Spending time in the kitchen is almost unavoidable, unless you are one of the lucky few who can afford a personal chef and a maid to clean up the mess.
With time and practice, most of our learn to navigate through the kitchen space with a lot less effort and optimize the environment so that it works for us and our family.
No matter if your kitchen is big or small, all of us could you a few extra ideas have to squeeze a few precious moments for ourselves instead of slaving off in the kitchen.
So here I bring you some of the most practical life hacks that will save you not just time but also money. These are mostly small changes you make to your routine which overall add up to a lot of extra time you can free up to do the things you enjoy the most – be it play with your kids or put your feet up and enjoy a glass of wine.
Here it is, the hall of fame – or – the mother of all kitchen hacks.
SAVE this for Later
Store Cutlery in Jars
Let me guess. If you’re like most people, your cutlery is neatly stored in a tidy drawer where you have separated knives, forks, spoons and rest of the kitchen cutlery.
Have you ever thought about how much of your lifetime is dedicated to opening and closing that specific drawer? How many times a day do you reach to grab a spoon for your coffee or pull out cutlery for lunch and dinner?
Even though it seems as a trivial little thing, the time you spend opening and closing that damn drawer really ads up. Plus, its not exactly convenient, is it?
If your space allows it, I highly recommend placing your main cutlery in a nice jar (or a pretty short vase). If you have a lot of them, you can use three and separate the cutlery.
That way, they are always within reach on the countertop or even in the middle of your dining table.
When you empty the dishwasher it also takes away the pain of having to separate them and place them into the individual slots in the drawer (that is if you keep them all mixed in one jar).
The best thing? There are not extra costs involved. You can use old mason jars, pretty vase or anything that would work space-wise in your kitchen!
Batch Tasks Together
Any book on productivity will tell you that switching between tasks or trying to pretend you are multitasking doesn’t really work.
The same can be applied to kitchen.
If there is a certain task that you do regularly, try to batch them together and do them in one go. For me this extends to cleaning the dishes (no dishwasher in our home), doing the laundry only one day in a week, cleaning the windows only one day in a month etc.
One Rules them All
Your stack of cleaning products can quickly get out of hand. There is a special spray for windows, for sinks, for bathroom, special powder to use for certain type of dishes and the list goes on.
To simplify your life and avoid adding unnecessary chemicals to your environment, invest into one eco cleaner that is multi-purpose. They are much more healthier and eco friendly that the stuff you buy in supermarket and much more gentle on the surface too (and your hands).
If you want to go really clean and simple, water with vinegar diluted in it works on most surfaces (windows, floor etc). Add a drop of essential oil and your home will smell like heaven.
Open Shelves All Around
I’m a huge fan of open shelves.
Why? No need to close and open them every time you’re reaching for a pan (for me that’s at least twice a day) and its much more easier to clean them.
Invest into restaurant-kitchen style IKEA open shelving that you can install anywhere in the corner of your kitchen and arrange your cooking helpers and tools nice there. The top of the shelf usually works great for storing larger items that would never fit into normal kitchen cabinet.
Store Your Cooking Tools in a Jug
My spatulas, whisks, ladels and tongs are all stored in a big jug right next to the stove.
Anything something needs mixing, whisking, stirring or flipping, I don’t need to open yet another drawer to reach for it.
Store Fresh Cut Herbs in Freezer
I love to use fresh herbs in cooking, but unfortunately they do not last very long in that fresh state. I found that freezing them as a whole was a little tricky as they need a bit of time to defrost before you can chop them.
Chopping your fresh herbs before placing them into the freezer bag is much more convenient and when you’re cooking, you just take a pinch of what you need and put the rest back.
Vegetable Brush instead of Peeling
Buying a vegetable brush was a major upgrade for me.
I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen just prepping the fresh veg instead of using this shortcut that I have only discovered a while ago.
I got a natural eco friendly vegetable brush that just hands next to the sink. I use it for potatoes, carrots and anything else that can be cooked with skin-on. Another huge advantage is the fact that most vegetables preserve most of the nutrients in the skin, so you not only make your food faster but it will be also more nutritious.
Glass Containers with Bamboo Lids for Storage
After a recent splurge at IKEA I found these awesome glass containers. They have lids made out of bamboo which can be also used independently as a small serving tray.
Unlike plastic storage containers, these don’t get coloured from the food or infused with smells. They are way easier to wash and suitable for dishwasher too.
If I have food leftovers in them, I can pop them right to the microwave and eat from there instead of transferring them to a plate.
Ditch the Cook Books
As much as I loooove books, I got rid of most of my cookbooks. They are simply not fast enough to find what I need and in reality, I was using them very rarely. Sure, they do look pretty but for me it was another thing that was just wasting space and not getting used.
For an efficient way to cook & plan meals ahead, I simply save links to recipes I find online and file under each day of the week. Start of the week I simply run through the recipes and compile a shopping list for the whole week.
When cooking, I open my online diary (I use Asana) to click the link to the recipe and cook from the instructions on my phone.
If I like the particular meal, I can simply go to my calendar and book the same meal for a few weeks later without having to search for the original recipe again.
In our house, we are consciously trying to limit the amount of waste we produce. That includes recycling of course, but also questioning some of the items that we use on daily basis that create a lot of waste.
We’ve been using paper napkins for ages before I came across the idea of actually buying a quality linen ones to replace them.
It takes an initial investment but it will be paid back in not time as the amount you would spend in your lifetime on paper napkins is not a pretty number.
How many times do you realize that you’ve forgotten to buy something at the store by the time you got home? The key to never missing a thing in your kitchen is being organized about your shopping list.
As I mentioned earlier, I pull most of my food shopping list from the recipes I store in my online calendar. For rest of the stuff, I have a small notepad on top of the microwave with a pen next to it.
Every time I check the fridge and something is running low or we are completely out, I can put it on the list right there and then instead of trying to remember it and note it down later.
Pre-Cooked Ready to Use Sauces
Its no secret that we should all avoid processed food as much as possible. While I’m not claiming I’m creating my tomato puree from scratch, I certainly try my best at doing most sauces from scratch – and you can do too!
So next time you cook pasta, make double doze of your sauce and keep half of it in freezer for use later. It also gives you a peace of mind that when you have no idea what to cook, there is freshly made pasta or meat sauce waiting in your freezer and it only needs a few minutes to defrost.
Cooking for Kids – Hide Veggies in a Burger
If you have a picky eater at home – here is a trick that works every time. Simply blend the veggies into a neat looking burger. You will have to go a bit heavier on the seasoning to make the taste pop out (compared to meat).
Add a dollop of ketchup, burger bun and the little camper will be more than happy to cooperate at mealtime.
For an extra level of mastery, if you’re doing something with spinach or other greens, just tell them its a special Hulk burger that gives extra strength to their muscles. Works wonders on boys, haven’t tested it on girls yet.
So that rounds up our little kitchen hack list.
I hope you find some helpful tips in here, and as ever – if you have any of your life wisdom to share, we would love for you to leave a comment below!