This post is sponsored by Plan to Eat.
Three weeks ago was one of, if not THE busiest week of my life.
Move aside wedding planning and bringing home baby #2. The combination of helping to launch an ebook, starting our first year of homeschool, writing five posts for my own blog and fine tuning experimental recipes – all while fulfilling the responsibilities of wife, mother, chef, chauffeur, maid AND laundry service… Folks, the whole family was lucky to survive.
While it would be bliss to never have another week like that again, I learned a very valuable lesson that has helped me so much in the past two weeks that I would never ask for a re-do. And it’s on a topic that I should be a veteran on – meal planning!
Can you believe that in the 20 months I’ve been diligently meal planning, I’ve skipped the most important step? A step so small that it took a week of complete drowning to realize it was missing!
Step aside meals and scoot on over grocery list. Make some room for the kitchen prep list!
What is a Kitchen Prep List
The kitchen prep list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of everything you need to do in the kitchen to serve the meals you just planned out, organized (hopefully) according to the day of the week and the meals.
Does it sound like a waste of time? Just one more “thing to do” that doesn’t really do any good?
Let me assure you – this list is a lifesaver.
Like most families, we have a schedule each week to help us stay on track with school, chores, appointments and the like. Included in our schedule are specific times to work in the kitchen each day. Stay tuned – a “day in the life” post is coming later this week!
Answer me this: how many times have you had this conversation with yourself?
Wow, cutting those carrots didn’t take me as long as I thought it would. And I even washed the dishes too, awesome! Hmm… well if everyone else is busy and I’m in here already with a extra minutes, I guess I’ll do some other prep work too. Let’s see here… what can I do for dinner tomorrow… let me dig out my meal plan… Wait a sec, I need to cut carrots?! Didn’t I just do that? And didn’t I just wash the dishes and put them away? What was the point of that when I need them again?! Geez, I don’t know if I really want to do those carrots after all…
There are only two outcomes to this scenario: a) you don’t chop the carrots, or b) you chop the carrots and re-wash the dishes. Again. And wipe down the counter. Again.
Neither of those are ideal and both could be avoided if you had a kitchen prep list.
After implementing this list for two weeks in my kitchen, I’ve come up with the following benefits:
- eliminates “what can I do now?” time in the kitchen
- offers opportunities for the kids to help and serve
- increases productivity while working, which means….
- reduces the overall amount of time spent in the kitchen each week
- less dishes to wash
- less time spent cleaning
- more spent time with the family
- takes away the feeling of “always being in the kitchen”
- bring joy back into kitchen (because I’m not “always” there)
Just to be fair, there is a list of downsides too:
- it takes 5-10 minutes 4 minutes to write
Wow, seriously? The pros definitely outweigh the cons, and I can honestly say that I’ve saved those 5 minutes it took to plan at least five times over again each week!
How to Make a Kitchen Prep List
Making a kitchen prep list is as simple as looking over your meal plan and writing down what needs to get done for each meal, according to the day. This slight bit of organization helps to keep you prioritized when it comes to time spent in the kitchen.
If you have a few minutes, does it benefit you more to have dinner completely prepped for tonight, or extra carrots for Saturday? Having dinner ready for tonight wins out because it releases some of the “still have to do this” for the day, plus you’ll likely have other opportunities to cut carrots later. Dinner for tonight can’t wait for Friday!
Just for fun, I’m going to write out the kitchen prep list for this week (based off my current four-week meal plan). It’s still early in the week and I haven’t had a chance to write out what needs to get done (this is a newly learned habit, remember?), so it’ll help both you AND me. Two birds, one stone. Let’s time it too, just for fun. It’s Monday afternoon and my computer says it’s 3:17pm. Ready, set, go!
Monday: Why does my meal plan NOT have Monday? LOL, oops. Ok, switching a few things around to account for that and company coming in town… oops, don’t forget Thursday! Ok, and now it’s 3:21. Ok, here goes.
Tomato basil soup for tonight: chop onions & garlic, pull down tomatoes & chicken stock & basil; thaw butter; bread is already done.
Tuesday: make buns, water for noodles, shred cheeses, carrots in pan w/butter
Wednesday: breadcrumbs for pork chops, pull down green beans, need lettuce (then wash)
Thursday: cut squash, measure rice/water, pound out chicken,
Friday: make trail mix, measure out dried fruit.
Saturday: make dough, shred cheese, slice pepperoni, thaw peppers and dice
Breakfast: Muffins already baked, slice two apples. Daily smoothies.
Lunches: make trail mix, make four granola bars, slice carrots
TIME! 3:25pm. So with a meal plan that includes ALL seven days and three meals for each day, it took four minutes to make this list. Four minutes to save 30 PLUS my sanity? Yes please and thank you! I bet after a couple rounds, this list could go even faster too!
Looking at my list, there are things that can be easily done several ahead of time: chopping, buns, shredding cheese, making breadcrumbs, washing lettuce, etc.
There are also things that should wait until the day of: pulling down canned goods, putting foods into a pan, filling pots with water, etc.
With it all in front of me, I can take a quick glance and do what I can with the time I have:
- Only have a minute? Stick a pot under the sink to fill it with water. Open the tomatoes.
- Cutting board already out? Chop some apples.
- Kids need something to do? Have them make trail mix.
- No errands to run? Make the buns and set the timer.
- Waiting for dinner to finish up? Make a double batch of smoothies.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not convinced to write a kitchen prep list, I don’t know what will. Other than getting tired of spending time in the kitchen without much to show for it. Or having the busiest week of your life.
But before I sign off, I do want to share the tip that has cut my kitchen time down to an average of only one hour each day with the bonus of having dinner ready before lunch…
A kitchen prep list. 😉
How do you save time in the kitchen? Share your ideas in the comments!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Plan to Eat and contains affiliate links. By making a purchase through those links, I will earn commission that helps to keep the lights on in the Crumbs house – with no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Crumbs in this way. Read my full disclosure statement here.