Save Time with an Efficient Kitchen

By Chrissy MacDonald

A well-planned kitchen can save hours of extra work. Although each kitchen is unique, they all have four main work stations: the sink, the work area, oven and stove, and tableware set-up.

Look at your kitchen logically. Just because you know where everything is doesn’t mean it’s as efficient as it could be. When you prepare dinner, are all the necessary tools and ingredients near where they will be used? Walking back and forth wastes time.

Store coffee, tea and sugar in a cupboard near the kettle. The vegetable scrubbing brush and strainer should be near the sink to quickly prepare vegetables.

Keep cookware near the stove. Having pots and pans hanging from the ceiling is only good if you can reach the ones you often use. Near the stove you should also find wooden spoons, tongs, a spatula and its own salt and pepper shakers.

Make sure the area where you prepare food is well lighted. Keep mixing bowls, knives and cutting boards within reach. Have one cutting board for meat and another for vegetables to avoid cross contamination.

To store tableware use a metal mesh tray rather than a solid plastic one. Lay it on a large cloth napkin inside a drawer. This way, crumbs that happen to fall through are caught by the napkin which you can wash once in a while.

Put everyday dishes and glasses near the dishwasher or sink.

Storage in the kitchen should be organized based on use. Put the things you use most often in the front of the cupboards and off-season equipment like canning supplies and serving trays on the back of shelves or in another part of the house.

To be super-efficient in the kitchen, fill the sink with hot, soapy water and clean as you go when preparing meals and baking. You’ll end up with less mess at the end.

A kitchen that is well planned will make cooking and baking more enjoyable and save hours of precious time.

10 Tips to Prevent a Dirty House

House cleaning is not my favorite thing to do. I’ve discovered the best way to save time and cut down on house cleaning is to try to prevent the house from getting dirty in the first place.

Before you start to think about efficient house cleaning, here are some steps to reduce or eliminate a lot of your housework.

  1. Use good quality mats at entrances to your home to collect dirt before it gets in. Put a rough mat outside the door to catch small stones and dirt from shoes and boots. Put another mat inside the door.
  2. Leave shoes at the door. If everyone left their shoes in the porch, it would greatly cut down on the sweeping and vacuuming you have to do. When you leave the house, let putting shoes on your feet be the last thing you do.
  3. Sweep floors and wipe up spots daily. This doesn’t have to be a big job. Give your kitchen a quick sweep every night after dinner and wipe up spots with a wet cloth. Floors will look good every day and need to be washed less often.
  4. If you’re looking to buy new flooring, avoid ones with grooves which will collect dirt. Also, avoid carpeting which needs more upkeep and holds dust.
  5. If you already have carpeting, maintain it by cleaning spots as they happen. When you see a piece of lint, pick it up.
  6. Get rid of clutter, junk and knick knacks. Things on counter tops and tables, and taking up space in cupboards and closets can be physically and mentally distracting. And they get in the way of efficient cleaning. Knick knacks collect dust and slow you down. You clean around them, move them and re-arrange them. Keep only the things you love and need.
  7. Give everything a home. Look at a room as if you’re looking at it for the first time. Take each item and put it where it naturally belongs. Have a designated spot for school bags, papers, keys, mail, newspapers and magazines. Even five or six things out of place make a home appear messy.
  8. Use baskets and containers to hold loose items. Tuck them under counters out of the way. This works great for the bathroom. Everything I use is held in baskets and pulled out from under the counter as needed.
  9. Eat in the kitchen or dining room to prevent spills and crumbs in other areas of the house. One cookie makes a lot of crumbs. Use trays if you’re carrying food.
  10. Designate an area for children to draw and color. When small children use markers, pens and crayons, supervise them in a specific play area. If they wander around the house you could end up with decorated walls.

Don’t spend your valuable time cleaning when prevention will eliminate a lot of work. Be proactive and save that time for something more fun.

13 Tips for Bulk Cooking Family Meals

By Chrissy MacDonald

I’m a big fan of bulk cooking. When my kids were young, I discovered bulk cooking and over the years have cooked up a variety of meals using this multi-task system. With a little planning you can make several different family meals in one cooking session with extras to freeze. Bulk cooking is efficient because you’re making a few meals at once using similar ingredients and cooking times.

Bulk cooking saves money and is much healthier than buying packaged meals or relying on take-out.

Since it’s just my husband and me at home now, bulk cooking is even more convenient. I’m a vegetarian (with Greet yogurt and eggs) and my husband eats meat so I serve two different meals every night. We never eat the same thing. The bulk cooking method means I don’t have to prepare a big meal for just one person every night.

An example of a bulk cooking session would be to make two meat loaves, spaghetti sauce, a hamburger casserole for main meals and a coleslaw salad.

Here are some tips for an efficient bulk cooking session for a family:

  1. Plan your steps ahead of time.
  2. Keep a supply of heavy freezer bags, containers and labels for freezing food.
  3. Take the lean hamburger out of the freezer the day before to thaw.
  4. Cook pasta while you’re making breakfast on bulk-cooking day.
  5. Also in the morning, put non-perishable items like bottles of tomato sauce and canned tomatoes on the counter and put the pots on the stove.
  6. Fill the sink with hot soapy water and clean as you go. This will save a big mess at the end.
  7. When you’re ready, put together one or two meat loaves. Bake along with potatoes for that evening’s meal. Leftovers can be frozen later.
  8. Put the rest of the hamburger in a large pot to cook for a big batch of spaghetti sauce.
  9. While the meat is cooking, make a coleslaw salad to be used as a quick vegetable for the week.
  10. Take some of the spaghetti sauce and put together a hamburger casserole using most of the pasta you made at breakfast.
  11. Put the rest of the sauce in containers to freeze.
  12. Keep some pasta out to put in a container or bag to freeze. It can be used later thawed and mixed with tuna or chopped chicken, herbs, mayonnaise and plain yogurt for a cold pasta salad.
  13. Chop and put in a large container some red and yellow peppers, broccoli and carrots to eat raw before or with the meals.  (Note: Kids love raw vegetables with dip. Use plain yogurt with a bit of mayonnaise and herbs.)

This cooking session would take about two hours and make quite a few main meals for the week or to freeze for later use. All you need to do for dinner each night is heat up the food, add a salad or raw vegetables and bread.

Bulk cooking takes organization and practice but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy and satisfying to be able to create so many meals at once.

Bulk cooking will save hours of cooking and cleaning up on a daily basis leaving you more time to spend time doing something fun for yourself!