Kitchen Organization 101
"Zoning" a Messy Kitchen
Saving Time in the Kitchen
Even though I am a SAHW (Stay-At-Home Wife) with no children, I still have a wicked allergy to being in the kitchen all day. There are so many other things to do in this world and some of them far more interesting than domestic drudgery. Here's how I avoid a lot of the drudgery.
I prepare for meals well in advance by cooking and freezing meal components in dual serving-sized portions (since there's only two of us here). I also prepare to defrost the night before (meaning when dinner is done, tomorrow's frozen components go into the fridge tonight).
I freeze meats, rice, potatoes (more on this later), and frozen veggies in resealable bags and plastic containers two portions at a time. A meal gathering from the freezer will consist of a meat bag, a veggie box, and a starch box. All go from the freezer to the fridge after tonight's dinner for tomorrow's dinner. I refer to the Food Guide Pyramid for portion sizes when determining the amount of food product to be frozen.
I am referring to salads here. I now go to a farmer's market for my organic produce, and it doesn't particularly go well in the freezer. Nor does it last long enough for me to devise a way of freezing it. Instead, I spend an hour or so cutting up the greens and veggies, and put them in two separate large-size Tupperware containers. One is for the salad greens, and one is for the cut-up veggies. When I need a salad, I can just reach into the fridge, grab the containers, grab a (clean) handful or two from each container, toss them in a large mixing bowl, stir up, and my salad's made. The tedious cutting up has already been done. Little peeling is required since these are organic veggies. The salad components last about a week when put in fridge containers with a paper towel on top and then flipped upside down. Water is the enemy of greens, and the paper towel will absorb most of it. Just be sure to change the towel out every day.
If you have a family size that is conducive to cooking your meat in a toaster oven, then by all means do so. The toaster oven has a timer and can operate quite well with little supervision. No more standing over a hot skillet! The defrosted grains and veggies can go into the same pot (or microwave dish) for re-heating, which will save time, energy, and dirty dishes. If you have a freezer capable of holding a few dozen plastic containers of frozen veggies, then buy the larger bags and start subdividing into portions according to the Pyramid recommendations and your family size. The same is true for the freezer bags of meat. As for starches, rice and other grains can be pre-cooked one large pot at a time and frozen using plastic food storage containers or resealable bags (pressing flat after filling). A veggie-cutting mandolin can most likely be found in a thrift store (I found two with all the parts) and employed for the veggie portion of your salad preparation forays. I use a wide assortment of leafy greens and crisp veggies, and I store them both in mixed assortments (greens in one container, veggies in the other). I find my salad greens are useful on taco night.
You can freeze potatoes. Find some freezer containers that are big enough to hold potatoes plus enough liquid to completely cover the potatoes. Either whole or cut up, put the potatoes in the container(s), cover with a flavored liquid such as broth (salted water will do) until completely submerged, and freeze. Any part of the potato that isn't submerged in the liquid will turn black.
When ready to use, simply defrost and dump into a pot. Your cooking liquid is what the potato has been frozen in. This is why I recommend a flavored liquid such as broth. I will admit I haven't tried these potatoes baked, as I figure the liquid in the potatoes would only add to the already long cooking time for baked potatoes.
With these methods, I spend very little time in the kitchen preparing meals, especially dinner. Breakfast has been written about already here at the Stretcher, but some of the same methods can be employed. Lunch is easily dealt with by preparing it the night before, or packing last night's leftovers.
You will notice I didn't mention pasta. It is not a freezer-friendly component. Also, most sauces are not freeze friendly (cheese sauce is one, however). With the current low-carb craze going around, you're probably better off skipping it anyway.
Since I have discovered a nearby farmer's market with organic produce, I have cut way back on buying the frozen veggies. Fresh, raw veggies are much better for you anyway. This may also allow you to cut down on your appliance use/need. I'm considering a shift over to my refrigerator freezer as soon as I get the desire to reorganize it.
I only peel veggies where it's necessary (to remove eyes, scars, etc.).
My microwave got a new home some five years ago. I am no longer in a hurry to prepare meals.
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