Eat at Home Habit #5 Master time-saving cooking methods

We’re in the middle of a series on 7 Habits of Eating at Home with tips on each habit to help in establishing out own healthy habits. We’ve covered topics like planning meals around your calendar, quick and simple grocery shopping tips, stocking your freezer and the 15-minute meal. Today we delve into some tools and tips for mastering time-saving cooking methods.

Habit #5 – Master time-saving cooking methods

In Habit #1 we talked about consulting your calendar when making out your meal plan so that the amount of time and the time of day available for cooking matches up with the recipe.

Strategically choosing slow cooker recipes, pressure cooker meals, sheet pan dinners, and 15-minute meals depending on what your day or week is looking like will make a huge difference in your success with eating at home.

But in order to make all of these amazing options for saving time in the kitchen work, you need to learn how to best use these appliances and cooking methods and which one makes the most sense for the different mealtime scenarios that come up in your schedule.

It really helps to practice with these appliances and cooking methods at a time when you aren’t in a rush so that you can figure out the individual quirks or steps for each one without a lot of pressure or stress to get it right the first time.  Don’t give up if you have a failure or two.  It could be that you’re just learning how to use the appliance, and with a little perseverance, you’ll come to find that it’s one of your absolute favorite kitchen tools!

A good recipe will go a long way to making you successful – and I’d like to think that the recipes we have here on the site are good ones that will make cooking a delicious meal for your family easy and enjoyable!

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Tips for Using the Slow Cooker

You can make a ridiculous amount of good food in the slow cooker. Prep time is fast and there’s little to no standing in the kitchen monitoring the food as it cooks. That’s a huge plus if you have a lot of other things to do besides keep an eye on the stove!

One of the biggest issues you may run into with slow cookers is that they tend to cook too hot.  Most often, this is because you’re using one that is too big.  If the food doesn’t fill the crock at least half way, chances are it will cook hotter than it needs to, resulting in dry and over-cooked food. Some slow cookers are better than others at cooking consistently, too.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use the slow cooker:

Tips for using the Instant Pot or any electric Pressure Cooker

The digital, electric variety of pressure cookers are fairly new.  I have the six quart 6-in-1 version and I use mine all the time. It’s such a handy kitchen tool! They’re really easy to use, but there is a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never used a pressure cooker before.   Read through your manual very well and keep it handy so you can refer to it as needed as you set things up the first few times. I recommend trying to making something simple in the Instant Pot for the first time, like rice.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from using my pressure cookers this past year.

  • The most important thing to remember when using the Instant Pot or any electric pressure cooker is that you’ll need to add at least 1 1/2 cups of liquid to the pot to get it to come to pressure.  However, remember that the liquid doesn’t have to be water!  Things like broth, tomato sauce or juice, enchilada sauce and any other liquids work too. A good instant pot recipe will account for the need for liquid, but if you experiment with your own recipes, that’s something to keep in mind!
  • Also, remember that the amount of time you set the pot for is not the time that your dinner will be done.  You need to allow extra time for the pot to come to pressure before the cook time even starts. The amount of time needed for the pot to come to pressure and then the food to cook varies a lot. And it is usually still a lot faster than cooking on a stovetop or in the slow cooker so it’s a great option when you need to cut down cook time a bit.
  • Picking good recipes that are made for cooking in the instant pot is ideal for cooking a successful meal when you are starting out! Every week, we put instant pot as well as slow cooker instructions for many of our recipes in the Weekly Meal Plans. It’s been a hit with our members and I’ve enjoyed cooking these recipes as well!

Looking for a few recipes to try out? Here are a few of my favorites on the blog.

If you are considering buying a pressure cooker, but aren’t sure which to go for you can read my honest review of the two brands I bought in this post here.

Tips fop making fantastic Sheet Pan Dinners

A sheet pan isn’t exactly an appliance, but it is a really useful tool to have in the kitchen!  You can put nearly any type of meat and vegetable combination on a sheet pan and have a marvelous dinner with less time and mess than if you cook each item individually.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making a sheet pan dinner.

  • The best thing is to use a very large sheet pan like this one. If you don’t have a large pan, you can use two regular sized sheet pans, but the large one is really nice and not expensive. If you have a bigger family, two large ones can really make it easier, too!
  • Timing is everything with sheet pan dinners.  Figure out which ingredient will need the longest cook time and place that in the oven first.  Then add the other ingredients later so they get the proper cook times as well.
  • Be sure to oil the pan or use parchment paper to keep clean up easy. After all, the whole point of saving time is to spend it with those around your table, not standing at the sink scrubbing off baked-on food!
  • These sheet pan dinner recipes are super popular at our house and with our readers! Try one out and see what you think! Once you see how easy they are, you’ll have inspiration for endless varieties of meals you can toss together on a sheet pan and get in the oven for easy family meals.
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Tips to Make the Most out of Dinner


Recently Tiffany, the author of your fabulous {Eat At Home} site, asked me what I do to make the most out of dinner.
My tips here are not ground breaking or fancy. I am feeding five boys and a husband. They would likely eat anything that does not eat them first, especially if it is NOT a vegetable.
I am not a short order cook. I can’t be. I would spend my entire life cooking.
But this is how I make the most out of dinner- especially on school nights. [Read more…]

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Weekly Menu, Grocery List and Recipes – 4th edition

If you like printing these menus and grocery lists, check out the new Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plan service.  Subscribers get both the Traditional and All Slow Cooker versions emailed each week.  It’s the easiest way to eat at home!

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Welcome to the 4th Weekly Menu with Complete Grocery List and Recipes.  It’s easily downloadable and printable, and best of all – it’s free!

  • Menu includes 6 dinners + 1 dessert
  • 1 slow cooker recipe is included
  • The grocery list has side dish suggestions listed in curly brackets {}

Here are the links to the recipes included for this week:

Honey Mustard Chicken in the slow cooker

Mexican Beans and Rice

Easy Jambalaya

Pasta Salad with grilled chicken and Cheddar Muffins

Breakfast for dinner – Whole Wheat Waffles with Honey Cinnamon Butter

Cottage Pie

Brownies with Chocolate Glaze

Download by clicking here: [download id=”4″]

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6 Tips to Convert Recipes for Use in the Crockpot

6 Tips for converting recipes to make in the slow cooker

Slow cook your way to happiness.

I’m in love with my crockpot.  Who else could I get to cook dinner for me while I’m off doing other things?  I’ve looked high and low for an Alice (from Brady Bunch fame) to come and help me out, but I can’t find or afford her.  Crockpot to the rescue.  And I’ve realized that a recipe doesn’t have to start out it’s life as a crockpot recipe.  These tips will help you convert your favorite recipes, so they can cook themselves while you do more important things, like deal with your Marcia’s latest drama or find out who broke that vase while playing ball in the house.

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Independence Day Eats

Are you cooking this weekend or maybe going to a potluck?  If you’re still wondering what to take along, here are some ideas to get you started.

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Get things rolling with The World’s Best Burger

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Home Canning – Is It Worth It or Will I Just Blow Up My Kitchen?

This is a guest post by Phoebe at Cents to Get Debt Free.  I’ve never done any canning and I asked Phoebe if she would give us an introduction to the topic.  She has a fantastic blog, so don’t forget to pop over and visit her.

canning  Photo credit Renoir Girl

Phoebe and her husband decided 5 years ago that it was time for her to stay at home and raise their children. Through a lot of sacrifices and a lot of learning, they are embracing the frugal life and realizing that the simple life, is the life. Phoebe blogs daily at Cents to Get Debt Free where she shares her family’s journey at cutting costs, living the simple life and getting freedom from lender.

Gardening season is in full force, and this year many stores have seen a 40-60% increase in seed sales.  Being more self reliant is becoming the new normal. In addition to new gardens, many people will be canning and preserving their harvest for the first time this year.

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Low Cost Meals

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Have you joined the challenge to eat from your freezer and pantry for a week?  Those of us who have been doing this have not only saved money, but also stretched our creative cooking skills as we’ve swapped out ingredients for what we had on hand.

I’m wrapping up this money-saving series with a list of very low-cost meals.  Most of these meals come in at under $1 per person.  Some cost well under that.

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Freezer/Pantry Challenge Part 4 – I saved $100

I had to go to the grocery yesterday to get some dairy and produce.  I’ve been doing this challenge to eat out of the pantry and freezer since Tuesday.  I hope to carry it through next week.

The good news is that I saved about $100 over what my usual grocery cost is.  I bought the normal amounts of dairy and produce that I usually buy each week, but nothing else.  The shopping took a fraction of the time it usually takes – another plus!

How have you done with saving money during this challenge?  Share in the comment section.

It’s not too late to join us in the challenge.  You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 at these links.

Do you have a super cheap meal that you like to make?

I’m working on a post that will list the cheapest meals on my site, as well as link to other blogs that have cheap meals.  If you have a meal posted on your blog, send me an email (eatpoetry@gmail.com) with a link.  If you don’t have the recipe posted on your blog, or don’t have a blog you can still send me the recipe.  I love to hear from readers and highlight your ideas.

Freezer/Pantry Challenge Part 3 – Get Creative

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Have you joined the challenge to save money by eating from the freezer and pantry?  You can catch up with Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Yesterday, I posted the contents of my freezer and pantry and also the menu I came up with.  But I have a few ingredients that have me stumped.  You can see in the photo above I’ve got chicken, rice, hoisin sauce and water chestnuts.  These seem to be a natural combination, but I’m not sure what to do with them.

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How to Find Money in Your Freezer/Pantry part 2 – Make a Menu

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Have you joined the challenge yet?  If you missed Part 1, you can read it here

The other day I took an inventory of the contents in my freezer and pantry.  Here’s what I found.

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