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Divas on a Dime: Simple strategies for saving time in the kitchen

If eating healthier, saving time and money are on your list of things to improve in the new year, these tips will help you reach your goals.

Plan and plan some more. Dedicate 20 minutes each week to planning your meals for the week and making a shopping list. Shop your pantry and freezer first. This way you know what you’re making each day, avoiding the drive-thru dilemma, and you only grocery shop once a week.

Use spare time to prepare ahead. For most people this means taking time on the weekend to do a few significant time-consuming tasks, so you don’t have to do them during the week. Cook a large roast or a big batch of chicken. Chop lots of veggies for salads and to use in various recipes. Cook up a pot of greens. Make a week’s worth of rice, grains or potatoes. Meals come together in a snap when you’ve done most of the work in advance.

Make haste with hamburger. Cook up a big batch of hamburger simply seasoned with onion and garlic and freeze in portions appropriate to your family’s needs. Use the precooked ground beef in casseroles, spaghetti, chili, tacos, or on pizza. You can also shape raw ground beef into patties and freeze between wax paper. Next time you want burgers they’ll be ready to barbecue or broil. Save time by baking individual meatloaves in a muffin tin.

Skip the defrost. Don’t waste time defrosting fish or chicken pieces before cooking. They can go right into the oven or pressure cooker, just add a few minutes to the cooking time and use a meat thermometer to test for doneness.

Chop, freeze, repeat. Save time by cutting veggies in large batches and freezing for future use. Chop or mince them according to your upcoming recipes and freeze them in plastic baggies. Onion and peppers freeze especially well. Save more time by buying commercially chopped frozen veggies. Stock up when they’re on sale.

Expedite the eggs. Keep a dozen hard-boiled eggs on hand for an instant breakfast, or egg salad sandwiches, adding to salads or deviled eggs anytime. Boiled eggs will keep in the fridge for one week. Write the boiling date right on the egg with a sharpie so there’s no doubt about freshness.

Put lunch in the express lane. For speedy lunches, make sandwiches in advance and freeze them for up to two weeks. Take them out in the morning and they defrost nicely before lunch. For fillings that work best use peanut butter, cream cheese, cheese, sliced meat or poultry. Don’t freeze sammies with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber or mayonnaise.

Use your appliances for speed. Food processors, blenders, pressure cookers, crock pots and microwave ovens are all great tools for efficient use of time. Pressure cookers like the Instapot, are having a surge in popularity for good reason. They can cook a huge variety of foods in about one-third of the normal time.

Making time to plan for meals is a very rewarding use of your time. Your waistline and wallet will thank you. Have a Happy New Year!

Frugal and Fabulous Food by Patti Diamond from “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” – www.divasonadime.com Join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom.

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