Making the Most of My Time

Time, I never have enough of it. If I were given one or maybe five more hours, then I would be thankful, but then again, I would still be complaining about not having enough time. Where does it go? We are given 24 hours in a day. Honestly, that should be plenty for whatever it is any of us think we need to do. I think the issue isn’t that we don’t have enough time, but rather often we aren’t good stewards of the time we do have.

For the past month, I have been trying to figure out ways to better utilize my time. To not necessarily do more or add to my list, but to get more things done, which is really all the things I already have on my list. I’ve picked and pulled and have removed some unnecessary responsibilities I convinced myself were things I should be doing. Most of them were not, but they caused me a great deal of despair when I found my day winding down and realizing none of those tasks had been completed.

Every morning when I wake up, I feel revived, vibrant, as if I can tackle everything that comes my way. I have a tendency to bite off a little more than I can chew. So, I am starting to make lists again. Lists of all of the things I really have to do and figuring out ways to reduce the amount of time it takes for me to complete those tasks.

I decided to tackle my kitchen activities first which is where I usually find myself spending many hours of my day. If I’m not cooking, then I’m cleaning dishes. Somehow, the morning passes me by before I realize it is noontime and just about time to start the ritual over once again… If I’m not cooking, then I’m cleaning dishes.

I love to cook, but seriously, I spend way too much time in the kitchen. Since, I know I’ll be hanging out in that wonderful room for another many, many years to come, I decided to make a few changes as to how I manage my time while in there.

Bulk Cooking – choose some quick and easy meals
I have so many new recipes I want to try and just about as many recipes of dishes I know my family already loves. I like to introduce something new at least twice a month, which comes to about two weeks where I have at least one day of cooking with no idea about the amount of time it is going to take me to prepare that meal. The recipe may neither be quick nor easy, but I am determined to make it. There is not much I can do about reducing that time.

For all of the other days, I plan my menu ahead of time, but have only managed to do so one week at a time. Many of the recipes I use are family favorites and ones I make often. What I do is choose one day in the week to cook everything up for the following week. I put on some really good “cooking music” and knock it out until I finish. My familiarity with the recipes allows me to move quickly through meal preparation.

It is now spring and summer is not too far away. This means I can get away with making a lot of salads and a whole bunch of snacks because more hours will be spent outdoors and less time sitting inside around the dinner table. A salad can be a light meal with greens and some fruits or vegetables. Adding a little meat (chicken or seafood) or a little heavy on the beans can be a great way to soothe a hungry stomach. Add some homemade bread and you have got yourself a meal.

I really hate freezing food. I know that many dishes freeze well, but for some reason, I have got it stuck in my head that it takes away from the freshness or “realness,” (whatever that means), of the dish. I have worked through my issues and now, I freeze some of the meals I prepare. Anything I freeze is not longer than one week and is usually only for a few days.

When I am ready to defrost, I take Wednesday’s meal down on Monday so it can properly defrost in the refrigerator and be ready for heating and/or serving by Wednesday.

Prepare same ingredients in one chopping
When I make soups, several of the recipes I use call for onions, carrots, and celery. Instead of chopping all ingredients for each soup one at a time, I figure how many carrots, etc. I am going to need for all of the recipes I’m making and chop them all at one time. I love my cutting board, but need to start using my Cuisinart more than I do because that will save me even more time.

This method also works well for any cutting/chopping you have to do for snack foods (i.e. strawberries, carrots, etc.) you are serving that day or the next morning for breakfast or as a mid-day snack.

Washing Dishes
I would love to say that I load my dishwasher as I cook, but I can’t tell you that lie. Moving used pots and pans form one counter to another seems to be part of the natural cooking process for me. I have at least gotten myself to start rinsing pans that have caked-on build up potential. There is nothing worse than trying to get cake batter residue off of a mixing bowl after it has dried for hours; especially when I am ready to use that same bowl to make something else.

What I have started doing is loading my dishwasher and actually turning it on. I have forgotten a few times which makes the cleaning time take even longer. Anything that does not fit in that load goes in the sink to be hand washed. I use a short wash cycle on my dishwasher, so often the wash cycle is over by the time I hand dry the last dish I washed.

The counters are already wiped down, all of the dishes are washed, and I am able to walk away from the kitchen never to return again until it is time to reheat dinner.

lemon butter pound cake

This plan has worked well for me. I am rather enjoying the amount of time it has allowed me because now, instead hanging over the stove, I can stand in front of the oven waiting for yummy treats like this. Once you finish cooking up your meals for next week, I give you permission to try this delicious Lemon Butter Pound Cake recipe.

You get 24 hours every day. How have you been making the most of your time lately?

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