No matter just how you cook, you could always afford to be more productive in the kitchen. Efficiency while cooking is valuable to the average busy bee and the meal prepper alike. Really, improving skills is a useful endeavor to any home chef since a paleo diet requires a whole lot of starting from scratch. Unfortunately, tact and grace while playing chef take time to develop, even if your knack for flavor is untouchable. The good news? There are quite a few basic kitchen tips that you can implement while building productive cooking habits.
Whether you’re looking to save time throughout the week, get more done during your batch-cooking sessions, or get a little more organized overall, these kitchen tips will serve you for the rest of your culinary career.
Speaking of kitchen tips, do you need help getting started with once-a-week meals? Check out our Comprehensive Guide to Paleo Meal Prep.
Equip Your Kitchen Right
- Ditch the old supplies. We have to make room for the new and improved sometimes. If your kitchen is outdated, take a look at your inventory. The usefulness of certain appliances can decrease substantially while transitioning to a diet of more home-cooked food. For example, the microwave is convenient, but you may find that it’s used so much less often, that its space can be filled with something else. On the other hand, a crock pot from 30 years ago is just as effective as a newer model assuming it still turns on.
- Invest wisely. If you’re looking to drop big bucks and treat yourself in the appliance department, think of what’s going to be the smartest way to spend your hard-earned cash. Some appliances have multiple purposes which can cut down some serious time in the kitchen. For instance, the Instant Pot can brown, slow-cook, AND pressure-cook. If you’re working with little space to spare, think of what will do the most for you.
- Read the manual. Okay, not literally. At this point, you’ve probably tossed ’em anyways. Besides, they’re not exactly exciting. What I really mean is that you should familiarize yourself with what exactly your kitchen appliances can do. How can you max out the contents of your kitchen to get done with cooking as quickly and painlessly as possible? Check out our handy-dandy guide to equipping your kitchen for essential tools and kitchen tips to help you get the most out of them.
Implement Some Organization
One of the most overwhelming aspects of cooking can be navigating your own kitchen. Admit it; this is one of those kitchen tips you see but put off tackling in your own home. Small spaces mean that things are stored where they (hardly) fit and large kitchens have more room for tools and food products to lost in. Do yourself a favor and execute a little order in the court.
- Designate space. Over time, the kitchen’s designated places get a little disoriented as we begin to add new things to old places and forget to put away the less-used items in those hard-to-reach places. This natural progression of things has potential to create a whole lot of clutter. While cooking, nobody has time for playing a rousing match of hide-and-seek. Make commonly used tools, gadgets, spices, and ingredients readily available. In essence, you should be familiar with your surroundings.
- Quit hoarding. The cupboards, drawers, and shelves of the kitchen are often easy to fill. Over time, we keep on filling up without taking time to do any spring cleaning. Ditch whatever isn’t being used, especially if it means freeing up a little space – it could end up freeing your mind! Old, worn-down tools serve no purpose if you’ve replaced them. Compile spices if you have duplicates, and replace old ones with fresh ones. A fresh slate will help you focus on the task at hand – the cooking.
- Get creative. Have a blank wall? Put up some sheet metal and create a magnetic spice rack. Have a high ceiling? Install a rack above the stove to hang your favorite pots and pans. Not enough counter space? Pick up a microwave cart for storage or prep-work. All of these kitchen tips are simple and inexpensive home improvements that will make your kitchen a space that you truly enjoy working in.
Keep It Tidy
Keeping a clean kitchen when you’re getting accustomed to cooking or eating three meals a day is hard work. The difficulty of this feat doubles if you’ve got little ones running around and eating food, too. When it comes down to the most valuable kitchen tips to keep you sane during mealtime, a tidy space to work in can’t be overlooked.
- Don’t start cooking until it’s clean. Before you even think about breaking out the pots and pans or chopping onions, get it together! Make sure the sink is empty and all of the dishes are put away in their right place. Wipe down the counters and the stove. Walking into a welcoming (i.e. clean) environment can change your entire attitude. Cooking will be much more enjoyable this way.
- Clean as you go. Set a standard for your kitchen before you begin slicing, dicing, and generally tearing the place up. If the sink gets full, fit in a little break to work through half the dishes. Think about it this way: washing dishes in a full sink is much more difficult to do than if you only have a few left in the end. If you spill something, don’t wait to wipe it up. If you drop large food scraps on the floor, pick them up right then and there.
- Keep a clean fridge. It’s easy for things to get pushed to the back and forgotten about. The worst way to be reminded of this is the unpleasant stench that begins to arise, and only then are we on the hunt for the culprit. If you have a clean fridge, it will be easier to navigate and make cooking decisions regarding its contents. Bonus points: keep the fridge surfaces and drawers tidy! Before you shop to stock the dwindling supply, give it a quick scrub-down.
There are a million ways in which you can implement the planning you do, but going into a meal prep session with no plan has potential to turn your kitchen expectations into a kitchen nightmare. Working up a scheme could help to save you loads of time, especially over the long-run.
- Make a menu. More importantly, stick to that menu. If you do better with a plan, this is one of those kitchen tips that will change the course of mealtime for good. Consider menu-planning if you work better with a routine, have a tight schedule, or want to do batch-cooking. That way, there is no guesswork when it’s time to get to business. Need a place to start? Paleo meatloaf is a great prep food.
- Plan your prep. If your schedule doesn’t allow much time to cook as you go, fight half your battle ahead of time. Maybe a whole day of cooking for the week doesn’t appeal to you, but cooking is only half the struggle. The real time thief? Prep! When you get home from the store, portion meats and chop some veggies. Do it when you have small chunks of time throughout the day. Cooking will be a whole lot less intimidating when it’s actually time to do the deed.
- Plan according to time. One of the most frustrating aspects of batch-cooking is forgetting about that slow-cooker recipe until everything else is already cooking. Line up your dishes so that everything is getting done at the same time. Get the oven pre-heated, the crock pot turned on, and leave stovetop items for last unless you’re simmering. If you plan for efficiency, you could cut down batch-cooking times by 1-2 hours leaving you with plenty of time to do other things. We all want to eat well, but most of us can’t afford to spend an entire day in the kitchen.
Find Your Secret Weapon
This one is possibly the most useful of all the kitchen tips in the world. Each of us have an individual style and technique that doesn’t necessarily fit a mold. Whether you’ve been cooking daily for decades or you’re just getting acquainted with your inner iron chef, different things are going to work better for you. Here are a few of my own personal kitchen tips that motivate me to be productive in the kitchen.
- Make cooking your “break” in the day. This can be incredibly motivating if you work from home like I do. Cooking is something I really look forward to, and I can plan my meals around my other tasks. When I put it on my to-do list, it’s a much welcomed break in my day from the more tedious tasks that need to get done. It’s also a priority! Putting a time limit on my time spent cooking also helps me to work as efficiently as possible.
- Archive your favorite recipes. I look at recipes all day. I generally don’t follow recipes, but I have some tried and true favorites as well as a constant influx of inspiration. With the myPaleoPal app, I can check in to see what people are cooking all day! It helps me to gather ideas and get excited about cooking. Sometimes, making a decision can be the hardest part of a fruitful cooking session. Gather recipes that are versatile and offer easy substitutions based on the food you generally have lying around. Think soups, curries, and stews which can take on different types of meats/veggies well.
- Choose a soundtrack. There is nothing like cooking to an awesome soundtrack. Choose an album that suits the dish. Pick a cooking podcast you’ve been meaning to catch up on (America’s Test Kitchen anyone?) Choose an audiobook you haven’t had the time to read. Not only will you be entertained, but you might learn a thing or two. One of my rules of the kitchen is to never work in silence.
After perusing through the list, what do you think you’re lacking in your kitchen? What leads to disarray? What would you add to the list? Again, we all have our secret weapons, but we also all have room to improve our system. Of course, there’s no use fixing something if it’s not broken. Whether spending so much time in the kitchen is new territory or you’re a primed chef looking to pare down on time spent behind the stove, these kitchen tips can help improve your life and your paleo journey.
If you’re looking for more accountability, motivation, and a way to challenge yourself, come join us for the next 30 Day KickStart! A new 30 Day KickStart begins each month. Find out why it’s proven to 5X your commitment to healthy eating.