One of the most common questions people seem to ask is how they can make meal time easier. I know when I was just beginning to find my way around a kitchen I didn’t really know how to do a lot of the techniques described in cookbooks or even what many of the ingredients were. I just needed to make meals that would keep my husband and son happy. Along with my general lack of kitchen knowledge it was hard to find much good produce in the winter time. The staples that I relied on during the warmer months were no where to be found or were priced way out of our budget. I didn’t know what to do! I am a huge advocate for eating local, whole foods but this isn’t always feasible. Feeding yourself, or a family doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here are my top 5 kitchen shortcuts to make meal time easier
1) Canned Tomatoes. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but I have found countless uses for canned tomatoes. Is fresh best? Of course. But try finding a fresh tomato in the Midwest that has any flavor and doesn’t cost a fortune. I opt for organic whenever possible. How can these make meals quicker? So many recipes call for diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or some variation of these. Need tomato sauce but only have a can of diced tomatoes? Toss them into the blender and you have tomato sauce! Tired of buying pizza sauce? Send the diced tomatoes through a food processor or blender and add some Italian seasonings and it’s tomato sauce for 1/2 the cost. Some recipes to try; Crockpot Paleo Lamb Stew, Zucchini Za’alook, and Egg and Ground Meat Tajine.
2) Prep Ingredients. In professional kitchens prepping ingredients is a must. Make it a must in your home too! How likely are you to grab a vegetable for a snack if it means you have to cut it up? Not likely. While not all fruits and vegetables can be cut ahead of eating many can. Slice up your peppers, clean and cut carrots, chop onions, and break apart broccoli and cauliflower. Keep them stored in sealed containers to use throughout the week. It may take you a little bit of time to do the work but when it comes time to cook you’ll be able to just pull them out and use them!
3) Hashbrowns. We eat quite a bit of potatoes since my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease. There are also many recipes that call for potatoes but I don’t always have the time (or desire) to peel, chop and cook them. I’ve found that purchasing frozen unseasoned hashbrowns or even the refrigerator kind is a good way to use potatoes with less work. Instead of making french fries, cook some hashbrowns in just a little bit of oil, they can be baked into casseroles or added to soups. They’re not just for breakfast!
4) Sugar-Free Shelf Stable Fruits. Much like my problem with finding good quality tomatoes in the off-season the problem to find fruit is even worse. There’s a tradition where I live of canning fruit for the winter. I would love to do this but I just don’t have the time. Instead I opt to buy sugar free canned fruits. M loves peaches but there’s a really small window when they’re available, and even then they’ve traveled a long way to get to us. I feel comfortable giving him these any time of year. I also love having some on hand to top desserts with. Adding fruit on top of a cake or tart is a great way to make it just a little more special. I also like to add it into muffins. Some of my favorite recipes to use these fruits in; Moroccan Spicy Sweet Apple Croissants and Almond Peach Cobbler.
5) Cook Extra Food. One of the ways I make meals easier is to have extras on hand. When I make something like spaghetti sauce or shredded meat for sandwiches, or even taco meat, I try to make extra. It then immediately gets put into a container or freezer bag to cool and go into the freezer. On nights when I really don’t feel like cooking I have items that can be pulled out and heated up or repurposed into something else. Even simply browning several pounds of ground meat and then freezing makes an easy item to toss into soups, made into tacos, or used any number of other ways. If you’re already cooking some, why not cook a little more and put it away. I also like to use this approach when we have a little extra money on hand and there’s a good sale. I can stock up and build my pantry supplies for times when things are more lean.
I hope that these shortcuts make your life a little easier! I also wanted to share another great resource. Del Monte is holding an Add Some Garden campaign right now, you may have seen it on Facebook or other blogs. They’re giving away gift cards each week – you simply share some of your ideas for using their ingredients in your meals. There’s a few weeks left to participate. Just click the link and you’ll be re-directed to the contest. The very best selections will be chosen at the end and you could win a trip for two to Napa Valley. Awesome right?
Share your favorite meal ideas with Del Monte and share some of your favorite kitchen shortcuts in the comment for other MarocMama readers!
Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post however I did receive a gift pack from Del Monte before writing this post. All opinions are my own.