Friday, November 02, 2018

Kitchen Tips

I had trouble sleeping last night ... as I lay there my mind was circling with things, depression (reasons/solutions), better living, general thoughts and I started to get up several times to share them.   I may still share them in the days to come; maybe my journey can help someone else?  Maybe it will help me to type it out?  Who knows ... However, today I wanted to share with you something completely different and no where near as deep - kitchen tips and/or hacks!

I'm not a cook!  My first meal was not cooked until after I was married - I didn't grow up at my mother's hip cooking in the kitchen.  I've never loved it.   Actually, when I was getting married my mother and I realized I had never really cooked, well anything.   So we sat down and made me a cookbook.  It consisted of her talking and me typing - I treasure it dearly.   One recipe for fried chicken literally says "now watch it so you don't burn the house down".   Even with that tidbit of advice, I still almost burned the house down.  That lead to a hilarious story for another day - remind me to tell you one day.   Anyway, let's get back to the topic - kitchen tools and hacks.   As I said, I am not a cook, but I am organized and I am a firm believer in having the right tool for the right job.   My husband has his power tools and I have my kitchen gadgets.

Over the past 7 years or so we have embarked on a journey, in phases to get healthier, in that I've started cooking more and more.  Along the way I've found some tools and organization tricks that make it easier for me - some were my idea, most were gleaned from Facebook post and random internet searches.     Some you my already do - some you may find helpful - some will work for you in your space - some won't.  Use what you can, ignore the rest :)

But first the financial piece, because kitchen hacks often cost money.  I hate it when you watch a TV show and they say their budget is $50,000 to remodel a bathroom, they act like that's their loose change and then they proceed to make this amazing space that they are only having to pay the materials for.  So they walk away with a $150,000 remodel - they paid $50,000 for it and they act like it's a bargain anyone can afford.  It's annoying!   So, here is my financial disclaimer.  I grew up fairly poor.  I was extremely fortunate compared to MANY, but we didn't have money to throw around.  So I understand some of the tools shown may be outside of your budget right now.  Make a wish list, and put a tiny bit of money aside each month till you get the tools you want/need.   Don't get frustrated if you can't afford tool A, just skip that hack and go to the next one.  I'm very grateful to be in a better position today financially than I was, but we have to budget and have to be careful just like most families.  So with several of the tools shown/listed I had to set aside money for and plan accordingly.

Also, with the exception of 1 link (which is noted) I don't receive any commission off of recommending various tools. I  just thought you may benefit from having the links :)

And with that here my list of tips and tricks:

Wait and Get the Right Tool

You get what you pay for.   Just because a tool cost $20 vs. $60 dollars doesn't mean it's a good deal.  Do the research, read the reviews and get the tool that will last and meets your needs!   You may have to save up a little longer for it, but in the long room it's worth it.

  • You spend less money because you don't have to throw it away and buy another one in the future.
  • Nothing is more frustrating that using a tool that half works and trying to work around it's deficiencies.
  • Ok, maybe when you are in the middle of a recipe and the tool doesn't work at all when you need it - that may be more frustrating!
Cheap doesn't mean deal!

Instant Pot 

I can't rave about this tool enough!   It is absolutely amazing!   I understand that they can be pricey, but if you watch for sales you can get a pretty good deal.  Kohl's is known for having a really good pricing on them at various times (Black Friday will be a big one) and can often be cheaper than even Amazon.  I would recommend getting the 8QT at a minimum, so you can cook a whole chicken without issue.   There are so many recipes for this device that are SUPER easy and healthy.   It makes cooking at home actually fun!   If you get one send me a message and I can connect you with some amazing Facebook groups to help answer questions and some amazing recipe sites.

I personally have the Instant Pot DUO80 8 Qt 7-in-1 Multi- Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker and Warmer and I LOVE IT!

Stock photo

Measuring Tool Organization

There is nothing more frustrating to me than being in the middle of a recipe and having to find the right size measuring spoon or cup.   I used to have them all in one drawer and had to hunt - GRRR.  I also have tried keeping them on the little circle thing they come on and dealing with that, but when cooking multiple things it gets annoying.   Hanging them up, while a good idea, doesn't work for my space and I really like having multiples of the same measurement so I can use it, put it in sink and have another one to use later in my recipes without having to stop and wash that one. So I use cheap $1 Store Containers to separate them in my drawer.  I wrote (using a sharpie) on the side and bottom of the container what size it holds.   So I can grab and go!  It takes a couple of extra seconds when I'm putting the dishes up, but it's so worth it! 

I do understand I'm blessed with ample drawer space in my kitchen, so this may not work for you, but if there is a way it can I promise it has been a game changer for me!

Counter Trash Bag

The designers of my kitchen needed some lessons on what a kitchen workflow should look like.  It's a little cramped in walking space, thus my trash can is not positioned to be where I normally chop and work on prepping food!   If you find yourself in a similar situation, save some effort.  Take a plastic bag and keep it open on your counter as you cook.  As you have scraps and trash throw them in the bag; then at the and of your cooking, throw bag in the trash can.  You've saved yourself a ton of steps and cleaned up as you went!

If you wanted to be more environmentally friendly you could have a paper bag or a plastic container that you throw in the dishwasher after, but I'm not there yet.  We all take our baby steps into a better, healthier, greener life.   I figure at least the bag is serving a purpose before being trashed.

You could also save the veggie scraps to make veggie broth, but I haven't tried that yet.

Cooking Utensil Oranization

Similar to the measuring tool tip above, I have my kitchen tools separated - serving spoons, separate from spatulas, separate from straight stirring spoons, etc....   I used the below drawer separators to make this happen and LOVE them.

Shred Chicken

I used to shred chicken with a fork and knife - I wasted SOOO Much time.  I saw this hack on FB one day and it changed my life!  Use a Hand Mixer, check out the video below (not mine).

Hand Mixer

Hand Mixer!  Get one and not a new fancy one.  This a tool you want solid, simple and sturdy.  I use this one and love it!


Meal Planning

This isn't my favorite thing to do - I'll be honest.  I think the reason I struggle with it is because right now we are phasing into new eating habits and I don't have a huge back list of recipes to fall back on so I spend alot of time researching.  HOWEVER, it is important!  If you plan your meals it makes things better on a number of levels:
  • You can eat in a more intentional manner - making sure your meals and snacks are healthy through out the week!
  • You can be more intentional with your buying habits - having precise grocery list that you can use to shop.  Allowing you to price compare and use coupons effectively. See my Coupon Post for some tips on saving money while grocery shopping.
  • It lowers the daily stress of figuring out what to eat.
A friend of mine made a very valid observation the other day - this will get easier! If I keep track of our daily menus (which Plan to Eat makes easy, see below) - the ones we like - I'll eventually have a go to repository of menus.   Once I  have 6 months or so of recipes under my belt with this new eating plan, then I can just plug and play.   I can always introduce new menus of course, but the stress and time consuming process of of starting from scratch every time will be OVER!

Plan to Eat

This site allows you to save your recipes in a digital format, plan out your menu's and then it populates a shopping list for you!   They have a mobile app that enables you to check items off as you purchase them (or as you confirm they are in your pantry).  It's about $35 a year, but Black Friday they typically offer a sale so put it on your list :)      You can also share recipes with friends + they have an amazing browser add on that lets you clip recipes easily from various websites!

For the really Tech Savy -  I also have a tool I use with it called snagit that let's me take a picture of a recipe from a book.  It then, converts it to text and I can copy and past it into the app.  That's a little technical for some so if I just went over your head ignore me and focus on the app itself - it's AMAZING without this trick!  If you want some more workflow details on this send me a message :)

Plan to Eat

Disclaimer: If you buy from link shown I do get a little bit of commission.  I'd recommend it anyway, but just to be upfront and honest!

Immersion Blender - Multi Tool

I bought this gadget, because I was beginning to make my own mayonnaise at home and this was required.   I use it for the immersion blender of course, but more often than that I use the food processor function.  I have a full size Hamilton Beach food processor that I love, but it takes time to put together, has multiple pieces and can be a pain.   This little gadget is amazing for doing a quick chop of an onion or something similar!   And it's not the priciest model by far.  I did a ton of research before buying it and after using it I can say without reservation - 5 Stars!    Warning though, it's blade is REALLY sharp -sharper than other food processors.  I have the scar to prove it.

Cuisinart CSB-79 Smart Stick 2 Speed Hand Blender, Stainless Steel/Black

Dreaded Spice Cabinet

I got so tired of looking in the spice cabinet and having spices fall on my head.  Hunting behind bottles for the one I was looking for.  And then finding the bottle, only to find my tablespoon doesn't fit in the opening and that pouring it out of the container is a disaster in the making.   Enter the 4 OZ mason jar!   I took all of my spices, put them in individual mason jars, wrote on the top with a sharpie (which can be cleaned with rubbing alcohol if you need to reuse lid) and put them in my drawers in ABC Order.  I put empty jars at the change in letters to allow new spices without having to redo the drawers every single time!   It takes up 3 drawers, but it's a game changer for me.   I get not everyone has this many drawer's but there are a number of gadgets at home depot that could be used to turn a cabinet into mini-drawers and it is so helpful!

I keep the extra spice in a Tupperware container in the laundry room so I can refill as necessary.

Drawer Lighting

When I did the spice organization I found myself needing a flashlight to read them.  Jack found these cheap lights for me and they are amazing and fairly cheap!  You have to charge them every few weeks, but they auto cut on when I open the drawer.

Lettuce Salvation

Want your lettuce to last longer?  Put a paper towel in the bowl (bowl does need a lid) with it - the towel absorbs the moisture and the lettuce last longer! 

Tupperware Organization

Picture of how my Tupperware is organized.  I didn't have the room to do this until we redid the laundry room with cabinets so I get it if you can't but I do love it.

Under the Sink Skillet Fun

I use a divider to stand my skillets up!  I love being able to get to the one I want without having to deal with stacks of pans.  I still have my pots and pans stacked (I hate it) but haven't figured out how to fix it yet.

Product Here:

Baking Pan Organization

I use a different divider for baking pans, because they vary in size so much, but same principal as skillets above.

Product Link:


Sharp knives are a must!   I use CUTCO - they are expensive and an item you need to save for, but you'll be thankful you did.  They have a lifetime warranty, free sharpening for life and are just amazing!  If you are interested I have a representative I can recommend.   I also love they fact that college kids are typically the ones selling them, so you are directly helping someone become their future selves!

Oh and their scissors!  I use them daily!

Note: you can purchase the knives individually and build your collection over time.  That is what we did.  I LOVE my knives.

Image result for cutco knives

If you made it this far, congratulations on sticking with me.  I hope this helps you in your journey to be a healthier you!   God Bless.

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