What saves you time in your whole-food kitchen?

I would like to solicit the help of all you kitchen geniuses on a couple of topics for next year’s release of the printed version of 12 Steps to Whole Foods.   Today’s topic: what saves you time in your kitchen?   Some things may not be the absolute ultimate, nutritionally (see a few that I’ve used as examples below), but they save time and therefore break down the time barrier to creating a whole-food meal.   We DON’T want to save time by tossing hot dogs on the dinner table–but we DO want you to save time by using pre-minced bottled raw garlic instead of rolling, peeling, and tiny-chopping every clove, every day.   Everybody contribute an idea or two here, okay?

–Freezing greens or use frozen spinach when it’s not in season, in green smoothies.

–Buy a jar of minced, fresh garlic you get at Walmart (or other grocery stores).

–Buy a $10 electric citrus juicer and juice a whole bag of Costco lemons, freezing 2 Tbsp. portions in an ice cube tray.   Chop the peels in 8 pieces and freeze them in a baggie, using a chunk every day in your GS.

–Drain and crack open a whole case or two of young Thai coconuts at a time.   Freeze the meet in sandwich baggies and freeze the juice in pint jars in the quantities you use for your favorite 12 Steps recipes.

17 thoughts on “What saves you time in your whole-food kitchen?

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  1. I thought I was so unique and innovative by processing the whole case of coconuts at once!! Although I never thought of doing the same with lemons!

    I freeze the coconut juice/water in ice cube trays. You have to use a bunch of cubes, but I’m more likely to use them. If I’m running late and have to defrost a pint jar of coconut water, I guarantee it’s not going to happen 😉 Or more likely, I’ll try to defrost it quickly an break it!

  2. This works for me, however I am on my way to being an empty nester with part time children and part time married children for meals occasionally.

    I have chosen to dedicate Monday as my grocery/whole foods day, preferring to concentrate most heavily on preparation this day. I spend most of the day in the kitchen, at the store or in the garden. I find I spend little time in these areas the rest of the week only doing the fine tuning and last minute preparation. (Of course there are always exceptions). My family plans around me on this day.

    Grocery Shopping Monday

    (Sunday preplan menu for week) Will shop regular grocery store and Natural food store as needed

    Green Smoothies

    Divide produce into seven days and put in plastic bag, one for each smoothie. When it is time to make the smoothie I just pull out one bag and all of the greens are included.

    I make two days of smoothies at a time. As easy to make two when all items are already assembled for one

    Cookies

    I make two or three batches of different cookies label and freeze them. This may last for two or three weeks. Nice to have when company come unexpectedly.

    Granola

    I make a batch of granola every or every other week on Monday. This is cooking between mixing cookies.

    Breads/Muffins

    I will presoak grains Sunday evening in preparation for making quick breads, breads, muffins etc. On Monday I finish baking what I need. My oven is in use most of the day Monday between cookies, granola, breads etc. but not used the rest of the week.

    Garden

    In the spring/summer/fall I use this day to check, pick, plant etc. This is also the day I freeze produce that is ready.

    Legumes

    In the colder months when the garden is not a priority, I will soak (Sunday evening) slow cook and freeze beans. On Monday I pull a couple of the quart size bags out of freezer and place in the fridge. I always use in salads throughout the week, thus they are unfrozen and ready to use.

    Sprouts

    I will soak sprouts Sunday evening and start on Monday as needed.

    Almonds

    If I am going to dehydrate nuts, mostly almonds for us, I start the soaking process Sunday night and place in dehydrator Monday.

    Restock

    Many of my items are in my freezer, pantry or downstairs storage. I use this day to restock items to my kitchen area.

    I am able to do many other things the rest of the week and not be so whole food focused every day as much of the work is completed on Monday.

  3. I’ve recently discovered how easy it is to freeze cantelope and how I even like the the taste of it better frozen. Even when it thaws it still tastes fresh. Just cut up the little pieces of it like you would do if you were putting it in a fruit salad. Then lay it all on a cookies sheet and freeze…putting in ziploc freezer bags when frozen.

    Robyn, I would really like to know how you freeze greens and spinach. Do you have to cook them a little first?

  4. Over the years I have utilized many good ideas depending on the ‘season’ of our family. Many things have influenced me. I remember when my Aunt made pizza when I was young and make a HUGE batch of pizza dough and froze into balls, grated the cheese and froze in baggies and made a huge batch of sauce and froze for each pizza. She also froze the meat and some diced veggies. This was in the 70’s and seemed like a new concept. In the 80’s I utilized the Nathan Pritikin Diet for Runners. The concept was to make seven survival staples in which many or most of your meals revolved around ratatouille, rice, beans, baked potatoes, yogurt, frozen bananas and berry compote. As a single person this worked great and I would also make big batches of burritos to freeze. In the winter making large pot of soup for the week and also prepping your salad veggies every few days is awesome. Make a Mix Cookbooks and Once a Month Cooking were also used and then the most useful things kept for life

    My main advice would be to:

    Plan:

    Planning the menu for the week is the most time saving advice. Prepping everything that you can on the weekend or your day off. Bake bread, granola, cut onions, peel garlic, chop veggies, wash salad greens every few days, make a salad dressing, cook beans/rice and freeze.

    Freeze:

    My freezer is the best. If fruit is not eaten it goes in the freezer for smoothies. Meal leftovers go in the freezer to be used for lunches. Dried beans are cooked and frozen for recipes. Garden produce and sale items like red bell peppers and onions are chopped and go into the freezer. I grind my corn and grains to make a Corn Bread Mix for the freezer. In the winter I make a big pot of soup and after the first meal freeze the rest for another meal.

    Cook:

    Cook once and eat twice whether you eat the same meal twice in the week, freeze the second meal for another week or utilize/tweak the meal and turn it into a similar but different meal. A big batch of Asian Coleslaw served with a veggie burger or baked beans on the first night can turn into a Pita Sandwich, Thai Burrito, Asian Soup or Stir Fry with a few additional items. I also make a large batch of “Taco Beans” and have come up with around 18 other meal options with a few additional ingredients. If anyone needs recipes for these just let me know.

    Cook in big batches and freeze. Items would include unbaked cookies, burritos, spring rolls and bread, etc.

  5. One thing I do is when I am making a freezer friendly recipe like chili or lasagna etc., I make a double or triple batch and freeze dinner sized portions in gallon freezer bags. It really doesn’t take any longer than making the single dinner, and then all I have to do is pull it out of the freezer the night before and it’s an easy dinner. Just be sure to label your bags, because once frozen it can become a strange version of “mystery meat” if not labeled.

  6. I don’t know how Robyn freezes her spinach, but I have to buy mine right now, and I stick a lb at a time in gallon size zip lock freezer bags, squeeze out excess air, and pop them straight into the freezer as soon as I unload all my groceries after shopping (my frig seems to be overflowing with greens and produce all the time, now!). My 13yo daughter likes to eat the frozen spinach right out of the bag when I put it into smoothies.

    I also portion out the amounts of kale and collard greens for individual smoothies into quart size freezer bags. These I like to flatten after they are frozen, because they are so “crisp” they fall right into the blender that way–doesn’t work with the spinach, so much. We rinse, dry, and reuse the freezer baggies.

    I, too, would like the 18 extra recipes, NutriMom!

  7. me too, i would love all the recipes plus the 18 extra ones. My friend freezes the liquid green part of her gs in ice cube trays and then takes out what she needs and then adds the fruit all together in her blendtec. She says it works out great for her. I spend one day going over recipes and making my shopping list and then another day shopping, washing and bagging everything up. I try during the week to read new websites and to collect new recipes. I eat very simply and it’s only me who eats this way. So, I have to make small batches of perishable food for myself. My DH will only have gs two days in a row then 2 days off. this is his craziness not mine. My family doesn’t even want to hear about my new eating.

  8. I just want to reiterate how I do beans – the cheap way.

    I soak beans either all day or all night to help get rid of some of the gas causing oligosaccharides. Then I cook them in my crockpot on high during the day or low during the night. I drain and cool them and then package them in quart-sized freezer bags and stick them in the freezer. Whole foods based meals are much easier this way.

    All I have to do is get out a bag of beans to defrost for a couple of hours or so and I’m ready to go. This is cheaper and healthier than canned beans and faster that cooking them on the stove. Do a different kind every day for a week and then one kind every week after that and you’ll never run out of beans for your legume based meals. 🙂

    Sandra

  9. I prep our groceries when I get home from the grocery store or CSA pickup. All the greens get washed, rung out in the salad spinner, then stored in quart or gallon plastic bags (for more delicate items like cilantro and lettuce wrap in a damp paper towel to extend freshness). We eat mostly fruits and raw veggies for lunch, so anything that needs to be chopped or portioned (like celery and grapes) gets done all at once so all we have to do is throw it in a to-go container.

    Whenever I make beans or chili I at least double the amount and freeze most of the leftovers. If you soak your beans over night then throw them in the crock pot on low in the morning you’ll have ready to eat beans by dinner time with (what feels like) very little time invested on your part. Eat some then, save some for later in the week, and freeze the rest. An easy way to get a head start on at least three meals.

    I make our own “instant” oatmeal by pre-portioning regular rolled oats into ziplock baggies, along with a bit of stevia, a teaspoon of better than milk, and dried or freeze dried fruits in whatever flavor you like. For brown sugar/cinnamon I add a 1/2 teaspoon of molasses and a dash of cinnamon. Just dump in a microwave safe bowl (preferably glass), add water (1 cup for 1/2 cup oats), and microwave 3-4 minutes (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t bubble over). If you make a bunch assembly line style this takes very little time. This is a way better option than the stuff in the box and just as easy.

    If you want to make bread but don’t have time to do it all in one night you can take it through the first rising and then punch it down put it in the fridge until the next evening. Just take it out, shape it and let it rise again before baking (it will take a bit longer since it’s starting cold). As a bonus this will actually improve the flavor of the bread.

    The number one thing I think contributes to being efficient in the kitchen, however, is organization. Get drawer dividers, put all your stuff away in the same place each time. Store things as close as possible to where you actually use them. Label your storage containers. Organize your kitchen in a way that makes sense to you and works with your cooking style, it will make your life so much easier!

  10. Elizabeth,

    I don’t know if freezing kills enzymes, but I know Robyn freezes her excess from her garden to last her through the winter. Perhaps she’ll pop in and answer.

  11. Sorry I haven’t caught up enough (5700 emails when I got home, please remind me never to leave for 18 days again!) to answer all the blogs!

    Every source I’ve ever read says that most enzymes and vitamins/minerals are preserved with freezing, for a couple of months. I freeze garden stuff longer than a couple of months, but I still feel good about the nutritional yield–better than canning or any other method of preservation! And, the fiber is going nowhere!

    Robyn

  12. I love my stainless pressure cooker for making brown rice or beans in a hurry when I’m desperate. Canned beans are one of my convenience foods! I’m going to try Sandra’s cook and freeze bean method here pretty soon. That sounds great.

    Making over one dish into another is something that is sometimes difficult for me as we experiment with things we’ve never eaten before. One thing that has really helped is when I actually have a menu and can shop and prepare for things coming up. That way things are definitely easier.

    NutriMom, I’d be thrilled to have any recipes you’d like to share: jenna@strawnfamily dot com.

    Robyn – is there anyway to set up a place where we can all share recipes here or on the 12 step blog?

    Thanks all for your great ideas!

    Jenna

  13. You can always post recipes on either of the GSG.com blogs–I recommend doing it on the 12 Steps blog, and ask others for them as well. I will ask my webmaster (when I get a new one–Ben has graduated and is leaving me) to make a special place for it. Eventually we’ll go to a forum rather than blog!

    Robyn

  14. I have always washed my greens as soon as i got home, dried them and put them into those green bags that are supposed to keep them fresher longer. They didn’t always work and I had to throw out some greens. But I took the advice from above and today after washing my greens I bagged them individual gallon bags per serving so now all I have to do is take out a bag and throw the greens into the blendtec. I will wash the bags out and reuse them. I just love things that save me time in the kitchen. Thanks everyone for all your advice!

  15. I make big batches of beans and brown rice and freeze them in one or 2 cup amounts. then i take out one of those old candle warmer things (black simple base) and put my little round tupperware on it in the morning and they are slowly warmed and ready for lunch!

    i also plan a weekly menu and cut all produce when we get home so it’s ready to grab for snacks

  16. Robyn,

    You said you do freeze greens longer than the recommended two months. So how long is this and what is your method of freezing. I read someone uses freezer baggies, but I was thinking vacuum sealer. Also, what nutrients are lost in freezing? We have bought a full garden share this year and are already busting with fresh greens. We use them everyday, but I would like to preserve the excess the best way possible for use this winter. Any tips would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Rhonda

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