I am all about saving time in the kitchen. The one thing I do on a regular basis that saves me tons of time in the kitchen is cooking in bulk. I very rarely ever cook just enough of something for our family to eat just once.
My oldest said something recently about me not really loving to cook. It hit me kind of funny, because I’m a pretty good cook. But it’s true. I don’t hate cooking, but I guess I don’t love it. I love having my family around the table together. I really enjoy anytime we do any cooking in the family together, but that’s rare, and I just don’t enjoy spending a lot of time in the kitchen alone cooking. I do it because it needs to be done.
The whole process of meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up the kitchen takes so much time. I am always looking for a way to eat yummy meals together, keep the meals for the most part frugal, and not spend all my time in the kitchen to do so.
My mother died when I was young, and my learning to cook and manage a home has been pieced together bit by bit. It was only a couple of years ago I learned there were different measuring cups for liquids versus solids. I’m 52. That’s just one of those little facts that slipped through the cracks.
It’s only in recent years that I’ve been baking and cooking more from scratch. Initially, mainly because it’s much less expensive than buying boxed/prepared ingredients and I was trying to find ways to save on our grocery bill. Later, I also got interested in keeping the ingredients more “real” and less processed and without preservatives.
When it was just my dad, my brother and me at home, my dad taught me to cook a few things. He was really good at those things, but his variety was somewhat limited. I still look back fondly though on the times we made pickles together and canned tomatoes. We didn’t die, so I’m assuming he knew what he was doing with that 😉
Later, my stepmother taught me some cooking too. At that time we were a blended family of 8, so the cooking I learned to do was for a large quantity at a time. Truthfully, ever since then it’s been hard for me to cook in small quantities. I have learned though to use that skill to keep from having to cook full meals every day. Several days out of the week, either the entire meal or a portion of it, is leftover or partially previously prepared.
Eventually, I purposefully started cooking more of everything than I needed at one meal so that we could have leftovers for the next day. With homeschooling, since we were here for 3 meals a day most of the time, this was great. We had something to eat for lunch that was “real” food that didn’t require much time.
One big advantage of cooking in bulk like this is saving tons of clean up time. Cooking makes a big mess. With Pots and pans, mixing bowls and measuring cups etc., it makes almost no difference in the mess as to what quantity you cook, the mess is almost the same. Might as well cook and clean up once and benefit from 2 or more meals from the same amount of mess.
Here are some practical examples of ways that I cook in larger quantities to save clean up and preparation time.
- If I’m making muffins I never bake just one recipe; at minimum, I double the recipe. I recently made a double batch of banana muffin recipe and added chocolate chips to half of them. Jessie and I (and Jordan when she is here) love the added chocolate chips and Jay likes his plain. I kept out enough for the weekend and put the rest in the freezer. As the fresh ones have been eaten I’ve pulled out a few more out at a time. They’re so moist, this way you don’t have to worry about them getting moldy, just pull out the amount you think you will eat in the next few days.
- I don’t always make multiple kinds of items in the same day, but on this baking night I also made blueberry muffins because I had some fresh blueberries. My kitchen was totally blown up after this…..ONCE. I used paper liners for the muffin pans so I could quickly refill them without having to wait to wash the pans. With just 3 of us here full time and Evan on weekends I’ve had enough muffins to last a couple of weeks for breakfast or snacks.
- So they won’t stick together in the bag, I freeze the muffins on a cookie sheet pan for roughly two hours first and then put them in a labelled ziploc bag. I set the timer or else those muffins might be found days later on that cookie sheet 🙂
No matter what I’m cooking, I rarely ever cook the amount that we will finish that day. Here’s what that looked like one week. It doesn’t always work this way, but most often I cook a larger quantity a couple of days in a row and then don’t have to have to cook for a couple of days. If you’re rotating what you’re eating between a couple of choices, you don’t tire of the leftovers so quickly.
- Thursday I cooked a bag of turnips with a bag of mustard greens together. I cooked white peas from the freezer and yellow rice. I made fried cornbread and served with sliced tomatoes and a little Vidalia onion (for the greens, yum). We ate this Thursday night and Friday for lunch and still had some leftover.
- Friday night I made a large quantity of spaghetti sauce (not homemade, my family likes the Ragu traditional). The amount of meat I had cooked (4 lbs.) was too much for the sauce I had bought so I improvised and added a can of Hunts Four Cheese Sauce and some additional spices.
- We also had on hand turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato and sub rolls for sub sandwiches.
- Between what I cooked Thursday and Friday and the sub sandwich supplies I didn’t have to cook over the whole weekend!
- When we were tired of those items I froze a quart size bag of leftover cooked turnips (enough for one meal) and some spaghetti sauce. We will enjoy them another time without me having to start the entire meal from scratch.
Bulk cooking is the biggest time saver for me in the kitchen. Intermittently, I like to use these already prepared meal plans to give me a break from meal planning, something I don’t enjoy. I’m starting to work out a schedule also using the Walmart Grocery pickup, which I absolutely love!
Because it is such a time saver for me I’m thinking I will share more on the blog or facebook live when I cook in bulk, to give you busy mamas more ideas of how to spend less time in the kitchen and more time snuggling your babies or reading a book, or floating in the pool! If this is of interest and helpful to you please be sure to let me know, and share it with your friends.
Till next week friends,