Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Post: Time Saving Cooking Tips Every Mom Needs by Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

(Thank you so much to Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama for this great blog post and for helping another mama out while I am adjusting to life with a new baby!!!)

Time Saving Cooking Tips Every Mom Needs
By Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

Moms have a lot on their plates. New moms really have a lot on their plates. Between taking care of their child(ren), cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and a whole host of other responsibilities, moms really have run out of time when it comes to cooking nutritious meals. Cooking from scratch, using real food ingredients takes a quite a bit more time than opening a can or a box. 

Over the course of the past year, I have done a lot of work in the meal planning department. I think that I can offer moms-to-be, new moms, and even experienced moms some tips and advice on how to save some time in the kitchen while still being able to prepare and offer your family nutritious meals and wholesome snacks. Here are my favorite tips:

      Chop the vegetables you will need in three to four day batches. Place washed, chopped veggies in containers or baggies and store in the fridge until you need them. You can also freeze pretty much any chopped vegetable. Mushrooms are the only item I have had trouble with.

      Cut and store a week’s worth of grab and go veggie snacks for your children. Cut up carrots, celery, jicima, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc… all keep well for about a week. You can also do this with apples. Just put a little squeeze of lemon juice on them to keep them from turning brown.

      Make a large batch of waffles and freeze them. You can pop these in the toaster or toaster oven when you need a quick, on the go breakfast.

      Cook a large pot of rice, millet, quinoa, and/or other grains at the beginning of the week. You can keep and use these all week. No need to make a separate grain every day. Use them for side dishes, baking, etc…

      Soups are very economical, easy to batch cook and freeze well. Just double or triple the ingredients, cook , cool, puree if you like and split into meal size portions before freezing. (See below for my tips on freezing stocks and soups).

      When cooking ground beef, ground sausage, chicken, etc., make extra to freeze and then it’s all ready to toss into a recipe. For the chicken, I shred some and cube some, since different recipes call for it different ways.

      Cooked dry beans freeze especially well, allowing you to have convenience without added salt. Because freezing softens beans somewhat, cook them until barely tender for the best quality frozen product. For great convenience, freeze some flat on a cookie sheet and shake loose into zippered freezer bag. You can add these quickly to salads and soups.

      It’s a lot cheaper to buy cheese in bulk and it is very handy to have ready to use shredded cheese or cubes of cheese. Just shred or cube the cheese, place in portion ready ziplock bags, and freeze.

      Eggs - Many people don't know you can freeze eggs. You can store whole eggs in plastic containers (cracked open and with the whites and yolks stirred together)or store egg whites and yolks separately. Raw egg yolks will need to be broken and stirred with either 1/4 teaspoon salt or 3/4 teaspoon sugar for each 1/2 cup of egg yolks or else they will turn to a "gummy" consistency. Cooked egg yolks, on the other hand, freeze beautifully. The reverse is true of egg whites: raw are just fine (freeze in ice cube trays, one per cube), but cooked egg whites will become so chewy they are inedible.

      You can freeze meat loaf/bean loaf/salmon loaf. Make enough for several meals and freeze the extra loaves. Meat loaf has better quality if frozen baked rather than unbaked.

      When you’re making a meal, make an extra pan or two, then before baking, freeze it for later. It is a lifesaver to have things I can just pull out of the freezer and bake. Having a couple options in the freezer is always comforting to me, because as all busy moms know, a day can go bad at any moment and getting supper made could quickly become an impossible task.

      When making cookies, double or triple the recipe, then make balls of dough and set them on the cookie sheet. Freeze for 2-3 hours and once frozen, put them into a freezer baggie (labeled with contents and date) – this way it doesn’t take up much freezer space. Now when you need some freshly-baked cookies, just pop them onto a cookie sheet to bake, and you have cookies as easy as the pre-made ones at the store, but without all the trans fats and other junk!  

      An easy way to freeze muffin dough (and again, to save freezer space): when making muffins, make an extra batch, fill paper muffin cups (in the muffin pan) with the extra batter. Freeze muffin dough in the pan for 2-3 hours or so, and when frozen, put the muffin cups with frozen dough into a freezer baggie, now your muffin pan can go back to the cupboard in case you need it. When you have a busy day, or maybe a friend is coming over, you can pop these back into your muffin pan and then bake like normal. (I usually let them set out a little bit first to thaw.) These are much tastier than the ones you bake first and then freeze, because these are warm and fresh from the oven.

      Another possibility to make things easier on yourself is to have planned leftovers. If you know your next day will be crazy, have something tonight that can easily be warmed up the next day.

Here is how I make and freeze broth and stock to have on hand:

1.       Make a very big batch of broth once a week to use fresh all week. Make a second batch once a week to freeze to make soups later on or to use if you have a “heavy stock” use week;
2.       Allow to cool;
3.       Measure and pour soup into baggies and seal;
4.       Lay the baggies flat on a baking sheet that will fit in the freezer and allow to completely freeze (if you have a tiny freezer you might have to do this in a couple of batches);
5.       Stand the frozen baggies upright and you’ll be surprised at how many bags of soup you can fit in the space.

Easy stock recipe
      Save ALL of the unused veggies, wilted veggies, parts of the veggies you cut off and typically throw away (stems, leaf tops, etc..). Wash them and put them in the freezer.
      Wash and freeze all of your used egg shells.
      Wash and freeze all of your meat bones, chicken bones, etc…
      In a large crock pot or stock pot add 8 cups of water, one tablespoon white vinegar, two cut up celery stalks, two cut up carrots, one cut up leak, 4-6 eggshells, 4-6 bones, and as many of the frozen veggies as you can fit. Cover and cook on low (crock pot) or simmer for 12 hours. (I make this at night and let it cook until morning).
      Let the stock cool then pour it through a strainer. Put in the fridge to use fresh or freeze as instructed above!  

These are just a few of things that I do to save time in the kitchen! It would be great to hear what everyone else does!!!! Help other moms out and leave your top tips in the comments!

Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

About Hybrid Rasta Mama
My name is Jennifer and I am former government recruiter turned stay-at-home mama to a precious daughter (“Tiny”) brought earthside in early 2009. I am passionate about breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding), co-sleeping, attachment parenting, cloth diapering, green living, babywearing, peaceful parenting, a Waldorf approach to education and parenting, playful parenting, getting children outside, as well as cooking and eating Traditional Foods. I believe that it is extremely important for moms to have a strong network of support and to that end have been active both in my local La Leche League and Attachment Parenting chapters.  I am also a mentor for the Natural Parents Network.
Why call myself the Hybrid Rasta Mama? Easy - I see myself as a hybrid mama. I take a little of this and a little of that and blend it all together into something that works for me, Tiny, and my husband. I am a voracious reader and researcher and have read an extensive amount of literature about parenting. I consider myself very well informed about the pros and cons of all the different philosophies and approaches out there. I know what I like, what I dislike, what works, what doesn’t work and why. I will be happily sharing my thoughts on a variety of parenting topics. As for the Rasta part of my moniker. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE reggae music and the Rastafarian culture and way of life. Reggae music touches my soul more than any other music out there.
I blog at www.hybridrastamama.blogspot.com.


  1. Lots of great useful information here! I love the frozen muffins idea! I'm also curious about the egg shells in the stock. I've never heard of that before!

  2. Thank you. These are fabulous ideas that I am going to start using this week when I make my grocery store trips and meal plans.

    Adding your blog to my Google Reader, too :)

  3. I really loved this tips. It makes my time saved for my family after cooking.