Most of us don’t want to have to spend more time in the kitchen than necessary. But if you want to save money, making your meals at home is a great way to make room in your budget for other things. Luckily, there are ways you can optimize the time you spend in your kitchen, if you know some clever kitchen tips and tricks!
1. Clean as you go
This is my number one way of saving time in the kitchen. Whenever I’m cleaning and chopping produce, I always keep a grocery bag beside me and toss all the waste in it. Makes it easier to clean the countertop later.
We also make it a point to pour warm water on our used dishes as soon as we put it in the sink so they don’t end up getting all dried and crusty (you know how annoying that can be, right?) It makes it so much easier to clean them later
2. A little Meal planning goes a long way
How many times have you gone into your kitchen, taken a look in your refrigerator or pantry and ended up having no idea what to make for dinner? I’ll be honest with you – I absolutely hate that feeling when it’s almost lunch or dinner time and I still don’t know what I’m going to be making.
It used to happen to me many times but that’s when I started doing weekly meal plans. Saves your time and your sanity! Just dedicate a few minutes on a weekend by writing a meal plan. And most importantly, stick to it! You’ll be amazed how easy it will make things for you.
3. Double it up
We love leftovers, especially when it’s one of our favorite recipes! I always cook more so that we have leftovers for next day’s lunch. My mom used to do this and now I do it too.
By doubling up your recipe, you will not only save time by not having to cook twice but you will also save money by not having to buy your lunch when you’re at work. You can even add your leftovers to salads, sandwiches or wraps and make a completely new dish out of it!
4. Pre-cut and Prep
Prepping things ahead of time will make things a lot easier when you actually start cooking. Pre-cutting vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini etc. will help you save a lot of time.
The same rule applies for meat as well. If we buy chicken in bulk, we like to cut it into smaller pieces, remove the excess fat, divide it into portions and then refrigerate/ freeze it. This makes it easy to just grab what is required and start cooking.
5. Scan your pantry and fridge
This is a small yet effective step. Many times we just waste time by heading to the grocery store and buy things without realizing that we can make a lot of meals from the things that are already lying in our pantry and fridge.
I did an experiment a few days back by not going to the grocery for two straight weeks and only made meals from the things we already had. Think – rice, beans, potatoes, frozen chicken, frozen veggies etc. It helped me save time and money!
6. Line your fridge with contact paper
Cleaning the fridge is one of the most boring tasks ever. Actually, scratch that. All cleaning tasks that take up too much time are on my ‘most boring things to do’ list.
So a few months back, I decided to try out a Pinterest hack and I lined all our fridge shelves with clear contact paper. (Bonus marks if you get them from the Dollar store like I did) When it becomes dirty, I simply remove it, give the shelves a quick wipe and again line them with contact paper. It has made my life so much easier! Now I don’t have to spend time scrubbing the shelves every time I clean my fridge. Try it – I’m sure you’ll love it!
7. When in doubt, Freeze!
Freezing your food works wonders. Especially when you think you have run out of food and don’t have time to run to the grocery store, frozen foods come to your rescue.
We love freezing things like meat, chicken stock, fish, soups, berries as well as leftovers if we know we are not going to have it within a week. I have seen people freezing breakfast burritos and other breakfast foods all the time that they just thaw in the morning. Definitely a time saver!
8. Ripen your fruits quickly
Want to make guacamole tomorrow but avocados not ripe enough? Don’t worry, paper bags will do the work for you. Certain foods like bananas and avocados can be ripened quickly by placing them in brown paper bags. Leave them overnight and you can see the results the next day.
9. Put Ice cream containers in Ziploc bags
Who likes rock hard ice cream that doesn’t want to come out of its container? Keeping your ice cream tub or container in a Ziploc bag before putting them in the freezer helps the ice cream to remain soft just the way it was when you first opened it.
Plus you won’t have to wait for it to become a little softer before you dig in that bowl of deliciousness!
10. Baking soda is your friend
I love how baking soda can practically make wonders happen. And no, I’m not talking about your cookie and cake baking adventures. Baking soda has so many uses that it will take up an entire post if I start writing about it.
For starters, it can clear clogged kitchen sinks (pour 1 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup hot vinegar. Let it do its magic and then pour 1 cup boiling water. Bye-bye clogged drains!) It can help to deodorize funky smells from your refrigerator. Baking soda can even remove greasy and stubborn stains from your stove top quickly.