saving money

My 10 Favorite Kitchen Tricks

by Sally on November 19, 2014

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?

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through this link, your cost will be the same, but I will receive a small commission to help with operating costs of this blog. Thanks for your support!

{ 38 comments }

5 Foods I Don’t Buy Anymore

by Sally on November 2, 2014

Since starting this blog five years ago, I make a lot more food from scratch. Perhaps it’s because my kids are older and less demanding and no longer require me to be within two feet of them at all times. Perhaps it’s because I started paying much closer attention to ingredient lists. Or because my palate is becoming a bit more refined, preferring the taste of from-scratch to the taste of shelf-stable.

That being said, I also know my limitations. There are plenty of foods I’d like to make from scratch all the time, but I don’t want to spend my whole life in the kitchen (read: From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!). There are many foods I’ll make if I have extra time and energy, like bread or spaghetti sauce. Then there are the foods I always make myself, because compared to the store-bought version, they’re tastier (and usually cheaper) enough to make it worth my while.

Here are my top five:

1. Vinaigrette Dressing: We eat salads almost every night, and I used to buy a lot of bottled dressings. But it only takes minutes to make it ourselves.

Recipe for Quick Vinaigrette

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

2. Taco Seasoning: Tacos are practically a weekly fixture in our house, so we used to be stocked with seasoning packets. But when I started reading the fine print, I found questionable items like preservatives and even hydrogenated oils. Now I make a triple batch of this homemade seasoning and keep it in a jar in the pantry.

Recipe for Taco Potion #19

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

3. Waffles: My kids (and husband) love waffles. Years ago, Eggos were a staple in my grocery cart. Then I upgraded to Van’s. Then I got a waffle iron and everything changed. I make double batches of these on lazy weekend mornings, then squirrel them away in the freezer for weekdays.

Recipe for Yogurt & Flaxseed Waffles

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

4. Barbecue Sauce: My kids, like all little people, love to dip their food into various sauces. Many jarred barbecue sauce contains high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and preservatives. So we started making it ourselves and now prefer the taste.

Recipe for Homemade Barbecue Sauce

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

5. Pizza Dough: I’m a little obsessed with homemade pizza. Ever since tasting a friend’s dead-ringer-for-delivery homemade pizza, I’ve been experimenting with different crusts, techniques, and toppings (current parent favorite: spinach and sausage).

Here are the three pizza doughs in heavy rotation here:

Citizen Mom’s Homemade Pizza Dough
Perfect Pizza Crust from Dinner: A Love Story
Hometown Pizza from my book Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom NutritionWhat foods do YOU always make yourself?

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I’m pretty frugal. I coupon. I’ve even been known to hoard groceries when I come across a really good deal. So naturally, I love Aldi. I love their no-frills approach. They don’t need fancy lighting and free samples. They’re not going to give your kid a balloon at checkout. They’re not even going to bag […]

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The dinner hour is my least favorite part of the day. Not dinner itself–it’s actually the 45 minutes before dinner, when my husband’s not home yet, the kids are alternately begging for snacks or racing their dumptrucks around the kitchen island, and I’m scrambling to pull the meal together (and often, fighting the urge to […]

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Coupon Queen

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I come from a long line of frugal. My mom sewed my clothes and Halloween costumes growing up. My dad’s been known to show up at flea markets with a flashlight. And it took me years to figure out that when my grandpa said he found something at the “emporium”, he was actually referring to […]

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