Less Time in the Kitchen, More Time Eating!

If there's one place you can spend tons of unnecessary time and energy, it's the kitchen. We spend so much time preparing, cooking and cleaning up that we often lose some of the enjoyment we should find in our own kitchens.

Here are some ways you can get meals to the table faster, spend less time cleaning and have more time to enjoy the food itself.

1. Prepare a weekly menu. Nothing wastes more time than not having ingredients on hand or getting lazy and calling for take out. Deciding on a menu at the first of the week will allow you to choose healthy food, make sure you have everything you need to prepare each meal and prevents excuses that lead to calling for pizza. (Who wants to wait an hour for delivery when you can have a home-cooked meal in minutes?) Save time and money all at once.

2. Arrange your kitchen properly. Put like objects together. Place utensils you use for stove top cooking near the stove. Arrange canned and dry goods in a cabinet near the fridge. Saving time can be as simple as not having to run across the kitchen for everything you need.

3. Clean up as you go. This may seem silly but wiping up spills, doing the dishes and putting tools away when you're finished can use some of that time while you're waiting for things to cook. It also makes the end of you cooking time a little more enjoyable. If you're more interested in cooking than cleaning, enlist some help.

4. Utilize your slow cooker. This great kitchen gadget can not only give you some of the best tasting food ever, but taking a few minutes to prepare it and then letting it go frees you up all day! Not much else can save you that kind of time.

5. Cut everything all at once. Chop onions for all this week's dishes when you make the first meal. If you're only using two ribs of celery today, go ahead and cut the rest down for the next menu. A little work now can make a huge difference later.

6. Use pre-cut and serving-sized products. This may not be the most economical for every meal, but we're talking about time here. When you're in a rush to have a great, healthy meal ready, having a couple of steps cut out can be well worth it.

7. Make double batches while you're at it. You've got the ingredients and it takes very little time to double your recipes. Planning to make a second portion early in the week saves time later in the week that you may not have. Plus most meals are even better when they've had a chance to sit. So make one and freeze one.

8. Simplify. If you know you'll be strapped for time, plan an easy meal for that day. Breakfast for dinner is a great one - omelets, soy sausage patties and refrigerator biscuits are super quick, super easy and super filling. Plus it's a family favorite!

9. Leftovers are wonderful! Have a refrigerator raid on a night that you're in a hurry. Everyone can have a little of everything and all you have to do is heat up individual plates. And leftovers are so much better than the original meal! Just make sure you've labeled dishes so you know how long they've been there.

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