Kitchen Quick Tips

posted by Andrea | 06/2/2014

kitchen quick tips

Although I really do enjoy cooking and baking, my goal is almost always to cook/bake/freeze/prepare/clean as much as I can while spending as LITTLE time in the kitchen as possible — especially when the weather is nice and we just want to be outside.

So since Summer is fast approaching (I never thought it would get here after the winter we suffered through this year!) here are a few of my favorite “kitchen quick tips” that have saved me oodles of time, money, and energy in the kitchen. Some of them are cleaning and maintenance tips, others are food preparation and cooking tips. Either way, I hope some of these will help you as well!

Garbage Disposal:

Always run the garbage disposal with the water ON — and use very cold water whenever possible. I’m told this helps flush the food out better and prevents slimy foods from clogging up the disposal and sticking to the sides of the pipes.

Running ice through the disposal will help sharpen the blades.

Throw your citrus peels down the disposal to freshen any bad odors.

Dishwasher:

Before you run the dishwasher, turn the kitchen faucet on until the water is very hot. This will assure that the water going into your dishwasher is VERY hot and won’t force the heating elements on the dishwasher to work as hard (hopefully extending the life of your appliance).

Regularly check the drain on your dishwasher and see if there is any junk stuck inside. Our dishwasher has a removable mesh strainer/drain. I try to remember to remove it every month or so and rinse it out. I’m always amazed at the junk it collects!

Run your dishwasher on the quick/economy cycle. I always run our dishwasher on the “quick” cycle and use half as much detergent as it suggests. Our dishes are always sparkling clean and I save a bundle on detergent, plus almost 2 hours of energy and water usage each time.

Pour vinegar into the rinse aid cup instead of expensive JetDry. Works like a charm!

Also, here’s a HUGE list of things you can wash in the dishwasher — many of which you might have never considered!

Refrigerator:

Take note of your refrigerator and freezer settings. If you have an energy-saving setting, try that for a while. If you don’t have an energy-saving setting, try turning the temperature UP one notch so the appliance doesn’t run as long or as often.

Line your refrigerator drawers with paper towel to make cleaning any potential spills much easier.

Organize your refrigerator by temperature to keep your food the freshest for a longer period of time.

I use various drawer organizers (the cheapy kind you find at the dollar store) to keep food in my refrigerator drawers more organized

Food Storage:

Store chocolate and nuts in the freezer. I’ve always done this… and although I’ve been told this is weird, they really do stay fresh MUCH longer and I don’t even wait for them to defrost if you’re using them in a baking recipe.

I also store our gum in the refrigerator (especially when it’s hot and humid out). The un-chewed gum lasts longer, it doesn’t get “mushy” or soft, and I honestly think it extends the minty flavor.

Store freezer meals in gallon size zip-top bags so they take up less room in the freezer and defrost faster. This is also a great way to “gift” a meal to others as you don’t need to worry about getting your dish back.

Use square and rectangle containers to store food (or anything else) as they take up less space and store more than round or oval containers.

Wrap your loose-leaf lettuce in paper towels and store in a large food storage container — it will last SOOOO much longer!

Here’s a huge list of foods you can easily store in your freezer and a bunch of my freezer food tips.

lettuce

Food Prep:

Put meats and block cheese in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before slicing to make them much easier to slice. However, I would recommend setting a timer for this as I have forgotten and left them in the freezer for too long :)

Use a kitchen scissors to cut raw meats as they seem to work much faster and cut more quickly than a knife (at least for me).

Chew minty gum while chopping onions to keep your eyes from watering (can’t remember who told me this tip, but it works well for me!)

Prep your fruits and veggies the same day you buy them. This makes snack time and future dinner prep quick and easy. I also try to slice up large amounts of block cheese at the same time too (it’s one of Nora’s favorite snacks and she requests it daily!)

Make anything you possibly can ahead of time. There are many, many days when I have dinner ready to go into the oven (or on the grill) at breakfast time because if I don’t have it ready early, I always seem to run out of time during the day.

Food Substitutions:

There are so many things I could list here — but instead, I’ll just tell you to “Google it”. Honestly, ANY time I don’t have a certain ingredient in the house, I just google “cooking substitutions for ______” and I’m always amazed at what I find. Often times the recipe tastes even better with the substitutes!

Also, if I can’t find a substitution and the ingredient is not a main ingredient, I’ll often just leave it out and “experiment” a little. There’s no sense making an extra trip to the store and I’ve only had one or two times where the food didn’t turn out.

Trash:

I’ll often double-line our kitchen trash can to make emptying the trash a little easier. On one hand, you can empty the trash and the new bag is ready and waiting for you. On the other hand, if something does leak through the first bag, you’ll most likely catch it in the 2nd bag — and that means less clean-up for you!

I keep a container of baking soda behind the trash can to absorb some of the odors.

Kitchen Clean up: 

Whenever possible, I ALWAYS try to clean up as a cook. It makes life after dinner SO much easier. I’ll often have the sink full of hot soapy water so I can wash dishes as I cook.

I’ll play a game with myself and try to clean one thing, put something away, or wipe down parts of the counter in between stirring pots on the stove — I’m always amazed how much I can get done in just 30-45 seconds.

(click on the links below to see how I clean the following items)

Farmhouse Porcelain Sink

Gas Stove (this was in our old kitchen)

Electric Oven

Butcher Block Island Counter

Granite Counter Tops

Stainless Steel Appliances

Defrosting a Deep Freezer

I’m sure I could keep going and going with this list for a while — but for now, this is where I’ll stop. This list is in no way exhaustive of all kitchen quick-tips, but these are the ones I use on a very regular basis in my own kitchen.

What are your best kitchen-related quick tips that have helped you save time, money, and energy in the kitchen?

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17 comments

  1. Julia K

    06/02/2014

    Every day or two – I do a “check and chuck” in my refrigerator. I scan the shelves for food near to it’s use-by date and make sure it either gets used in the next day or two or I throw it out. This helps keep my fridge neat and tidy and minimises food wastage.

    I also keep my fridge really organised. I can’t understand people who just randomly put items anywhere in the fridge. I hate wasting time looking for things and the little bit of time I put into keeping the fridge organised is well worth it. I can open the fridge and know instantly whether we are running low on something. I have a similar system in the pantry and the freezer. We have a chest freezer and I purchased extra storage baskets to go in it. I have four baskets:
    1) Vegetables & Sides
    2) Desserts & Baked Goods
    3) Meat, Fish & Chicken
    4) Ready Meals

    Our trash is collected on a weekly basis – we don’t have a garbage disposal unit. If I have food items to throw out – I place them in a brightly coloured garbage bag in the freezer. Then on “bin night” I place the bag of frozen food items in the trash. This avoids having rotting food sitting in the trash can which will attract insects, pests and not to mention the smell ! Note – I live in Queensland, Australia – so heat is an issue here !

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Love this Julia — sounds like you have a great system going on. And yes, we keep the fridge pretty organized too — it makes grocery shopping easier as I can just glance in and see what we’re out of.

    [Reply]

  2. Rachael

    06/02/2014

    Hey! I live in Qld too (Brisbane). Nice to know other Australians read Andrea’s blog too :)

    [Reply]

  3. Lisa

    06/02/2014

    Can’t wait to try the mint gum while cutting up onions tip, thanks!

    [Reply]

  4. Rose

    06/02/2014

    Enjoyed this post so very much! I love reading your site…. simple BUT completely useful advise for anyone. I always pick up some new piece of info from you….I love it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Rose :)

    [Reply]

  5. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    06/02/2014

    Thanks for this helpful list. I like the ideas of double lining the trash can and using drawer organizers. I keep the plastic salad containers to organize food in my freezer. I find that always thinking ahead to the next meal is extremely helpful in not falling behind.

    [Reply]

  6. Laura

    06/02/2014

    I agree with the paper towels saving the lettuce! I do this all the time! I always cook a meal that gives leftovers – enough for at least 2 others, sometimes 3 meals.

    One thing I do is store all leftovers in clear glass or plastic containers. It saves me time since I never have to guess or label the contents (in the fridge anyway, I label freezer stuff). And I can always see quickly how much is left.

    I will have to try the minty gum when I’m chopping onions… I cry buckets, haha. :)

    [Reply]

  7. Lauren

    06/02/2014

    I like the idea of washing and cutting fruits and veggies all at once to save time later, but whenever I do this the food spoils more quickly. Anyone have suggestions to avoid food spoilage for pre-washed and cut items?

    [Reply]

  8. Debbie

    06/02/2014

    Very helpful post! Can’t wait to use vinegar in the dishwasher as a rinse aid b/c our dishes can sure be cloudy at times!

    [Reply]

  9. Julia K

    06/03/2014

    Another great time saver is my perpetual shopping list. I have a word document that lists out pretty much everything I buy from the grocery store. It is categorised eg Dairy Products, canned fruit, canned veggies, pet food etc etc. I keep a stash of these on hand and highlight items as we need them. I also highlight items as I go through our meal plan for the week. Apart from not forgetting things, the great bonus with this system is that it saves back-tracking in the supermarket. I have being doing this for YEARS and although it took some setting up at first, it has been well worth it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I love these ideas! I always make my list based on the grocery store set-up so I don’t have to back-track either. It’s amazing how much time this saves me in the store.

    [Reply]

  10. Jenni/Life from the Roof

    06/03/2014

    I really like the idea for drawer organizers in the deli drawer – I had never thought of that, and it would make finding all those little cheeses/meats easier! :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I use these small organizers EVERYWHERE! They are so handy!

    [Reply]

  11. Olga

    06/04/2014

    I really enjoyed this post, Andrea. I always love reading kitchen tips from others and time saving tips are always appreciated. It’s very inspiring to see how organized you are.

    [Reply]

  12. Debbie

    06/04/2014

    Does vinegar really work to replace jet dry? I’ve tried using the vinegar cleaner mixture to spray on our showroom but I don’t think it worked and the smell was not something I like to smell in our bathroom. I would hate for our dishes and glasses to smell like vinegar too. Sparkling drinking glasses is a must so I’m doubtful vinegar can do this.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Reply:

    I meant shower, not showroom.

    [Reply]

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