Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Saving Time in the Kitchen

Today I want to introduce you to the next series of Paleo menus.  The last four weeks of general menus should have given you at least a few new dishes to add to your menu rotation.  Now I am going to start giving you some two week menu plans written to meet specific needs.

Starting next week - if you haven't already figured it out by the picture - is going to be Time Saving Menus.  Now please don't confuse this with Money Saving which will follow later.  Some of these will be money saving, but that isn't the aim here.  I am trying to have you spend as little time as humanly possible on food and to still let you eat healthy well-balanced meals. And sometimes, no doubt about it, you will need to spend some money to do that.

For instance one of the things I really think you should consider if you're really interested in saving time is to invest in slow cookers.  And not just one but two and possibly even three depending on how big your family is.

Yes I know, this might seem like overkill, but think about it.  Slow cooked meals have been shown to be the healthiest way to cook food, not only the most convenient, so you're getting a double benefit.  (The one pictured above is made by Rival.  Each of the pots is a 2.5 quart capacity, and it costs under $90.)

Especially if you're someone who wants to get all the food prep over and done with in a couple of days a week and then not worry about food the rest of the time, this is ideal.

On the day you spend preparing basics you could first get three meals going.  Then while you're cutting vegetables and doing all the other things, those slow cookers are busy working away for you. At the end of the day you not only have all your Paleo basics for the week, you've got half of the week's meals ready as well.  Add a few more slow cooker meals during the week and supplement with some quick and easy 15 minute meals on the days you do cook, and you're covered.  Does it get much easier?

As you no doubt expect there will be a lot of slow cooker recipes in the next couple of weeks, so with the ones I've already given you there are lots of options if there are any you're not crazy about.  The rest of the meals will be as quick and easy to make as possible.  My goal is after all to get you out of the kitchen. Now here are a few other Time-Saving tips to consider. ( Remember, NOT necessarily money saving.)

Use easy vegetable side dishes.  Always have a good selection of vegetables in your freezer. (Frozen vegetables are second only to fresh in nutrition.) and pick up your fresh vegetables ready prepared if possible.
Cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, snap peas and baby carrots all come cleaned, chopped and ready to just heat and serve.

Whenever possible cook more than one meal at a time.  And not just with slow cooker meal but with any meals you prepare.  Here is one woman making what looks to be a double portion of cowboy pie.
cowboy pie recipe

Sometimes you will want to partially cook a meal and then finish just before you serve.  (An example would be making up extra Paleo pizza bases and topping when you need them.)
pizza base recipe

That's perfectly okay.  It's still going to save you time. If you aim to do this 5 dinners out of every 7 you will end up with a great freezer stash that you can rotate though out the coming weeks.

Stock your pantry with time saving ingredients.  If saving time is your goal you're not the one who will be buying a bushel of tomatoes to can.  You are the person who buys the cans - on special if possible. Organic canned tomatoes are often more nutritious than fresh anyway because there is better quality control.

Make sure you have a good stock of gluten-free sugar-free stir-fry sauces and other condiments. And canned mushrooms, beets and other vegetables (no sugar added) are also good side dishes to have in reserve for when you didn't have time to make it to the store for fresh.

Use time saving equipment.  You're already using your slow cooker, but consider other kitchen aids as well.  The microwave and the pressure cooker can both help you to create instant meals in a time crunch.  Pressure cookers have come a long way over the years. They are now very safe and can make you a meal in minutes.

Good quality non-stick pans such as these Earthware are worth the investment in cleaning time, and they don't need to be replaced anywhere as often as cheap ones, so they probably save you money in the long run.

Have lots of heavy duty freezer bags, parchment paper, wax paper and aluminum foil on hand.  Lining cooking pans with these will save hours of clean-up and make freezing foods a breeze.  And stock up on freezer containers as well.  You're not going to be cooking in them so plastic is perfectly fine and quite reasonably priced so you should always have a stash ready to go.

If you don't have a dishwasher, make washing dishes as pleasurable an experience as possible. 
Buy some good quality rubber gloves and some nice hand lotion to use once your done.  Use a good quality dishwashing liquid that will really do the job, and when you start your basics or cooking days, the first thing you want to do is get a full sink of hot sudsy water going.  Then once you're finished with a dish, stick it in there and let it soak.

By the time you get down to doing the dishes they will already be half done, and you will be out of that kitchen quicker than you thought possible. After all, there is more to life than cooking.

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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