Here are your six kitchen time-saving tips:
You may think you can't possibly have time to reorganize your kitchen, but just think about the time you waste when you find yourself frantically looking for that spatula when the pancakes need a flip or when you have to pull out all your pots and pans to find a single Tupperware lid.
Spend one evening (or two, if you need it), properly organizing your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, cabinets and kitchen drawers. Throw out expired canned, bottled or packaged goods and arrange your food items so they are easy to find when you need them.
Place all pots and pans in one area, baking dishes and mixing bowls in another, and keep your utensils, silverware and dishware in order and easy to access. Make your job even easier by using drawer and shelf organizers designed to keep your kitchen neat.
Sit down on Sunday and write out your meal plan for the week. Instead of waiting until 4pm on weekdays to wonder what you are going to make for dinner, plan a week in advance.
By planning your meals, you can make a shopping list with needed ingredients so you don't have to run to the store at the last minute or resort to spending a fortune on delivery or take-out meals. Even better, keep your shopping list tacked to your refrigerator and write down items as soon as you need them. This will keep you from having to pore back through the kitchen trying to remember.
At a loss for meals to cook? Get your family in on the planning action – let your spouse and kids take charge of the kitchen one or two nights a week. This means mom gets a much needed break and the rest of the family gets to hone their cooking skills.
Take advantage of frozen foods. Frozen fruits and vegetables have more nutrients than canned goods and, best yet, they are already chopped, diced or sliced. Frozen waffles and other breakfast goods can make your morning meals fast and easy (and your kids don't care if their French toast came out of the oven or toaster). Frozen pizzas are economical, fun for the kids, and can be on the table in 25 minutes or less. And frozen desserts give you the ability to give your weekday dinners a sweet finale that doesn't require you to pull out your flour and rolling pin. Just be sure to read the labels and opt for products with the least additives, preservatives, sodium and saturated or trans fat.
If you dread even the thought of chopping, whisking or stirring ingredients for the family meals, let your kitchen appliances do the work for you.
Food processors have a variety of blades that make short work of your slicing, dicing and pureeing needs. Blenders today can do everything from chop nuts to make soups. Your stand-up mixer can whisk eggs or cream, blend cake batter or even knead pizza dough – giving you a chance to do other steps in your meal prepping.
As for speeding up the cooking process, use the microwave to steam, defrost or re-warm food (just be sure to use microwave-safe containers and keep them loosely covered to avoid spills and splatters). And slow cookers or crockpots are invaluable in keeping your prep time to a minimum. Simply add ingredients, cover and four to eight hours later, all you need to do is dish out your meal.
Instead of making one family serving, double or even triple your recipes and freeze the extra portions. For some dishes, you can also turn the leftovers into creative meals for the next couple of days.
Lasagnas, casseroles, cooked meats and seafood, soups and stews can be frozen in individual or family-sized servings and enjoyed on those days you simply want to thaw and reheat.
Inventive meals from leftovers can significantly cut down the time you would spend on creating and cooking a brand new meal. Cook a large roast in the crockpot and use the leftover meat for sandwiches, empanadasor casseroles. Turn leftover chicken into lunch wraps, salads or chicken noodle soup. Transform sausage into omelets, quiche or pizza topping. Extra vegetables can be added to practically anything or pureed to create delicious sauces or marinades.
Even if you love cooking, chances are you don't love the clean up. Instead of waiting until after dinner to put the kitchen back in order, clean while you are preparing your meals.
Place pots, pans and other cookware in warm soapy water in the sink as you finish using them (even if you have a dishwasher, soaking will help loosen cooked on residue). Wipe the counters and stovetop while you cook to avoid having to scrub them once drips or spills dry. As you finish with ingredients, put them away and discard any empty containers, cans or bags.
You will be surprised how much easier and quicker you can get your kitchen cleaned up by cleaning while you cook.
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