My 10 Favorite Kitchen Tricks

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- from Real Mom Nutrition

As a home cook, I’m a little bit lazy and a whole lot frugal. If there is a way to save money or time, I will try it. Not every effort is successful, but once in a while I stumble upon a kitchen trick that’s a real keeper. Here are my ten favorite:

1. Do-It-Yourself Chocolate Peanut Butter

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom NutritionI like Nutella and Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter as much as the next person. But sometimes it’s not wise for me to have a whole jar of it in my house (for obvious reasons such as lack of self-control). So occasionally I make small batches of a cheaper, quick-and-dirty version using peanut butter: Place a few squares of chocolate (or handful of chips) in some peanut butter, microwave for 30 seconds or until melted, stir, and spread on whatever you want. Use the ratio of chocolate-to-peanut butter that suits your tastes.

2. Chopping & Freezing Onions

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

I love adding the flavor of onion to dishes, but my kids don’t like big chunks of onion in their food. So I use my mini-chopper (this is the one I’ve had for years) to create very finely diced onions–almost creating an onion “paste”. Sometimes I process several onions at once, especially if I have too many and don’t want them to go to waste. Then I transfer the diced onion to freezer bags, and press flat. Then, when I have a recipe that calls for sautéing chopped onion, I just grab a bag, break off a chunk of frozen onion, and throw it into the pan.

3. Letting Dough Rise in the Microwave

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

Having trouble getting dough to rise? Place a glass measuring cup of water in your microwave (yes, that’s my microwave, not a wall oven) and heat it on HIGH for several minutes until it boils. Turn off the microwave, place your covered bowl of dough inside the microwave (keep the hot water in too), and shut the door. The warm, steamy air will allow your dough to rise faster.

 4. Soaking Dates in Milk for Smoothies

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

Dates are an easy way to sweeten a smoothie, but they can be hard to pulverize in a standard blender. I got this trick from a Real Mom Nutrition reader after posting a recipe for this yummy Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake.  She suggested soaking the dates in a dish of milk kept in the refrigerator, which softens them up so they blend quickly and smoothly. Now I do this too and it works great!

 5. De-Stemming Kale Quickly

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

To quickly pull the leaves away from the tough center stem, hold the kale leaf in one hand and slide your other hand along the stem. Then make this easy Sweet Tart Kale Salad.

6. Soaking Apple Slices in OJ & Lemon

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

I saw this trick on Pinterest and it’s one of my favorite lunchbox hacks ever. Slice an apple, pour the juice from one lemon and one orange (or OJ if that’s what you have) over the slices and refrigerate. Pull out slices to pack in lunch boxes (they won’t brown) or eat them straight from the juice. Many people already do this with lemon, but the orange adds sweetness and balances out the sour of the lemon. My kids go nuts for these.

7. Making Bacon in the Oven

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

I’ll never go back to making bacon on the stove after discovering this method. The bacon cooks so evenly, with barely attention from me (and with no grease spatters all over the stovetop). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place bacon slices on foil, bringing the foil edges up and over the edge of the pan. Bake for about 15 minutes or until desired doneness. Some readers also suggested putting a baking rack on the pan and laying the bacon on the rack, so the fat drips down and away from the bacon.

8. Assembling Freezer Smoothie Packets

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

To streamline the morning routine, I sometimes package up ready-to-go smoothie packets for the freezer full of fruit, greens, and extras like flaxseed. In the morning, just pull out a packet, dump it in the blender, and add cold water or milk. This is an especially handy way to preserve greens that are getting past their prime.

9. Using Uncooked Lasagna Noodles

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

Lasagna is one of my favorite cold-weather comfort foods, but I hate the extra time-sucking step of pre-boiling the noodles. So instead of buying the special no-boil noodles, I use my regular whole wheat lasagna noodles (this is a favorite brand) and simply skip the step of pre-boiling them. The key is using a healthy amount of sauce (in addition to sauce between the layers, be sure the entire surface is covered as well), and bake the lasagna tightly covered with foil.

10. Subbing Flaxseed For Egg

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

If you don’t have an egg for a recipe (or don’t want to use eggs at all), use flaxseed instead. Combine one tablespoon ground flaxseed and three tablespoons water, stir and let sit for five minute. Then add to recipes as usual. I’ve done this for pancakes and cookies.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you use any of these shortcuts? What are YOUR best kitchen tricks?

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  1. says

    Oh, love these! Some, I’m already doing… but others, I need to try. I’m especially a huge fan of bacon in the oven. Turns out so much better, so much less mess and I actually save the bacon grease to use “sparingly” in cooking veggies. Adds great flavor 🙂

  2. says

    Thank you thank you for #6! I’ve been putting lemon on my kids apple slices but they complain about the tartness. And they have braces and can’t bite into an apple, so I put a lot of sliced apples in to their lunches. Great post.

  3. JennyG says

    When cooking bacon in the oven, I’ve discovered that putting it in a cold oven prevents it from curling up a bit better.

  4. says

    I tried your chocolate peanut butter trick last week – brilliant. I am also going to try your kale de-stemming trick asap. 🙂 Sharing.

  5. Susan says

    I love the idea of freezing onions and have done so in the past, but even bagging them 4 times, my freezer still smelled of onions. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Susan–hmmm…I haven’t experienced that. Wondering if it depends on the variety of onion (i.e.: some are smellier than others). I use pretty thick freezer bags. I even wash them out and reuse them (told you I was frugal!).

  6. Maria T. says

    I just started doing this one… I have been doing much more home cooking and making big batches of dinners (chilis, soups, pastas, crockpot stuff). We enjoy the leftovers but I’ve noticed that we tend to throw a lot away after a few days because we get sick of them. So, now, on day 2 of a meal, I fill 2 or 3 mason jars (I have a big stash for applesauce) and then pop ’em in the freezer (I have plastic lids that are freezer safe, as well as dissolvable labels so I can identify what it is). I can keep them on the inside of the door so it’s easy to see what I’ve got. For the past month, I have brought a frozen mason jar to work and by lunchtime it’s defrosted enough to microwave and I eat straight from the jar. I now save money that I used to spend on buying lunch and I waste less food! Works a lot better for me than freezing in bags.

    • says

      Thanks Maria–I love the double-use of the jars for freezing and then transporting/eating. Nice! I agree that leftovers can get tossed around here because we’re just sick of them. This is a great reminder that even a single portion of leftovers can get a second life and be very much appreciated! Thanks for your comment.

  7. laurie says

    To keep onions or anything else from causing freezer/refrigerator odors put an open cup of coffee grounds in the freezer and a couple layers of newsprint in the crisper. It gets rid of the worst odors ever!

  8. Stacey says

    My kids also disliked the tartness of lemon, so I use pineapple juice instead. Works brilliantly and doesn’t alter the flavor of the apples much.

  9. silvie says

    You can uses blended milk-soaked dates as a 1:1 substitute for sugar in almost any baked good with milk added. The dates add a creaminess to the texture of muffins, cakes and quick breads. Just be sure to get Lulus or other thin-skinned varieties, the California Medjool is too thick-skinned.

  10. Alanna nevenner says

    We sprinkle cinnamon on our bite sized (rather than sliced) apples. Keeps them from turning brown and my kids love the extra flavor.

  11. says

    Great tips, thanks for sharing. I have found just placing apples in plain water for a few minutes prevents browning. Sometimes I soak the apples in apple juice 🙂 Do you ever let your bread raise in a warm oven? I pre-heat my oven to 350 for two minutes then turn it off and place my bread in the oven to let raise for the second time.

  12. Susan says

    I like to marinade and grill a big quantity of boneless chicken breasts. After they cool I slice and freeze in ziploc freezer bags lying flat in a single layer. Once frozen you can shake to separate and store anywhere in your freezer. Later you can take out a handful to microwave and put on a salad or eat with brown rice for a quick meal.

  13. Joy Flemming says

    For lasagna…while preparing the other ingredients just soak the noodles in warm to hot water in your 9×13 pan (10-15 min). It gives them a little head start on softening. 🙂

  14. Arminnie says

    For cut/sliced apples I just rinse in water then pat dry before packing. They stay pretty good until lunch and taste just like, well, apples 🙂 thx for all the great tips!

  15. Hanna says

    Super helpful, Sally! #1 is one of my favorite treats (along with melting dark chocolate bars in milk or coconut milk for hot chocolate…definitely a treat though!).

  16. Lisa says

    This may be a silly question, but do you pulverize the dates with the seeds in? I found that removing the seeds was the stickiest and most time consuming part of using dates. It would be great if I could skip that step. 😉

    • says

      Lisa–I buy the pitted dates (made the mistake of putting dates in my blender that had the pits in them–that made a very LOUD noise!). I just put the pitted dates in whole and the blender pulverizes them.


  1. […] Keep in mind that you’ll need a high powered blender to really pulverize the dates. I first heard of blending dates into a shake from Katie of Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, whose Creamy Dreamy Banana Date Shake is another sweet and satisfying favorite. [Reader tip: Soak dates in milk in a small, airtight container kept in your fridge. They’ll soften and blend more easily in smoothies. For more kitchen tips and tricks read “My 10 Favorite Kitchen Tricks“.] […]

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