Soaking grains, drying nuts, fermenting veggies – so much of real food takes time to prepare – not necessarily hands-on time, but time nonetheless.
So here are a few of my favorite shortcuts in a real food kitchen for saving myself some precious minutes that add up throughout the week.
1 – Prepare large batches
When it comes to food prep, the biggest consumer of time in my kitchen is the clean up. And as much as I love cooking and preparing food, I do NOT love cleaning up the mess I leave in my wake.
So, one solution (aside from a live in maid or disposable kitchen ware) is to prepare food in large quantities and save the extras for later.
When I make beans or grains by first soaking and then slow-cooking in bone broth, I freeze a few batches for quick meals later. If I'm fermenting sauerkraut, I get out my giant canning pot to use as my mixing bowl and make at least a gallon. I make a big batch of cultured mayo every month or so, and at the beginning of the week, I use it to make a container of tuna salad for lunches.
2 – Love your slow cooker
Unless you have nothing better to do than watch your pots boil on the stove, your slow cooker should be an omnipresent member of the family – always bubbling away full of a promise of nourishment while you are busy getting on with life.
And what's better than a slow cooker? Two slow cookers!
Get a second crock pot on your counter – I have one on the go most of the week making bone broth, and the other is dedicated to meals – soups, stews, slow cooked meats, etc.
3 – Work your food processor
Aside from clean-up, the second most time consuming kitchen task is undoubtedly the chopping. That is, unless you have a food processor do it for you.
On a big cooking day, my well-loved machine goes from chopping veggies to shredding cheese, pureeing cashews into nut butter or roasted cauliflower into mash to emulsifying sauces or even homemade body lotion. An indispensable kitchen tool for anyone who wants to save some time.
4 – Make a real food friend who wants to collaborate
I treasure my weekly kitchen play dates where us mamas chat, cook, and take turns checking on the kids. We get more done in a half day than I often can prepare in a week on my own.
Plus with a partner, you're more likely to be motivated to tackle those challenging recipes you've been putting off or quadruple a batch of ketchup because you'll have help with prep and clean up.
Another option is kitchen trades – If you love making kombucha and a friend loves making salsa, you just may have a match made in heaven.
5 – Put your kids to work
Children love feeling useful, and they're more likely to eat the food you're cooking if they have a hand in preparing it.
Find tasks that your little one can get excited about – my five year old currently loves juicing citrus (that's him above!) and taking scraps to feed the neighbor's chickens.
Properly planned, your offspring will be entertained, and your workload will be lighter. (P.S. Finding fun tasks also works for my hubby too).
6 – If you don't love it, don't do it
While this may seem like a no-brainer, I spent months tending to the daily chores of kefir grains before I realized that my family's interest in consuming milk kefir and kefir sodas did not outweigh the effort.
Now I make yogurt instead of milk kefir and slower fermented drinks like kombucha and whey sodas. Not only does my family prefer the taste of these ferments, but the work is much less demanding. Win-win!
7 – Do a little each day
While I am notorious for my trance-like day-long cook-a-thons, I find that the best method to consistently having real food for my family is to spend a small window of time each day (somewhere between 10-30 minutes) keeping the ball rolling.
This takes just a bit of thought and planning: “Do I need to soak my sprouted flour to make crackers tomorrow? Is the meat defrosted/marinating for the crockpot short ribs I am planning? The milk is sour – I think I'll set it out to make whey.”
If it helps, jot down a list. But with practice, your kitchen (with you at the helm) will find a humming rhythm of its own.
What are your favorite real food kitchen shortcuts?