Thursday, July 8, 2010

Want To Cook But Pressed For Time?

Or are you too tired when you get home? This post was inspired by my fabulous friend, Kitten.

I guess it’s also about time that I write about ‘my secret’ since my officemates are also asking how I am able to bring homemade baon and cook wonderful dinners when my job is 8-5 and I blog and I have all these extras in my life plus the fact that I get sick every now and then.

I’ll just number the points for you because I really don’t know where to start. I’ll just write the tips as they come.

So here it is then. Get ready to be changed!

  1. Plan a menu. In my case, I plan for 5 days. That’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. Write it down on a notebook or on a white board. You don’t have to follow the menu per se like Monday-Chicken, Tuesday-Fish. As long as you know what you’re going to cook and eat then that’s okay.
  2. Plan a budget. Tres, tres important! This is very important. In my case, I allot Php1500-Php2000 per week depending on the menu but I try to stick to the budget as much as I can. This includes 5 kilos of rice and food for the kitty colony.
  3. Make a grocery list…and stick to that list! Well, I can forgive you if you don’t because I’m also guilty of not sticking to the list.
  4. When you get home from the supermarket, store everything in it’s proper place. Be sure to remember where you put each item. This will save you so much time on crazy weekdays.
  5. Before storing ground meat, be sure to wash it first so that when you decide to cook it during the week, you only need to dump it in the pan. I find washing ground beef very tedious so I try to do this as soon as I get home from the super.
  6. When storing parsley, I either cut the stalks and put them in a glass of water or chop them up and freeze them.
  7. Oh, before I forget. When you plan a menu, be sure to maximize the use of your ingredients. If you buy from a supermarket, the food is pre-packed so even though you only need 3 tomatoes, you’ll end up with a bag full of them.  For example, when I made eggplant parmigiana, I used half a bag for the parmigiana and the leftover bag for eggplant tempura. We still had some leftover tentsuyu (tempura sauce) and so I decided to buy 20 pieces of shrimps. Ten was for tempura and the other 10 for crispy shrimps. If you’ll be needing tomatoes for pinakbet, save the leftover for a homemade salsa or homemade sauce. You can search for the recipes in the archives. This method not only saves you ingredients but it also saves you time and money.
  8. Make sure that you have variety in your dishes. Although your ingredients may seem identical, when cooked in an entirely different way like the above examples, then you’ll be sure to enjoy your food.
  9. If you’re preparing vegetables that don’t get spoiled easily, you can prepare them and keep them in batches. I will use the eggplant example again. When I sliced the eggplants for the parmigiana, I also washed and sliced the leftovers and kept them in an airtight container in the fridge. The next night, I just whipped out the breading for the tempura and dipped and fried. It took only about 5-10 minutes. You get a freshly cooked meal afterwards.
  10. Another trick that I do is to cook dishes in advance and then refrigerate or freeze them. I usually cook 2 kinds of viand/food on Sunday night to be eaten in the next 2 days. If you have a ref and microwave in your office, you’re lucky. You can take advantage of this method.
  11. If you’re not too choosy about your food, you can serve the same food for lunch and dinner. To avoid complaints, I usually add a side dish or change the food a bit. For example, for baon I might pack some roasted chicken with catsup. For dinner, I will serve the same roasted chicken but this time with sauce, mashed potatoes and herbed rice.
  12. Make dinners special without tiring yourself out by preparing side dishes in advance. You can get a lot of ideas in the archives. This way, you’ll only reheat and serve. The trick is to make your friends and family think that you slaved away in the kitchen. *wink*
  13. I used to buy in bulk believing that I can save more that way. But sometimes, I get too much leftover ingredients that they just expire or rot. Now, I only buy enough for the recipes that I will cook. This ensures that my ingredients are always fresh.
  14. Be creative during Saturdays. You get more time to prepare so you can cook stews and baked dishes. Spoil yourself on Saturdays.
  15. On Sundays, we eat out. Hey, even God rested for one day! Allow yourself to taste the dishes of other chefs and you will be inspired to plan the menu for the coming week. Most of my menus are inspired by the dishes when we eat out. You may be the designated chef of the house but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to rest and relax. Be sure to take breaks as cooking too much can tire you out and can make your attitude to food turn sour.
  16. Don’t cook when you’re upset, sick (for hygienic purposes) or exhausted or angry. It will affect the taste of your dishes. Believe me. Been there, done that. It's not a sin to call the delivery service.
  17. When cooking, be sure you have all the ingredients that you need so you don’t waste time going back and forth to the cupboard and ref.
  18. Be sure you have a trash bowl ready for all your vegetable and fruit peelings. Compost them or throw the seeds in a pot. We now have a healthy ampalaya (bitter gourd) plant at home and some others which I have yet to identify.
  19. If you can work fast, you can prepare the ingredients while cooking. For example, when cooking sinigang, I boil the water first. While boiling, I chop the preliminary ingredients. Then I add them to the pot then move on to the next ingredients. The kitchen is a battleground, you need to strategize! Especially if you have impatient and super kulit cats like I do. 
  20. At night, while waiting for our meal to cook, I usually prepare the following day’s baon or breakfast ingredients. For the baon, I can cook already but for the breakfast, I just prepare the ingredients. That way when I wake up in the morning, I just get all the ingredients and dump them in a pan and cook. Whereas for the baon, I just get them and put inside my baon bag because I already packed them the night before. This saves you precious sleep and energy in the mornings and allows you to enjoy your breakfast.

So there you have it! Wow, I never thought I’d reach 20! I hope you’ll learn a trick or two from this and save yourself some time and energy during the week. And most of all, be able to eat a freshly cooked meal that’s homemade and healthy!

3 comments:

  1. So this is the post you were talking about yesterday, yey! LOVE IT! Thanks Lady E! This weekend I'll do the groceries and prepare everything. But I have to clean the ref first though. Excited*

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks kitten! Na excite din tuloy ako sa iyo!

    ReplyDelete

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