Where Time Management Meets the Kitchen

Cooking Make no mistake about it—I do NOT consider myself a good cook.  I cook, and it’s edible, but it’s sustenance; it’s not art.  That’s about it.  So as I write this post, I have to clarify that this is not about cooking so much as it is about efficiency.  Funny, huh?  I even turn cooking into a time management post.  But I thought this would be a perfect combination of the time management theme that I have been writing about for the past several posts and my 30-day challenge, which is  to eat at least three nutrient-dense fruits and/or vegetables a day.

I said to my friend Hannah the other day that I hate to cook.  Then I quickly corrected that.  I don’t hate to cook, I hate to wait.  When I am hungry, I want to eat NOW.  Unless the food is already prepared, this “NOW” attitude could be problematic.  So, for the most part, I try to keep my frig stocked with food that’s just minutes away from eating.  This short post is about how I do that. 

First of all, this 30-day challenge has taught me that I have to keep “the good stuff” available and ready to eat.  It’s got to be as convenient to eat the good stuff as it is to eat chips and cookies and junk (and on another note, I have to keep “the bad stuff” unavailable—as in, not in the house!).  As I began my 30-day challenge, I made a grocery list, and of course it included the fruits and vegetables that I like to eat, not the ones that I thought I should eat.  Fortunately, I happen to like a wide variety of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.  I focused on the brightly colored foods, knowing that these were the ones richest in antioxidants.

I bought enough fresh foods to last me at least a week.  When I steamed broccoli, I didn’t just steam enough for one serving.  No, I cooked the whole bunch of it so it was prepared and ready for other meals throughout the week.  When I chopped veggies for a salad, I would chop the whole cucumber or bell pepper or whatever and store the various items in their separate little containers in the frig, so when ever I was so inclined, I could feast on my own instant salad bar.  Whenever I turn on the oven, I rarely bake or roast just one item.  I usually have a different vegetable on each rack.  When I bake sweet potatoes or white potatoes, I always bake at least four and wrap the leftovers in foil for later in the week.  I discovered that a hardboiled egg makes a salad much more filling to me, so I boiled several and stored them in the frig. Now, when I get hungry, I am more likely to make myself a large spinach salad with all the trimmings than I am to rummage around the pantry for some junk food.

You may be wondering, “Where’s the beef?” (For those who don’t laugh when you read that statement, it’s because you’re not old enough.  It’s a line from a fast food commercial back in the ‘70s.  I guess you had to have been there.)  I pan broiled a couple of skinless, boneless chicken breasts (on another occasion, thin-sliced strip steaks) in a cast iron skillet (all meat is better cooked in a cast iron skillet in my opinion) and, after cooking, I cut them up into bite-sized pieces and stored in the refrigerator.  When I had salad, I would add a little of the meat to make it a little heartier.  Other meals, I would have a baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and a few pieces of the chicken or beef—just enough to convince my brain and my chewing muscles that I was indeed having meat with the meal.  Quite honesty, it was sufficient.  Eating this way started weaning me off meat as the main part of my meal and, instead, made it complementary.

For snacks, I keep baby carrots and hummus around.  It is on the top shelf of my refrigerator.  When I open the door looking for something to crunch on, it’s the first thing I see.  I also keep other healthy snacks in plain view—walnuts, fresh fruit, etc.  I find that keeping the good stuff in view is half the battle (the battle of choosing the good over the not-so-good, that is).

In short, you can see that I eat simply, but I do eat a hot, home-cooked meal most days.  I just don’t happen to cook it right before I eat it.

Do you use this same style of cooking in bulk for several meals at a time?  Or do you have another method that enables you to eat healthily without consuming all your time in the kitchen?  Please do share in the comments!

Photo compliments of Rasmus Andersson via Compfight

This entry was posted in Cooking, Time Management and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Where Time Management Meets the Kitchen

  1. Hannah Remington says:

    LOVED the post Diane! I agree with the need to have the fresh veggies, fruits & meat ready to eat in a short time period. One of the things we do (I live with Ann Marchant & Jackie Detweiler) is cut up a big salad (which includes tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.) and keep it in the fridge throughout the week so we just have to put it on a plate and eat it. We also have the advantage of taking turns cooking throughout the week so we come home to good meals without any “waiting time”. When I didn’t live with so many people, I made a huge dish of food at once and would eat it for like 4 days. I love that method! Ann eats “paleo” so we mostly just eat fruit, veggies & meat so preparation time is always an issue. Our latest problem with cooking is the way it makes the house “smell” after we’re finished. We try to open windows and such but it just seems to linger around in the air, on clothes, etc. . Any suggestions?! Thanks for the post!

    • Diane says:

      Hannah, Thanks for commenting! I love when new people “make themselves known” out there in the blogosphere.
      It’s wonderful to have roommates who share the cooking. My roommate is not a great help in this department–although he will take me out to eat occasionally. 🙂
      I have a question regarding your salads. Do you mix it up before you store it? If so, how long does that last, and do the tomatoes not kind of make everything soggy? I had to look up the paleo diet, as I have never heard of it. But regarding the smell, I always light scented candles when I have cooked something that smells intense. I think this works even if the candles aren’t scented. Try that and let me know if you think it makes a difference.
      Thanks again for commenting!

      • Hannah says:

        Diane, I’m so happy to join in on the fun in this “blogosphere”! As far as the salads, we don’t necessary “mix” it but lay all of the washed, cut lettuce in a Tupperware and then add the veggies to the top. We it the whole thing in about 2 or 3 days so it doesn’t seem like the “soggy” texture really happens. If you’re worried about it, I bet it would be good with the tiny whole tomatoes! It’s surprising how well it keeps!

        With the house smell, we’ve tried candles and it does work. I think we need to get some really “good” smelling ones with maybe a more neutral smell. One night we lit so many candles that were different scents that I felt like it was worse than the actual food smell. 🙂

        Anyway, I’ll also try Cindy’s suggestion of a stovetop potpourri. I have done them years ago and it’s beginning to be the season of closed windows, so a good cinnamon stick one might be just the ticket. Thanks ladies!

        • Diane says:

          Thanks for the response, Hannah. Just curious… Did you “subscribe” to the comments or did you go back and check to see if there was a response? I am trying to see what needs to happen to get others to comment on the comments.

  2. Cindy Lofton says:

    Hannah- you might also try a stovetop potpourri. I haven’t actually tried this one yet but I know several ppl who have. I think you can even leave it all on the stove for weeks at a time and just heat up whenever you want or need the scent. http://pinterest.com/pin/107664247312109024/

  3. Pingback: Seven Time-Saving Hacks | My Pleasant Places

I love to read your comments!