Motherhood means having your hands full, especially while you’re in the kitchen. Check out these ideas for making the best of your time in the most popular room in the house.
As a working mother, I’m always battling against the clock. Shortcuts are essential; and like most moms, they supply a welcome fast track to more time with my family.
Since my family’s life seems to center around the kitchen, the room where we meet to chat, cook, or eat together, streamlining all activities in this part of my house helps free up my schedule for more important things.
Over the years, I’ve collected some great tips from family and friends to help lessen the time I spend in the kitchen and make that time all the more enjoyable.
Try these mom-tested tips when you’re next in the kitchen to help you steal some precious free time.
1. Sort in advance. Put like utensils in the same section of the silverware tray in the dishwasher (knives with knives, small forks with small forks, etc.) so that you can pull them out by group and put them away fast. Just be sure your spoons aren’t spooning or they won’t get as clean!
2. Keep sponges fresh. Every time you run your dishwasher, throw your kitchen sponges in the silverware tray or top rack. The heat of the washer sanitizes your sponges, making them smell fresher and last longer.
3. Sanitize cutting surfaces. Wondering how best to clean your butcher block and cutting boards? Next time you boil water, save a cup and pour it over your board. Then take a handful of kosher salt and a kitchen towel and rub down the wood. The salt sanitizes the cutting surface and doubles as a mild abrasive to really get things clean.
4. Keep garbage bags handy. Every other time you empty the kitchen trash, drape an empty bag across the side of the bin, then put on the new bag. This way, when you take out the garbage, you’ll have a fresh bag ready to take the old bag’s place and will only need to grab a new bag half as often.
5. Get food unstuck. Get a jump on dirty pots and pans before tossing them into the sink. Before sitting down to dinner, set your dirty pots on the stove with some vinegar and water or dish soap and water. Let them boil while you eat. By the time you finish dinner and get started on the dishes, the hot water solution will have dislodged stuck-on messes.
6. Quick, fancy dessert. Struggling to figure out what to serve for dessert or birthday parties? Take an old muffin tin, put in paper liners, and spoon in your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt. Keep a full tin in the freezer at the ready for quick and easy treats.
7. Stock tips. Boost veggies, rice, and pasta by adding a touch of soup broth or tomato sauce. Pressed for time? Fill an ice cube tray with chicken, beef or vegetable stock, tomato sauce, or cream soups. Dump the frozen cubes into a freezer bag. Then grab a couple of cubes to add to your stir fry, pasta, veggies, or to whip up a quick sauce.
8. Fix an oil slick. Spill a little cooking oil on your counter or floor? For a speedy clean up, just sprinkle a handful of flour over the mess, let it set for a few minutes (to absorb the oil), and then simply wipe it up with a paper towel or sweep it away.
9. Fun with funnels. The fastest, surefire way to separate an egg is to use a kitchen funnel. The white will go through the funnel, but the yolk will stay in the funnel’s bell.
10. Cook once, eat twice. If you’re making a labor-intensive meal (lasagna, soup, hot dish, etc.), buy enough for two batches. Double the recipe and freeze the second batch for a quick and easy meal later.
11. Homemade potpourri. To cut down on kitchen odors, while you’re cooking a meal or just after, set a small pot of water on the stove and drop in a slice of lemon, a cinnamon stick, or a couple pinches of your favorite aromatic spice. Let the pot boil for several minutes, and the smell will permeate your kitchen with its fragrance.
12. Get your kids to help! When I’m making dinner, my preschooler puts away freshly washed kitchen towels, empties the silverware tray in the dishwasher, feeds the dog, or sets the table. Toddlers can help put away tupperware containers, fold napkins for dinner, and sort clean (or dirty) kitchen towels. All of these chores for little helpers will save you extra minutes of time and give your child a sense of accomplishment.
13. Sweet idea. Store your brown sugar in the freezer. Believe it or not, it will never get hard. Just retrieve it about 30 minutes before you’ll need it and replace the unused portion.
14. Kid-size cups. Keep a supply of biodegradable, cone-shaped coffee filters on hand—even if you don’t have a coffee maker! These handy paper cups save you the need for washing snack plates and are perfect for carrying popcorn, pretzels, ice cream cones, popsicles, and more.
15. Take notes. Keep a pen and a calendar in the kitchen at all times. We use ours for making grocery lists, posting family reminders, logging dinner menus (both for planning and to see when questionable items in the fridge should be tossed), and for tracking birthdays (writing cards while waiting for a pot to boil is a great way to pass the time!).