I get a lot, A LOT of questions about an average day looks like for me food-wise since I work full-time from home and homeschool my kids. How much time do I spend in the kitchen? What do I do while I’m there?
One of the first things you’ll find out about me is that I refuse to spend more than 30-minutes of hands-on time for any meal. I don’t mind if it has to cook for hours, but I’m done in thirty minutes unless it’s a special occasion. Period. Birthdays and holidays are when I’ll spend tons of hands-on time for special meals, but I just don’t have the time on a day-to-day basis.
Second, I multi-task in the kitchen. I run multiple timers and have multiple things cooking. If I’m going to take the time to cook, I might as well make it worth my while. I don’t stand at the stove and watch food cook. I stand near-by and grind grain, strain kefir or work on a batter. If I’m going to bother to cook and I’m not trying a recipe for the first time, I’m going to at least double, if not triple, the meal and freeze the excess. Snacks especially.
My normal morning would involve popping breakfast in the oven then handling any needed tasks for my cultured foods while it bakes. Making sourdough starter or a batch of five-minute bread dough, grinding grain, sprouting beans, straining water kefir and handling kombucha. I keep a little calendar to remind me when to check things that take a long time to be ready, like fermented veggies and kombucha.
While I work, my daughter assembles what is needed for our morning smoothie and pulls out the supplements. I do any needed knife work, run the blender then dole out the supplements with the finished smoothie. The smoothies are normally gone by the end of breakfast, if not before.
If I’m starting a crock-pot for dinner, I prepare it while breakfast is cooking, then I set a timer to remind me when to turn it on if it’s not an 8-10 hour recipe. Then we sit down to breakfast.
I then make sure all of the kitchen tasks are done and everything is squared around for the day, like meat being thawed or grains soaking. If a snack needs to be cooked or baked, I do it after breakfast while the kids are doing their morning chores. I’m up, I’m visible and it’s counted as a morning chore for me. I’m physically working so they’re more prone to stay on task and be willing to get their chores done, too. If I’m working my job at the computer while they do chores, they get off task and need constant redirection.
Lunch is almost always heating something up from the leftovers available in the fridge. If I have to cook, it will be a meatless meal using something I already have on hand, like sprouted beans. Or something egg-based, since we always have eggs coming out of our ears thanks to our hens. I normally cook lunch while the kids are doing their computer-based schoolwork, so it isn’t an interruption to the flow of the day.
After lunch they wrap up their school work, clean their bedrooms and have a little quiet time reading books followed by open play time while I work.
Dinnertime prep begins based on the night’s recipe. I set a timer after lunch to remind me what time to get started if I’m eye-ball deep in a project or otherwise prone to loose track of time. If I’m making something that requires a long baking time, I pick side dishes that don’t have to be served hot, like rice or cornbread. That way I don’t have to go back to the kitchen until it’s time to serve up the plates, thus interrupting work time again. If I’m testing any recipes for a cookbook or Menu Mailer, I do that during dinner time. And again, I don’t stand and watch things cook, I work on other kitchen projects while things bubble away on the stove.
At night, I take about 5-10 minutes to handle any needed projects like a crock-pot breakfast for the next morning, soaking grains or sprouting beans. I do that right before I go to bed. Then I double-check to make sure the dishwasher got turned on and nothing was accidentally left sitting out that should be in the fridge.
All-told, I spend about 1.5-2 hours a day in the kitchen, plus a little extra time for hand-washing dishes. My kids unload and reload the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen, wipe counters and clear the table after a meal.
How much time do you spend in the kitchen?
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Jill @ The Prairie Homestead says
Wow, love this post! I found it very interesting that you don’t spend more than 30 minutes of hands-on time for each meal. Sometimes I find myself spending much more than that, and I was just thinking the other day how I just don’t have time for that this summer… I really need to learn to be more efficient. Thanks for this peak into your life. I’m feeling inspired now!
Yup. I simplify as much as possible and cook in bulk. I just don’t do meals that take more than 30 minutes, I just don’t have time for it. Sometimes that means having the same meal once a week for a while because it’s what we have and what we need to use. But I try not to repeat meals more often than that or the kids complain. They’ll even complain if I serve pizza too many days in a row.
It depends on the day. Wednesday’s seem to be my long day, as I go shopping on Tuesday’s and get home at dinner time. So I do my Soup of the Week, and my Veggie Prep, etc.
But I’m like you – I’d rather not spend more than an hour or two per day on it!
I’ve got you beat, I only go into the kitchen twice a day – breakfast and dinner.
I do spend more than 30 minutes at a time in the kitchen; it’s more like 1-2 hours each time. I don’t have a dishwasher, so just do random amounts of dishes wherever I have 5-10 minutes here and there in between food prep. Then, at breakfast time, I’m also starting seeds, watering plants, and bopping out to weed my raised bed – it’s cool at that time of day, so best time for it. And at dinner time, hubby and I tend to watch a movie or otherwise spend social time together.
This is partially because I’m disabled and my kitchen is on one floor, and the office, bedrooms and bathroom on another. I just can’t do the stairs repeatedly in the same day. So basically… if a recipe requires me to be in the kitchen more than twice daily, it’s out of my repertoire (which is why I don’t bake yeast breads anymore).
I fix lunch at breakfast time on a tray to take to my desk. If it’s hot, like soup or stew, I put it in a thermos. If it’s a sandwich, I wrap it in a cloth napkin so the bread doesn’t get stale. If it’s a salad, I put it in a giant bowl, with toppings in tiny bowls (sunflower seeds or pecans, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded cheese, salad dressing), then put the tiny bowls in the biog bowl and cover it all with a napkin for fast assembly at my desk. Side dishes tend to be a piece of fruit or a bowl of raw-milk yogurt covered with a salad plate. I take two thermos cups up with me, one with coffee, one with a cold drink. This is 5-10 minutes of work to avoid having to go downstairs an extra time.
I plan breakfasts and dinners a week at a time, so as to have the ingredients on hand. Daily, I look at my plan and think about what needs to be thawed, chopped, or otherwise prepped for the next few days. I might cut veggies at breakfast that will be stir-fried at dinner and so on.
If I’m planning dinner from a crockpot, I start it at breakfast time.
When I start yogurt, I do that at the beginning of my dinner cooking time, wrap it up after dinner, and put it in the fridge the next breakfast.
If I need beans for the next day, I start soaking them at dinner time, start cooking them at breakfast. I don’t sprout beans cause I can’t rinse them often enough.
I do make other sprouts though. My favorite are onion sprouts. When I’m making sprouts, I soak the seeds from dinner to breakfast, then rinse and drain at breakfast and dinner time until they’re done.