I love cooking, and while until not so long ago, cooking was an option and a hobby, it has now become part of the daily routine (remember my last post), no more sneaking into the hotel’s kitchen for tasty leftover. The least I can say is that cooking healthy food is demanding and has even proved itself quite challenging as it takes a lot of energy and organization to do it well. I have encountered quite a few issues from not having a key ingredient and realizing it only halfway through a recipe, to having no idea what to cook for dinner to having no space at all in the kitchen because every inch of kitchen counter is covered by food or dishes to be clean. So, finding ways to have some peace amidst the chaos became super important to me. I’ve been trying some different ways to help keep my life a little more organized in the kitchen and these meal planning technics have been proven to be time-saving. I’m so happy to share with you the kitchen life hacks I now swear by:
Find and organize recipes
Whenever I browse social media, food pictures and recipes always attract me. Those yummy pictures of colorful food in cute dishes make me want to eat my phone. I have developed the habits of saving these pictures on Instagram and post on Facebook. And now, whenever I lack inspiration, I scroll through my list of saved items to find our perfect dinner.
Sometimes, I feel creative and I assembly a dish on my own. The result is not always guaranteed and, occasionally it is so terrible that we simply don’t eat it (F**************g beetroot soup), but it can also turn surprisingly good. The most difficult is to do it all again and get the same result if only I had noted down all the ingredients and portions…
I wanted to save the recipes I create and the ones given to me by my grandmother in an organized way. There are a few noted down here and there in separate notebooks or loose pieces of paper, but every time I have moved to a new house, I lost (understand, thrown by mistake) half of them. I have been looking for a big notebook, I wanted something specific and it seems that in our modern days where 80 % of the people are equipped with a smartphone, the telephone (Indexed) notebook has gone missing. No joke. It is nowhere to be found in Bangkok, not in Siam Paragon nor in Central World.
One of the motivations behind this blog was to have all my recipes noted down in an organized way, and if there aren’t who cares, because we still have the search field. 😊
2. Meal planning
Having recipes is good, having the ingredients necessary to cook that recipe is better. How many time did I start cooking up something only to realize halfway through that I am missing one, if not two, mandatory ingredients or that the vegetables I was planning to use were already spoiled? Like that time, I wanted to bake a banana bread to save the ripped banana from their garbage destiny, but realized only after smashing the banana and whisking them with the egg that I had no flour… it made for excellent banana pancakes.
To avoid twist and turns, and disappointment, I have started planning our meals a week at the time, listing down as I planned, all the ingredients on the grocery shopping list. It works!! And because I am a very nice girl, I’m sharing with you the weekly meal planning template.
Click on the link below the download the weekly meal planner:
weekly meal planning template
3. Meal prepping
Supplies are limited in Sri Lanka countryside, you would find most fresh products and common grocery, but beyond that, not much. No chia seed, no almond milk, no cauliflower pizza dough. The advantage is that we buy only fresh food (there is nothing else). The disadvantage is that it is a lot of hard work to prepare all meal from scratch. My workaround is to prep most vegetables, or condiment. And this, lady, has turn out to be a huge time-saver.
My meal prepping also includes cooking what need to be pre-cooked like kidney beans, beetroot, corn. As soon as I come back from grocery shopping, I cleanse, slide, dice, pre-cook, and pack everything in air-tight containers. I’m not an organization freak, but my fridge definitely looks like it.
So, next time you go grocery shopping, get your knife all sharpened and start chopping, slicing, boiling. You will probably lose couple of hours but it is well worth!
4. Plan for left-over
Another time-saver (aka life-saver) is cooking 2 or more portions at the time. For example, if the dish calls for rice or quinoa, I cook twice the amount needed and store it in the fridge. I just make a little extra of everything, this is perfect to have a mid-week meal of left-over or if we don't want it right away, I freeze it for later.
5. Clean as you go
There are always a few minutes here and there during the cooking process when you’re waiting for the pot to heat up or the onions to soften. Use these spare minutes to make your kitchen sane again. Return what you can to their homes, deposit dishes or utensils in the sink (dishwasher if you are a lucky lady). I guarantee your clean-up will go a lot faster.
If I haven’t convinced you already to plan and organize your meal, do note that on top of saving time and bringing sanity to your kitchen, it also saves money as no food goes to waste and keeps you away from the oh-so-easy to eat junk food. Meal planning and prepping seem to vary a lot from a person to another. And I believe the idea is to find a process that is enjoyable, effective, and easy for you. So what works for me may not work for you, but may give you hints. If you have developed a technique that works wonderfully, do share it, a good tip is always welcome.