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Make Cooking Easy – Organize Your Space and Your Time

One of the things we both take seriously and pride ourselves on at the Garden School is the scratch cooking we do. We even teach our teachers how to cook while we turn out lots of really healthy foods for the kids.Scratch cooking scares some young moms and dads. They think it takes forever to do, and the mess and cost are too far to go even if it is healthier.

The truth is, scratch cooking is cheaper, it doesn’t take nearly as long as you think. A full from scratch dinner for lunch with whole foods and whole grains takes about an hour to make, set up, and serve to forty people. It does not make a huge mess if you know how to clean as you go, and it is MUCH healthier than pre-mades and packaged food and YOU have the control of what YOU eat!

I’m a veteran cook. I’ve been cooking since I was four. While I saw a lot of mess in my mother’s kitchen as she used every single pot, pan, plate, spoon and utensil in the kitchen; I noticed early that she never put anything away or wiped a counter while she was cooking, and guess who had to clean up the mess? So I’m a neat cook, and the lack of mess calls me back to the kitchen time and again.

I know about the cost too. As a young mom, my husband worked for the church, so there was never any money to waste. If you wanted a premade item, it was probably too expensive. When my daughter Katy was five, a friend handed her an oreo cookie, and she asked me what it was…so you get the picture. When you think about prices, you have to remember that with a premade item, you get only what is in the package and then it’s gone. When you buy fresh food, you have a lot of choices, left overs and you control the quality.

Cooking neatly, cheaply and from scratch begins with a well set up kitchen.  I have an antique kitchen with a modern stove, sink and refrigerator. The rest of the room is antique, built in 1830. But even with old furniture and a brick floor, I’ve organized my kitchen a very modern way  so it’s easy to cook.

Basic foods like flour and sugar should be easy to reach and appliances you use frequently should be available without digging in the back of the closet. Establishing a place for everything should not be a horrendous chore. I have an antique jar with flour in it that sits on an antique cabinet. I always know how much flour I have, can get at it easily and it becomes part of my antique collection. I also have a Vitamix that sits on another antique counter, and I can make whole wheat flour in thirty seconds with that machine. Having things out should not destroy the look of your kitchen.

When you buy food, buy only what you need. Because it’s priced by the pound, doesn’t mean you have to buy it by the pound. An adult healthy serving is four ounces of meat, that’s a quarter pound. A serving of veggies or fruit is four ounces. A serving of noodles or rice is half a cup. So when you buy an item, consider storage.

Clean out your fridge every single week so you always know what you have. If you do it weekly, it only takes five minutes to do, and it reminds you what you have on hand. Use paper towels and a spray bottle for cleaning the kitchen. Dish rags and sponges harbor bacteria.

Always cook in a clean kitchen.  If you clean out your oven before you use it, it will never have to be “cleaned.” When the kitchen is clean, run half a sink of hot soapy water. Throw in a clean dish rag. You’re ready to cook. As you use each utensil, put it in the hot sudsy sink. Wipe your counter when you spill. Soak pots and pans so when your meal is cooked, you won’t have a mess.