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8 kitchen hacks to make cooking easier

POSTED: October 26, 2017 10:01 a.m.
Paige Smathers/

We're all looking for ways to make cooking seem more realistic and sustainable. Here are the best tried and true ways to streamline and simplify cooking at home.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A good friend of mine called me the other day saying: "OK, don't make fun of me, but is there a better way to grate cheese than grating my fingers along with it on this stupid cheese grater?"

I told her not to worry because there is indeed a kitchen tool for that. One, in fact, that my family and I use for all kinds of things. I sent her the Amazon link and it was delivered to her the next day. She replied to my email thanking me for the suggestion and then suggested I should gather my best kitchen hacks to share because she's grateful for this new kitchen tool that's making her experience with cooking and preparing meals more streamlined and simple.

Here are some of my favorite kitchen hacks to make cooking — and life — a little more simple.

1. Get a Salad Shooter*

Remember that kitchen tool I told my friend about to save her poor fingers from the cheese grater? This is it. It can also be used for grating the most perfect and delicious hash browns, grating carrots/veggies for soups and salads, chopping nuts and even has a separate blade perfect for slicing cucumbers for yummy homemade pickles.

2. Keep a running list of your favorite meals

Get a piece of paper and draw four columns. Label each breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Then, stick it to your fridge. Each time you eat a meal or snack that was satisfying and something you'd want to have again, write it down. By the end of a month or two of doing this, you will have generated your own personal meal plan which can be incredibly inspiring.

One of the most difficult aspects of balanced eating is coming up with what to eat and knowing what to buy at the store. Spending some time and effort to write down your favorites as they happen can inspire meal ideas and can give you more of an idea of what your options are when you're feeling hungry.

3. Stock your kitchen with inventory foods from each of the food groups

Get shelf-stable (or foods that last a while in the fridge) favorites from each food group to always have on hand, making nutritious, balanced, tasty meals quick and easy without tons of planning.

For example, you might have rice, frozen chicken and frozen veggies on hand making a quick post-work meal possible without having to run to the store. Having your kitchen stocked with inventory food items makes it so that you can get by when it's been too long since you last went to the store and makes it so that you can whip up something quickly without all the stress.

4. Soak lettuce in cold water

To help your lettuce be the most crisp and tasty as possible, soak the large leaves in cold water for about a half hour. Then, gently tear each lettuce leaf (don't chop it) and spin/dry is as normal. This method makes your lettuce crisp for salads and helps it last significantly longer in the fridge afterward too.

5. Make some things ahead

Since it isn't double the work to boil twice as much rice or to chop a few more veggies when you already have the knife and cutting board out, it can be helpful to double up on cooking/prepping certain things so you have easy things to grab in the fridge on busy days. Things like brown rice, quinoa, cooked chicken, chopped veggies, sliced fruit, etc. can all be made ahead of time allowing you to free up some time and energy when things get busy.

6. Organize your recipes

Having an organized system for your recipes can double as an inspiration for meal planning. Categorize your recipes into chicken, red meat, vegetarian, fish, etc. categories or into other categories inspired by particular themes. Once your recipes are organized, you can refer to your recipes for inspiration as you're planning meals. Not only is it easier to keep track of your recipes with a bit of organization, but you can also use your recipes to inspire you when planning meals—which can be one of the hardest parts about cooking.

7. Freeze, freeze, freeze

There are so many things you can freeze that many people don't consider. You can freeze spaghetti sauce into individual bags portioned out just right for one spaghetti night. You can freeze soups—which is great since leftover soup is as good or better thank soup made the same day.

You can freeze leftover pancakes or waffles making those busy mornings more smooth. You can freeze fresh herbs by chopping, putting into ice cube trays and covering with olive oil for use later in recipes that call for fresh herbs. You can freeze bread, chopped fruit, blended spinach and so many other things to help cooking at home happen more often and feel more realistic.

8. Make a weekly grocery trip

This isn't exactly a hack, but an incredibly important habit to get into to help all the other hacks fall into place. Make a weekly trip to the store to stock up on your inventory items that you ran out of for the week and anything else you need to make your recipes and meal plan happen.

All in all, cooking does require some organization and effort. But, you can make things easier on yourself by trying some of these hacks to create a cooking routine that's streamlined and as simple as possible.

*Author's note: I am not compensated to recommend this product. There is no affiliate relationship with this product.
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