Time-saving steps in the kitchen

I’m always on the lookout for ways to save time in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorite tips for shaving a few minutes off my chores:

  • The trash can and compost pail are the two most important devices in your kitchen. Make sure both are at the center of everything when preparing a meal. If you store your trash can and compost pail under the counter, pull them out while you work so you aren’t constantly having to touch a knob to open the cupboard door with dirty and full hands.
  • During the day, we load dirty dishes into the dishwasher immediately after a meal. Before heading to bed, we run the dishwasher. Then, first thing the next morning, as I’m waiting for water to come to a near-boil for my coffee, I unload the clean dishes. Dishes won’t ever pile up on the counter because everyone in the house knows the load is dirty. If you wash dishes by hand, immediately wash them after a meal to avoid attracting bugs and pests.
  • It won’t work in every kitchen, but in mine it is best to open all the cupboard doors and drawers before unloading dishes from the dishwasher. I leave the doors and drawers open during the entire process, and then close them when I’m finished. You don’t waste time opening and closing doors.
  • When cleaning the counter after a meal preparation, I wipe all the crumbs directly into the open dishwasher instead of into my hand.
  • Store the items you use most often in drawers and on shelves that are easiest to reach (usually between your knees and your shoulders). You don’t want to bend over or grab a step stool to reach high shelves every time you’re working in the kitchen.
  • Store items where you use them. All coffee supplies should be near the coffee pot. All pots and pans should be near the stove. Protective oven mitts should also be near the stove so they’re easy to grab right when you need them.
  • When you know you’ll be cooking foods that tend to splatter, wet a washcloth or sponge and add a dollop of dishwashing detergent to them before you begin cooking. Then, wipe up splatters off the stovetop as they happen so you won’t have to invest a bunch of elbow grease later scrubbing down the mess.
  • If you have an electric stove, lay a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil under the coil on the oven floor. Replace the foil once a month or more often if you know something spilled during baking. This simple trick makes oven cleaning a lot simpler.
  • When waiting for water to boil, the oven to preheat, your tea to steep, or the timer to run down on something you’re making, use those spare moments to clean the toaster or another quick kitchen chore. Over the course of a week, your kitchen will get cleaner without investing any extra time.
  • Instead of wasting time scrubbing pots with stuck-on food, pour a tablespoon of baking soda and a few cups of water into the pot. Bring the baking soda-water mixture to a rolling boil and then turn off the burner and let the water cool. You shouldn’t have to do much intensive scrubbing on the pan after that.

What time-saving steps do you take in the kitchen? Share your tips in the comments.

9 comments posted

  1. Posted by Living the Balanced Life - 02/16/2011

    Spray the inside of your microwave down with a degreaser. I use ammonia and water, but know that others may choose vinegar. Then fill a large plastic bowl half full of water and put in microwave for 3-4 minutes. he steam from the boiling water will mix with the cleaner and all you have to do is wipe clean.
    You have some other great tips here. Cleaning a little as you go will save a whole lot of time in the long run.
    Bernice

  2. Posted by Joan - 02/16/2011

    Fill the sink or dishpan with hot soapy water and put all prep dishes and utensils in it as you finish with them. They’ll be soaking themselves clean while you cook, making clean-up easier and faster.

  3. Posted by Calico ginger - 02/16/2011

    Re Living the balanced life’s microwave cleaning tip – microwaving half a lemon in bowl of water works just as well. Oh, and save a fortune on stainless steel cleaners by using WD40 (do you have it in the States? it’s a lubricating spay for squeaky doors etc) – tip given to me by a Fisher & Paykel service man) – does a great job!

  4. Posted by Merikay - 02/16/2011

    I fill the dirty frying pan with water as soon as I empty it onto a serving dish. That way it soaks while we eat and is easier to clean. I guess that is like filling the sink with soapy water and putting the prep dishes into it. I try to wash the prep dishes as I go if possible.

  5. Posted by Gillian - 02/20/2011

    For your oven racks… Put a big old towel in the bottom of your bath tub, and lay the racks on it so you don’t scratch the tub. About a half cup of washing soda, and enough very hot water to cover the racks. Leave them to soak for a half hour and you’ll hardly have to do more than wipe them down. If you have a basement sink, it’s a better spot, ’cause you’ll have to really wash the bath tub otherwise. Unfortunately it does not work well for BBQ racks.

  6. Posted by Gillian - 02/20/2011

    I meant to add that here washing soda is also called So Clean by Arm & Hammer.

  7. Posted by Kai - 02/21/2011

    Some of the suggestions really make me wonder.
    You do a load of dishes EVERY NIGHT? Two of you make enough dishes every day to fill a dishwasher???
    Or do you run it half-empty every day? Because that’s a great way to theoretically save time while wasting water and energy..
    Some of the cleaning tips sound useful.

  8. Posted by Erin Doland - 02/21/2011

    @Kai — There are three of us in our house 24 hours a day (both my husband and I work from home and our 20 month old son is here with us, he doesn’t go to daycare), so every night the dishwasher is stuffed to the brim. Sippy cups, pots and pans, high chair tray, utensils, plates, coffee mugs, Nalgene bottles, etc. All three of us eat three meals a day here, plus snacks and drinks. If we don’t run the dishwasher once a day, there isn’t any counter space to prepare food.

  9. Posted by gypsy packer - 03/06/2011

    After a dishwasher heating element spontaneously overheated, burned a hole in the floor of the dishwasher, and nearly set the place on fire, I now run the beast in the morning, so I can keep an eye on it. Families with night owls should alert the member with the most sensitive nose to always report any smell of burning plastic.

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