When learning how to make cooking easier you don’t really think about actually planning. Instead you think about tips or tricks or hacks.
Some would call it time saving cooking hacks or maybe even time saving kitchen hacks. I don’t know. But it all boils down to just learning how to make cooking easier when it’s time to throw it all together.
To do that you gotta learn how to plan.
So we are going to talk about ways you can plan and this will make cooking your dinners much easier. I do each and every one of these. At one time I dreaded every single night when I had to cook.
READY TO LIVE WITH LESS CHAOS?
Ever feel like you will never get to that place where you will cook meals every night instead of going through the drive thru and wasting money? The Simple Meal Planning Binder will be your life saver!
Actually, to be completely, I spent many of my evenings pulling up to the McDonald’s drive thru window. I did so much that it got to the point that we dreaded our take-out meals.
But I was mess. I didn’t never knew what to cook let alone how to plan for it to make cooking easier. You can forget that!
But I learned and I learned the right way. How do I know? Because it’s a habit for me now. I don’t even think about going through a drive thru unless it’s planned. During the day I don’t think about what we are having for dinner because I already know and prepared for it.
This is my goal for you…
1. Plan Your Meals
This one is listed first because it is the most important and the biggest time saving tip I can give you.
Think about it.
If you already know what you are fixing. If you already have the ingredients on hand because, again, you already know what you are fixing then you are going to save a lot of time right there.
You’re not scouring the fridge and pantry trying to figure what you’ll put together and realize that you’re missing at least one of thing to get the job done.
Or if you think about it at work then you don’t have to stop at the grocery store and to pick up what you need before heading in. And then probably spending more money because you see a few other things you would like to get that you really don’t need.
I get it. I WAS that girl.
Now, I meal plan every week and go to the grocery ONE TIME each week. I know what is happening for dinner every single day. I know how to answer that mid-day phone call I get from my boys wondering what’s for dinner because they didn’t read the meal plan on our communication board.
And it has now become a habit. Second nature.
Actually it has helped me so much that I started this blog and fill it with recipes and tips because I want so many others to also have this habit that saves so much time and money. I even wrote a guide showing the EXACT SAME STEPS that I took to meal plan. Trust me if I can do this. You can.
2. Batch Your Spices
Then batch your spice ingredients. When you measure out your ingredients go ahead and measure out a few more and put them in an airtight container or jar. Either on a label or directly on the container write what recipe the ingredients are for and how much needs to be spooned out.
For instance, let’s say you wanted to mix up enough of your spice ingredients to make four more of your recipe. And let’s say your recipe calls for the following spices:
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Now, the easiest way to do this is to just spoon out four more of your measurement into an airtight container or jar and shake it up.
To figure out how much you need for each recipe you just simply add up a normal recipe. So for this recipe it would be…
Real quick just a note that a tablespoon is three teaspoons.
OK, now for this recipe it would be:
- 3 teaspoons, plus
- ½ teaspoon, plus
- ½ teaspoon, plus
- 1 teaspoon, plus
- ½ teaspoon, plus
- ¼ teaspoon, equals 5 ¾ teaspoons
Now write on your container what recipe the spices are for and how much you need.
So when you fix the meal again all you need to do is grab your one container, give a little shake, then spoon out 5 ¾ teaspoons of the mix.
3. Double or Triple Your Portions
So with this one you will be prepping future meals while you are already cooking the same meal.
Alright let me try this again. Have you ever heard of freezer meals or dump meals?
If not, then these type of meals are prepped ahead of time and put in Ziploc bags or containers for the freezer. Usually this is done with intention and with some ingredients matching so that you are using less ingredients during a prep session. More on this a little later since it is another way to save time in the kitchen.
But this is pretty much the same thing. The only difference is that you are already cooking the meal and doubling or tripling the recipe so you can freeze the rest.
Sometimes it will be frozen raw and then cooked later like a chicken dish or like chili you can cook it all at once and then freeze some.
KEEP IT ALL IN ONE PLACE
The Simple Meal Planning Binder Sheets gives you a place to keep your recipes, meal ideas, stock item lists, and many more. Grab it here to keep everything in one place.
When you buy meats at the store sometimes you can get a better deal if you buy it in a larger package. Or maybe it is just the typical package that you purchase.
For example, let’s cook some chili. A typical chili recipe has a pound of hamburger. If you have two pounds of hamburger then you can go ahead and cook the two pounds of hamburger at once and add the ingredients for a double portion of chili.
Let one portion cool and then put in a freezer bag for the freezer. I purchased some of these cool freezer bag holder thingy’s just for this purpose.
It doesn’t take you any more time to cook two portions over one portion and you have a ready meal that all you have to do it heat up for later. You could even use quart bags or microwavable containers and freeze to have for easy work lunches.
4. Prep Ingredients at Once
If you notice that you will be using some of the same ingredients in meals over the next few days then go ahead and prep them.
Like onions, if instance. If you are chopping an onion for tonight’s dinner and you know you will have onions in another dinner later in the week. Go ahead and chop that up too while you are at it.
Maybe you want to take some time one evening while you have a dish in the oven to just chop vegetables for the week.
If you already have everything out it would take less time to get it done and bag it than it would to pull them out of the fridge one by one, get the knife out of drawer, get the cutting board from the cabinet, and set everything up. Don’t forget you gotta prop your phone up and start your favorite show.
Just go ahead and get it done so all you gotta do when it comes time to cook is grab out a baggie and dump.
5. Fix Up Some Freezer Meals
I talked a little bit about freezer meals a couple tips back but here I want to give it the space it deserves.
There are many meals you can freeze. You can also freeze them cooked, partially cooked, or even raw.
I like to do them raw where I can throw in all the ingredients and just freeze it. This way all I have to do it put my little bag in the fridge the night before or just a run a little hot water over it before plopping it into the crockpot. I learned all about how to do this in a free workshop by Erin Chase.
I just love Erin and how she teaches. She is so down to earth and very thorough in her videos. I even took her Grocery Budget Makeover course where she teaches you how to get your grocery bill down.
Sorry, squirrel moment there…
Back to freezer meals…
I also really like to do meals that are already cooked but ONLY when I’m doing a double or triple batch of something I’m already cooking for dinner.
You can freeze anything from casseroles, to soups, to chilis, to sauces, to sandwiches. The list could go on and on.
If you are freezing cooked meals you just want to make sure that it is cooled completely down if you plan to put it in a freezer bag. You could put it in the fridge to let it let cool faster or put some ice in your sink and set the dish in it.
When it comes time to thaw just set it in your fridge a day or two before you plan to cook it. Or you can sit in some cool water. Or you could even defrost in the microwave for some foods. If you are using the slow cooker you don’t even have to thaw it completely, just enough to get it out of the bag.
6. Cook One Pan Meals
Remember when I said earlier that you could cut up vegetables ahead of time to save time? Well, one pan meals are already super easy to throw together.
Let’s not mention the fact that you only have one pan to clean. Hello!
Anyhow, if you had your vegetables cut up ahead of time then all you would have to do is prep your meat. Throw on some spices (that may even already be mixed up in a container). Dump your veggies from your baggie onto the pan. Mix it around to evenly distribute the spices and there you go.
Oh, oh. I’ve got an even BETTER IDEA. What if, just what if you took my previous tip and already have the meat cut up with the veggies cut and the spices mixed altogether in a freezer bag just waiting for you to take that one little ole bag and dump in or on a pan.
Do you see where I’m going with all this? And it all started with putting together a meal plan.
Let’s keep going…
7. Keep Backup Meals on Hand
This tip is pretty powerful. And pretty handy to have on those days when you just do not want to deal.
You don’t want to deal with figuring it out. You don’t want to deal with actually cooking it. You pretty much don’t want to deal with life. Your day is done and you are ready to just sit down on the couch and watch your favorite tv series.
But you have those nagging little people who think you should feed them every single day following your every step… “MOM!! What’s for dinner?? MOM!! Whaaat’s for diiiinner?”.
Pull out a backup meal.
These meals take no more than 15 minutes to throw together. No more.
Think along these lines:
- Hot dogs and chips
- Spaghetti (no hamburger) and toast or salad
- Beef Stew in the can (yes, I went there and it’s pretty good) and crackers
- Bologna sandwiches and chips
- BLT using precooked bacon you just put in the microwave and salad since you already have the lettuce out.
Now, go get started back on number one and learn how to meal plan so the rest of this can come much more easier and cooking can become easier.
Until next time…
IT’S UP TO YOU NOW
If you are ready to change the path of your future and starting working toward living a less stressed life and putting some extra cash back in your pocket, then you are ready to get yourself more organized.