Guest Post by Stephanie from Keeper of the Home
Quick…what’s the first objection that pops into your mind when you think about making more food from scratch?
If you’re like 90% of the moms and homemakers that I talk to, you would say that without a doubt, it’s the time factor.
Cooking from scratch simply takes more time.
You know that you should do it because:
a) It’s healthier.
b) It tastes better.
c) It will save you money.
Knowing that something is a good idea doesn’t make it any easier though. We’re still stuck with the same dilemma: If only there was more time in the day so that we could make homemade yogurt, cook brown rice instead of minute rice and make our own muffins instead of buying them or using a mix.
In my recent book, Real Food on a Real Budget: How to Eat Healthy for Less, I addressed this very issue. I knew that if it was a challenge for me (and it is), then it must be a challenge for others. How do we balance all that we need to do to manage our homes, spend time with our husbands, care for our children, do our work (either out of the home or from our homes), and still have enough time left over to make nutritious, affordable food?
Knowing what a challenge this is, I devoted an entire chapter and a large appendix in my book to sharing both my own and other women’s ideas and suggestions for making it easier to cook from scratch.
I love practical tips and I love learning what others do, because it often inspires me with small changes that I can make so that my own kitchen time is more productive.
Here is a sampling of some of my own time-saving tips included in the book:
::Use timers so that you can get things going and walk away. Oatmeal cooks while I shower and get dressed. Anything that needs to come to a boil or have 5 minutes to simmer just gets a timer, so that I can forget about what’s on the stove and get something else done in those few minutes.
::Do things at unconventional times. I like to start my homemade yogurt right after dinner, so that I can tend to it in between my evening activities and have it in the oven by bedtime so that it’s ready by morning.
::Cook and freeze beans in small portions. They are almost as quick to use as canned beans for a fraction of the price, and it’s so quick and easy to do. I soak the beans overnight, then cook them the next morning and rinse them off. When they’re cool, I put them in little baggies in 1 cup portions and stick them in the freezer. It’s great to do a couple of different beans at the same time (different pots), because they cook at the same time and the extra time to bag them once you’re already set up is so minimal.
::Pre-cook meat and poultry and freeze it in small, meal-sized amounts. Whenever I cook a whole chicken or turkey, whatever we don’t eat immediately I put into baggies in about 1 cup portions. I do the same thing if I cook several pounds of ground beef at once. It’s so great to have these small amounts already cooked in the freezer for quick or last-minute meals. I find that 1 bag is enough to just add meat to the meal, and 2 bags provides a more substantial amount of meat. Also, 1 bag of meat plus 1 bag of frozen beans combines to make very easy taco salads, fajitas or tacos.
::Have leftover meals regularly. This makes for a fast and simple meal about once a week, it prevents wasted food, and helps to clean out the fridge! I set the foods out buffet style, and we choose what we want to eat.
::Keep the kitchen well-stocked. Knowing that you always have exactly what you need on hand, or can at least make easy emergency substitutions, ensures that you’re never stuck when making a recipe. This can save a lot of time (not to mention frustration).
::Clean as you go. Doing quick cleaning tasks or washing dishes while you’re cooking makes it an easier and more pleasant chore, and saves a huge and time-consuming cleanup at the end. I take advantage of little spare moments, while waiting for water to boil, or for frying onions to soften, etc. to clean up whatever I can.
Copyright 2010, Real Food on a Real Budget by Stephanie Langford.
More Resources for Increasing Your Kitchen Efficiency
Here are a few other posts on the topic of making it easier to cook from scratch, some from my blog and some from others.
- Panel Post: Cooking Healthy Food With Young Children @ The Nourishing Gourmet (this is a panel post that I was a part of, with a focus on finding the time to cook for moms with littles)
- “The Pemmican Principle” of Food Preparation for Time Efficiency @ The Nourishing Gourmet
- 4 Tips for Increasing Your Work Speed in the Kitchen @ The Nourishing Gourmet
- Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: Planning to Make Food Preparation Happen @ Keeper of the Home
- Simple Dinners: Making Meals That Work Together @ Keeper of the Home
- You Tell Me: Finding the Time to Cook From Scratch @ Keeper of the Home
- Meal Planning: Cook Once, Eat Thrice @ Life as Mom
How do you make the time to cook from scratch? What tips and techniques help you to be most efficient in the kitchen?
Would you like to win a copy of Stephanie’s ebook, Real Food on a Real Budget: How to Eat Healthy for Less? She’s generously giving away 10 copies to readers here over the next 48 hours. To enter to win, just click on the link below. 10 winners will be randomly chosen and posted on Monday.
Image by Rene Ehrhardt