I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s my sanctuary. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I come up with something extra to make just for an excuse to de-stress and recenter myself, because the kitchen really is that tool for me. I just…love it. That isn’t to say, however, that it doesn’t come with its frustrations. It certainly does. The key for me is identifying those things in the kitchen that get frustrating and finding ways to simplify them. Today, I’m sharing some of my secrets with you in hopes that they can help you out, too. Here are five of my all-time favorite kitchen tips.
1 Keep Track Of What You Have
I can’t tell you how many times I used to dig through the pantry or the freezer looking for something only to unearth something I’d long since forgotten (and sometimes couldn’t recognize anymore – especially in the freezer!). So many things were lost to either passed expiration dates or freezer burn. I wanted to make the most of my grocery budget, and tossing food away just wasn’t going to cut it. That’s when I decided it was time to start keeping track of what I had where.
The front of my regular freezer now has a white board. I write down all of the stuff that I put in there, and I label the packages with dates and names. Labeling the packages makes it easier to spot what I’m looking for in the freezer, but the list on the outside ensures that nothing gets forgotten. The deep freezer with the smooth white top makes a great surface, too. Dry-erase markers work perfectly on the surface and wipe away with ease.
The same holds true for my pantry. I like to keep track of all of the stuff that I have in there, because it’s far too easy for something to get pushed to the back of the shelf and get lost. You can do this with white boards, note pads or even chalkboard paint. Refinish the pantry cabinet with chalkboard paint and you’ve got a super-easy way to keep track of everything!
2 Make Lunchtime Leftover Time
When we make dinner, there’s almost always enough left over for lunch the next day. If I make something for the first time and there isn’t enough left, I double it next time I make it. This eliminates take-out lunch, which saves our budget. And since we work from home, it’s super easy to just heat things up at lunchtime. When I worked a corporate job, I used to always take my lunch, but I never thought to just make extra at dinner. It doesn’t cost much more, and it is always healthier than the local burger place.
I found that if I bought the 3 pound package of ground meat instead of the 2 pound one, I could get a cheaper price (because our grocery store marks down when you buy the big packs), so it didn’t cost me near as much to just make a little extra each night and pack it away for lunch.
That’s the other tip – if you’re planning on leftovers for lunch, pack them up BEFORE you sit down for dinner. Then, plan on extra veggies and fruits if somebody’s looking for seconds. I don’t eat gluten anymore, but we always plan to have rolls or bread of some kind with butter, too. The kids love it, and it helps to stretch things when we’re shopping on a budget.
3 Make Breakfast The Night Before
This has been SUCH a timesaver for us. We’ve taken a real liking to overnight oats here, including both refrigerator overnight oats and slow cooker overnight steel cut oats. With two kids who wake up with SO MUCH more energy than I do, saving any time in the morning is a big deal. Along with my coffee pot that’s on a timer to brew automatically, overnight oats have become a go-to here. I put them together when I load the dishwasher at night, and by morning, all we need is some fresh fruit for a great breakfast.
4 Plan Your Meals
I don’t remember my mother ever sitting down and making a meal plan when I was a kid, but I assume that she did because the grocery trips and dinners always seemed to happen with ease. She never taught me to plan that way, though….so I remember spending a lot of time dismissing those recommendations when I grew up. When I started creating meal plans to make the most of what I was buying, I couldn’t believe how long it took. I was spending HOURS trying to plan things out. Is it any wonder why I would give up?
When I found Gatheredtable, I was SO excited! Not only does it give me all of the benefits of having a meal plan, but it does it without the hours of manual planning that I spent before. Gatheredtable lets you pick meals based on your dietary preferences and even the amount of time you want to spend cooking. Got 20 minutes to get dinner on the table most nights? No sweat! And not only will the meals on the plan meet your criteria, you can also add meals of your own, move things around and print the whole thing out once it’s done.
I love having something at a glance so that I know exactly what’s on the menu each day. There’s options for every meal of the day, and the recipes up there are delicious! Since we cook a lot and have an extensive list of family favorites, I especially like that I can put my own recipes in, too. The kids like that they know exactly what’s for dinner every day without having to ask me about it at all, and if I’m busy with something and it’s time to start dinner, Chris can tell what’s in the plan and can get things started for me.
5 Always Make A List
Grocery shopping can be a total time suck. Seriously – I’ve lost HOURS in the grocery store when I go in without a solid plan in place. But, when I can make a list, it ensures that I’m only buying what I need and nothing’s going to go to waste.
You know what’s really cool? That’s one of the best features of Gatheredtable. I get a full shopping list for every meal plan. And, since I can add in what’s in my pantry, I never have to edit it because of something I already have on hand. Since their list feature even combines ingredients across all of the recipes for the week, I know I’m only buying what I need. This makes the best possible use of my grocery budget and it helps me teach the kids about planning and implementing a shopping trip. The sooner they learn, the more capable they’ll be as adults. And they love the drag and drop features on Gatheredtable. It’s so simple to use that they often help me get the list together and print it each week.
Home-cooked meals have fallen by the wayside in our rush-rush-rush society. With so many things going on, it’s no surprise that people don’t have the time to put into planning meals and shopping trips. I love Gatheredtable for this purpose. It’s such a great tool for empowering even the newest home cooks. You’ll have access to recipes, pictures, shopping lists and your own pantry resources.
If you’re looking for a way to get control of meal times, grocery budgets and your food storage, these tips can help. Gatheredtable is even offering a 40 percent discount on annual subscriptions. If you do only one thing to streamline family mealtime, let this be it. I can’t say enough about how much time and effort it has saved us.
The recipe we are bringing you today was inspired by an overnight oat recipe from Gatheredtable. This is one of our family favorites now, and it’s definitely earned its place in our breakfast plan rotation.
Thank you Gatheredtable for sponsoring this conversation.
- ⅓ cup gluten free oats
- 2 tablespoons peanut powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 mashed banana
- ¾ cup almond milk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
- Combine the oats, peanut powder and cinnamon in a glass jar.
- Add the mashed banana, almond milk, vanilla and maple syrup.
- Stir everything together, then put a lid on the container.
- Refrigerate it overnight, then stir well before serving.
- Top it with fresh sliced bananas and slivered almonds.