Kitchen shortcuts

Even the best cooks cheat now and then. Take a look at 10 kitchen shortcuts that are guaranteed to save time without sacrificing taste (and be sure to share your tips and tricks while you’re at it).

Let’s face it. Cooking good food takes some real dedication. Dedication and time, that is. Want a few shortcuts? I’ll make it brief, because, after-all, shouldn’t you be starting dinner?

1. Pre-wash

When I get home from the store, I like to go ahead and wash my produce. Some items I put in a colander right in the crisper drawer, some in to bags with a damp paper towel, and some right in to a bowl on my counter top. It saves me prep time all week.

2. Convenience pays off

If it makes dollars’ sense, I suggest pre-shredded cheese, pre-cut veggies, and even diced garlic. This convenience is almost luxurious. I don’t do it all of the time, but it sure is nice when my salad is 95% done, or my enchiladas come together with ease.

3. Freeze, freeze, freeze

You can freeze just about anything. Too much basil in from the garden? Chop it and freeze it. Bought two pounds of chicken but only need a pound tonight? Freeze it. Heck, when I can, I double recipes and pop one in to the freezer. Making homemade cookies? Double the batter and freeze the rest. I love my stock-pile freezer — extra herbs, meat, meals, and even treats ready to go when I need them.

4. Speaking of freezing…

Ice cube trays aren’t just for ice anymore! I learned this when I made baby food a few years back, and it translates well in to everyday cooking now. These days, if I make pesto, for example, I make extra, plop it in an ice cube tray, freeze, then store the cubes in baggies – it’s the perfect portion to pop out the next time we need it! Also, if you ever have any leftover wine, pour the bottom of the bottle in to a tray and use the cubes for cooking.

5. Do it once

We eat a lot of salads in our house, and we prefer homemade dressings. Instead of whipping it up every time, I make our standby fave just once a week and put it in a big jar in the fridge. You can use this same principle with batter if you make pancakes and/or waffles a few times a week.

6. Don’t overcook!

You may be able to seriously cut your kitchen time by just not cooking stuff for so long. Only cook your veggies long enough to make them tender but still crisp. Overcooked vegetables lose both flavor and important nutrients.

7. Stock your stock

I know, real stock is best, yadda yadda yadda, but I love that chicken and veggie broths come in the resealable boxes now. Use what you need and keep the rest in your fridge. Also, I’m a sucker for homemade soup, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some boxed soups lately. Keep one in your pantry for the day someone pops in for lunch unexpectedly.

8. Easy can be healthy

Frozen veggies get a bad rap, but shouldn’t always. They’re said to be frozen at the peak of their ripeness, so take advantage of the step that’s been done for you. I always stock up on frozen peas and combo bags of frozen red, yellow, and green peppers mixed with onions, just in case I need to add something on quickly. I often keep a few fruits like peaches and berries for easy smoothie making, too.

9. Don’t do the dishes

When some of you bake, you use four different measuring cups and every measuring spoon in sight. When I bake, I only use one giant measuring cup and the palm of my hand. Don’t worry about a little bit of flour sticking to the side because you already measured the oil and the cup is wet. It’s all going to the same place anyway, so save your self some dish duty and get the big four-cupper out. Spend three minutes familiarizing your self with teaspoon, half teaspoon, and tablespoon quantities: measure out different quantities of salt, dump each one into the palm of your hand, and commit the vision to memory. You can sell your measuring spoons in your next yard sale.

10. Know your subs

Don’t you hate it when you’re all set to bake or cook and you’re missing ONE ingredient? For easy substitutes, I call on so I can avoid making that one last trip to the grocery store.

What are your favorite in-the-kitchen tips that make your cooking life easier? I’d love some new ones for my back pocket.

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Kelly Blanchard

Kelly Blanchard loves thinking about, preparing, consuming, and serving good food. Believing that life is to short to eat the same stuff over and over, she loves to test new eats on her friends and family. Kelly loves her coffee-addicted hubbie, her two little blonde-haired babes, all things sweet, black tshirts, and the color pink.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. lindsey on said:

    this just blew my mind…why haven’t i been doing all of this???

  2. Pesto into icecube trays! PESTO FOR MONTHS!

  3. So Kelly, awesome suggestions here! I love the ice-cube tray stuff, I have never thought of that.

    On prep–I like to combine PBJ night / take-out night with prep night–ideally sometime around the beginning of the work week. Don’t worry about preparing a meal to eat (note the PBJ or the take out) but spend the kitchen time simply prepping ingredients. Vegetables especially… want more carrots, onions & celery in your diet? make them easy to eat. Ideally, my frige is full of tupperware and ziplocks full of cleaned, cut veggies at the beginning of every week.

    Here’s a big one for me though, you were talking about canned stock etc. I’m a big fan of canned vegetables in cooking–obviously fresh is best, but when it is January and you want some corn… yeah. So, I choose canned over frozen because of the juice. Every can I ever open gets drained into a tupperware and goes into the freezer. My freezer is always full of ready-made stock.

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