Be prepared for preparations

The time it takes to prepare ingredients often deters people from cooking from scratch.

Whether it involves slicing, dicing, measuring, or simply getting ingredients out of the fridge and pantry, let’s face it, these tasks require some time.

In a world of horrible, pre-cooked, pre-packaged foods that are meant to fit the schedule of our busy lives, I thought I would discuss options to make food preparation easier, rather than avoiding it altogether. 

Having to gather fewer ingredients from your pantry not only reduces time, but also makes a recipe easier to approach psychologically. These tips come from my experience working in a restaurant. 

Have a small dish of salt and a pepper mill at your fingertips on the counter at all times. Chances are, if you’re going to cook, you will need these ingredients. 

Also keep a couple of plastic squeeze bottles of oil handy – one with healthy no-heat/low-heat oil like extra virgin olive oil, and the other with high-heat-tolerant grape seed, rice bran, or canola oil. 

You can also arrange spices/herbs that you enjoy using regularly in decorative containers by the stovetop. 

Imagine how inefficient a restaurant would be if they had to gather ingredients from around the kitchen for each meal they prepare. Think like a restaurant and you’ll perform like one.

Reduce clutter and have a prep area ready and waiting. Every kitchen should have an open area close to kitchen knives and a cutting board. 

If preparing every meal includes first de-cluttering your counter tops, chances are greater that you will not bother to cook at all. 

If you keep your knives in a knife block, then a wall-mounted magnetic strip for your knives may create some vacant counter space. A beautiful wood cutting board that you are proud to show off can hold a permanent location.

General accessibility of all cooking utensils, including pots and pans, will also help. Take some time to reorganize, based on your cooking habits, and everything will become more efficient.

Start a collection of recipes that you not only love to eat, but also are comfortable preparing. Arrange them in a tablet you keep in the kitchen, or printed in a binder with plastic page covers to make them splatter-proof. Deciding “what to make” can become one of the largest time-wasters when it comes to preparing a meal. We all have collections of cookbooks, but we need to create our own assortments of recipes from those books. A quick flip through the customized compilation will get you going a lot faster.

Finally, consider taking a knife-skills course. Chances are you have a kitchen and plan to continue eating food the rest of your life, so the small cost of such a course will be an investment and pay you back one hundred-fold. It will be a saving of not only your future time, but also your future health as well: whenever one cooks from scratch, there is a greater ability to control ingredients and ultimately what goes into your body.

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