If there is one thing that’s likely to suck the energy out of you, it’s having to come up with something for dinner every single night!
Written by Beth MacDonald
If that’s not bad enough, being asked “what’s for dinner?” or “when is dinner going to be ready?” both also top the list. And then the very worst of all, going through ALL that and having little noses turned up at whatever nutritious creation has been placed before them.
Forget a poorly rated energy efficient appliance; it’s those endless questions that are bound to make a tired parent feel like they are running on a measly one star rating.
But with a few tricks you can create some shortcuts for yourself that will save you time (and sanity), as well as make the most of your kitchen appliances to help save you money on your energy bill.
Prepare, plan and attack
The key to reducing both food and time wastage is preparing ahead. Boring I know, and definitely something that I need to work on, but a little time and thinking can make a big difference in the long run.
1. Prepare for the week ahead
On the day you normally do your shopping, take the time to sit down and open up those cook books that sit on your shelves or read through those bookmarked posts on your favourite blogs and PLAN your meals for the week ahead.
Taking just 15 mins to do some planning will help save you from making extra purchases throughout the week, or loading your trolly up with things you won’t use; saving you both money and time wastage in the long run.
It might even stop the constant questioning if you keep a copy displayed in the kitchen. Everyone knows what’s happening in advance and you can even get some new recipes on rotation.
2. Attack in one session
Plan things that you can prep in advance and that will keep well for the week ahead: biscuits or muffins for school lunch boxes, soups, quiches or sausage rolls that can be stored in the fridge for lunches and dinners, or even thrown into the freezer for those nights when you just can’t be bothered.
If you do pop things in the freezer, try and remember to pull the frozen meals out as early as possible. The more thawed they are, the less cooking time they’ll need. Less cooking time, generally means less energy used. Win win.
With one cooking session you are also using the oven just the once. Try to keep your oven closed until the very last moment as the temperature drops by 14°C to 20°C each time it is opened.
This focused cooking will set you up for the week ahead and help you feel virtuous and on top of one area (there are probably many other areas that we all fall behind on, so let’s get one sorted!)
One thing different ways
When thinking about your weekly menu, try and think laterally about other ways the same ingredients can be used in meals. Focusing on one ingredient that can be prepared in one cooking session will make you more creative and should save you time and energy.
I like to cook up a batch of roasted veggies to use throughout the week, especially in lunches for my husband and I, as we’re both working from home. A batch of sweet potatoes can be used in frittatas, salads, wraps and sandwiches or just as a healthy snack.
Try preparing a bag of peeled veggies to sit in a bag in the fridge marinating, which can then be thrown into the baking dish for dinner, or a midweek lunch . One session of peeling beats several smaller ones.
When cooking, be sure pots and pans completely cover your hotplates and if possible, cook with lids on to achieve better cooking results, as well as reduced evaporation and smells.
Take it outside
Do yourself a favour and get acquainted with your BBQ. Don’t wait for the man of the house – or whoever usually does this job. It’s a great way to cook during the week for the family with less mess (and smells) and a great way to use gas instead of your normal electric appliances in the kitchen.
Remember to make sure any food spilled during cooking is cleaned up afterwards, which will help ensure a constant and even gas distribution/flame size for cooking.
With a little pre-planning and organisation your weekly cooking efforts will seem much easier to cope with. And hopefully you’ll even eat a little healthier and save some money in the process by using your kitchen a little more efficiently.
You can find more ideas on ways to maximise efficiency in the kitchen here.
About the author
Beth blogs daily over at her blog BabyMac where she shares stories of her family life in the country in the Southern Highlands of NSW. She loves freshly mopped floors, flowers, pork and champagne, cushions and clean sheets day.