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September 24, 2020 / Nicole Villeneuve

10 Kitchen Hacks to Save Time

woman cutting a banana on a wooden cutting board next to strawberries, nuts, and a bowl of fruit

Cooking at home is a great way to live a healthy lifestyle. You can control more of what goes into your food, such as sugar, salt, and processed oils, which means you can make the best health and wellness choices for your body.

Unfortunately, hectic schedules can make it difficult to effectively meal prep and enjoy home-cooked meals. If you don’t like cooking, the simple decision of what to make and how to prepare it can be overwhelming.

Thankfully, with a few quick kitchen hacks to save time, you can avoid the stress of meal planning, cooking, and cleaning up, giving you more time to savor your food and the people you’re sharing it with.

Whether you want to practice a healthier lifestyle or simply learn to cook better, here are some useful kitchen hacks to save you time and make life a little easier. From figuring out what to do with leftover herbs to finding inventive ways to cut ingredients, these easy tips will help you feel more confident and productive in the kitchen.

1. Meal Plan Before You go to the Store

Woman with curly hair makes a grocery shopping list on her computer in her kitchen

Time saved: 15 to 30 minutes per day

Whether you make your own meal plan or use a meal planning assistant, knowing what you need to buy before going to the store will save you time and help you stay on-budget. A shopping list narrows down your choices and can help you avoid purchasing more than you need, not to mention saving you time at the grocery store.

Here are a few quick tips for effective meal planning:

2. Sort Groceries at the Store

Cashier handing groceries over to a woman at a store

Time saved: 10 minutes

This kitchen hack to save time starts before you even get into the kitchen. Try organizing your groceries while you’re still at the store by grouping items in your cart, on the checkout belt, and when bagging. For example, you can separate your dry goods, freezer items, produce, dairy, and meats into separate bags to avoid as much back-and-forth when unpacking. Simply bring each bag to the refrigerator or pantry, and unload.

3. Pull Out All Ingredients and Utensils Before Cooking

Salt and basil next to kitchen utensils and a cutting board on a white kitchen countertop

Time saved: 10 minutes

In the culinary world, there is a French term often used called "mise en plus." This translates to "putting in place," and means having all your ingredients cut, peeled, sliced, grated, and measured before you start cooking. Mise en plus will make the cooking process faster and more fun. You’ll save time searching through your cupboards and have everything at your fingertips for quick and easy preparation.

4. Chop Up Veggies in Advance

Chopped brussels sprouts, mushrooms, zucchini, red bell peppers, onions, rosemary, and garlic on a wooden cutting board

Time saved: 10 minutes

A great kitchen hack to save time is chopping veggies to use throughout the week. If you planned meals with similar ingredients, this will ensure that you have perfectly sliced veggies ready and waiting for the next day.

These extra veggies can come in handy for a quick snack or salad topping, and you’ll only need to wash the dishes you used once. Pack your chopped veggies in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag, then keep in the crisper for up to three days.

5. Cook in Batches

Two glass containers filled with chicken, broccoli, brown rice, tomatoes, and cucumbers

Time saved: Up to an hour for every meal you batch cook

Spending extra time cooking early in the week can help you save time later on. Rather than cooking for an hour each night, a couple of hours of batch cooking can set you up for prepared meals throughout the week. Meals like casseroles, soups, stews, and pasta are easy to make in large quantities and store well in the refrigerator or freezer.

Make sure you have kitchen storage items available like freezer bags, silicone food storage bags, containers with lids, and jars for quick and easy storage and clean up.

6. Clean as You Go

Person cleaning a white plate in their kitchen sink with other clean dishes on the counter

Time saved: 15 minutes

If you make a point to tidy as you go – putting away a cutting board when you no longer need it, washing a pot, or placing utensils in the dishwasher – you’ll find your mess is much smaller at the end. You’ll also have more space to meal prep.

If you compost, you can keep a compost bowl on the counter for scraps and place a trash can nearby for everything else. This saves steps back and forth, and is a great way to decrease waste while giving your garden extra nourishment.

7. Use an Instant Pot

An instant pot on the kitchen counter next to the stove top

Time saved: 30 minutes

Instant Pots are a perfect kitchen hack to save time. With an Instant Pot you can cook an entire meal in one pot, saving time cleaning extra dishes and standing over the stove mixing and stirring.

If you pre-chop veggies, you can save even more time by simply adding them to the pot for delicious soups, stews, or even a roast. Put all ingredients into the pot, follow manufacturer instructions for time and temperature, and let it do the cooking for you.

If you’re looking for a healthy Instant Pot recipe, try this balsamic-glazed chicken and carrots with side salad for a time-saving, delicious meal.

8. Use a Silicone Baking Mat When Baking

Silicone baking mat with red edges used to bake biscuits

Time saved: 5 minutes

Silicone baking mats are a great investment if you use your oven to bake regularly. They are commonly used for making baked goods like cookies and scones, but they're also a handy kitchen hack to save time when roasting vegetables. Using a silicone baking mat prevents the vegetables or other foods from sticking to the tray, making cleanup easy and preserving your baking dishes for years to come – no scraping, no scrubbing.

They're also an environmentally-friendly alternative to parchment paper, as one silicone mat will last years. After you’re done baking, use a spatula to remove veggies and simply rinse any residue with mild dish soap and warm water and clean-up is done.

9. Organize Cabinet Space

White kitchen drawer organized with spices, condiments, and groceries

Time saved: 5 minutes

Before you go shopping or even start planning your grocery list, take some time to organize your cabinets and pantry space. This will help you remember where everything goes, saving you time searching for that cheese grater or your favorite pan. It’s also helpful when looking for ingredients. Some creative ways to organize are:

10. Keep Knives Sharp

Person wearing a blue apron and a striped shirt sharpening a kitchen knife with a whetstone

Time saved: 5 minutes

Cutting with a well-sharpened knife is a kitchen hack that saves time and helps you safely and efficiently cut fruits, vegetables, meat, and bread. If you do a lot of prep work when you cook, having different knives for different purposes will also save you time and make sure you are using the best knife for the job. A few common knives are:

Many knife sets come with a sharpening tool, so make sure you learn how to use them correctly. You can also take knives to be professionally sharpened, which will help ensure they stay sharp for months to come.

The Takeaway

Healthy, delicious meals start with good planning and proper food preparation. Taking a little time at the beginning of the week to meal plan, shop, and prep can end up saving you hours later in the week. With a few of these kitchen hacks to save time, you may find that cooking is quite enjoyable.

If you need more recipe ideas or help personalizing your meal plans for special diets, PlateJoy is here to help. We offer clean eating meal plans that enable healthy eating for busy people, and can even create a grocery list and arrange for delivery. Save time, money, and enjoy a nourishing meal every day of the week with PlateJoy.

Nicole Villeneuve

Nicole Villeneuve is a certified Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. A graduate of Yale University, she previously worked in book publishing, with a focus on cookbooks and health, and ran the food blog Paper and Salt. Her writing has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Daily Beast. Nicole lives in San Francisco and loves cooking, reading, exploring new restaurants, and running by the ocean. You can (very occasionally) find her on Twitter.

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