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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Kitchen Multitasking Do's and Don'ts

Frugal Kitchens 101
I am a chronic multitasker, always doing more than one thing at any given time, in constant motion.  For example, as I was writing this post:  I had chicken stock in one pressure cooker, beef stock in another, loaded the dishwasher, de-boned and strained the beef stock, put beef soup starter in the pressure cooker that had just cooled down and put it on to cook, planned for entertaining that night, started entertaining prep, started tidying up and played a couple of online games as a diversion.  This is very much normal for me and quite frankly pays off big in the kitchen because I am able to get a lot accomplished in any given day.  It is also good for me physically as I cannot sit for longer than about 15 minutes at a time due to a neck injury.  Multitasking in the kitchen can be a very frugal use of your time, actually saving you time and money in the long run.  Here are a few do's and don't of kitchen multitasking:

Do's:

  • clean-up as you go - If you watch the food channel especially Top Chef or other food competitions, the chefs/cooks are penalized if their work area is not cleaned as they cook.   This is really a safety issue.  In the home kitchen, cleaning as you go makes a lot of sense.  During food prep I have a sink of hot, soapy water for those items needing hand washing and have the dishwasher open ready to load those items that are dishwasher safe as I use them.   Basically I'm doing the prep work and cleaning at the same time but it really does save a lot of time at the end of a busy cooking session.  
  • take advantage of kitchen conditions - Today, I am running four different products in the pressure cookers for canning tomorrow.  The kitchen is hot and humid, perfect for proofing a loaf of bread.  
  • use kitchen appliances to aid in multitasking -  If you are bulk cooking, multitasking is a must so utilize the countertop roaster, slow cooker, stand mixer, food processor, oven, stove top, pressure cookers and outside grill all at the same time as needed to get the job done.  For example, I can be making stock in the pressure cooker, cooking a roast in the countertop roaster, grating cheese using the KA stand mixer attachment, cooking lasagna noodles and sauce on the stovetop, chicken on the outdoor grill and have a smaller batch of chili in the slow cooker.  At the end of the day, the bulk cooking session will yield a multitude of tasty dishes for the freezer to be enjoyed later in the month.  In short, use what every appliance it takes to help you multitask in the kitchen.
  • take breaks - I tend to work full tilt in 10 to 15 minute increments then take a 5 minute break.   During heavy canning and bulk food sessions, the work session gets extended somewhat but I am constantly taking short breaks.  It might be something as simple as stopping in the middle of food prep to toss a load of laundry in but that is because I need to move. 
  • always plan ahead - Even though I am doing a fair amount of very organized food prep for tomorrow's canning session, my mind is also turning towards tonight's entertaining prep and canning tomorrow.  My pantry is on the lower lever, my kitchen on the upper level.  Each time I go to the lower level to return an item to the pantry, I bring up serving trays and other necessary kitchen equipment and food for tonight.  Tomorrow it will be reversed with me taking the entertaining items back to the pantry while bringing up my canning supplies.  I know now I will be canning tomorrow which means I want the dishwasher loaded with canning jars before I go to bed to night.  They will go through the wash cycle while the stock and soup base reheat for canning.  During my cooking prep today, I knew I needed some of the vegetables cut up for a veggie tray for tonight so cut them up at the same time some were prepared for the stocks and soup bases.
  • keep a grocery list - We do not shop like most folks do with a regular once a week shopping trip.  We keep a very well stocked pantry which means we cherry pick sales and buy only if we are getting low on a particular food.  I keep a little notebook on the kitchen table during food prep.  When I bring up something from the pantry and see it is getting low, I put it on my grocery list.  If I need a particular item not normally stocked in our pantry for a recipe it goes on my grocery list.  Once the list gets to enough items that will fit in my backpack or pull shopping cart, I will walk (now that we live in an urban area) to the grocery store and buy only what is on my list and only those items that aren't on a cyclic sales schedule. 
Don'ts:
  • don't use antagonist foods or conditions together -  I mentioned the kitchen was hot and humid because I'm running the pressure cookers.  While it is good conditions for proofing bread, it is poor conditions for dehydrating anything, drying homemade pasta or making candy.  If you are trying to make a sourdough starter (yeast) do not make yogurt (bacteria) that same day.  The bacteria in the yogurt will kill off the yeast so the starter will fail.  Some go as far as to say not to try baking bread the same day you are making yogurt. 
  • don't work against fatigue - While I am a chronic multitasker, I know my limits.  Fatigue cause inattentiveness that leads to kitchen accidents and inedible food.  I know I can easily run my pressure canner or pressure cookers and make bread in the same day BUT on days where I am running the pressure canner two or more times, I can't make bread.  The reason is simple.  My pressure canner on busy canning days will run three maybe four times.  In addition to prepping jars and food for canning as well as cleaning as I go, I am exhausted.  That is not the time to be making bread or anything else other than focusing on getting the canning and clean-up done in a timely manner.  


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