Be Efficient in the Kitchen – {Eat Healthy ~ Save Time}

I am often asked, “How do you do it all?” 

Oh my. Without a doubt, my answer to that question is always, “Mercy, have you seen my closets?”  (or cabinets, or laundry pile, or toilets, or pick your messes depending on the day…)

I don’t do it all. I don’t even do half of it all.  In fact, it’s almost 6 pm as I’m trying to write this.  I still haven’t done my breakfast dishes and I haven’t started to make dinner.  For the first time today, I finally got a chance to sit down and work on my website at 5:35 – and I’ve had three interruptions since I started. I think I forgot to have the boys put the laundry into the dryer, which means that the clothes might start to smell sour soon.  I didn’t make my bed this morning.  I didn’t hang my dress up after wearing it on Sunday.  My hair looks kinda funny.  And it seems that I have misplaced all of the pens that are supposed to be in my cute pen basket in the kitchen.  (FYI:  It does not work to write a check with a fat sharpie or an unsharpened pencil.)

But for all of my unmade bed and missing pen issues, one thing I feel that I am getting figured out is efficiency in the kitchen.  I believe that one of the reasons I am able to feed my family a (mostly) healthy diet while keeping up with a very busy schedule is because I try to make very good use of my time in the kitchen.  I’m not sure I could make it work otherwise.  (Although some days, no matter what I do, nothing works, of course.  Those are my pancakes and creamy mac and cheese fall back days.)

Here’s what works for me:  Hardly ever do I just stand and do one thing at a time.  I grind flour while I’m washing dishes; prepare a casserole for dinner while I’m making lunch; bake breakfast muffins while I’m finishing dinner; chop veggies while I’m waiting for butter to melt; shout out spelling words while I’m stirring noodles; get out ingredients while going back and forth to the stove to brown meat…

(And if my boys are capable of doing any kitchen or cleaning chores that need to be done - and at their ages, they definitely are capable of much! – I pull them in with me to help cook or cleanout the dishwasher, or send them upstairs to do some cleaning.  It’s multi-tasking at it’s finest!  Those of you with little bitty ones, hang in there.  It does get easier as your children get older!)

Want to know one of my favorite ways to save time in the kitchen?  Make one big mess.  (This sounds sooo efficient doesn’t it?)  What I mean is – there are some kitchen tasks that are pretty messy or take a while to clean up after.  Take homemade peanut butter for example.  Making peanut butter isn’t difficult at all, but I have found that washing my food processor afterward takes quite a bit of time.  Therefore, I have begun to make two or three or even four batches of peanut butter while I’ve got the food processor already peanut buttery.  It keeps just fine in the fridge, so if I’m going to make a mess, why not make plenty of peanut butter so that I don’t have to wash the food processor as often?  Makes sense to me.  (Kinda sounds like my lasagna making process, huh?)

Oh, and since we are on the topics of peanut butter and kitchen efficiency, you will be glad to know that while my peanuts are whirling about in the food processor becoming peanut butter, I am busy stirring up a batch of muffins, slicing fruit for a salad, or standing on my head trying to get a pyrex dish out while it sits at the bottom of a heavy (and slightly unorganized) stack of dishes in the cabinet.  Why not?  The peanuts don’t need help turning themselves into peanut butter.  A watched food processor never boils you know.  Or at least I believe that is how the saying goes. 

What tasks have you found that you can do in the kitchen to keep you efficient with your time?

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Comments

  1. laurie says

    I have had friends tell me, “But making homemade bread takes SOOO long!” I laugh at them with no regard to their feelings then explain that the longest portion of bread making is the rising and the baking…both of which need no supervision or watching. But I find that while I’m in the kitchen with that big of a mess started, I might as well make 8 loaves instead of 4, and some cinnamon rolls for the freezer (because the counter is already a mess of flour!), and boil chicken to shred for casseroles ( because the extra heat and moisture from the boiling pot helps my dough to rise). :)

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    Jamie Garcia Reply:

    you ma’am are a genius! :)
    Such gold I have mined from this post and the comments!
    (grew up with boxed mashed potato flakes…nuf said)

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  2. Staci says

    Yelling out spelling words while making your Creamy Mac and Cheese is part of the routine at our house. (Although I put 1 cup milk and 2 cups water and a tablespoon of Simply Organic powdered Ceaser dressing. This even works if I don’t have cheese on hand to add.)

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  3. Rachel says

    I cook up a whole chicken or two (oven or slow cooker, depending on the day) which takes very little hands on time, then I cut/shred the chicken and put it in the fridge. Then when we need chicken for our meals, we just throw it in with one less thing to cut up and cook. I also make stock from the bones and fat, which I freeze and have on hand as needed, too. It’s also one of those things that sounds so time consuming, but really only has a total of 15-20 min of hands on time, and we have our ready to eat chicken and broth prepared for the week.

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  4. Erika says

    Hey, there! Yes, I just adjusted my bread recipe to make 8 loaves/buns at a time, too, and honestly couldn’t do it without my Bosch. Also, today I made up one summer menu plan and one winter menu plan (I only came up with 27 summer recipes that I use on a regular basis, so why make it complicated?), and also a list of “do-ahead and freeze menu helpers”. I don’t do once-a-month cooking, but do the double-batch thing, and make-ahead chicken nuggets (thank you for the idea- my family LOVED THEM!) and meatballs. In my 7 qt. crock-pot, I cook up a bunch of either black or pinto beans, taco meat filling, sloppy joe filling, Italian meat and sauce for lazagna or pasta, and my favorite, garlic shredded chicken for enchilada filling. Then I bag it in portion-sizes, and freeze. I might try using my big 18 qt. roasting oven for this, so I can double or triple the amount that I normally am able to make, as it can be used as a slow-cooker as well, and then I’d only have to do this once every few months. I look forward to hearing other ideas out there! :)

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    Jennifer H Reply:

    Would love your recipe for Garlic Shredded Chicken. That sounds delicious.

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    Erika Reply:

    Oh, I guess it is kind of embarrassingly easy. I just put a few
    frozen chicken breasts into the slow cooker at night, and sprinkle
    with garlic salt. By the next morning, I stick in a fork, and give
    a little twirl- instant shredded chicken for tacos, enchiladas, etc.
    I guess it’s nothing fancy, but really good. I do think the trick is
    to do it in a slow cooker that was made BEFORE 1998, when the laws
    changed, and made manufacturers make slow cookers heat to higher temps.
    My meat in my newer crock pot gets too hot, and doesn’t shred like
    this, and no meat is as tender as in my old slow cooker. I actually
    asked friends to look out at garage sales, etc., and someone just
    gave it to my friend for me. For chicken enchiladas, make sure you
    mix in a whole box of room temp. cream cheese into the chicken right
    before filling!

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  5. Melissa says

    We don’t homeschool, but I can’t count how many practice spelling tests I’ve given (for both big kids simultaneously) while making dinner or stapling papers or making cupcakes or something. I can’t imagine spelling being a non-multitasking activity! Your post made me laugh and was very relatable!

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  6. LisaB in VA says

    I love your writing, your attitude, and your industry. So I trust you have good reasons for your decisions. My question is, why don’t you just put your food processor parts in the dishwasher? I know it takes up a lot of space, but to me it’s worth an extra load of “big stuff” to avoid washing those tricky parts. Is it because you have small boys and don’t want them to handle the blade?

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    Laura Reply:

    Good question. It’s actually because my dishwasher doesn’t work well enough to get all of the peanut butter out of the cracks and crevices of my processor. Once I’ve taken care of all of that, then it does go into the dishwasher! :)

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  7. Christina D says

    I am still trying to figure out how to be as efficient as possible in my kitchen. It’s not easy with a 2 year old and a 4 month old, though! Lately I’ve just been waiting for my husband to come home from work and just get everything done while he’s home to watch the kids.

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    Amy Reply:

    I’ve been in that same place too pretty recently! When my kids (now 3 1/2 and 18 months) were a little smaller, I’d put my daughter on my back in her carrier or we have an Inglesina portable chair that attaches right to the counter and I’d put her in that (propped with blankets when she was 2-3 months) and she really would sit & watch (sometimes only for 15-20 minutes, but it helped!). My son has always wanted to “help”, so when he was 2, I’d put him at the counter on a sstool and give him something to snack on while I worked right next to him – he really felt like he was helping :-). Now, they both want to help, so figuring out how to have them both @ the counter helping is a little bit of a challenge, but we’re getting there! And, yes, I do sometimes put on a DVD for them (Baby Signing Time series is a great one – learning signs and really great music!).

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    silverilex Reply:

    What might work for you is have the two year old color or play in a ‘special’ place or corner out of the way (like a tiny table and chair or even a towel on the floor as a ‘picnic’ blanket) and what used to work for my son, was to put his baby carrier up against a washing machine, dryer or dishwasher and the vibrations would lull him to sleep, like going for a car ride will help babies to drift off.

    Another is use a slow cooker. When the baby and/or toddler are having a nap, pop a casserole all-in-one meal in the slow cooker. Or get your husband to be hands on with the children on his day off while you do a blitz of meal cooking for the week. It may seem a lot of work for one day, but think of the calm you will have for the rest of the week by slipping a home-cooked frozen meal into the oven before husband comes home.

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  8. shirley veleba says

    Laura…Just love your web site Heavenly Homemakers. Eversince I signed up to recieve Heavenly Homemakers, You have brought joy into my life. You sound like such a down to earth girl , I love theway you cook healthy food for your family. and I like the witty things you say and do. You bring pleasure to my life. I truly enjoy Heavenly Homemakers an look for it every day…Thank you

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  9. KimH says

    I wash dishes while I have something cooking on the stovetop, whether its heating oil, sauting veggies or cooking anything else, I rarely just stand around. We dont have a dishwasher so I do them by hand, and this just makes my life so much easier.
    I also rinse all my dishes when they’re put on the sink counter.. Makes the actual washing a breeze.

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  10. Maralisa says

    I cook batches at a time and freeze. For instance, I will buy 5 or 6 pounds of hamburger meat and cook it into taco meat, then freeze in small bags for quick taco dinner nights. I do that with just about anything… cook once, eat twice!

    On the rare times I get to watch a TV show, I still make good use of my time buy chopping veggies or fruit while in front of the tube.

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  11. says

    I do alot of the similar things, when a morning is moving slow for my childcare I will throw together a mega kitchen session, cinnamon pull apart bread to start b/c it has to rise 2x, banana, pumpkin or zucchini bread (b/c those main ingredients are in the freezer), brown & season some hamburger, sometimes throw a chicken or roast or beef bones in the crock pot for meat & stock for the freezer, I have have planned far enough ahead & have the meat thawed, I will put together meat balls to bake & freeze….

    I am constantly inspired by this blog THANK YOU!!!

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  12. Brianna D. says

    I love to cook and love to multi-task when I can. Most days, though, I feel I am already multi-tasking when I make only a simple stir-fry dinner, and get our baby’s food ready, with our 2 – yr. old who is “helping” me stir,(and grabbing a fistful of whatever he can reach and “trying” it), and I’m stepping around our 11-mo. old who is pulling the dirty silverware out of the dishwasher and licking them; or else I’m remembering to keep track of where she is so she does not fall down the stairs. :)

    Those are the times I have to remember that my children are more important than having dinner perfect or a clean kitchen, or…

    Thank you for your inspiration!

    [Reply]

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