Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kitchen Tips & Short cuts!

While making dinner this morning (yep, this morning...), I was looking at all of the handy short cuts that I've started to do to save myself time, energy, and money. I felt compelled to share. As a new mom, I find myself in the kitchen now more than I have ever been. Once upon a time I relied on Hubby to make dinner 90% of the time, and if he didn't feel like cooking, we went out to eat. Well, hello child and budget and we just don't have that luxury as much anymore. Of course there are still times we go out because I don't feel like cooking, but it's not like it was back in our newlywed days. So here you go:

1. Garlic in a jar - HELLO genius that decided to sell me this! Hubby bought this stuff when he was working at his old job and they would do outdoor BBQs all the time. He would buy and marinate meat in our fridge for the next day's event. We went through so much garlic that this was waaaaaaaay easier. So now, I never buy fresh whole garlic. I stick a teaspoon in and scoop some into whatever I'm cooking. It stays fresh for a long time, and if you like garlic and put it in just about everything, like me, you will use it. I have had this same jar for probably almost a year and I still have about 1/3 of it left. It doesn't expire till Sept 2010! Mine is from here, but I've tried a couple brands now and they're all pretty good. You can usually find it in the produce section on one of the shelves by the whole garlic. It saves so much time since I don't have to peel, chop, or press the garlic. Plus! My hands don't get all stinky either!

2. SLOW COOKER! - Yes, I made dinner this morning. I chop, peel, and throw it all in while Will takes his morning nap. This leaves the rest of his nap time for me to clean up the dishes and whatever else I need to do. This totally saves my sanity. Will can hang out and entertain himself pretty well, but it's just soooooo much easier not to have to scramble starting at 5pm to get food ready. It's on a timer and is done by 6pm. Most of the time, I have leftovers which double as lunches for the days to come. Again, time and money saver. I got the $7 a Meal Slow Cooker Cookbook and Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook for Christmas and LOVE THEM! I've made lasagna, chili, beef for chimichangas, you name it! All of it is good! And $7 for a meal for 4-6 people! SAVINGS!

3. Flexible Cutting Mat - I use this on top of my wood cutting board. Personally, I don't like the sound it makes just cutting with the mat directly on the counter top, so putting it on top of the wood board fixes that. This is super handy while I'm chopping because I can take the mat easily over to whatever bowl or pot I'm putting it in and brush all of my chopped goodies into it. Then bring the mat back to my board and continue. It is also handy if you have to switch from chopping fruits or veggies to raw meat. This morning I chopped the veggies for my chili on the mat and then could chop my raw pork up into chunks. My cutting mat is smaller than my cutting board so any juice from the raw meat gets onto my wood cutting board and not the counter top. This makes clean up much easier. Again, saving TIME!

4. Slow Cooker Liners - Easy clean up! These are inexpensive and make cleaning up the crusties on the inside of my slow cooker easy peasy! I still wash the inside of the slow cooker after each usage, but this eliminates the soaking I usually have to do when dinner is over. For $3, it's worth it!

5. Plan Ahead - I know, I know, this is easier said than done. It really pays off to spend an hour at most after the kids have gone to bed, or when Hubby is home to watch Will while I make my menu for the week. I write a grocery list, and can get all of my coupons together in peace. Then when Will gets up from his nap, we can head out to the grocery store. No scrambling, less stress, and I have more control over the whole situation (Ah...I like control!). It's a little less of a chore to go to the grocery store with Will in tow when I have all of my stuff together and am not trying to look at all my coupons to compare prices. It also helps to have a list (I put mine on the fridge) of dinners I've picked out for the week. It eliminates that "What's for dinner?" question and trying to decide based on what I have on hand. Plus, that hour is nice quiet time for me to do my own thing, even if it is planning for a grocery store trip...

6. Chicken/Beef Broth - If a recipe calls for water, use chicken or beef broth instead. It will add flavor instead of just blah water. Most of the recipes I've made lately don't call for a full 15 oz can of broth, so I take the extra and store it in a little 4 oz container (Gladware or Ziploc containers are what I have depending on what I have a coupon for...). The 4 oz containers make it easy to add a little as I need it for the days to come. These usually go on sale often, so I always cruise by to see and snatch up extra to keep on hand.

7. 4 oz containers - These are so handy! I store everything in these little guys. Hubby is always asking me "What's this?" as he looks in the fridge because I've put whatever little extra I had into one of these little 4 oz-ers and saved it. This makes my $1's go that much further because I'm not wasting my ingredients. They were also the perfect size to store Will's purees I would make him. I'd throw 7 in the freezer and have 2-3 on hand in the fridge ready to go. Then you just replenish the stash in the fridge as you need them.

8. Deal or No Deal? - Back in the day when I was first learning about money, I would go grocery shopping with my dad (aka The Coupon King). He'd quiz me on what was the better deal for whatever the item was. He'd have a coupon for one item, but another brand had the same item on sale. What's the better deal? I constantly play this game with myself, in my head (I try not to talk to myself out loud in public...) while grocery shopping. Sometimes I end up buying a larger can of tomato sauce than what I wrote on my list, for example, because it was the better deal. Then I take the extra and put it in a container for my next recipe. It also helps to have stuff stocked up in your freezer when it goes on sale. Bacon is one of those things I always cruise by to see if it's on sale. If it is, I snatch up 2 and throw them in the freezer. I can cut off a little here and there for flavor additives or use a few whole slices for BLTs.

Some of these might be no-brainers to you seasoned moms out there, they're things I never thought about until I was the one in charge of all this stuff. 8 isn't exactly a round tip giving number like 5 or 10, but that's all I've got so far. :) Hopefully they'll make your life a little easier, too!

1 comment:

  1. Love love garlic in a jar..and those slow cooker liners. My Mom made sure to hand me her "kitchen tricks" before I got married and I gotta say they help out so much. Haven't got my hands on a slow cooker cook book so I'll have to check those out. =)


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