Save Time Cooking - Meal Preparation

Many people have a passion for cooking, while the rest just want to eat. While the average household cooking preparation time is around 40-50 minutes a day, the trend over the past few decades for many people is to reduce their cooking time. So how do people typically reduce their cooking time?

<img src="/sites/default/files/cooking time.jpg" alt="Cooking time" width="200" />
To save time with meal preparation we either need to (i) reduce the number of times we cook, or (ii) cook more efficiency. Besides eating out, common strategies include:
<h2>1. Order a meal</h2>
Instead of cooking we can of course order a meal from numerous sources. For example – home delivery from local restaurants, weight loss meal providers, and gourmet meal providers.
When you order home delivery, you are not just saving on meal preparation time; you are saving time on grocery buying, and saving time on cleaning up. (These extra savings should be factored into any price concerns).

<h2>2. Bulk cooking and using leftovers</h2>
Cooking in larger quantities reduces the average preparation time per meal. This strategy involves cooking enough to supply two or more mealtimes.

<h2>3. Set up an organized and well-stocked kitchen</h2>
Some items to consider:
<li>Is your kitchen organized in such a way that you can easily find things and start cooking? Perhaps you need to rethink the way your kitchen is organized. A good test might be if someone else can find things in your kitchen.
<li>Are the most used items in the most accessible locations? Are items logically grouped? (e.g. –the bowls are all together)
<li>Is your fridge and pantry stocked with all the ingredients you need to cook? How often do you need to do random shopping trips for missing ingredients?

<h2>4. Share the preparation work</h2>
<i>“Many hands make light work”</i> (old proverb).
Obviously there is a lot more to meal preparation than cooking. So if you want to save time consider getting others involved in (say) the shopping, chopping, preparation, table setting, and of course the cleaning up afterwards. Train your kids when they are young.

<h2>5. Weekly meals with extended family or friends</h2>
A number of households I know (including ours) have a weekly meal with the extended family. In addition to the weekly catch up, there is the benefit of a reduction in (or sharing of) the meal preparation time.

<h2>6. Advanced meal planning</h2>
If you plan most of your meals in advance (say weekly or fortnightly) then you can save a lot of time. Planning in advance may involve some or all of the following - Deciding in advance what to cook; preparing an appropriate shopping list and doing the required shopping in one trip; package and label the groceries to facilitate the meal planning; and pre-cook or pre-prepare some items. Some websites also offer on-line meal plans to aid the process. Read more about <a href="/save-time/household/save-time-cooking-planning-your-meals">advanced meal planning</a>.

<h2>7. Buy Time-saving kitchen tools to get the job done quicker</h2>
Do you have the necessary equipment in your kitchen to get the job done quickly? For example – can-openers, food processors, dishwasher safe items (if you use a dishwasher). Read our <a href="/save-time/household/top-9-time-saving-tools-kitchen">top time-saving tools in the kitchen</a>.

<h2>8. Buy pre-prepared food items</h2>
Buying pre-prepared food items will save you time in getting a meal ready. For example - marinated meats, pre-shredded cheese or carrot, cake mixtures, etc.

<h2>9. Build a repertoire of quick meals</h2>
Building a repertoire of quick and healthy meals will save a lot of time. Do you have some quick and healthy meals you can prepare in (say) 15 minutes? For example, 15 minute pasta dish. If not, consider spending some time to find a few dishes to enable minimal cooking time in the kitchen. Here's our list of <a href="save-time/household/quick-healthy-meals">15 minute quick and health recipes</a>.

<h2>10. Simplify what you eat</h2>
The last option is to simplify what you eat. Perhaps a cooked meal could be replaced by (say) some bread and fruit, or perhaps a soup. Eating light and simple meals can also give your digestive system a break.
Do you have other suggestions, recommended books or websites?

<h2>Related CraveTime articles</h2>
<li><a href="/save-time/household/top-9-time-saving-tools-kitchen">Top Time-Saving Tools in the Kitchen</a></li>
<li><a href="save-time/household/quick-healthy-meals">Quick and Health Meals (under 15min)</a></li>
<li> <a href="/save-time/household/save-time-cooking-planning-your-meals">Advanced meal planning</a></li>



Very good summary of how to be more efficient. Makes me want to organise my pantry! :)