For anyone who follows The Honest Project, you will know that I make most of my meals from scratch using wholefoods and minimally processed foods. While I love cooking, even I don't want to spend hours in the kitchen every day. So I am a big fan of anything that makes food prep quick and efficient. I also try to put myself in the shoes of someone who is working long hours or is looking after a family as well as themselves and so may not have lots of free time to spend on food prep. Like everything else, with a little practice, food prep becomes quicker and easier. But just to help you on your way, here are ten tips that will hopefully make home cooking quick and easy.
1. Plan, plan, plan. Forward thinking will save you valuable time in the kitchen. I like to sit down once or twise a week and plan what I am going to eat that week. I plan my meals, my shopping list and what food I can prep in advance. This makes for more efficient grocery shopping, less time spent procrastinating in the kitchen and less food waste.
2. Invest in a food processor. I have no idea how I spent years cooking without a food processor. I think the phrase 'absolutely amazing' is really over used these days, but the food processor is definitely deserving of that adjective. They chop, mix, grind, grate; you name it. I use it all the time to prep vegetables and it cuts vegetable prep time in half.
3. Organise your condiments. I like to keep a tray of my most used condiments (such as olive oil, coconut oil, salt, pepper, vinegars and tamari) on the counter beside the cooker within easy reach of where I prep my food. Identify the condiments that you use again and again and keep them together and within easy reach of your food prep area.
4. Buy some clever kitchen utensils. I'm not one for wasting money on gimmicks that have limited use. However, some kitchen utensils are well worth the money. If you are cooking from scratch a lot, I would recommend getting a handheld juicer (for lemon and lime juice), A microplane (for grating garlic, ginger, nutmeg and for zesting oranges, lemons and limes), a fine sieve (for rinsing rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, etc.) and a salad spinner (for quickly washing and drying leafy greens). A few wooden spoons and chopping boards and a good selection of cookware of different sizes also come in very handy.
4. Boil the kettle. I am totally stealing this tip from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals, but as soon as you step into the kitchen to start prepping a meal, boil a kettle full of water. A kettle boils much quicker than a pot of water. This will help save time when cooking vegetables, pasta, legumes, etc.
5. Follow a recipe. If you are not familiar with a dish, always use a recipe. Read it in full before you start and break it up into the different elements. Don't be tempted to skip steps.
6. Assemble ingredients before you start. When I am cooking a dish, the very first thing I do, is assemble all the ingredients I need on the countertop. I also gather together all the kitchen utensils and cookware I need. This saves so much time as you avoid having to go back and forth to cupboards looking for ingredients while you cook.
7. Clean and tidy as you go. I love this rule. When I started home cooking, a big negative to cooking was the mess I used to make. Now, I make a real effort to keep a tidy space while I cook and it makes food prep so much more enjoyable and easy. I always have a bowl for food waste beside me on the counter. Before I start cooking, I always make sure I have an empty dishwasher and sink, so I can put used dishes and cookware in the dishwasher or sink as I finish with them.
8. Cheat sheets: Keep a cheat sheet of key cooking methods on your kitchen notice board or fridge. For example, if you cook rice, quinoa or lentils a lot, make a note of the ratios of water to ingredient and the cooking time for each on a card and post it on your kitchen noticeboard. That way you don't have to look up the cooking method each time you go to cook them. You can just take a quick glance at your kitchen noticeboard.
9. Batch cook. Prepare several portions of a dish at the one time and refridgerate or freeze some of the portions to eat on another occasion when you are too busy to cook. I sometimes batch cook certain elements of dishes. For example, I might cook four or five portions of quinoa and keep them in the fridge to add to salads or stews.
10. Wash, peel and prep vegetables in advance. Who wants to be washing spinach every evening. WHen I buy a bag of spinach, I wash and dry it all in a salad spinner and store in a ziplock bag so I just have to grab a handful when I want to make a salad. Another example is pineapple, I usually peel and cube a pineapple in one go and keep it in a container for adding to smoothies each morning. This not only saves tiie in the kitchen, it also helps cut down on food waste.