Cooking for the Week: 10 Time Saving Cheap Tips

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1) Wash fruit and veggies as soon as you get home from the supermarket

Do it so you don’t have to do it before each recipe. It takes about 15 – 20 minutes to really scrub them down, but it’s worth it.

Dry them off, and when you pack them into tupperware, wrap some paper towels around it to absorb the moisture and keep them fresh for a few more days.

I go the step further and mince, dice, chop, slice, mix and prepare so I don’t have to deal with it when I cook the next day.

I just like spreading out the work, so that I am not on my feet for 4 hours, prepping what could have been done the day before.

I DO have to share the kitchen with another cook, you know 😉

2) Read the recipe (at least twice) beforehand & learn what it entails

Before you make the recipe, make sure you have 4-6 hours free.

At least 4 hours.

If you don’t, you better be darn sure that you have everything on hand, and you will not be waiting 3 hours for the dough to rise.

If you don’t have everything, you can always substitute in items, or omit them altogether, but sometimes you DO forget a key ingredient & your whole recipe is scrapped & so is the time, wasted on now finding a new one that’ll fit.

Also, not to scare you, but imagine this all-too-familiar situation: “Poaching”? “Braising”? *tears hair out*

If you aren’t a food buff like I am (not a foodie yet), then you are probably wondering what it means and how to do it.

So read the ingredients, research on what each step means and how to do it (lots of great Youtube tutorials out there!) and then go through your pantry & mark off what you need to buy and/or feel you can substitute instead.

3) Set out all your ingredients before you begin to cook

Prepare your mise en place. Measure out the flour, get the canned tomatoes open, dice everything ready to go, start the rice cooker, and so on.

If you are prepared and organized, cooking will be a lot faster.

4) Take care of things that take up the most time, first

I always get the dough prepared & rising in a bowl for 2 hours before I prep anything else.

I always start the rice first in a rice cooker, knowing it takes 30 minutes, and another 10 to finish.

Anything else, such as vegetables or fish for example, doesn’t take 30 minutes or 2 hours. It takes 10 minutes to stir fry, and by the time your rice is ready, your main dishes & side dishes will be too.

5) Keep a calculator, 2 measuring cups and a kitchen scale in the kitchen

It comes in handy when you have to double or quadruple recipes and don’t want to screw up.

This is for those of you who feel nervous about measurements.

I’d get a digital kitchen scale (quite handy, really), and at least 2 measuring cups, because I find I like having two on hand, so that one handles the dry stuff, and the other, the wet/sticky ingredients, without having to wash up halfway through.

6) Keep your kitchen tidy & clean as you cook

I always do this just because I hate seeing a whole sink full of dishes at the end, after I am hot, tired, worn out and not hungry any more.

Wash as you use things. Let them dry.

Put the dry items away as you are waiting for that soup to simmer.

At the end of the whole cooking ordeal, you will only have what you just finished cooking with to clean up. Ta dah!

7) Keep a bowl around for scraps

I saw Susur Lee use this once, and it’s basically not wasting time.

Toss your scraps, your garbage, and anything that you’d normally make a small, quick trip to the garbage can for.. or if you’d need to open a cupboard to toss out.

8) Unless you’re baking, don’t measure if you don’t want to

When they say half a cup of honey, or give me any kind of measurements, I just guess.

If I don’t want to over-sweeten or over-season, I put in what I THINK will be enough, taste, and then add some more again.

I hate measuring, and I say things like: a pinch of salt, a handful of flour, some of this and a splosh of that.

I still like having measuring cups around just in case, but after a while, I just don’t bother with it for some recipes.

9) Practice your chopping & dicing skills or find tools

Watch videos. Learn how chefs hold their fingers.

It’s going to be tough (and still is for me), to learn how to cut an onion properly, but with practice and some scuba eye gear, it is worth it to know how to carefully and efficiently take apart and onion.

If you really hate dicing, like I do.. you can always buy a mandolin to shave vegetables down, or a food chopper of some sort to help with the situation.

10) Don’t fret & freak out about it

This is probably the best advice I can give.

Don’t freak out. 🙂 Cooking is meant to be fun, not a chore.

So your souffle suffered, who cares? You’re learning.

Just don’t try anything that you know you are not ready for, and have fun with experimenting with just the basics — a simple pasta, cooked well, in a tomato-based sauce with some grilled vegetables & herbs all over the place.

Once you nail down the basic recipes you love to eat, then move on & try something new, like a Red Curry Thai soup!

NEXT: Recipes & Good Food Blogs

About the Author

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.