Monday, May 9, 2011

Saving Time and Money in the Kitchen

Rush and hurry, hurry and rush. That's all we seem to do and there are never enough hours in the day. We're too busy in the mornings to start off with a really satisfying and healthy meal.  Often, lunch is some greasy thing with ingredients we can't even pronounce. And dinner? Well, we're just too tired to put much effort into it. It's the real world eating our time and gobbling up our money.

Here's some things that will save you time and money in your kitchen.

**1** To help with dinner prep, dice your vegetables for several meals all at once. Store in the refrigerator or freezer in smaller containers.

**2** Double up. It is just as easy to roast four chicken breasts as it is to roast two. Flavor two of them for this evening's meal. Use different spices on the remainder for later in the week.  Double up on soups, stews, and casseroles.

**3** Tonight, determine what you're having tomorrow night and begin thawing it in the refrigerator if necessary.

**4** Prepare the coffee maker before you go to bed. Very little is more satisfying than a fresh cup of coffee waiting for you when you wake up. Take what is to work in a thermos.

**5** Instead of buying individual spices, try buying mixed spices in regional flavors. You can get Mexican, Italian, and many others. It's less expensive and you don't have to blend and measure.

**6** When you run out of something, write it down immediately on your grocery list. Don't trust yourself to remember it later.

**7** Limit weekday breakfast ideas to just two or three  items. The fewer choices you have, the quicker you make up your mind. This is especially true if you have children.

**8** Take turns making lunch with a co-worker. This worked like a charm for me. One day, I prepared lunch for my supervisor; the next day was his turn. Although we had similar tastes, the variety was a welcome change.

**9** If you're buying snacks in bulk, go ahead and prepackage some into single serving sizes.

**10** Substitute if possible. If your recipe calls for an expensive or unusual pasta, try substituting what you already have instead of making a grocery run.

**11** Stop buying bottled water. Reusable bottles are often very inexpensive. Fill at night and they're ready to go.

**12** Don't retrace your steps. Gather your ingredients before you start cooking.

**13** Keep a few 'grab and go' things available for the days you oversleep. Granola, a single serving of almonds or an energy bar will stave off the hunger.

**14** No impulse buying. If you forgot to thaw out a steak for supper then throw a can of crescent rolls in the oven, scamble some eggs with a few vegetables and call it an omelette. You will survive and you will be completely nourished. Add a side of some fruit to round it out.

**15** When you wake up, throw a bag of  baby carrots in a crock pot. Take your frozen roast and place on top. In a measuring cup, add beef bouillon, onion bits, some spices and top off with water, then, microwave. Pour over the roast. Cook on low all day. It will be one of the most tender pieces of beef you ever ate. Take some leftovers to work or 'repurpose' into pulled beef sandwiches later in the week.

We are always going to have those days when nutrition gets sacfriced in some way. Often that happens at the expense of our wallet because our fallback plan is fast food. You can minimize those days and eat well while keeping your hard earned money in your own piggy bank.

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