Contrary to what you see on popular cooking shows, home-cooked meals don’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time. With just a little planning and preparation, you can save a lot of time in the kitchen and give your family foods with more flavor and nutrients to stay healthy.
10 Real Food Tips to Save Time in the Kitchen
1. Plan your meals.
You don’t have to plan an elaborate menu or schedule, just have an idea of what you want to make during the week to make sure you have all the ingredients you need. Plan to cook at least 2-3 nights out of the week. On the other nights, eat leftovers or make a quick meal with the leftovers like a burrito or school lunch.
2. Batch cook.
Make a roast chicken or pot roast in a crock pot on a Sunday, and save the meat to use for dishes throughout the week. This cuts down a lot of time and provides nourishment from a whole food source rather than relying on convenience foods out of a box or can. Use the meat for salads, soups, stews, burritos, quesadillas, pastas and even school lunches. I store my meat in freezer-safe glass containers.
3. Make your own staples.
Keep the bones from a roast chicken to make a healthy chicken broth (how to make chicken bone broth). I can usually make two batches (about 4-5 pints) of broth with just one whole chicken. Use that broth for everything from soups to mashed potatoes to stir fry. Sometimes I’ll even just enjoy a cup to get all the benefits of collagen and amino acids from the bones. If you store broth in the freezer though, I do recommend using freezer-safe glass containers rather than glass Mason jars. I made the mistake a couple of times and it resulted in broken glass in my freezer. No bueno!
You can do this with other staples too, such as cooked beans, salad dressings, condiments, fermented vegetables (here’s an excellent source for buying fermented foods and starter cultures for milk or water kefir), granola, etc. Keep reading for recipes.
4. Buy in bulk.
Buy foods in bulk to save time and money. Rather than make frequent trips to the store every week to buy meat, vegetables and dried goods, buy in bulk from local sources such as local farms and CSAs (community-supported agriculture). Here are some excellent sources to buy meat, seafood and dairy, as well as pantry essentials such as coconut and other oils. Amazon is another great source for buying cooking utensils, dry goods and more.
5. Prep foods ahead of time.
With bulk meat, you can ration out portion sizes for various meals and store in the freezer until needed. With dried goods such as beans, nuts or grains, you can cook or soak them as needed and store in the pantry. I especially love this method for fruits and vegetables. I buy them in bulk from a local CSA, and then wash, cut and store them as needed for my meals throughout the week. This includes a huge vegetable tray (I use this one) that my kids eat after school and in between meals.
6. Ditch your microwave.
Food that needs to be heated in a microwave is usually processed or single serve – the opposite of what you want in a family meal. Real food doesn’t have to take along time. Opt for leftovers heated on the stovetop, toaster oven or tabletop confection oven. Or cook popcorn with a stovetop popper – it takes just as long as microwave popcorn, yet it tastes so much better.
7. Keep food simple.
Meals don’t have to include a laundry list of ingredients to be healthy. Try recipes with simple ingredients, and build from there to include spices or other add-ons that your family enjoys. For instance, make a simple burrito with homemade cooked beans and raw cheese. Build on it by adding diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro and spices.
8. Enlist a sous chef.
Kids love helping in the kitchen. Get them involved in meal planning, prep work, cooking, cleaning or serving dishes. Kids learn every facet of the process of cooking and more likely than not they’ll be more willing to try new foods if they help to cook it.
9. Clean as you go.
It’s easy to have dishes pile up as you prep and cook meals, so clean up as you go. Load the dishwasher or clean cutting boards and other cooking utensils as soon as you’re done with them. This keeps your kitchen space clean and makes cleaning manageable at the end of the meal.
10. Make mealtime fun.
Make breakfast for dinner once a week. Make pancakes (try these gluten-free buttermilk pancakes) and bacon or omelets – whatever your family enjoys eating. Kids especially love to swap foods and make things silly. Plus, breakfast is usually a quick and easy meal to whip up.
More Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen
Looking for more tips to save time in the kitchen? Want easy recipes you can make year-round?
Check out The Real Food Survival Guide for Busy Moms by Lindsey Gremont of Homemade Mommy. You’ll learn so much on how to save time and get real food meals on the table for your family.
With this book you’ll learn:
- The secret to making food your family will eat
- How to make meal time more convenient without a microwave
- How to save time and money on real food and reduce shopping trips
- How to restock your pantry with real food alternatives
- How to save time on prep
- How to pack smart with homemade beauty products
- Get healthy lunch ideas for kids in school
- Over 30 recipes – including snacks, side dishes, main dishes and desserts
- And much more!
It’s only $17.99 and there are some great deals on other real food cookbooks. You can check out a free sample chapter too.disclosure.
Sign up to get a FREE copy of my e-book, The Essential Home: Quick Start Guide to DIY - available exclusively to subscribers.
You'll also get weekly updates with the latest DIY tutorials, natural health tips, and real food recipes.