Time Saving Cooking Tips

time saving cooking tipsPeople always ask me how I find time to cook almost all of our meals at home from scratch.  Some people assume that I don't have a career outside the home.  The truth is that I work a demanding, full-time corporate gig and run Tomato Envy on the side.  Like you, my time is precious, and I have to get the most from each and every day.

The food I eat is very important to me.  Eating home-cooked meals fuels my body, provides good health, gives me great satisfaction and pleasure, and provides a means to share conversation with my husband or friends and family.  And, cooking meals from local, whole foods helps to minimize the effect that our household has on the environment.  Read more about responsible food choices here.

There has always been 24 hours in the day, and although our society is moving faster and at a more frantic pace, available time has not decreased.  I would argue that instead of trying to "find time" to cook, you simply try to stop losing time to other endeavors that don't add value to your life.  People have somehow managed to allocate extra hours in the day to getting lost in cyberspace on the internet, playing with smartphones, and watching all sorts of useless TV.  It's sad that chopping vegetables and putting a decent meal on the table is no longer on most families' to-do list.

I'm stepping down from my soapbox now to acknowledge that, all preaching aside, it's not easy to make home-cooked food a reality all the time.  Because it can be nearly impossible some days, here are some time saving cooking tips to ensure it happens more often than not.

1.  Make a top 20 list.  Make a list of easy, go-to recipes that can be made with relatively few ingredients.  Most often, when you're overwhelmed by your day, running late, or just tired, you won't remember these easy meal ideas unless you write them down.  You'll want to throw your hands in the air and settle for convenience foods or a restaurant meal.  If you have a handy list, you can pick something and go with it.

time saving cooking tips
A pot of soup is a time-saver later in the week

2.  Learn to cook in large batches.  It doesn't take much more effort or time to make a lot of something as opposed to a little of it.  Some dishes, like soups and stews, make terrific leftovers that you can reheat at the office the next day, or even enjoy again for dinner in a day or two.  When I make steel cut oats for breakfast, I make a big batch.  For the next three days, I can just take the leftovers from the fridge, add a little water, and reheat.

time-saving cooking tips
Wash and prep lettuce for quick salads


3.  Prep ahead of time.  For me, the least hectic day of the week is Sunday.  That's when I prep for meals that will come later in the week.  For example, after hitting the farmers' market, I take some time to rinse lettuce and fresh greens.  For kale and chard, I remove the center stems and chop the leaves.  Everything goes into my reusable mesh produce bags so I can cook them at a moment's notice or make a killer salad.  I will whip up a batch of homemade vinaigrette, and sometimes, I'll cook a pot of beans to use several different ways during the week.

4.  Repurpose ingredients.  This is one of my favorite tactics, and it's an easy way to have variations of meals all week.  For example, roast some extra bone-in pastured chicken breasts on Sunday.  After dinner, cut the meat from the extra breasts and use it to top a Caesar salad mid-week or toss it with pasta, sautéed greens, olive oil, and garlic.  Use part of a pot of cooked beans in a hearty vegetable soup and then puree the rest with olive oil and garlic to make a bean spread to combine with raw veggies in a wrap for lunch.  I do this with chickpeas all the time.

5.  Get into canning and freezing.  Preserving allows you to make all sorts of things ahead of time and store them for much later use.  In the summer, I take advantage of the abundance of local tomatoes to make fresh tomato basil soup and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes for the freezer.  I can, or "put up", many jars of processed, whole plum tomatoes for sauce.

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