I love cooking, it's one of my favourite hobbies, but even if I sometimes find it to be a lot of effort - especially at the end of a long day. One of the things you definitely don't appreciate as a child is someone making your meals for you every day! But, whilst it's always fun to get a takeaway, for us that really has to be an every-now-and-again treat rather than a daily occurrence, so I've developed some habits to make cooking, and spending time in the kitchen more generally, a lot easier and happier.
1. Tidy As You Go
Finished with an ingredient? Pop it back in the cupboard or the fridge. Done with a utensil? Chuck it in the sink or the dishwasher. It really helps to keep your working space tidy so you have room to cook and don't feel overwhelmed.
2. Load the Dishwasher Before You Go to Bed
Ugh, loading the dishwasher and cleaning the surfaces down is probably the last thing you want to do before bed - but your future self will thank you when they come down to a clean and tidy kitchen. A little effort after you've finished dinner will make the next day much more pleasant!
3. Empty the Dishwasher First Thing in The Morning
If you've done your job the night before, you'll have a dishwasher full of clean dishes when you wake up. Putting them away not only means you have everything you need for making breakfast, but also means you can load as you go throughout the day, rather than piling everything up on the side or in the sink. It keeps things neat, and makes cleaning up after yourself that much simpler.
4. Keep a Running Shopping List
I keep a running shopping list on my phone so that nothing gets forgotten. If I notice we're running low on something whilst I'm cooking, I pop it straight on my list so that when we go to the supermarket I don't have to wrack my brains to think of everything we need. There's always something that occurs to you at an odd time, so having that running list means we always have everything we need.
5. Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Meal Plan
Meal planning saves time and money, even if it is sometimes a bit of a ball-ache. I've been writing mine down in Evernote so I can refer back to them, rather than having to start from scratch each time. I've also made a note of the recipes I want to cook from my favourite cookbooks so I can refer to them quickly when I'm making the plan, rather than having to rifle through each time.
6. Clean Out the Fridge Every Time You Do Your Food Shopping
It's easy to be lazy and just put all your new food away, but spending a few extra minutes cleaning out the vegetable drawer and throwing away anything that's gone out of date means you'll have space for the new stuff, and you'll never stumble across a rotting cucumber or some gone-off cream when you're scrabbling for something to eat.
7. Keep an Empty Bowl on the Worktop When You're Cooking
Keep a mixing bowl or some other similar receptacle on the worktop whilst you're prepping your meals, and you can throw any peelings or other food scraps straight in, rather than going to and from the bin. This will help you tidy as you go but without as much of the faff.
8. Store Cooking Essentials Next to the Stove
When we designed our kitchen, I put a little pull-out drawer next to the cooker. This is where oil, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, soy sauce and the like live. Everything that I need on hand for pretty much every meal - it saves me rummaging around in cupboards halfway through, and just makes cooking that little bit easier. The same applies to wooden spoons, spatulas etc. Have everything on hand and make your kitchen life happier!
9. Put New Groceries Behind the Older Stuff
Just like cleaning out the fridge before putting stuff away, it can be tempting just to shove everything in to the cupboard willy-nilly. But, stocking your cans and packets towards the back means you can use everything in order and never forget about ingredients you have lingering at the back of the cupboard.
10. Keep Your Kitchen Stocked With Essentials
There are some ingredients that you find yourself reaching for time and again, so keep your kitchen stocked with them and it'll be much easier to whip something up rather than reaching for takeaway menus. Above the very basics like salt and pepper, I like to make sure that we always have eggs, chopped tomatoes, garlic, onions and cream in the house - so I can always make *something* with whatever else we have in the fridge for lunch or dinner.
What are your kitchen habits? Do you have any extra tips?