Steam veggies on top of food
There’s something about pulling yet another pot out of the cupboard just to steam veggies for a dinner side dish that really irks me. I’m tempted to skip the veggies!
When I’m cooking pasta or boiling potatoes for mashed taters or cream of potato soup, I actually just balance my steamer basket over the pasta or potatoes, and two things cook in one pot.
The potatoes below are actually under the broccoli and cauliflower above, and I wouldn’t be opposed to using the same pot to boil eggs after dinner in preparation for school lunches (see next tip)!
4. Use pots more than once
- If I boil eggs or potatoes in a pot, I try really hard to use it for something else within a few hours. (If none of the eggs crack, I just rinse it and flip it upside down to dry.)
- When we’re having leftovers for lunch, I might quickly heat a small portion of soup for the kids and then use the same pot for something totally different, like grain-free spaghetti squash lasagna, for the adults.
5. the two-day oatmeal
I shared this strategy once a while back in the KS monthly newsletter, but it’s worth mentioning here too. Usually on Monday and Tuesday so I don’t have to think about breakfast at the beginning of the week, I soak a double batch of oats (5 c. for our family).
They get cooked Monday morning, and they just stay in the pot on the stove (or wherever, you know how I like to clutter my counters!) until Tuesday morning. We add another cup or so of water and reheat on the stove. Less prep work, fewer dishes. AND my husband can serve breakfast without any direction from me. Happy Katie.
If you have no idea what soaking oatmeal is, read HERE for more on that subject. (For those about to ask, I soak with buckwheat flour (GF) and homemade whey – I know about the new recommendations from Amanda Rose not to soak with dairy, but I’m just stubbornly sticking with what I’ve always done. My hunch is that the oats lacto-ferment a little bit, and I appreciate that.)
I know you’ve been singing the song, right? "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, Katie’s porridge in the pot, TWO days old!"
You’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head. Now go soak some oatmeal.
What shoddy shortcuts do YOU take to make real food cooking possible?
Check out the wisdom the rest of the EWSL team has to share about saving time in the kitchen, and I’ll do a round up of all the posts on Saturday, too:
- Aimee from Simple Bites
- Amy from Kingdom First Mom
- Carrie from Denver Bargains
- Katie from Good Life Eats
- Jessica from Life as MOM
- Mandi from Life Your Way
- Shaina from Food for My Family
- Tammy from Tammy’s Recipes