Preparing healthy meals can be a challenge especially when a busy schedule can make it difficult to offer healthy foods to your family at meal-time. Here are some tips that can cut food prep time and save you money preparing food in the kitchen.
Organize the Fridge
How many times have you thrown out expired or spoiled food because you didn't know you had it? One way to lower your food bill and eliminate this unnecessary expense is to avoid overcrowding the shelves so you can see everything on each shelf without having to remove items to see what is behind them. Marking the use by date on packages of perishable foods is also a great reminder for yourself. If you're like most of us, leftover food is at the top of the list of items that are likely to be discarded. One option to avoid this is to have one shelf dedicated to highly-perishable foods or leftovers that you plan on using for meals in the next 7 days. One trick I learned from my Mother is to plan at least one meal per week around leftovers. My Mother was super creative when it came to using leftover food and while the meals weren't always a ten on the tasty scale, she was able to stretch the food budget which freed up money for other family expenses.
While you're moving things around why don't we talk about food storage for a minute. Keeping food at the right temperature will not only save you money by extending the life of your food it will prevent potentially harmful food poisoning. The door is the warmest part of your fridge so only condiments and other items that are not highly-perishable should be stored there. Eggs and dairy should be stored on a shelf where the temperature is at or below 40°. Generally, after the doors, the top shelf is the warmest and the bottom shelves are the coldest so you will want to store meat, fish and eggs here. You can pickup a refrigerator thermometer in most kitchen gadget aisles at your local grocery stores and monitor the temperature of your own refrigerator. A great resource for how long to keep food items is found at www.foodsafety.gov
Another time saver is to keep the most commonly used items together on a dedicated shelf for easy access. If you find yourself adding garlic and basil to foods frequently, why not keep those items together so you can grab them quickly.
Organize Your Cooking and Food Prep Space
If you have ever watched an experienced chef preparing a meal it is a thing of beauty! It really is a choreography of body and food! There is very little wasted movement and they seem to have almost everything at their fingertips. While it is impossible to literally have everything you will need to prepare a meal within arms reach, organizing your cooking and prep space so that you have easy access to commonly used appliances, spices, and utensils will save you time and effort.
The first task is to really think about what you use most often to prepare your meals and then select a space in the kitchen that has both counter space for prepping food and easy access for storage. Things like cutting boards, knives, collanders, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and food processors should be stored together so that you can access them quickly.
There is no rule that states you have to keep all of your spices together in the pantry. Why not keep your favorite spices on a shelf near the stove and store spices that are only used on special occasions in the pantry? Stocking a cabinet next to your cooking appliances with items like olive oil, spices, condiments, etc. can cut down on the trips to the pantry and save time preparing meals.
Have Favorite Recipes Easy to Access
If you are like most families, you have favorite recipes that you rely on to keep your family happy at meal time. Rather than fumbling through Aunt Martha's old cookbook for that favorite handwritten recipe, file it in an index card case for quick access, scan it and keep on your smartphone or tablet, or use an app to bookmark your favorite recipes on sites like Food Network.
Use a Grocery Shopping Service Like Peapod
Save Money With Coupons — Sale items are easy to find by clicking on the Specials Tab and Peapod doubles manufacturer coupons up to $.99.
Limit impulse purchases — Grocery stores are designed to maximize the time customers spend on an average trip. Research shows the longer you are in the store the more money you will spend. Shopping online eliminates the many temptations found in a traditional grocery store and a service like Peapod tracks your total as you shop to help you stay within your budget.
Easily Filter and Compare Products Available filters you can choose from include new items, weekly specials, and nutrition, to name just a few. For example, if you have a special dietary need, you can select the Nutrifilter and filter for dairy-free,peanut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free items. Other Nutrifilters include Weight Watchers, healthy ideas, USDA Good Fiber, Low Sodium, and Low Fat plans.
Create Lists for Quick Re-Ordering Create and manage your own personal shopping list to easily re-order on staples for your home. You can even have Peapod access your shopper loyalty card to turn your store purchases into your shopping list or use ‘ExpressShop’ to easily find your list of groceries.
Flexible Ordering and Delivery Options Select a delivery date between next day and 2 weeks. Delivery fees range from $7.95 to $9.95 with a $60 minimum order required. Select a delivery window within two hours (or save money when you chose a longer delivery window). Chose Pick-up and get your groceries delivered right to your car on your way home and pay just $2.95 (check for available locations online) You can also order right from your phone on the go with the Peapod app.
Readers: Do you have any food prep tips that you would like to share?