My Cooking Connection
How to Save Time When Preparing a Meal
Sometimes it's great to spend an afternoon preparing a meal in a leisurely fashion. Other times you
don't have that luxury and getting everything done fast is the top priority. There are all sorts of tips and
short-cuts that you can use when you're in a hurry to deliver.
If you're in a rush, choose your dish carefully. The best cook in the world can't hurry up a slow
roast, and dishes that include a range of different techniques and processes are always going to be more
time-consuming. But, even if your dish isn't entirely straightforward, there are still things you can do to save
time - starting by putting the ingredients out, so you're not chasing around, riffling through closets.
Even if you're a purist about preparing food from scratch, sometimes you can compromise a little
without sacrificing quality. Pre-prepared fresh and frozen foods can save you a lot of time scraping, peeling and
dicing. It won't be a solution for every dish, but it really won't matter for others. Buying grated cheese,
pre-chopped garlic in oil and other ready-made foods can make a significant difference to the time you spend
wielding a knife in the kitchen.
Make use of labor-saving devices, as appropriate. They will also help you to multitask more
effectively to speed things up. While something is being beaten in the mixer you can get on with something else.
Good quality gadgets can also make life easier. A good device for slicing and dicing really can do the job
effectively, and in half the time.
Microwaves and conventional ovens are both excellent for people looking to save time. Even if
you're not keen on things cooked in the microwave, part-cooking things like vegetables in the microwave first can
cut down on standard hob-top cooking time. Also take a look at your cooking habits. If you're making mashed potato,
don't cook them as halves. Dice them smaller and you've not only saved yourself some time but some gas and
electricity to boot.
If you associate your ordinary oven with dishes that take hours, think of it from another angle.
Vegetables and other dishes just need topping and tailing, drizzling with oil and away you go. You're free to work
on other elements of the meal. You may think frying is fast - and sometimes it's the quickest method. But if you've
got other things to do too then you'll be wasting time checking and turning things and making sure the oil isn't
There are two kinds of cooks - those who wash up as they go along and those who end up with a
mountain of dirty dishes. If you get into the habit of doing the former, you can double up and save time that way
too. A lot of kitchen efficiency is about re-examining your normal way of doing things. It may not be the best way.
After all, you've got better things to do - like eating your home-cooked meal and chilling out with an accompanying
coffee or glass of wine.
Meal Planning to Save Money on Your Grocery
The amount of food that goes into landfill sites each year is truly staggering. It's not only an
environmental problem. It's also a waste of your hard-earned cash. A scientific study calculated that wasting food
means that the average American family puts at least $600 or more a year in the trash. Meal planning will put those
dollars back in your pocket.
The supermarkets make it easy for us to buy food that we don't use. Special offers only save you
money if you actually consume the goods before the use-by date. A simple grocery list is the key to smart shopping
and resisting unnecessary purchases. That list should be based on a realistic assessment of what you need. A meal
plan will allow you to draw up a shopping list that covers those needs.
Meal planning doesn't mean a rigid schedule where you have pasta on Monday, meat on Tuesday and
fish on Friday. It means knowing what your eating habits and meal preferences are so that you only buy the
perishables you'll use and don't get seduced by the bargains in the store.
You may want to keep a food diary for a few weeks to see what your meal pattern is. How much salad
do you actually eat in a week or a month? Realistically, are those fresh vegetables going to be used up while
they're still fresh? What types of food do you regularly consign to the garbage?
Make a note of your staple, regular meals. Your core menu might include a favorite pasta dish, a
stir-fry and a weekend barbecue. If you have pasta and home-made spaghetti sauce once a week, it's easy to
calculate quite precisely the quantities of fresh ingredients you need. When you know what you normally eat, you
can draw up a meal plan for a specified period. That could be a week, fortnight or even a month.
If your menu includes meals with lots of fresh ingredients, it makes sense to shop more often, for
maximum freshness and minimum waste. If that's not practical, plan meals that use up perishable ingredients and can
be put in the freezer. By planning meals that use seasonally available ingredients and can be frozen you can still
take advantage of bulk buys when produce is at its cheapest, without worrying about waste.
Meal planning will save you time and effort too. Most of us waste time dithering about what to have
for supper when faced with a refrigerator full of incompatible ingredients. That's when you'll be tempted to reach
for the phone for a take-out - not the most economical option. Smart planning means there's always something good
and fresh to eat.
The time you put into meal planning will pay you dividends. With a bit of practice it becomes
second nature. You'll know intuitively whether you need six eggs or a dozen. Meal planning means a smart shopping
list, which also means you won't find out halfway through a meal that you're missing the vital ingredient.
Planning your meals also means you may never have to deal with those vegetables that you meant to
use but that are actually rotting in your refrigerator. With the gains of fresher food, less daily hassle and extra
money in your pocket, meal planning is something we should all be thinking of.
Go on to the next page -->
We've Got So Much Great Content, We Even WOW