There are people who like cooking and those who don’t. I belong to the latter group. It’s not that I really hate cooking; it’s just that it interferes with more interesting activities. But since cooking is a prerequisite to eating it needs to be done.
Cooking itself wouldn’t be so bad if that was all it took. But it comes with making a mess which then needs to be cleaned up. I often felt that I spent an hour cooking and a further hour cleaning up for a meal that took half an hour to consume. As my blogging friend Jacquie would say “Where’s the Justice?”
I think everyone who does any cooking or baking has some foods they really don’t like to make. Why stress yourself out – either stop cooking those particular dishes or find an alternative, more agreeable way to complete the task. And then even us reluctant cooks have some foods we don’t mind making so concentrate on those.
My Top Three “Dislike” Cooking Dishes:
- Making pie crust – easy remedy, buy the frozen ones;
- Making biscuits – replace with bread rolls made with my bread maker;
- Making muffins – another easy one – make quick breads instead.
My Top Three “I Don’t Mind” Cooking Dishes:
- Soup – easy to make, nutritious, can make enough at one time to give us no-fuss lunch for a week;
- Bread – using the bread maker turns this into an easy job. Bonus, it makes the house smell wonderful and, if timed right can even form the base for supper;
- One-Pot (or slow-cooker) meals. Most of these can be made in the morning and forgotten until it’s time to eat.
It took a little longer to figure out how to cook less – and make a mess less often – but it turned out it can actually be done quite easily. Bonus, cooking less really cuts back on energy costs.
Favourite Time and Money-Saving Cooking Tips:
Schedule the cooking. Choose a time when you’re least busy and set that time aside to do the cooking. Just knowing that cooking is the job of the moment makes it easier to stay focused. Cook two or three different dishes in big batches, each batch enough for 2 or 3 meals and freeze. If some are ‘make now – serve’ later foods that require final touches, make a note of it on the freezer bag.
Cooking Tip # 2 – Cook in Big Batches.
A big way to cut back on cooking and clean-up time is to cook in big batches. This works as well for singles as it does for large families. One of the most common complaints from singles is that they really don’t feel like cooking just for themselves so quite often they don’t. Taking a day to make large batches of food, then freezing it in serving size packages means always having meals available without any real effort. It becomes just as easy to reheat something from the freezer as it does to make a sandwich. Think of it as having your own “Meals on Wheels”.
When you’re cooking anything, you’re going to be making a mess. So why not keep the prep mess down to one time while cooking a big enough batch to provide 3 or more meals? Like I mentioned earlier, I make huge pots of soup for our lunch. There are usually two different ones on the go at the same time. They are then frozen in freezer bag lined containers (once frozen, the containers are removed and the soup filled bags labeled and dated). This makes it real easy to pull out a bag of soup in the morning to have for lunch later. Usually my husband does the heating in the microwave thing which really makes it no-fuss for me.
But it isn’t only soup you can make in big batches. Spaghetti, stew, macaroni and cheese, many slow-cooker meals, are all easily doubled or tripled. Spices are the only adjustment you may need to make at serving time.
Cooking Tip # 3 – Use Master Mixes.
One of my biggest time savers is making up and using master mixes. I love them. Master mixes cut prep mess in more than half and you’re always prepared to quickly put a meal together. The following mixes are courtesy North Dakota State University and Utah State University. The Snackin Cake Master Mix is from one of my recent posts. All of them are quick and easy to make up, using products normally found in the home pantry or fridge. They also include different recipes for using them.
Buy the ingredients on sale – twice a year one of the local stores features flour on sale at half price. Since flour is the main ingredient in pantry mixes, buying at that time saves me a bundle.
Ground Beef Master Mix – Used to quickly make dishes such as Stroganoff, Spaghetti, Enchilada Casserole, etc.
Ready Quick Mix – A pantry mix similar to Bisquick at half the price.
Do It Yourself With Mixes – This one lists a variety of different mixes: Seasoning Mixes, Meat Coating Mix, Chicken Flavoured Rice Mix, etc.
Snackin Cake Master Mix – This one lets you quickly throw a cake together with minimal cleanup.
Cooking Tip # 4 – Make Now – Serve Later.
On the surface this seems to be similar to the big batch cooking – but it’s not. Mind you, you can make several of them at the same time just as easy as making only one. The difference is that you partially prepare these dishes ahead of time and freeze. When you want to serve them, you remove them from the freezer and finish the minimal prep work, then finish by cooking or baking. To get you started, here are two links with some great recipes.
Quick Tip. To freeze casseroles, line the casserole dish with foil before filling, then bake as usual. When done, remove from the oven, let cool, and wrap the foil around the baked casserole and freeze. Once frozen, remove the foil wrapped casserole and place in freezer bag, label and date. Now you have the casserole dish to use again.
Even those that like cooking may find it useful to have some of the Master Mixes or ‘Make-now, serve later’ foods for those days when there is more to do than time to do it in. For me, I love how cooking less gives me more time to do the things I really enjoy.
Talk to you again next week,
Don’t forget – sharing is caring.
‘What do I make tonight’ Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
‘Schedule’ Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net