Everyone is up against the clock when it comes to managing the day. Between work, exercise, transporting between places and making time for family and friends, where is the time to cook? It can feel like a better use of time to grab ready-to-eat food rather than carve out precious time to cook from scratch.
This is the number one concern of people I cook with, hands down. Time and money have an intimate relationship, and yet there can be ways to make the most of your kitchen time in order to save some money (and also save yourself some time!)
Behold: a few quick, personal tips that save my day on a weekly basis. Yes, even I run out of time to cook for myself personally. These are the things I do time and again to maximize hands on cooking time and minimizing the need to order or eat out each week:
1. Chop while you are at it.
When I take the time to clean and chop any vegetable, I always prep more than I need. I save time by being in the chopping “zone” and only needing to clean my countertop and cutting board once for a lot of produce. While you’re honing your knife skills (maybe newly acquired from a cook with dinner or private class) you may as well get right to it.
- Chop extra garlic and keep it fresh for the week by covering it with olive oil and placing in the fridge.
- Chop extra root veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, pumpkin) and keep covered in water in a glass bowl so you are ready to pull them out, boil and roast them anytime.
- Destem your leafy greens
- Clean your spinach and lettuces and keep dry with towels in between the layers.
These steps make it easy to whip together a weeknight meal in no time at all.
2. Designate your bulk day.
One day a week (typically Monday for me) I do some bulk cooking. This is not a new idea, but a great one that yields some staples ready to work with for the week. Here are some personal staples:
- Chicken stock (using a whole roasted chicken we have eaten that weekend)
- A batch of quinoa or brown rice
- Roasted or blanched veggies (many kinds, keep it differently weekly)
- A jar of salad dressing
- A soup or stew (often using the stock and veggies I just made, or the last of the veggies that need to be utilized before I make a weekly trip to the store.
If you have the time, make a sturdy salad (like a hand cured kale salad) that can also serve as an easy side to a mid-week meal. Once you start, you’ll find that bulk cooking doesn’t take you as long as you think, since once you get going, you might as well make more:)
Finish up, stand in awe of your full fridge, and applaud yourself for the time you will save all week long for the efforts this day.
3. Use your halves right away.
I admit it-I also cut halves of veggies and leave them in my fridge thinking they will be used within a few days. Sometimes this just doesn’t happen, and that half a sweet potato or onion or bunch of mustard greens you thought you would use is now past it’s prime. The solution: utilize it right away.
- If you are using half a pumpkin and half an onion to make a soup, throw the other half (without even seeding it or chopping it further) in the oven on 325, facedown, to roast with some olive oil and the chopped onion around it. Voila! Once baked, remove the seeds and you have another side dish ready for a meal, and you didn’t use any extra prep time to make it.
4. Cook often so you shop for the right things.
This tip comes from my awesome husband, Eric, who pointed out that when you are cooking on a regular cycle like we do, you know exactly what you need when you make the trip to the store. You know that you’ve used up your last bit of kale, and that nothing is going to waste in your fridge since you’ve already taken the precious time to make a soup for the week. This is a very insightful addition to this list, since it means that you are going to save money by not (unintentionally) withering good produce simply due to time.
It’s my hope that you save some time by being savvier with your cooking at home!