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Five easy ways to save time cooking dinner

By April 2, 2013Uncategorized

I confess: I’m an Instagram junkie.

There’s something so intimate about seeing someone’s life captured on film (I guess we don’t use film anymore…it’s more like .jpgs and .pngs…and whatever other digital photo files we have in today’s high-tech world).

I follow a lot of people on Instagram who I’ve never met in real life.  I feel like I know them though.  When you see someone’s family, where they’re going, and what they’re doing, you have a small window into their life and what they’re all about.

I love sharing cute photos of my girls on Instagram, but I also really love capturing my life and what works for me.  Every time I do something that I think will help other moms, I can’t wait to take a pic and share it.

Recently, I started using the hashtag #kitchensmarts whenever I post a photo of something that I do to save time in the kitchen.

(Side note: Did you know you can click on hashtags and see all of the other photos or tweets that are tagged with that hashtag?  I’m embarassed to admit that I only figured this out a few weeks ago.)

Here are some of my recent #kitchensmarts:

time saving kitchen tips prep slow cooker meals

time saving kitchen tips save bananas from browning

time saving kitchen tips keep berries fresh longer

Having kitchen smarts is all about wasting as little food and time in the kitchen as possible.  I have a bunch of little tips and tricks that I use to save time cooking.

Cooking homemade meals for your family doesn’t have to be difficult or take a lot of time.

In fact, most of my recipes can be prepped in less time than it takes to order take-out.  (Afterall, there’s a reason why I titled my cookbook, ‘15-Minute Freezer Recipes.’)

Besides using my own quick, no-fuss recipes, I have discovered some easy ways to save time in the kitchen.

Five easy ways to save time cooking dinner

1. Plan meals ahead of time

This is the biggest time-saving tip that I can share with you.  Quite simply, if you know what you’re going to make and you have the necessary ingredients on-hand, you’re going to save a lot of time.  No time spent staring into your refrigerator trying to figure out what to make.  No extra trips to the grocery store.  No need to go out to eat or order take-out.  Devoting a small amount of time upfront to planning will save you a ton of time in the long run.  Meal planning does not need to take a lot of time or feel like torture.  In fact, it can be quick, easy, and fun!  In previous blog posts, I shared how my husband and I meal plan and grocery shop for one week at a time and how we graduated to meal planning and shopping for TWO weeks at a time.  Planning ahead will save you time and money, and help you to eat healthier!

time saving kitchen tips - meal planning

(My FREE printable calendar was featured in a previous blog post about meal planning for two weeks at a time.)

2. Make a double-batch of what you’re cooking for dinner 

When you’re cooking dinner make a double batch of whatever you’re making – one for dinner and one for your freezer.  Making a double-batch won’t take much extra time and it will save tons of time the night when you use the freezer meal and don’t have to cook.  I always use this strategy when I’m cooking my famous Chicken Pot Pies because they take a while to prep and taste just as amazing baked out of the freezer.  You can also use this “double-batch” strategy with my super quick recipes, like my Slow Cooker Turkey Black Bean Chili and Slow Cooker Sausage Spinach Tomato Soup.  Most freezer meals will keep in a standard freezer for up to 3 months, so you will have plenty of time to get hungry for the same meal again.  (If you’re new to freezer cooking, I highly recommend reading my best freezer meal tips for beginners.)   

3. Cook ingredients needed for future meals in advance 

If you cook some of the ingredients that you need for a future recipe ahead of time, you’ll be able to cut out that cooking time the day you’re making that meal.  For example, when I’m browning ground beef as part of a recipe, I always brown all of the ground beef that we’re planning to eat over the next two weeks.  It doesn’t take any more time, and it saves me time the night that I can use the already cooked ground beef.  Plus, it saves me from having to wash the pan multiple times (Bonus!).  Saving time in the kitchen requires a mental shift: It requires paying attention to what you’re prepping and cooking today, and considering how you can capitalize on those steps to save you time later on.

4. Chop ingredients needed for future meals in advance  

If you’re going to get out your knife and cutting board, you might as well make it count.  If you need to dice an onion, why not dice two and store one in a plastic bag in the refrigerator?  If you’re chopping carrots, why not chop the broccoli that you’re going to eat later in the week?  Chopping ingredients ahead of time will save you time next time you cook because you won’t need to chop as much that day (You might not even need to chop at all!).  Chopping lots of ingredients at once also means you won’t have to wash your knife and cutting board again (Wahoo!).

time saving kitchen tip chop all vegetables at once

5. Work ahead during open windows of time

Think outside-the-box about the time that you use to prep and cook dinner.  Cooking doesn’t always have to happen at 5pm when you get home from work.  If you are home at lunch time, what can you start getting ready then?  If you’re lucky enough to be home with a napping baby, which recipe steps can you complete then?  (I’m notorius for prepping an entire lasagna during a quiet time in the afternoon and storing it in my refrigerator until it’s time to cook it in the oven for dinner.)  Open windows of time on the weekend are great times to prep too!  Keep in mind that anything you can get done ahead of time will save you time when you’re working to get dinner on the table.

I hope these tips get you thinking about ways you can save time cooking and spend more time with your family instead.

What do you think about my tips?  Would any of them work for you??

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P.S. For more time-saving tips and #kitchensmarts, you can find me on Pinterest @kellymcnelis and Instagram @kellymcnelis.  Follow me and I’ll follow you back!

3 Comments

  • Sarah says:

    The timing of reading this post is so perfect! I had made a "to cook/prep" list last night and this morning I've roasted carrots, now butternut squash, and have the crockpot going for dinner while responding to work emails here at the kitchen counter. Multi-tasking at its finest! Thanks for all of your tips!

  • Kelly says:

    Way to go, Sarah! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Donna Tillman says:

    Thank you for the tips. My concern is having every item for a meal, not wasting food that never get used from the fridge. A meal planner will give me the organization I need to be a better cook.

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