I spend almost my whole day in the kitchen.
Whether I’m preparing snacks, meals, food prepping for future days, washing dishes, making home remedies, getting drinks, or corralling tiny humans out of my refrigerator (which MUST have a secret TV in it that I don’t know about) I feel like I am always in my kitchen. Luckily, I enjoy cooking and I enjoy eating even more. Can’t say I enjoy doing dishes but that’s what the dishwasher is for, right?
I probably spend five times as much time in the kitchen as I need to because of these little humans as well. Did you know that in toddler Time it can take ten full seconds to dump a measured cup of flour into a mixing bowl? A full ten seconds. When you’re measuring 4 cups of flour and 10 other ingredient dumps to make a loaf of bread for dinner, that can double the time it would normally take an adult with no helpers to load up a bread maker. Not to mention that’s if there’s no arguments about whose turn it is, who gets to do what part, who wants to hold the bowl, and every other toddler moment burst of emotion they are so well known for at this awesome age.
Having cooked mostly from one ingredient foods for quite a few years now (thank you Darci Isabella for the phrase I have come to love ), I have come across some time saving tricks that save me time and frustration. Some of these tricks I learned years ago from blog posts just like this one. Some I just kind of figured out myself. But all of them are things I use almost daily in my cooking to save time, money, and energy.
So, let’s get to it!
1) Peel Garlic in a Jar
You know what’s a huge pain? Peeling garlic. First, you have to smash the head on the counter. Then, peel the flakey outer skin off from the counter and smash each clove. Finally, you have to peel that hard skin off the clove. I was always left with the flaky skin stuck all over my fingers and the counter a mess…and smashed garlic cloves when sometimes I didn’t want smashed garlic cloves.
There had to be a better way.
I don’t remember where I learned this but it was a game changer. First, take an entire head of garlic and kiss it. Garlic is an incredible and vital food that is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti everything…even anti vampires. So, show it love.
Then, stick it in a glass jar with a cover. You can use a mason jar like these, an old pickle jar, whatever you have on hand.
Next, you get to have fun. Cover the jar and do a dance. Shake that jar like it’s a shake weight. Don’t baby the garlic. It will be ok. Really, shake it. Go go! Shake more!
Did the sound change? You’re getting there. Now, shake more for good measure. Then, take a look. As if by magic, your head of garlic will be separated into individual cloves AND peeled. What you’re left with are beautiful whole peeled garlic cloves, ready for whatever recipe needs some delicious garlic flavor.
Dump the contents. Pick out the cloves and store in a sealed container in the fridge to keep fresh. Discard the skins.
2) Use Kitchen Scraps to Make Vegetable Broth
I hate throwing away food. It just…irks me. I don’t have enough space in my home currently to regrow veggie scraps but I have found a good use for many of them in homemade vegetable broth!
Take a gallon sized freezer bag and when you’re preparing your vegetables for meals, throw stock worthy scraps into the bag. Pieces of onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, garlic, mushrooms, leeks, and tomatoes are all great! Avoid starchy veggies like potatoes and turnips. Also, avoid leafy greens like kale and spinach.
When you’re done with your prep, seal up the bag squeezing the air out first and throw it in your freezer. Add to the bag every time you get stock worthy scraps (juicing scraps are great too! Just juice the stock worthy veggies FIRST and dump before finishing the juice).
When the bag is full, you can make a full pot of stock for NOTHING!!! I like this tutorial for making stock!
3) Store Produce PROPERLY
Did you know that your tomatoes do NOT belong in the fridge? They lose flavor and their texture changes because it’s too cold.
Did you know your asparagus is a flower bud and should be trimmed and kept in the fridge sitting ends in water or wrapped in a wet paper towel?
It makes a huge difference in the finished product of your cooking if you give respect and love to the produce from the moment you bring it home. It will also reduce food waste because you’ll be less likely to have produce suddenly become a science experiment of drippy ooze. Ms. Frizzle!! Someone stole my cucumber and replaced it with a PICKLE!!!
I really like this comprehensive guide by Real Simple on how to store produce.
4) Stop Peeling Things!
We create so much food waste in America and it is absolutely maddening. A big part of that waste is by the individual consumer at home.
There is no reason to peel many vegetables and fruits. I used to peel everything. Potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, parsnips, apples, you name it…EVEN KIWI!!!
Just stop. Put the peeler down. Back away slowly.
The skin of many fruits and vegetables are chock full of nutrients. You are literally throwing the most nutrient dense part of the food away. Save time, money, and increase the health value of your dishes by leaving the skin on. Just make sure you always give your produce a good wash before chopping and sending to the pan or plate.
5) Peel Ginger With a Spoon
One food that you DO need to peel is fresh ginger. However, with all the odd shapes and nooks and crannies, using a knife leads to a TON of wasted ginger.
Instead, grab a spoon and gently scrape away the skin with the edge of the spoon. It will come off easily and allow you to gently get all the nooks and crannies without so much wasted delicious ginger root.
I’ve been doing this forever and it’s one of the most awesome random internet hacks I have ever found.
6) Store Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, and Coffee in the Freezer
In our house, we consume these three items every single day. Even so, they are NOT best stored in your pantry. If you want to extend the life of these items and keep them at peak freshness, put them in your freezer.
Grind only enough whole flax seeds that will last you 1-2 weeks and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’s really easy and quick to grind them with a clean coffee grinder. Store the whole flax in the freezer.
Chia and coffee can be used straight out of the freezer with no issues. Like making chocolate chia pudding or fresh sugar and pectin free strawberry chia jam. Yum.
7) Soften Butter Quickly Without a Microwave
Have you even thrown a stick of butter in the microwave to soften it for a recipe and left it in too long? Instead of softened butter you now have melted butter, which can completely ruin some recipes.
Instead, fill a glass with piping hot water and let sit for a couple minutes. Then, carefully empty the glass without burning yourself and place it upside down over the stick of butter. In just a minute or two your butter will be soft but not melted.
You can also defrost frozen butter this way. Just leave the butter under the glass for 10 minutes or so.
8) Freeze Very Ripe Bananas to Prevent Spoiling
We go through a LOT of bananas in our house. For our family of 5 (one of which is a baby and one whom despises bananas), we eat at LEAST 20-25 a week, sometimes more.
But sometimes, we just aren’t feeling bananas and at the end of the week they get to a point where they’re not bad…but they’re too ripe for us to enjoy eating raw. When this happens, peel your bananas and put them in chunks into freezer bags. Store in your freezer.
They can be used for all sorts of things! Defrost to make banana bread or muffins. Put in the food processor with a splash of almond milk to make nice cream. Blend into a smoothie or shake. Use as an egg replacer in many baking recipes. Go bananas!
9) Keep Brown Sugar Soft with Marshmallows
Have you ever grabbed brown sugar for a recipe and it’s harder than a cement brick? NO MORE! Store your brown sugar in an airtight container with a couple marshmallows in the jar. It will keep enough moisture in the jar to prevent hardening. You’ll have perfectly soft brown sugar every time.
10) This Unitasker is Worth it for Preparing Avocados
I am not a huge fan of Unitaskers (and neither is Alton Brown who gave me that lovely word) but this one is worth it’s weight in gold.
Not only does it cut the avocado open with a kid safe blade, but it also has a compartment in the center to grab and remove the pit, AND it has an end that slices the entire half of avocado into strips and pulls it out of the skin in one smooth motion.
I love it! Instead of using a sharp knife to remove the pit and a butter knife to cut and slice so I don’t slice open my palm, I can make less dishes and not risk dicing up my hand!
What kitchen hacks help with your everyday cooking? Have you ever tried any of these? Share this post with your friends and comment below to tell me your favorite one!