5 Ways to Cut Your Time in the Kitchen
By Kerrie McLoughlin
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend less time in the kitchen cooking so I can spend more time hanging out with my husband and kids. I also have to admit that I’m getting tired of seeing the pizza delivery guy and am pretty sure I’m putting him through college on tips alone. So I’m setting out to find some new ways to cut my time in the kitchen. Here are a few things I’m going to do this year:
Stock up on meals at home. A few years ago I bought a cookbook about doing two weeks of cooking in one day. It took me about five hours to pack my freezer with 14 different meals (including leftovers, this would feed my family for three weeks). This method definitely saved time over cooking on a nightly basis because I had similar ingredients all chopped at once and ready to assemble, I cooked all my meat in large batches and tossed entire meals in plastic baggies with a top that zips (saves room in the freezer over foil pans and plastic containers, as well as being cheaper). It was amazing being able to look at a busy day on my calendar and know that I had a pre-made dinner thawing and ready to pop in the oven. Check out these books:
- Once-a-Month Cooking: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Everyday by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson
- The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet: A Month of Meals Made Easy by Nanci Slagle
- Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month by Deborah Taylor-Hough
Stock up off site. I’ve been dying to try one of those places where you assemble the meals while they provide the containers, food and supplies. I mean, just think: you don’t have to clean your kitchen, either, which is like a dream come true! Try it with several friends and make it a fun night out while accomplishing something at the same time. Or take your family for a bonding experience. In about two hours you can make 10-12 meals for a family of four to six. In North Texas, check out Dream Dinners, Super Suppers and The Dinner Station, or head to www.EasyMealPrep.com and just type in your zip code to find one of these amazing places near you.
Stock up delivery. We used to belong to a food service that would deliver every six months. We got a few prepared meals, as well as frozen vegetables, meats, juice concentrate, pancakes, etc. It got a little costly at times, and the value would depend on where I was at in my life. For instance, right after the kids have been born I treasured the home delivery aspect and downplayed the cost. Then when I was pretty self-sufficient, I’d gripe about the cost and have as little as possible sent to my home. Companies like Schwan’s (www.schwans.com) and Magic Kitchen (www.magickitchen.com) will make small deliveries as often as you like, and you can order online. They have so many things to choose from, including kid-friendly and healthy meals.
Meal swapping or cooperative cooking. This is a great option if your family is getting tired of your cooking and would love to try something new and different. You initially spend a little more time in the kitchen making a triple portion of a meal, but it’s all worth it when you give away two of those meals to two different families and have two more ready-made meals coming in to your own home. A week’s worth of meals (if you count leftovers on alternating nights) and you only had to cook one night. I’m already planning what to make for meal swaps when I get them all set up because I have an arsenal of 5-ingredient meals up my sleeve: tater tot casserole (so many variations can be made!), lasagna, broccoli ham quiche, and baked spaghetti pie. Just think of the variety of food coming into your house!
Potluck group. This is a great way to get friends and family together on a monthly or weekly basis, and nobody has to cook an entire meal. One person brings a veggie, one brings a meat dish, another some bread and so on until you have a complete meal. It saves time in the kitchen, saves money, and everyone benefits while getting in some social time! Make sure to alternate who brings the main dish, like chili, and other people who attend can be assigned to bring crackers, cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, juice pouches and soda.
Kerrie McLoughlin (TheKerrieShow.com) is the mom of 5 little ones and has an ebook of tater tot casserole and chocolate recipes coming out soon!
Image Credit: www.aturtleslifeforme.com