The following is an excerpt from a presentation that I gave for the Westin A. Price Foundation on Saturday. It was a wonderful gathering with many individuals dedicated to eating local, nutrient dense, farm fresh food.
10 Time Saving Tips in a Whole Foods Kitchen
So you desire to feed your family good, healthy, natural foods but don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. Here at the farm we have plenty to keep us busy, yet we all want to eat well. With 4 adults and 5 children eating 3 times a day it was important to find ways to prepare good food without taking time away from needed farm chores, home schooling, elder care, and other life needs. Here are just a few of many suggestions I can make. Each of these areas could in itself make a whole class. If you have a special interest, let me know and I will schedule a class on that topic in particular. One mission of our farm is to be a source of education in many of the skills that we are quickly losing in modern day America.
- Stock your kitchen well. Buying in bulk (preferably from local farms) can save you precious time. Having your freezers full and your pantries stocked means you spend less time at the store. I spend 3 hours a month traveling to, purchasing, unloading, and stocking our pantry shelves while the kids have a play date at our buying club site. Nothing like having fun while getting something accomplished. That time spent can easily be doubled or tripled if you shop weekly.
- Use what you have. Eat in season. How many times have you been tempted to make something that requires an ingredient you don’t have and a trip out to get it? Could you instead make something with what you have on hand. Note this requires that well stocked kitchen as mentioned in number 1.
- Organize your kitchen so you can work efficiently. I read a 1950’s book on housekeeping that talked about how many steps it would take to make coffee in the morning and making sure each step was efficient. It was extreme but made a good point. Take the time to get organized to save your self time in the future.
- Planning-This is really my secret to getting it all done. It would merit a whole workshop on menu planning alone. I think the important thing to realize is that making food is a vital part of making a home. Making a home is work. Many of us would spend the time it took at an outside job to stay organized and plan projects if in management but at home we lack focus. This lack of planning and focus prevent us from working at our full potential. In the end we feel like we are working harder because it takes us longer to do the things we want to have done. Weekly menus are one part of planning. Now the right meat can be thawed, the beans can be soaked, planned use of leftovers can be accomplished (explained separately.)
- Planned use of leftovers? Yes, never make just a little when you can cook a lot in the same amount of time. At the same time, who wants to eat the same food all week. With a little change the leftovers seem brand new.
-Brown rice becomes hot rice cereal for breakfast and fried rice
-Mashed potatoes become potato cakes and a topping for a meat pot pie
-Chicken first is a main dish then becomes chicken salad and soup.
-Middle Eastern lentils over rice is served first then the lentils are a base for burritos and then go into lentil and potato stew.
-Pepper Steak becomes a base for enchiladas
The possibilities are endless
- Use similar ingredients in several dishes that week. This is similar to number 5 but a little different. Making a huge pot of beans to use in bean salad, chili, and refried beans all at the same time. Or opening up a few institutional sized cans of tomato sauce to make tomato soup, pizza, and enchiladas one week. They all have tomatoes but seem different enough to feel like you aren’t repeating an item. (Hopefully you got those tomatoes canned last year but I have run out of oursL, plenty of applesauce and other fruits left J)
- I like to make one large side dish or special salad that is going to be pulled out at several meals that week. Because the main dish is changing, the side dish being repeated doesn’t seem too redundant. Think of having your 2 tbsp of fermented veggies at every meal. Besides the kraut, I use bean salad, green salad, potato salad, pea salad, cole slaw, etc. Many of these use a yogurt base which is another way to get in cultured raw milk products. Some things even taste better after the flavors blend for a few days.
- Ok the flavors can not blend for too long or else….. Label and date everything in the fridge. Keep stickers in the leftover container spot so that you can stick a content and date sticker on an item. I like to list on my weekly meals menu what is left to eat up. Did you know that over 25% of all food is thrown out? That could be a 25% savings in time (and money) if we make sure we use what we have before it gets too old.
- Develop Routines. How do you remember to check your kombucha, feed your sour dough, rinse your sprouts, defoam your kraut, or get your yogurt made. Do it on the same day each week or at the same time each day. Think of it as part of your chore list or job duties.
- Cook for a week. In 4 hours, two women, cook 90% of all food for our large group for the week and get it cleaned up just like it was a big dinner. This includes breakfasts in the form of quickbreads, crisps, eggbakes, our weeks worth of bread usually from fresh ground flour, yogurts, side dishes, broths and finished soups, pizzas for our movie night and main dishes. It just then takes simple last minute (under 15 minute) tasks to put a complete from scratch, whole foods meal together. The secret is that all vegetables can be prepped at once quickly using a food processor if you wish. All the kitchen equipment is only brought out once. Many times pots don’t have to be cleaned from one item to the next. Mixers don’t have to be cleaned between similar items. General clean up is all done at once. Again we have to think like it is a job. It is very rewarding to get so much accomplished at one time but it does take planning and practice.
Though it is hard to stop at just those 10 as I could go on and on, I realize that many changes at once can be overwhelming. It takes time and practice to learn new skills. It is not always going to be perfect so try to have patience when learning. I wish you the best in all of your endeavors and know I am always happy to educate in any of these areas.
This Old Farm, Inc