I tend to have an on-again/off-again relationship with my kitchen.
Sometimes I’m totally into the meal-planning and the chopping and the baking and I can totally relate to one of those rustic-chic signs that says, “The Secret Ingredient in this Kitchen is Love!”
But other times I’m burnt out (pun intended) on the tedium and the dirty dishes and the finding of expired foods in the back of the fridge and I’d relate more to a rusty, broken sign splattered with old ketchup that says, “I Don’t Forking Know or Care What’s for Dinner.”
It’s in the spirit of the latter that I present these five kitchen hacks that I, a frazzled mom, actually use to make life in those “off-again” moments a little easier.
Keep your leafy-greens fresh
Growing up, there was an upside-down bowl in our fridge almost every week. Why? To keep our leafy greens fresh!
To keep your leafy greens fresh after washing:
- Put them in a big bowl that has a lid
- Put a layer or two of paper towels on top of the bowl and put the lid on
- Flip the bowl upside-down and store the bowl in your fridge that way
The paper towels soak up the excess moisture from washing, extending shelf life and making it easy to bulk wash greens to have on hand throughout the week.
Shout out to my mom (hi, Mom!) for teaching me that one (along with pretty much everything else I know).
Don’t want to do dishes or clean the kitchen? Get some motivation from YouTube videos
For some reason this feels embarrassing to admit, but when I’m really not feeling like doing any kitchen cleaning (or heck, any cleaning at all), I turn to YouTube.
There’s a whole category of “cleaning motivation” (sometimes titled “clean with me”) videos posted by women of themselves…cleaning their homes. (And yes—sigh—of course it’s only women posting them, but we can get to equitable division of household chores in another post.)
I know, though! The concept of watching someone else clean while you’re also cleaning seems kinda strange! And maybe it is! But I don’t care!
Because there’s something oddly motivating about seeing another mom on screen doing the same mundane tasks (like doing dishes) you also have to do every single day. It just makes it easier when you know you’re not alone.
Plus, I’ve learned more than a few helpful tips from the gals in the videos, like this one from the channel This Crazy Life: add a couple drops of essential oil down your garbage disposal to have your sink (and whole kitchen) smelling good!
Just search for “cleaning motivation” or “clean with me” on YouTube and you’ll have tons of choices.
Use the basic cooking technique mise en place
This is the only French culinary term I know and I only use it to feel fancy for when even boiling water for mac and cheese feels like a slog!
Mise en place is roughly translated to “put in place” = getting everything you need out and in its place before you start cooking.
That means pulling out all your cooking tools, all your ingredients, washing everything, chopping everything, pre-measuring everything, etc. so you can actually focus on the cooking part.
And the focus is the real gift that mise en place gives.
It might seem a little “Type A” but I promise I’m not a very organized cook.
It’s just with a three-year-old running around the kitchen and a clingy one-year-old at my feet (or in the high chair when I’m using a heat source) during a huge amount of meal prep these days, I can’t be opening and closing cupboards and drawers a million times to be pulling out individual spices, spoons, or sauté pans while also checking the recipe over and over after I’ve already started cooking.
My time and attention is already split enough.
Mise en place makes it possible for intention and care to be put into the cooking process rather than chaos (and cutting down on chaos is all I can really ask for at the end of the day!)
I don’t know that mise en place actually saves any time, but I do know that it sure saves my sanity.
Roast frozen veggies in the oven (but DON’T pre-heat first!)
I used to kind of despise frozen vegetables due to the sogginess factor. Frozen stir-fry mixes I attempted to crisp up in the frying pan always turned out soupy, and microwaving a bag of green beans just never screamed “yummy!”
But we all know frozen veggies are cheaper and more convenient than fresh and fresher than canned, so when I read about roasting veggies in the oven without pre-heating first to up the appetizing ante, I tried it.
And it worked! I finally had delicious, non-soggy, caramelized veggie goodness that I now make weekly!
Here’s what you do:
- Open a bag of frozen veggies and put on a pan (don’t overload the pan; the veggies, like me in line at Target, need their space!)
- Drizzle with oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper
- Put the pan in the oven and set to 400 degrees
- After the oven reaches 400 degrees, continue to roast the veggies for 20-30 more minutes (depending on how big the pieces are and how much carmelizing you like)
- Eat and enjoy!
If you have little kids, get a HEAVY DUTY vinyl tablecloth for your dinner table
Ok, this one isn’t exactly a kitchen hack, but it is kitchen-adjacent!
I’m going to cut to the chase: I need kitchen and dining room cleanup to be as quick as possible after the bedtime routine. However:
- I hate cleaning individual placements that never catch all the crumbs and spills anyway
- I’m unwilling to add more to my laundry pile by using a fabric tablecloth
- I’m apparently too rough on the standard vinyl tablecloths you get at big box stores (they get torn up so easily!)
Enter: the heavy duty vinyl tablecloth with flannel backing (those are the search terms you’ll want to use if you’re looking for one).
Listen, they’re not the best-looking items in the world—in fact, they remind me of bench seats at a greasy diner—but wipe down is a breeze and these suckers last!
We have this one in burgundy if you’re curious.