You all know that I love to save money on whole foods. But, what you may not know is that saving time in the kitchen is AS IMPORTANT TO ME AS SAVING MONEY!!!

Our family life is FULL!!!! With 4 kids at home and 2 full-time businesses to run, we do not have time to mess around with food. The busier our family life has gotten the more important EFFICIENCY in the kitchen has become to me. When I can use an efficient food system that saves me time in the kitchen but still puts fresh meals on the table in the middle of the week, I am one happy Mama. Because, as much as I wish it wasn’t true, I am at least 50% spazz. And, if my mid-week cooking isn’t fast and simple, I won’t do it and we will get take-out. Period.

So, Dinner for a Dollar is NOT just about saving money. It is also all about saving on the amount of time and energy you spend on food. Because, in the end, when I save on the time and energy I spend on food, I save money on eating out.

Today I want to share with you the #1 kitchen time saving hack.

Whenever you can, DOUBLE, TRIPLE, or QUADRUPLE any action possible in the kitchen.

Let me show you what I mean.

When I am chopping onions…if I need half for the recipe I am cooking, and I have a spare minute, I chop the other half and put it in a mason jar in the fridge. Then, the next time I have a recipe that calls for chopped onion, I already have it done.

OR…if the recipe calls for 1 onion and I have an extra 2 minutes, I chop a second onion and put it in a mason jar in the fridge.

OR…even better…if the recipe calls for 1 onion and I have an extra 5 minutes, I chop 4 onions. I use 1 in the recipe and store the other 3 in jars or baggies in the freezer.

I don’t just do this with onions…obviously!

Let me share some other examples.

When we have salads, we prep double the amount of lettuce and fresh veggies we need that night. We store the extra ingredients separately in mason jars. Mason jars will store freshly cut produce up to 5 days. When you take it out, even 5 days later, your produce will be as fresh as when you cut it. It’s amazing!!!  

When I cook rice, I double the amount and store half in the freezer for next week. Or, I quadruple it – using 1 now, putting 1 in the fridge for later and 2 in the freezer for another time altogether.  

It doesn’t take very much extra time to make 4 times the amount of rice and store the extras than it takes to cook enough for just 1 meal. But, with that 1 action…I now have 3 sets of core ingredients for future meals. AND…my favorite part….instead of dirtying a pan 4 times, I have only dirtied it 1 time. So, I save time on dishes as well.

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I do the same with beans. I ALWAYS, without exception, make an entire pot of beans when I cook them and freeze the extras. The extras get stored in 1½ cup portions in 16 oz mason jars and go straight in the freezer – 1½ cups of beans is equivalent to 1 standard can. When I have a recipe that calls for beans, I just grab a jar from my freezer.   

We also double our baked potatoes or sweet potatoes. We use 1 batch of them for loaded baked potato night and another later in the week in soup or a hash.

And, lastly, we at least double any meat we are cooking – and many times we cook enough for 8 portions. Multiplying the meat we cook at one time is the single biggest time saver I use in my life. By taking a little extra time up front, I can create the foundation of up to 8 meals in 1 setting. When we cook extra meat, we portion it out – keeping in the fridge what we can safely use in meals over the next 3-5 days and freezing the remaining.

Let me show you what this looks like, practically, in our home. I know these pictures aren’t fancy. I am a horrible photographer and I have an old phone. HA! But, they should give you an idea of how we use this principle of doubling, tripling, or quadrupling our actions ahead of time so we can get food quickly on the table in the middle of a busy week. 

These pictures are from this week – in our home. So, this is real-time, Dinner for a Dollar food life. On Saturday, we cooked a big batch of Salsa Chicken and chopped a bunch of extra fresh fruits and veggies. On Sunday night, we took those ingredients and turned them into Taco Night. We had fresh, fancy tacos in 15 minutes. All we had to do at dinner time was heat the chicken, heat the tortillas, and make the guacamole. Fresh food from fridge to table in 15 minutes. We will continue to use that Salsa Chicken in other meals throughout the week. 

By taking these simple steps when we have a little extra time on the weekends, we can create the base for our mid-week meals. Steps like these allow me to have whole food meals on the table in about 15 min Monday through Friday. 

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