The kitchen tends to be one of the most hectic rooms in a family home — with dinners to cook, packed lunches to prepare, and little ones to keep happy, it can often feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you to run your kitchen more efficiently, which should save you a lot of time and stress. Read on to find out more.
Embrace the power of meal planning
There are plenty of benefits to planning your meals. It can help you to save money and time, as well as dramatically reduce food waste. Plus, it can make it much easier for you to ensure that your family are getting the nutrients they need.
Once you get into the routine, meal planning can be pretty easy too. Start by creating a template of what kind of meals you would like to serve each week. For example, you might want to make two chicken meals, two beef meals, two vegetarian meals, and one pork meal a week. Or, you might decide that you would like to make two slow cooker meals, two stir fries, one salad, and two meals with rice each week — this doesn't have to be something you always stick to, but it's always helpful to have something to work towards.
As well as creating a rough weekly template, we would highly recommend coming up with a list of core recipes that you can always throw into the mix when need be. If you can build an arsenal of around 20 recipes your family will never get bored, and you can begin to make these core dishes five times a week, and then try two new recipes. Who said meal planning had to be boring?
Prepare what you can in advance
Any professional chef will tell you that the key to running an efficient kitchen is preparing as much as you can in advance. And, you'll find this much easier when you begin to plan your meals each week at a time. If you're cooking two meals in one week that have some overlap in terms of the ingredients, you can reduce how much work the second dish takes to make by preparing similar components at the same time, and storing them to use later in the week.
Additionally, we would highly recommend making all packed lunches for the week on a Sunday. Or, if you're worried everything will be stale by the time it gets to Friday, make a batch of three on Sunday night, and another batch of two on Wednesday. You'll be surprised by how much easier your life becomes when you don't have to find time to make a packed lunch every evening or morning. Just make sure you pack everything into boxes that will keep your food fresher for longer. Greatist has a list of their top 10 meal-prep containers, which will give you a good idea of how you should store certain foods.
Learn how to get the most out of your cooker
Families that enjoy home-cooked meals rely a lot on their ovens and hobs, so it's vital that you know how to use these as efficiently as possible. To get a better idea of how you can get the most out of your cooker, we asked Katie Georgeson, brand manager at the kitchen appliance manufacturer Stoves, for her top tips. She said: "There are a number of steps you can take to ensure your food is always cooked well in the shortest time possible. If your cooker has multiple oven cavities that you're able to set at different temperatures, this certainly gives you an advantage — you can look at the ingredients for each meal and decide which elements you can cook together. This is particularly handy when you're making something that's made up of several separate dishes, like a Sunday roast. One of your cooker cavities could even be used to keep parts of a meal warm before they're served.
"Also, if you're making a particularly complicated dish that's going to leave you struggling for oven space, you can always look for alternative cooking methods you could use. For example, steaming your vegetables instead of roasting them can be a great option.
"Finally, I know it can be tempting to open your oven to check on the food that's cooking inside, but this allows all of the heat to escape, which means your meal will take even longer to be ready. Instead, ensure that your oven door is always clean enough for you to be able to see what's going on without having to open it."
Let your freezer live up to its potential
When you want to serve your family fresh and nutritious meals every night, it can sometimes feel like you have to make everything from scratch. But, there's absolutely no shame in bulk cooking meals, freezing the leftovers, and then serving them at a later date. As long as you defrost and reheat everything in the right way, your dishes should taste just as good, and still be just as nutritious as on the day you first made them.
If you aren't used to freezing leftovers, or you aren't entirely sure you've been getting it right, BBC Good Food has a guide to freezing food, which explains everything from which foods don't fare well in the freezer, to how you can cook certain dishes from frozen.
When you want to provide your family with nutritious, homecooked meals, it's important that your kitchen runs as efficiently as possible. This will help to reduce how much time you spend cooking and make the process far less stressful. Take these tips on board, and they'll help to make your life much easier in no time.