Tips to Save Time

Have a friend who doesn’t think they have time to eat a healthy diet? Well, then get started, because you can make dinner for yourself, and enough for them to eat tomorrow too, and you can do it in the time it takes for them to come back from the restaurant. At least you can with a few tips and tools&mdashand a bit of practice!

It turns out 50% of Americans hate cooking, and only 15% love it. That’s pretty bleak. But times are changing, and in a country where almost all ten of the top leading causes of death are strongly related to diet, it’s time to start getting thrilled about it!

Would it help you to imagine every meal you make is staving off the hand of Death? Because it is. That’s something to be pretty excited about.

Health rejects Death sculpture, Grady Hospital, Fulton County
This is basically you making broccoli.
Keeping away Death, Grady Hospital, Fulton County, Georgia

But we know you’re rushed, and busy, and have a life full of ambitious projects, with goats trying to break into your house. That last part might just be us. But either way, we know you value your time, so how do you tighten up your schedule a bit?

It Will be Hard at First!

This probably isn’t the most common way to start a list of time-saving tips, but it’s very important. When you first start preparing your own food, it may not be easy. Almost a quarter of Millennials only prepare their own food once or twice a week, and only 36% of all Americans do it every day. Your speed and efficiency will increase dramatically over time, so don’t punish yourself too severely if your first few meals take longer than you’d like. In a month or two, you’ll be banging out curries in the time it takes your spouse to feed all your outdoor animals—er, you might have another metric, but you get the point!

Frozen Veggies, Canned Beans

You can skip the vast majority of cutting and preparation by purchasing frozen foods. You won’t be able to select exactly the crown of broccoli that you might want and you’ll find some seasonal variation in price. However, the time savings represent easily ten to twenty minutes a meal—maybe more if you buy your squash frozen and chopped as well!

Dried beans shouldn’t be an enormous time sink, but let’s be honest: Hardly ANY of us remember to soak them the night before. If you’re one of these blessed people that actually can keep inventory of what you’ll be making the next night—which often seems years away to us—then don’t worry about it. If you’re not, then you might want to stock up on cans. The price difference is negligible.

However, there is one important exception: If you’re concerned about the BPA in can linings, which is a reasonable concern, then you might want to get a pressure cooker—or just remember to soak your beans!

Pressure Cookers cook Fast

If you’re interested in cooking dry beans and dry rice quickly, a pressure cooker might be the thing for you. A quality pressure cooker can deliver you fully cooked brown rice in 15 minutes, and putting beans into the pressure cooker for a quick high-pressure “soak,” followed by cooking, can deliver you tender beans in under an hour. You can always soak them overnight, but as discussed above, we don’t always do that.

Microwaves cook Fast

We included microwaves on our saving money list (as they save a considerable amount of energy), but using your microwave also saves time! The microwave does not make a perfect replacement for the oven, but it can certainly cut down on use. Potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and even spaghetti squash can be prepared for a fraction of the time and energy!

Consider a silicone popcorn popper for the microwave, such as the HOTPOT. Steamers such as the Progressive International steamer can make preparing steamed vegetables and tofu a snap.

Slow Cookers cook Slow (but save time anyway)

You probably got a slow cooker for your birthday, your graduation, your bridal shower, your wedding, another birthday, and your house warming. Sometimes you get one, regift it, the new recipient regifts it to a third party, and then the third-party gifts it right back to you. Well, now’s the time to use them! Unfortunately, you’ll only need one, so better get wrapping the other ones back up for the next holiday.

Slow cookers are absolutely delightful, and you’ll get to enjoy the entire day imagining the food brewing at home that will be piping hot when you get back! Combine that with the efficiency of frozen vegetables, soaked or canned beans, and a grain of some kind, and you can prepare your dinner in less than five minutes. The slow cooker will handle the next six hours.

Cook Rice ahead of Time

One common strategy for saving time on a Whole-Foods Plant-Based diet is preparing bulk rice ahead of time. Rice will last several days in the fridge, and then you won’t have to worry about preparing it if the sudden desire for a meal (or the impatient child) shows up!

Last Night’s Dinner is Today’s Lunch

Speaking of preparing food ahead of time, you might consider making an especially large portion of dinner, cutting it in half, and saving it for the next day (or the day after). Lunch can often be the most rushed meal to prepare for the day, and this can help take some of the pressure out of the middle of your day. Who needs fast food?

You can take this further by just making twice as much of every meal, and storing the difference in the freezer. If you were dedicated, you could cook one week, and then take the next week off!

Buy a Sharp Knife and Learn to Use It

You’ll recognize this from our saving money list, and it’s true: This tip is a twofer! A sharp knife (such as this Victorinox 8″ chef knife) and the accompanying knife skills (such as An Edge in the Kitchen, by Chad Ward) leads to faster, more efficient food preparation and less waste. Additionally, skillful use of a sharp knife replaces the need for a wide variety of kitchen gadgets. You’ll benefit by pairing your knife with an enormous plastic cutting board, which saves on wear and gives you sufficient space to cook. You’ll often be cutting several pounds of vegetables, after all!

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