Why I Love This Easy System of Meal Planning for Busy Moms

Meal planing doesn’t have to mean sitting down every week and writing a list! There’s a “secret” way I use when I’m too busy to do it the old-school way. Read on and see what it is!

Psst; lean closer and I’ll tell you a secret: There’s a way of meal planning for busy moms that’s so unbelievably easy you might not even believe it.

Or maybe, because it’s so easy, you have tried it but you haven’t even realized that’s what you were doing. Which is why today, I’m going to tell you all about my favorite, easiest system of meal planning for busy moms that gets the job done without putting in a whole lotta legwork.

Because sometimes we get all caught up in the “plan” of doing things, of following along a specific set of steps. And we miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. 

Because you want to know the real truth of meal planning? It’s that you know how to do it, girl. You got this on lock. Even if you don’t think you do.

What is this magic form of meal planning for busy moms, you ask?

It’s called the Meal Plan Rotation Plan, and yes, the title of it has the word “plan” in it twice. Just go with it.

I even feel a little silly talking about this in a blog post because it’s SO EASY. It’s SO NORMAL. 

Basically, the Meal Plan Rotation Plan can be chopped up into two “types” of meal planning. 

(By the way, have you figured out your meal plan type yet? Because that’s gonna make this a lot easier to start with. Click here to do so, then pop back over and read the rest of this post)


Related: 

How to Start Meal Planning When You’re Totally New To It 

9 Simple Ways You Can Organize a Tiny Kitchen


Ok. Here are the two types of meal plans, when using the Meal Plan Rotation Plan:

Type One: Just plan dinner and “wing it” for breakfast and lunch.
Type Two: Plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, BUT! You’ll have the same thing (or close to it) for breakfast and lunch every day, and have a different dinner recipe to serve each night.

The secret sauce? That once you create this meal plan, whether that’s Type One or Type Two, you stick with it. For WEEKS.

Utilizing the meal plan rotation plan means you “settle in” to a meal plan. You can vary this by making a 2-week plan, or even a three-week plan, and rotate those.

But by keeping it simple, by cooking and eating the same things for a period, you’re putting your decisions on autopilot for a while.

Putting a rotating meal plan for busy moms on autopilot accomplishes a lot more than saving the time it takes to sit down and meal plan.

  • Number one, you’ll save money at the grocery store because you can comfortably buy in bulk, or semi-bulk, and take advantage of sales, space in your cupboard, and conquer food waste a little easier.
  • Number two, removing the mental strain of decision making, as minor as it may seem, can do wonders for your busy mom brain.

Have you ever heard of ‘the mental load’?

If you’re a mom, you probably know exactly what I mean: it’s the extra load of responsibility for the family that is typically carried by the mother.

It’s remembering doctor’s appointments, switching out winter clothes for summer, organizing the babysitter for date night. It’s the little things that fathers, as important and helpful as they are and can be, often don’t even think about.

And that mental load is draining, right?!

But guess what: creating a solid, simple meal plan for busy moms like implementing a rotation system can ease that mental load.

Instead of meal planning being something you need to take care of every week, you can just cross the meal plan figuring out right off the list. It’s taken care of for a while.


Related: 

‘Don’t Throw That Out!’ Reusing Leftover Ingredients in Your Kitchen

How I Got Started Meal Planning (And You Can, Too!)


You might be asking: But what if I get sick of what we’re eating? Then I say: change it up! A meal plan is not written in stone. The beauty of using a rotation plan is that YOU DECIDE IT.  And the freedom it gives adds more space for wiggle room.

Below is an example of a simple Meal Plan Rotation Plan I wrote for my family recently.

For most of last month, my husband was plowing through three long weeks of double shifts at work, and I was solo parenting more than usual. 

Times like this, extra busy times, the Meal Plan Rotation Plan really shines. It takes a big weight off my shoulders to not have to think about meal planning, but still feel confident we’re eating healthy and with easy meals.

Breakfast: every day, my kids had whole grain waffles spread with peanut butter, and I had egg salad in lettuce cups. My husband grabbed breakfast at work.

Lunch: I had leftovers, the kids had homemade “lunchables” of cold cuts, cheese, and crackers. Occasionally I changed it up with PBJs and roasted veggies.
Dinner: I kept the ingredients for these dinners on hand and a list of them on the fridge. Then I made what we had time for or were in the mood for that evening.

We had something to this effect every week for about three weeks. I’m getting sick of it all now, so I’ll spend about 10-15 minutes (longer than I usually do when I’m making the 5 Minute Meal Plan, but it takes longer to decide on new stuff!)


So what do you think!? Does this sound like a plan that might work for your family during busy periods? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Meal Prep For Beginners: Meal Prep Made Easy for the Workweek

If you’re new to the idea of meal prepping for your workweek, have no fear! I’m breaking down the first steps any meal prep beginner should make sure to follow. 

Listen up, working parents: today, I’m all about meal prep made easy, and why utilizing this “trick” can save you a ton of time during the workweek. 

Last month I got the chance to chat with Danielle over at Project Meal Plan, where she shares easy meal plans, simple weeknight recipes, and banging ideas for meal prep made easy throughout the week (She has a guide for Adult Lunchables, people. Adult. Lunchables. #genius).

I was on vacation with my kids at the time and she super graciously navigated our Skype talk through whining, spills, fighting, and a glass breaking in the background, plus the pause to clean that disaster up.

But through it all she dropped some major knowledge on how she discovered the simplicity of meal prep made easy, why it’s so important for maintaining sanity throughout the week and staying close to what you’ve meal planned, and what she does when it all goes out the window on a busy day.

(our conversation has been edited a bit for clarity and for aforementioned pauses to clean up spilled milk)


Related: 

How These Real Life Moms Balance Work and Family Life

This is How Working Moms Can Wash LESS Dishes This Week


Me: Hi Danielle! So talk to me about how you got into meal planning and prep as a weekly thing.

Danielle: A few years ago, I was working at a rehabilitation job and every day we had about 30 minutes for lunch. It wasn’t quite enough time to go to a restaurant, and I hated wasting time on my break, so I started getting into meal planning to make the best use of that time.  Meal planning and meal prep meant that I didn’t have to leave the office to eat, I got my whole lunch break, which was great.

At the time I just started off slow; I’d bring a chicken breast and maybe a little salad, which was good. But I started to get tired of that, so I began looking into other things I could prep and plan on the weekend, and it took off from there.

And then about two years ago, I started my blog, where I began sharing my meal plans for that week. I’d make the whole meal plan, share that with my readers, and while it was fun, it was a lot of work. So I started breaking down how I meal prepped instead, and it kind of evolved from there.  

Ruthy: You started feeling like you were meal planning for the blog instead of your life. So you flipped it.

Danielle: Totally. So I started focusing on the meal itself and sharing how people could put these recipes into their meal plans and see if it traveled well. And it became the whole thing, how to prep for all meals, including dessert.


Ruthy: So do you do mostly bulk prep? Or more day by day, a little prep each day?

Danielle: I used to do bulk prepping, but then I moved more to day by day for photography purposes for the blog. I typically do recipe testing during the week and then prepping for our own household meals on Sundays.  

Ruthy: How and where do you get your ideas for recipes testing? And how does that usually fit into the meal prepping portion?

Danielle: That’s a good question. I do my meal plan on Fridays for the week ahead.

I always start by looking at what I actually have. We don’t follow a specific diet, with the exception that I don’t eat red meat, but we do stick to more produce. And I really focus on making and cooking what we eat.

I always check the calendar first to see if we have dinner plans to see what we have going on, or potlucks, or anything else. Otherwise, I usually see what will work with our seasonal produce delivery box.

(Side note, Danielle uses Imperfect Produce, a produce delivery company that sends you ‘ugly’ produce for up to 50% off the normal price. Check to see if it’s available in your area)

Since I get to choose what’s in my box, I know what I’ll be receiving, so I break the week into two and plan from there, and I get the workweek first and then the weekends. Saturday is always a wild card. On that day, I try to plan for something, usually leftovers or whatever.


Related: 

Meal Prep Recipes for Beginners: Thai Larb Rice Bowls

7 Easy Steps for Meal Plan Beginners


Ruthy: When you’re having an evening when the ish hits the fan, what’s your fave ‘grab from the fridge’ meal for a busy night?

Danielle: Quesadillas, since literally anything can go inside! It’s amazing, just anything you want, it seems (laugh). We don’t have a big freezer, so I have to make sure I plan for the things that go in our freezer, so that usually leaves me with leftovers that are perfect for a quesadilla.

Ruthy: We eat quesadillas all the time, too! Do you usually pan fry them or oven?

Danielle: Pan fry, almost always.

Ruthy: We do pizza quesadillas as well which is basically pizza toppings spread on a tortilla. My kids love it.

Danielle: We do that a lot too! We use a lot of tortillas, for burritos, enchiladas, breakfast tortillas, chop them up and put them for nachos. They’re so versatile.

Ruthy: So other than a quesadilla, when it comes to leftovers, do you typically play around and make something new with the old? Or when you have those leftovers you mentioned you plan on, do you just eat them as is?

Danielle: I like to make a quick casserole. There’s a version I do that includes leftover meat, leftover veggies, cooked noodles like egg noodles. Then I mix one egg, some greek yogurt, pesto or seasonings, and add some milk. And then just take a big bowl, throw it all in. Mix it all together, put it in the oven, and it’s a casserole! Though to be honest, sometimes it’s a crapshoot and we’re just going to see how it goes. Sometimes it turns out amazing!

Ruthy: So is the egg used as a binder or is it a cooked egg?

Danielle: Raw egg, as like a binder. Put it all in a bowl, put it in the oven, bake it and see what happens.

Ruthy: I love this! I don’t think I’ve ever done that concoction before, but I make a lot of casseroles. But I always make like, a bechamel sauce or something that takes a lot of time, and that sounds like it would be a lot faster.

Danielle: It is! You gotta try it.

Ruthy: Another thing a lot of my readers say they deal with is that they feel really overwhelmed with the idea of meal planning. Like, they have a hard time just starting. What would you say to that?

Danielle: I would say to try and meal plan on a different day from the day you start, if that makes sense. Start small. Don’t meal plan and meal prep on the same day because that makes it feel huge.

Honestly, it’s hard to demonstrate until you’ve tried it. And I try to say this to my readers too, is that, if you don’t follow the meal plan one day, don’t stop there. You just try again the next day and get something together.


I loved this chat with Danielle! And I am fully, fully trying that casserole mixture she talks about.
What do you find intimidating about meal prep and meal planning? I’d love to hear your issues and thoughts in the comments!

For more on Danielle and to see what she shares on her blog in terms of meal planning, meal prep, and simple recipes, head to Project Meal Plan.
Thanks, Danielle!

How Working Moms Can Wash FEWER Dishes This Week

Click for the disclosures page

Scheduling in a working moms’ meal prep routine can seem tricky at first but I’ll let you in on this secret: meal prepping is my number one timesaving strategy and some weeks, the only way I manage to keep my sanity!

Want to know why? It’s not because it saves you time cooking (although is fully does) It’s because it saves you time washing dishes. 

By far and large, whenever I talk to my fellow busy parents riding the struggle bus during weekday meal times, their biggest complaint is this: I freaking hate washing dishes.

This is even more so in New York City, where so many apartments come dishwasher-free. If you’re raising kids and doing it without a dishwasher, I say to you: I’m with you, and I salute you and isn’t it just the worst!?

I’ve been living without a dishwasher for almost three years now, and in that time I’ve launched a cooking company, scaled up my recipe testing and recipe development freelance work, and continue to raise two kids, one of whom eats like a horse.

I hand wash a lot of dishes.

Like, seriously a lot.

My hands are constantly dry and battered, and a few weeks ago when I went for a manicure, the manicurist peered down at my hands, with their cracked skin and nicks and cuts and raggedly nails, and then gave me a funny look.

“Your hands are in rough shape,” she told me. Yeah, thanks for that.

Over the years, especially my years without a dishwasher, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to mitigate the overwhelming-ness of my sink:

  • I listen to podcasts or books on tape to make the time go faster.
  • I buy nice-smelling dish soap.
  • I get the good sponges. (these are legitimately amazing
  • I clean as I go.

Basically, I do #allthethings that cut down on my time spent at the faucet, elbow deep in sudsy water.

But you want to know the one thing that cuts down on my dishwashing throughout the week?

Spending 60 minutes on the weekend, busting through a meal prep power hour.

I first talked about the meal prep power hour around this time last year, when Caroline from a Butterful Mind guest posted here (with this post) and I wrote about my meal prep secrets over on here site with this post.

I also dive deep into the Meal Prep Power Hour in my ebook, The Weeknight Dinner Survival Guide.

The working mom’s meal prep routine is a huge timesaver, that much is true. But its secret superpower is how it cuts down on your dirty dishes throughout the week.

When you’ve already prepped for the week, you’ll only have your storage items and plates to wash after that- no pans, knives, cutting boards, pots, lids, etc. You don’t have to worry about bleaching down your countertops after you’ve prepped raw meats. 

See those cute little storage containers? They’re crazy easy to clean and dry. No funky corners or baked on grease. I’d rather zip through cleaning these guys than a million pots and pans on a busy Wednesday evening when I’d rather be curled up with my kids watching Boss Baby for the zillionth time.

Here’s an example: my meal plan for this week. I write it out in the margins of my Happy Planner because I’m mega Type A and that works best for me.

I’ll also add as an aside, this week was an odd meal plan for us (pizza bagels, I know!), because I’m in the middle of a recipe testing project for Peapod, and some of the items I’m testing have made their way onto our dinner table so I can make sure they work time wise.

So here’s how I broke down my Power Hour last week:

In 60 minutes, I:

  1. Formed 2 pounds of burger into patties for hamburgers
  2. Sliced 4 sweet potatoes into fries
  3. Combined the seasonings and liquids for Beef Stroganoff, since it’s a crockpot dish, and set aside (the meat had come already diced)
  4. Seasoned and cooked the sausage for Stuffed Peppers
  5. Combined panko and parmesan in one container, and egg wash and mustard in another, and chopped fish into fillets Roasted broccoli in a hot oven
  6. Roasted green beans in a hot oven and then tossed them with slivered almonds for a side

Guess how many pans and post and containers I skipped washing?

Like, a million.

Okay- I skipped the big pots and pans, to be fair. So many it wasn’t a million.

At the end of the week, in reality, I had washed only plates, silverware and cups/glasses, plus 2-3 daily containers.

I mean, I’d say that’s not too bad, right? No cutting boards, no pots, no sheet pans- they were all used and then washed in a big push on Sunday afternoon.


You can do this, too! Meal prep is a hassle- believe me, I KNOW THIS. But when you can push through and get it on your schedule and get it done, your tired ass self will thank you a thousand times over throughout the week. To come home to dinner made or mostly made- that is a good feeling.

And if you’re stuck on meal prepping and where to start, check out my free prep sheet worksheet download by leaving your name and email below!

How to Survive Cooking Your First Thanksgiving In 6 Important Steps

Thanksgiving Survival Guide | Percolate Kitchen (click to read the full post!)Cooking your first Thanksgiving can be nervewracking. It’s a big day with SO MUCH pressure, it can feel crazy overwhelming.

So you’re the one who needs to survive cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. Lucky you!

Except…. not. There are so many moving parts to Thanksgiving, how can you keep track of them all!?

Maybe you’re freaking out about cooking your first Thanksgiving because you’ve never cooked for these many people before?

Or, last year you cooked and it was a disaster. Cold turkey, chewy mashed potatoes (how!?), and a dinner that finally got on the table 3 hours after you started.

Or, your mom/grandma/aunt/uncle has always cooked an AWESOME dinner but they’re not able to this year, and the pressure is on!

Or, your kitchen is teeny tiny and you have zero space for a normal week’s groceries and gadgets, let alone the amount you’ll need for MORE. 

Fear not, my busy friend. I’ve been there, I’ve burned the mashed potatoes, and I lived to tell the tale.

(You will, too!)

But before that, here are 6 steps I learned from the ground up that can help you survive cooking your first Thanksgiving.

These tips will help whether you’re new to the game or just plain freaking overwhelmed.

Step One: Write it all down. 

This is the first, and possibly the most crucial step of the whole process of Thanksgiving dinner: get it all out on paper.

Start with an enormous list; include every single thing you’ll need to remember. Just get it all out, then work backward from there, breaking the list into smaller parts.

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Click here to get your copy of the guide! 

Write your whole guest list first.

As you’re figuring out the guest list, now is the time- before you decide on the menu- to find out who’s got allergies, who’s vegan, who’s able to bring their famous pumpkin pie along, etc.

Don’t forget the kids!

For example, do you have an uncle who likes to pour gravy all over everything, even his salad? Make a quick note of that on your guest list, so you don’t forget when you’re writing out your menu.

Then, write your entire menu.

This is the fun part! Keeping those with dietary restrictions in mind, figure out the recipes you’ll be making for the big day.

Cruise Pinterest, magazines, blogs, Google, ask your friends and family on Facebook for recipe recommendations. Keep it simple, but have fun!

If a recipe is super new to you, try to fit in a ‘practice’ run in the week or so before Thanksgiving. Being familiar with a recipe helps to take the edge off the stress of cooking on the day of.

Another important tenet of writing out your menu is deciding on what you can make ahead of time and chill or freeze until Thanksgiving Day; I’ll touch on the specifics of that later in the post. But it helps to, as you’re writing out your menu for the day, make a mental note of what can be made ahead to take some of the day-of pressure off.

“How do I know what to serve at Thanksgiving dinner?”
If you’re drawing a blank on what a typical T-giving day menu includes, no sweat. Here’s what I always make sure to have on the big day:
-the turkey, turkey seasoning, and stuffing/dressing
-gravy, made with the turkey drippings and extra gravy made ahead of time with chicken stock
-mashed potatoes
-salad
-1-2 casseroles/side dishes
-cranberry sauce
-bread rolls/biscuits/etc
THAT’S IT. Anything else is extra. Trust me on this one. You do not need to pull out all the stops!

Next, write a rough timeline

This is where the dirt meets the road, my friends. Once you have the particulars like guest list and menu figured out, your timeline (or ‘game plan’) will be the single most important process of the meal- before you start cooking.

I’d wager to say it’s more important than the actual cooking. With the right game plan, your stress load will be remarkably minimized!

The trick is to start early.

No matter how much more time there is between now and Thanksgiving, take a few minutes and write out everything that needs to be done between now and the morning of.

This includes grocery shopping. Turkey ordering. Booze procurement. Make-ahead items. The breakdown of cooking Thanksgiving day itself.

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Click here to get your copy of the guide! 

Step Two: Utilize Your Guest List.

Accept the help!

I get it, I do. It’s hard accepting help. I struggle with it all the time.

But with a dinner like Thanksgiving, it’s okay to lean on people. When someone asks, “what can I bring?” be honest. Tell them! Here are some suggestions you can ask people to bring     booze     desserts     whipped cream     ice cream     serving dishes and spoons     napkins, cutlery, glasses, tablecloth     side dishes

In all actuality, everything but the turkey can be brought potluck-style by someone else.

(And technically, the turkey can be brought in from somewhere else, too!)

What about the cleanup?

Don’t forget to figure this out! Try not to make it all on you; you’ll be doing enough that day!

Add extra plastic storage containers, cling film, and ziplock bags to your grocery list so that you store leftovers and send stuff home with guests.

If someone asks how they can help, ask if they’ll chip in with cleaning and storing food after the meal. It’s a cheesy old adage, but it’s true: heavy hands really do make light work!

Step Three: Figure out how much food you’ll need.

If you buy my meal plan, you’ll see I’ve included a super handy primer for figuring out how much food you’ll need for each guest. Obviously, you can play around with this; kids will eat less, some adults will eat more.

And don’t forget the leftovers! Turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite parts of the holiday!

Step Four: What’s your Thanksgiving game plan?

Think of a football coach in this way; you need to have a full ‘game plan’ mapped out ahead of time. This is what helps you create a clear path to Thanksgiving victory.

The best way to create a ‘Cooking Your First Thanksgiving’ game plan is to start big, then whittle it down to actionable steps.

Here’s what I mean by starting big, then whittling down:

BIG THING: grocery shop

WHITTLED DOWN:

Decide on the items you’re making (don’t include the dishes guests may be bringing).

Write down every single ingredient you’ll need, then check your cupboards and fridges to see what you’ve got and what you can substitute in.

Then, write your grocery list.

Clear your fridge for the onslaught of new items you’ll be bringing home.

Bring your list to the store (aside: Somehow, I manage to forget this every year 🤦 Don’t be like me. Remember your list!)

BIG THING: Cook Thanksgiving dinner

WHITTLED DOWN:

Decide the time you want dinner to be on the table, then work backward from there: How long will the turkey take? That’s when it goes in the oven.

Other questions to help figure out your timing: How long to prep the turkey before it goes in the oven? What items can be cooked beforehand and then reheated for dinner? What can be made in the ~20 minutes while the turkey rests after it’s out of the oven?

Tip: To avoid looking at your now enormous list of clear steps and getting overwhelmed, start with the smallest, easiest things first. Not only will it feel good to cross a handful of things off your list in a short period of time, but it will get the ball rolling in a ‘snowball’ effect; more things done means more momentum for the rest.

You can do this!

Thanksgiving Survival Guide Banner Ad
Click here to grab your copy of the guide!

Step Five: Work the Game Plan.

Getting down to business on the day of Thanksgiving

Now comes the real balancing act: cooking (and reheating) everything on the day of Thanksgiving, and getting it all on the table at the same time.

This is the step that I struggled with for years! I would find myself frantically mashing potatoes while everyone else was sitting down to dinner, privately cursing my mismanaged time.

But I’ve gathered a few tips in the meantime that will help you not make some of the same mistakes I did early on! Click the images below to enlarge. You can also pin them to save for later!

Step Six: Get a Plan Together for the Clean-Up

It’s the least fun part of the day, but don’t forget the post-Thanksgiving dinner cleanup and storage.

Having a rough idea of how this will play out will make it go much smoother and faster. I personally kind of enjoy cleaning up after Thanksgiving, although I’m usually beat after all that cooking. But it’s a nice time to reflect and chat with people on a more casual, one-to-one level.

Plus, when you’re in the kitchen you’re located at the prime advantage point for sneaking another piece of pie or a glass of wine. Score!

When people ask if they can bring something to help, sometimes I’ll tell them not to bring anything but to plan on chipping in to wash dishes.

I also make sure to always clean as I cook, which cuts down on the anxiety-inducing pile of post-dinner casserole dishes.

And lastly, I make double sure that there’s plenty of big ziplock baggies, plastic storage containers, cling film, tin foil, etc to both store food easily and send people home with leftovers.

There you have it; the Six Steps to Cooking Your First Thanksgiving!

If you’re a veteran Thanksgiving cook, or you think I forgot something- I wanna hear about it! Do you have any extra tips and tricks you wish you knew before jumping into cooking a Thanksgiving dinner? Leave a message in the comment section below!

Don’t forget to download my FREE Thanksgiving Game Plan by entering your email in the boxes below. You’ll get access to a gameplan breakdown cheat sheet, a checklist for the big day, and my food amounts cheat sheet. It’s a really helpful little packet!

Still nervous about cooking for the big day? I got your back, busy friend. Click here to buy my whole Thanksgiving meal plan, including recipes, grocery lists, cheat sheets, worksheets, storage and make-ahead ideas, and fully itemized grocery list. It’s insanely helpful and jampacked with info that will save you a TON of time planning, prepping and getting ready for Thanksgiving!

10+ Cooking Tips, Tricks and Hacks That Will Save You An Insane Amount of Time

This list of 10+ cooking tips and tricks will blow your mind! If you need extra time cooking dinner in the evening, this is the list for you.

This list of 10+ cooking tips and tricks will blow your mind! If you need extra time cooking dinner in the evening, this is the list for you.

This list of 10+ cooking tips and tricks will blow your mind! If you need extra time cooking dinner in the evening, this is the list for you.

This list of 10+ cooking tips and tricks will blow your mind! If you need extra time cooking dinner in the evening, this is the list for you.

This list of 10+ cooking tips and tricks will blow your mind! If you need extra time cooking dinner in the evening, this is the list for you.10+ Cooking Hacks That Will Save You an Insane Amount of Time in the Kitchen | I never would have thought of some of these awesome cooking tips and tricks! Seriously, totally life changing. I can't wait to get into the kitchen and try out some of these; there are great cooking tips for beginners and i can use all the extra time i can get

Here’s a secret: cooking dinner doesn’t always have to take so dang long. Using sneaky cooking hacks can save you ridonkulous amounts of time!

Because let me be the first to tell you: Even though I love creating, developing and testing recipes, there is plenty of times in a normal week when I just need to get in, get out, and get dinner on the table. Preferably with as few children hanging off my legs as possible.

This need for speed means I also have a slight obsession with cooking hacks, tips and tricks! I love finding nifty little ideas that save me time and effort.

So for the times when you’re rushed, using a little cooking hack here and there means you won’t have to sacrifice time or flavor.

Plus? Having some cool cooking hacks up your sleeve means you feel like you CAN conquer your kitchen at the end of a busy day, instead of picking up the phone to order takeout again.

What’s a cooking “hack”, you may ask?

In the media today, “hack” can have kind of a scary connotation, I know. We’re always hearing it in connection with cyber attacks.

But really, when used lightheartedly, “hack” just means a cool tip or trick. It means using a move or idea that you don’t normally think of to produce a handy shortcut.

So here’s what I did: I went all through the interwebz, and i spoke to a bunch of other food bloggers, recipe developer, and kitchen peeps, and I assembled this list of their fave hacks!

I mean, what’s a better list than one filled with advice from people who spend a ton of time in their kitchen?

Check out what each had to say below, and click through to read the full posts! And, if you’ve got em, I’d LOVE to hear your favorite hacks or shortcuts in the comments!

HACKS & RECIPES & COUPONS, OH MY!

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Spray a little PAM on the spoon or in the cup before you measure

(This is mine!) Here’s my all-time fave cooking ‘hack’- if you spray a little cooking spray on, or even brush on a little oil, your honey or syrup will slide right off and give you an accurate measure, every time.

Cut yourself a break with pre-cut veggies

Olivia, from Howell Media House, saves her busy self extra time by buying pre-cut veggies and ingredients. “And I always buy precut onions and carrots!” she says. 

When caramelizing onions, save some and freeze the rest

Such a smart idea from Cynthia, on the Percolate Kitchen Facebook Page! Caramelizing onions can take forever, but the flavor is worth it. Cynthia very smartly makes extra onions and freezes them so all she has to do is remove and thaw later on. 

Freeze cooked rice to use at a later date!

Just like Cynthia does with her caramelized onions, Jayme, from NoRegretsLiving.com and writing for Nicole at MomSavesMoney.net makes more rice than she needs to and saves the rest for later. I love this tip! All you have to do is thaw and reuse.(hint: I even do this when we have leftover takeout rice!)

Got a Keurig 2.0? Hack the daylights out of it

This tip is less about saving time than it is a handy hack to have, but I’m including it because my husband and I have a Keurig 2.0 and it’s so picky with the brand of pods it uses! Rachel from MashUpMom has four awesome hacks to save the day though, all of which make it easier to use third-party cups in our Keurig 2.0. #happydance

Make yogurt in your crockpot

I’m so excited that this works! It’s such a handy tip, especially if you and your family go through yogurt at an astonishing rate. Kristen from Joyfully Thriving has the details on this awesome crockpot hack. 

Cut into an onion without cueing the waterworks

We’ve all been there: we slice into an onion and then can’t seem to stem the flow of tears for the next 10 minutes! That’s why I’m loving this tip from Jenny at the Jenny Evolution, which is basically going to save your waterproof mascara from running down your cheeks. 

Make ice cream without an ice cream maker

Got a hankering for ice cream but stuck at home without an ice cream maker? Here’s how you make it, plus two other handy kitchen hacks from Jessica at AllSheCooks.com

Make pasta and chase kids without burning the house down

Darcie, over at Naturbaker, shared this handy tip on her Instagram for effortless pasta cooking, and I had a total “aha moment” over it! I see a lot more pasta on busy nights that don’t require me babysitting the pot while it boils.

Cook beets in half the time with this simple hack

If you’re in the “love ’em!” camp for beets, this trick will help you immensely in the kitchen! They can take ages to cook, but Jacqueline from Mama’s Real Meals shared this with me the other day: “Beets have less cooking time when vinegar is added to the water! Just add 1 tbsp vinegar to a quart of beets and cook as normal. Also, cook them with skins on to keep color and flavor intact.” Freaking genius. 

Make your own buttermilk substitute with stuff you’ve got already

The tang of buttermilk is not only crazy tasty, it’s essential to some recipes; but if you’re out of it and don’t feel like a special trip to the store, this simple hack gets you back to cooking in no time. Says Heather from The Messy Little Kitchen(Just add) 1 tablespoon of vinegar or apple cider vinegar (sweeter, my preference) into a liquid measure and fill it up to 1 cup. Also, it works super well with coconut milk if you’re looking for dairy free!

What’s your favorite hack to use in your kitchen?

This post on the Percolate Kitchen Facebook Page is what inspired pulling all of these together. If you’ve got a great idea, click on the post and add your own. I’d LOVE to hear it!

And that’s it- 10 (plus!) cooking hacks that will save you an insane amount of time in the kitchen.

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17 Food Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Foodie

[disclosure]

Such great ideas in this foodie gift guide list! I alwayshave brain freeze when it comes to christmas shopping ideas, so this post is a huge help. There's gifts in every price range!Such great ideas in this foodie gift guide list! I alwayshave brain freeze when it comes to christmas shopping ideas, so this post is a huge help. There's gifts in every price range!

WHEN IT COMES TO CHRISTMAS, I GOT THE FOOD GIFT IDEAS ON LOCK.

In fact, they’re my favorite kind of gift to give! (Are you surprised by this?)

I also love food gifts because they make awesome stocking stuffers. 

You see, popping cute and interesting food gifts in Christmas stockings equals less tiny little toys and crayons that I have to pick up on Christmas morning. See why they’re my favorite kind of gift?

Plus, when you find cool food gift ideas, it’s kind of like finding a new little treasure.

I’m not so sure I’d find a valid reason to buy myself an adorable pistachio bowl any old time of the year, but I sure as heck would buy it at Christmas! 

So with that in mind, I gathered together this awesome little list of new and interesting food gift ideas, just for you!

Take a peek around and see what tickles your food gift fancy; and if you buy any of it, let me know how it tastes/works/etc! 

FOX PADDLE GRATER

How freaking cute is this little guy!? Made of brushed aluminum and all-rubber features, this little fox is too sweet. It’s a great gift for kids who are just getting into the kitchen, and small enough to be tucked into a backpack for a picnic.

ALE-IGATOR BOTTLE OPENER

I adore this little guy. As if it wasn’t fun enough to open a beer, now you get to do it with an “ALE-igator”! (Get it!?) Buy it here for yourself or your fave drink afficianado.

“OMG, MY MOTHER WAS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING” TEA TOWEL

Speaking as a mother who has a mother of my own, I would just like to say… it’s true. This tea towel is completely true. Speak the truth in your kitchen and buy it here. 

HAMILTON BEACH BREAKFAST SANDWICH MAKER

Imagine waking up in the morning and eating a hot, cheesy, salty, eggy breakfast sandwich… without ever leaving the house! This cool little gadget has a spot for each component of the perfect breakfast sandwich, and it’s compact enough to fit neatly on your countertop.

WOWLY PISTACHIO BOWL

I love the cheery yellow of this pistachio bowl, but it’s got an even cooler factor: the little compartment underneath to store pistachio shells! Get it here for almost 2/3 off the original price. 

UPRIGHT SPOON HOLDER

Got someone who loves cooking, but hates placing their spoon on the countertop? This pretty upright spoon holder sits next to the stovetop and lends a space to rest the spoon between stirring. It’ll hang on to your spoon collection as well, if you want to keep it clean. And it’s a steal at this price!

MURRAY’S CHEESE OF THE MONTH CLUB

Ful disclosure, my husband bought this for me for Mother’s Day and it is the BEST. Every month, Murray’s sends me 3 distinctly different types of cheeses in a box lined with cold-storage bags. The cheeses also come with information about the creamery, the cheese itself, sometimes a little history, and pairing notes. It’s the highlight of my food month, for sure. Send this awesome gift to a cheese lover you know with this link.  (new members get 10% off!)

JAPANESE SNACK PACK

The Japanese just do food well. From sushi to miso soup to ramen to amazing snacks, it’s a country that knows the human palate well! This snack pack gets you tons of different type of snacks and goodies, and it’s surprisingly inexpensive. It’s perfect for the world-traveler and the couch surfer alike! 

FAMILY BREAKFAST GIFT BASKET FROM STONEWALL KITCHEN

Who doesn’t love breakfast foods!? Each of these sweetly packed baskets includes: Maine Maple Syrup, Wild Strawberry Jam,  Double Chocolate Pancake & Waffle Mix,  Farmhouse Pancake & Waffle Mix,  Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Mix, Blueberry Muffin Mix, and Cinnamon Bun Mix. It’s a perfect start to any day, especially at the holidays. Buy this Stonewall Family Breakfast Basket for someone you know who loves curling up in their pj’s with a hot cup of coffee on Sunday mornings.

OMAHA STEAK BOX 

I’ve sent Omaha Steaks as a holiday gifts a few times in the past, and it’s always been a gift that is welcomed with open arms. It’s also the gift that keeps on giving, since you can choose from a wide variety of box options; my parents live in Northern Michigan where it’s not exactly grilling weather in the winter, so they cook up the sausages and use the condiments Omaha sends and store the steaks in the freezer til summer, when they can bust out the grill. Send a popular Omaha Steak variety box to your loved ones with this link. 

HEDGEHOG BOWL

This adorable bowl is perfect for parties, weeknight dinner, your key bowl, and more! I love how the little hedgehog is a surprise at the bottom. Get this guy for the hedgehog lovers of adorableness in your life. 

BLUEBERRY BATTER BOWL GIFT SET 

I am in love with this sweet little blueberry printed batter bowl from Stonewall! It’s just the cheery thing you want to turn to in the mornings when you’re making breakfast; it also comes with blueberry syrup. blueberry jam, and pancake/waffle mix. Click here to buy for someone you’s love to make breakfast with!

DEAN & DELUCA SPIRAL CUT HONEY HAM 

I feel like a good ham is a perfect gift; it covers every single meal of the day, it travels well, and the bone can be used for soup after! Buy this spiral cut honey ham for someone you want to help out for a few meals or ten. 

DEAN & DELUCA JAMAICAN SPICE RUB

Slightly spicy, a little sweet, with nutty notes- this is a fabulous jerk seasoning rub! It makes an easy weeknight chicken dish. Buy it here for the busy person you know who loves jerk chicken. 

SUNBASKET GIFT BOX

I’m a new convert to Sunbasket, a delivery meal kit with a purpose. I love how easy their system is! You choose from some seriously delicious recipes, and all the packaging they send is easily recyclable. Send a basket to a busy person you know who could use easy, flavorful dinner choices.  

That’s It! Happy shopping! 

If you buy any of these items and love them- I wanna hear about it! Drop me a line on Twitter or Instagram and fill me in.