- On March 3, 2015
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Last year, I volunteered on a preschool’s board (where we no longer had a child in attendance), and my husband was told by one of my fellow board members, “I do NOT know how your wife does it all.” He replied, “She does everything fairly poorly.” Aghast! (Them.) Laughing! (Me.)
It’s true: I like to give off the impression of doing it all while secretly do a halfway job on everything. Not even halfway, if we’re being fair.
One of the things that I do when I’m earning my Superiority Badges is invest in long-term efficiencies. This drives my husband nuts, because I will spend an inordinate amount of time alphabetizing the spice cabinet or typing up recipes, while he can bust through and clean the kitchen in half the time that I take. However, thanks to repeatedly investing the time and mental energy needed to make things run more smoothly/taste better/last longer/etc., I look way more Martha Stewart than someone without a food processor should look.
Herein are my 5 fave moves for making cooking like a boss easier.
1. Culling useless cookbooks and making one of your own. I still have about 10 cookbooks of varying sizes, some of them recent gifts that I’m still trying out, and others ones that I love. But there used to be about 35 cookbooks, plus a giant folder of printed recipes from online. It’s easier to pick out recipes now that I’m not swamped with ones I don’t like.
2. Having enough of your preferred stirring utensil. I have 4 rubber spatulas, which is the perfect number for me. I can get through my cooking without having to wash one for a new task, and generally use 3-4 of them in a given cooking session. I’m thinking about adding some wooden spoons in the mix too. Point: don’t cheap out on something you use constantly, and don’t set yourself up to be aggravated by the constant shortage of what you need to do your job. We don’t expect workers to fabricate products without the right materials and tools, and we shouldn’t ask it of home cooks.
3. Having land lots of rags/washcloths and a healthy cleaning spray. We buy 24 packs of white wash cloths for about $12 at Costco and only buy about 6 rolls of paper towels a year. I recommend Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day (get the refill bottle–it’s cheaper than using vinegar:water 1:4) or Freshana Eezzee and Maxam. Save time by keeping the rags in a basket/drawer where you can throw them in without folding them.
4. Not having useless things in prime real estate. This should be obvious, but I have almost never seen a kitchen that doesn’t commit the cardinal sin of giving prime real estate to useless or nearly-useless kitchen stuff. For example, people will keep things they rarely use in their limited cabinet space, but have their most commonly used items, like plates and cups, stacked awkwardly and crammed into a single cabinet. If you love your mixer but don’t use it almost every day, move it further out from the Chef’s Triangle, and give your daily gear space. If you don’t stack things, you save time every single time you use or put away your plates, bowls, cups, etc. Seriously, don’t stack things you use every day.
5. Building a Kitchen Tool Library. This does not apply to people who are inept in the kitchen, only make a few simple types of food and really are happy with what they have, or variations on this lukewarm theme. For the rest of us who love to cook or at least desire to feed our families well, it makes sense to build a “kitchen tool library.” Just like many people slowly build up a library of drills and bits, hammers and nail guns, home cooks need to build their kitchen tool library. If you’re still using your cookware from when your brother went to college, start researching the kitchen gear that will work best for you, create a wish list at Amazon.com or on a bridal registry, and then work toward buying key pieces, one at a time.
It took me about six years into marriage to realize, “If I don’t buy the kitchen stuff that I want, we’ll never own it.” I popped for a 9 qt Le Creseut Dutch oven from the outlet store, a couple of tools that saved me time, and some awesome silicone oven mitts–with lining. I bought or received as Christmas gifts a variety of baking ware, a salad bowl, and some beautiful cloth napkins too. At this point, I’m in the market for a new apron and a food processor. I can’t think of any other kitchen gear that would help me enough to make up for the space needed to store it. It’s weird and great to be in a place where my kitchen has no clutter and has almost everything I need to cook the way I like.