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by Chef Sarah Russo September 19, 2018
We're all busy.
But that shouldn't stop you from enjoying healthy and tasty food all the time.
Master these tips to get the most out of the least amount of time.
(By the way, if you have time to cook slower, we like that too. :-) )
Some of these might seem obvious, but keeping up these 10 tips will making cooking faster and easier!
1. Meal prep
Do as much as possible ahead of time! One of my favorite meal prep hacks is Mason Jar Salads. Layer with all the wet and heartier ingredients on bottom and finish with leafy and delicate ingredients on top. This is a great way to ensure I grab a jar full of whole foods vs. something less nutrient dense while I'm going about my day.
2. Use the right equipment
This means sharp knives! And of course lots of other great timing saving tools like a citrus press and a microplane. Click here for our recommendations. But without a sharp knife, cooking is slow, unpleasant and dangerous. Do yourself a favor and make sure your knife is sharp and honed.
3. Buy food that already tastes good. In season.
Ingredients purchased "in-season" means that you are purchasing at the peak of freshness during the item's growing season. This translates to a fresh and delicious flavor that does need much culinary intervention. Ever had an heirloom tomato or peach when it's season? Just slice and eat. Nature's time saver. It's also more nutritious. Read why.
4. Make sauces, dressings, and jarred foods ahead of time.
This falls into a meal prep category, but still worth calling out as a separate point. It takes very little time and resources to stew and store your own tomatoes, cabbage, fruit, etc. for a fast version of a gourmet recipe. If possible, purchase and prep all the fruit/veggies so that when it comes to making this delicious bolognese sauce, you have perfect tomatoes already on hand. Dressings and sauces can last 21 days in the fridge. Love balsamic? Make yours in a mason jar and have it for the whole week.
5. Clean up as you go.
If you are not already clean while you cook, this could be a hard habit to pick up. But trust me, if you want to save time this is one of THE most important tips. Keep a damp kitchen cloth with you at all times to wipe drips, cutting board and surfaces while you cook. And, always have a trash bowl near your cooking station for discarding peels, roots, trimmed pieces or other food items you don't want. This keeps the mess off your cutting board and clean up a breeze.
6. Use as few dishes as possible by reusing same bowls/cups.
Read ahead in your recipe and figure out which ingredients you can pre-combine. This will save you so many bowls for clean up. For instance, if you're making a sauce or skillet meal many of those ingredients will get added at the same time. Same time = Same bowl. By the way, can you reuse the same pan more than once? Of, course! Make your protein first, then reuse the fat or oil drippings in the same pan to cook your vegetables like in this beef fried 'rice' recipe.
7. Keep a well-stocked pantry in clear containers.
When I open my pantry, I see rows of clear containers for all my flours, sugars, herbs, spices, grains, pasta, nuts, and seeds. I can see at a glance what needs to go on my shopping list. This helps me speed through meal planning and not waste ingredients.
It's also a fun visual way to get excited about cooking something out of my routine. I'll see that I'm low on rice but have a lot of quinoa... that will be my grain tonight!
8. Freeze herbs, dough, broth, stews.
One of my all-time favorite tips! Freeze. Always make extras of your herb sauces, dough, broth and stew recipes and freeze. You will never be sorry that you have extra beef bourguignon or cilantro jalapeño cubes to throw together meals in a snap!
9. Master 1 pot recipes
One pot means minimal clean up. Save the multi-pot meals for the weekend and give some of these recipes a spin.
10. Save all leftovers
Make extra and repurpose. This seems intuitive but often forgotten. If you do not like to prep meals at the beginning of the week, doing leftover meal prep will save you hours. We call it the second meal, the second meal you can get out of your first meal. For instance, for dinner, you had ground beef tacos, and for lunch you enjoyed the same ground beef with cumin, hummus, cucumber, and tomato as a Mediterranean wrap. Some of the same prep, but a different take on the meal!
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