by Mary Segers

Stressor #2: Spending Too Much Time in the Kitchen

How/Why It Stresses You

Most people aren’t that crazy about cooking

And so they would consider any cooking as too much time in the kitchen. It’s even less enjoyable when you’re running late and the kids and spouse are cranky and hungry.

It’s funny but I enjoy cooking 10x more now than I ever did when I was raising my kids or when I was in college and graduate school.

No one likes to think they’re wasting time

Especially when we know that “wasted” time could be spent on our spouse, kids, selves, or God.

You probably have 728 other things you’d rather be doing

In our time-starved society there are always more things we WANT to do than we have time for.

You probably have 2,951 other things you need to be doing

Both of these lists would probably be close to being endless.

Spending Too Much Time in the Kitchen Solutions

Cook only a few times each week

In my Save Time on Cooking program I not only urge you, but actually show you HOW you can cut your cooking down to a few times a week while eating better and healthier than ever. And then in my “Save Time with Weekly Meal Plans” program I teach you all about creating weekly meal plans you can build on and repeat.

That time saved time can then be redirected in some other area.

Get others in your house to help

Your spouse and any kid who’s double digit in age can . . . and should . . . help. You may not think they’re learning much but, trust me, they’re picking up more than you know.

One morning many years ago when I woke up, my son, Steven Wayne who was around ten at the time, told me he’d tried to wake me to find out how to make biscuits and I started to tell him when he interrupted me and said, “It’s ok, I already made them. I watched you enough times I figured it out.” And . . . you know what? . . . they were good.

I mentioned double digit age above but one afternoon I came home and my then 9 yearold daughter, Nyk, had taken it upon herself to cook dinner for all of us. She made the best ramen noodles you’d ever want to taste from a 9 year old. And, gradually from there, she started taking on more and more responsibility for the cooking so that, by the age of 14, she was cooking full course meals. I’m talking pork chops, Brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes and gravy. She didn’t want any of those “fake” mashed potatoes either, she’d peel and cut real ones.

Learn to cook ahead, use leftovers, repurpose foods, freeze dishes, and use a crock pot

There are tons of websites that teach you to do all of these. Or you can buy a program like mine that was just mentioned that lays out in a step-by-step fashion exactly what worked for me.

Either way . . . you HAVE to get this area under control to stop stressing and to stop spending too much time in the kitchen. A few timeless tips using each of these would be:

  • Make a big pot of spaghetti and then later in the week use it to make beefaroni or lasagna
  • Make enough roast, carrots, and mashed potatoes to have leftovers the next night
  • Repurpose those rotisserie chicken leftovers into tacos or that roast into beef pot pie in the coming week
  • When you make a meatloaf, make another for the freezer
  • Crock pots can be a total lifesaver. Get one and learn to use it

Examples of Repurposing Foods

Repurposing Foods Example
Repurposing Foods Example

These are some of my favorites.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve saved by using the above.

Stop spending too much time in the kitchen
Stop spending too much time in the kitchen

Do these not look yummy?

Okay, well, they have the potential to look yummy after they’ve been cooked. I go ahead and make up a bunch while I’m already mixing. It, seriously, doesn’t take hardly any extra time yet saves me so much time in 6 future meals (3 first time meals plus 3 more leftover meals).

As mentioned, these are softballsized yet they only take about 20 minutes to cook in a sauce—10 minutes, turn, and 10 minutes more.

I also use these for stuffed bell peppers. One seems to squish down perfectly in a half of a large bell pepper. Top with sauerkraut and some leftover spaghetti sauce (I put up some in a small bag just for this) and you have a quick yet yummy meal that’s completely homemade.

Life Application to Stop Spending Too Much Time in the Kitchen

Cook only a few times each week

Figure out what you already make that you could turn into more meals than just the one for that evening. If you get into the habit of putting dishes up (we’ll talk more about that in a minute) you can, very quickly, get to the point where you have stuff in the freezer to pull out.

Get others in the house to help

Many times kids would love to help if they knew what to do.

After all, they are searching for ways to feel successful. If you want to boost their selfesteem then this is one surefire way to do it.

When Steven Wayne was in high school he came home grinning from ear to ear one day and told me how he’d impressed this girl at school. She’d noticed a spot on his shoe and asked him about it and he told her he’d been cooking some bacon and eggs and the grease had splattered. He said she’d looked amazed when she said “You can cook”?

Remember the picture of my grandson cooking earlier. He loves the feeling he gets when he creates something.

Kids can, and should, begin helping early. And as they grow so can their roles in the kitchen. So, begin to look for ways your child or spouse can help. Kids can help wash veggies (yes, they may be a little sloppy at first but they’ll get it down very soon).

My 11 year old granddaughter, Sugar Pops, is my chopper for chicken salad stuff and stuffed bell pepper helper.

Kids Love to Help
Kids Love to Help

Also, look at how I can always put them to work.

Kids Can Learn to Cook
Kids Can Learn to Cook

Do they not look like they are enjoying what they’re doing? This has been years in the making. The first time you ask for help you may not get such a good attitude.

I love the one of Sugar Pops chopping the celery for 2 reasons. First, she hates celery (except in Chicken salad) and second, because, believe it or not, this was the first time she had ever chopped anything for me. I showed her how to use the knife and how small to chop the celery and she took off with it. She did a totally awesome job. Ever since then she considers herself the official chopper of the house.

(Right after this picture was taken she broke both bones and an ankle bone in one of her legs.)

Also, the way Corn Pops is grating the cheese while still watching TV is kind of humorous, don’t you think? It just goes to show that even kids can get comfortable enough with helping that they are just nonchalant while doing it . . . sort of how we can talk on the phone while we’re cooking because cooking doesn’t require our full attention anymore. This is not the case when we’re following a recipe and don’t want someone talking to us because we need to concentrate.

Also, look at the hot dog and spaghetti dish. Your child could start out making something “fun” like that. Try getting them an apron like the one she’s wearing. I have several pictures of different grandkids wearing it. They all like wearing it but they have to be actively helping in order to be able to do so.

Don't Spend Too Much Time Cooking; Kids Can Help
Don’t Spend Too Much Time Cooking; Kids Can Help

In case it’s a little hard to see, the 10 year old is deveining shrimp and scrambling eggs and the 6 year old is snapping peas.

If you need help getting kids involved like this (because it IS a process and one done purposely), then feel free to grab my “Time Management and Kids” program.

I even go into how to motivate your child to help and give examples of how I motivated my own 4 kids.

Learn to cook ahead, use leftovers, repurpose foods, freeze dishes, and use a crock pot

These will save you unbelievable amounts of time and stress. Mealtimes will no longer be stressful events but totally under control. I want to talk just a little about each one.

Cook Ahead

Cooking ahead is really simple once you develop a mind for it. Cooking ahead really encompasses all of the following but I normally use it to describe when I cook something with the express purpose of not having it today but in the next couple of days.

For instance, on Tuesday I may take out a double chicken from Sam’s club and cook one as an herb skillet chicken with gravy and the other a different way for Wednesday.

Figure out what your family eats that could be cooked ahead. For instance, say your child has soccer practice on Tuesday night and you know it’s going to be tough to fit in eating, much less cooking, then go ahead and make something like the fillings for tacos so it’s just a fix and go deal.

Use Leftovers

One of my favorite things to do is to cook something big on Sunday, say a big pot of spaghetti sauce, ham, meatloaf, or roast, then have leftovers on Monday night so I can go to corporate prayer at Church and not have to worry about finishing cooking in time.

Leftovers are especially easy and timesaving because you literally have almost no extra work, you just double the amount of chicken you’re baking etc. and plan to have the same thing in the next couple of days.

Repurpose Foods

Repurposing is also very easy. That same spaghetti sauce could be repurposed into lasagna (it’s not as much work as it has a reputation for being), beefaroni, or stuffed peppers, among other things.

Meatloaf could be repurposed into sandwiches, or scrambled with gravy and put into a casserole with corn and mashed potato topping.

Chicken meat can be chopped up and put into an endless array of casseroles or other dishes.

Figure out what your family likes that can be repurposed and make sure to make a list in any way that works for you. For instance, you can put things on an index card, keep in a cookbook, keep in a pantry, use a software program, create an excel sheet, etc., etc., etc.

Get your creative juices flowing.

Freeze Dishes

This one is so cool because, like leftovers, you simply make extra of what you’re already making, and put the extra in the freezer.

You’ve already seen a picture of how I put up meatballs. These are so simple to take out and make a really quick meal. They only take 20 minutes to cook.

Figure out what you cook that you could double (or more) and put in the freezer. If you love lasagna then you’ll be glad to know that it freezes very well. Buy some of those aluminum pans or, if you prefer, glass casserole dishes and begin putting casseroles in the freezer.

If you like meat loaf you can do the same. I’ll put up 4-6 meat loafs in the freezer just about every time I make it. Soup also freezes well.

Crock Pot

There are so many crock pot cookbooks on the market that you can find one that speaks to the type of food your family eats. I don’t think life would be possible for me without mine. I use it that much.

I remember one Saturday I found out we did not have a family dinner at Mom’s house the next day as I thought we did and, because of the mix up, I ended up Saturday night with nothing planned for lunch after Church on Sunday. I took a large can of chopped tomatoes from Sam’s and a pack of frozen hamburger (and, of course, lots of seasonings) and put it all in the crockpot on low overnight and when we came in from Church we had the best spaghetti.

You can cook anything in the crockpot. All it takes is planning ahead. I can put in a pork roast, cook it all night and in the morning it’s forkapart tender. Season it up and you have perfect pulledpork sandwiches.

When you’re planning your week ahead . . . which I teach all my clients to do . . . you’ll see what days you really need a crock pot meal. Give yourself a night off or at least make it an easier night by having the main part of the dish already cooked.

Kids can learn to use a crockpot too. I bought my grandkids a crockpot book just for kids. We’ve even tried a few of the recipes and do not like some of them.

So, spend some time looking at crockpot books and pick one which will serve you well for years and years to come. Then pick out a recipe a week to try. Make sure to write in the book which ones you like and don’t like. Also make a note of any recipe modifications you make. Finally, make sure the “winners” make it to the week’s meal plan to give you an easier night.

Cooking like this will go a long way to reducing your stress and enabling you to focus more on how blessed you are. It was . . . literally . . . how I found enough time to study during college and graduate school. Put up some of these tips to use and you will stop spending too much time in the kitchen too.

Focus on Feeling Blessed Not StressedThis has been an excerpt of my book Focus on Feeling Blessed Not Stressed: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Home Time Management.

If you want more excerpts simply go to the main page titled Focus on Feeling Blessed and on that page you’ll find a list of links to more excerpts as I post them or just go ahead and buy my book on Amazon.

Also know that I’m available to come speak to your church or women’s group. Please check out my Speaker page which will give you all the info you need as well as links to some videos of me speaking.

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