4 No Nonsense Kitchen Timesavers For Working Moms
When you’re juggling the demands of your family and your job, the housework and the homework, the cooking and the cleaning, all domestic shortcuts are welcome. Let’s face it, there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything to perfection – something has to give.
In the kitchen, you need quick wins to get you through the week – but that shouldn’t have to mean ready meals and takeaways. We’ve come up with some practical tips that will help you achieve maximum results with minimum effort. All it takes is a little forward planning.
Think ahead and streamline your food shopping
The trick to timesaving is to plan ahead. A regular weekly (or thereabouts) trip to the supermarket is all you need to get your kitchen fully stocked. Supplement with occasional visits to specialist stores and local markets and all your food needs should be covered.
Make a grocery list of what you need before you go shopping and stick to it when you’re at the supermarket. It also helps if you can arrange your shopping list around the layout of the store. This will speed up your grocery shop and stop you from going to the aisles you shouldn’t be visiting.
Make sure your grocery list is always up to date. Add items to the list as soon as you’ve run out, so you don’t forget to restock. Many families have a shopping list permanently pinned to the fridge or noticeboard in the kitchen, so everyone can add items as necessary.
Online grocery shopping is a great idea for the time pressed superwoman, and pretty much all supermarkets now offer this facility. Your online account will keep a record of your regular and recently purchased items, making repeat buys of your kitchen staples even easier.
A well stocked store cupboard is half the battle
Successful meal preparation depends on having the right ingredients to hand. When time is short and you haven’t been able to get to the shops for fresh supplies, your kitchen store cupboard should be your best friend. ‘Open Sesame’ and numerous meal ideas will suggest themselves simply by looking at what you’ve already got.
Make sure your kitchen cupboard is always stocked with good quality basics including:
- Tinned tomatoes, beans and other pulses, tuna and other tinned fish
- Cooking sauces – pasta sauces, curry sauces
- Wholegrain rice and pasta, Chinese noodles, couscous, tortilla wraps, porridge oats
- Condiments such as mustard, honey, horseradish, soy sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, tomato puree
- Oils (coconut or vegetable oil for cooking, olive oil for salads)
- Vinegars (apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar)
- Herbs and spices including: Sea salt and black peppercorns, good quality stock cubes, Italian seasoning, Enchilada/Fajita Seasoning, Moroccan Spice Mix, Chinese Five Spice, Thai Seven Spice Mix, Curry Powder, Chilli, Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric
- Baking basics – plain flour, self raising flour, baking powder, sugar, dried yeast
- Extras including olives, capers, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, dark chocolate
Your freezer can be used as an extension to your store cupboard for perishable ingredients such as Yorkshire puddings, oven chips and frozen peas. Take full advantage of the space in your freezer – why not bulk buy butter, bread, meat and fish and freeze what you don’t need straight away. That way, you’ll always have a wide range of ingredients close at hand just when you need them.
Make sure your kitchen is ready to serve you
A place for everything and everything in its place, as the saying goes. Having plenty of storage space and a system for all your kitchen items will speed things up no end when you only have a few minutes to put a delicious family meal on the table.
This goes for pots and pans, crockery and cutlery and kitchen utensils as well as food items. Where did I put that tin of chickpeas? When did I last see the vegetable knife? These are not things you want to be asking yourself in a panic on a Tuesday evening.
Whether you have one of the gorgeous, period wood kitchens or one of the more modern stone, minimalist styles – make sure your worktops are free of clutter and have all your ingredients readily laid out before you start preparing food; the French call this mise en place. Preparing ingredients efficiently helps save time in the kitchen and makes cooking more enjoyable.
Also, do check that your kitchen knives are really sharp – you’d be surprised how many people make do with blunt knives – to make short work of chopping and slicing. And if you have 4 minutes to spare, take a look at the knife skills tutorial below and learn to master the most common cutting techniques in the kitchen. It will save you time in the long run – promise!
Cooking savvy to save time later
Unless you aspire to ‘domestic goddess’ perfection a la Nigella Lawson, being a gourmet chef in the kitchen is really not necessary. Feeding your family should be all about creating simple, nutritious and affordable meals that everyone will enjoy. Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom!
Build up a short but varied repertoire of fail-safe healthy recipes that you can knock up without too much thinking, and mix things up through the week. One-pot meals are always a quick win, as are family favourites based around rice or pasta. Nutritionists agree that you don’t need to eat meat every day – in fact, there are plenty of vegetarian recipes that are wholesome and flavoursome.
When it comes to preparing family meals, more is definitely more. If possible, cook more than you need for one meal, then freeze the rest in smaller portions. That way, you have a homemade ready meal waiting for you in the freezer for that particularly late evening when you literally need a meal in minutes.
If you have time, perhaps at the weekend, why not batch cook for the week? Homemade soups are ideal for making in large quantities and they freeze beautifully.
Leftovers are a godsend, even if you choose to keep them in the fridge (for up to 3 days). The sauce from yesterday’s Chilli Con Carne Sauce can be reinvented as tonight’s Beef Enchiladas. Leftover boiled potatoes are a quick start to a Spanish Omelette. Sunday’s Roast Chicken makes a perfect weekday dinner: Chicken Sandwich accompanied by one of those homemade soups from the freezer. Job done.