Finding ways to simplify cooking is a HUGE deal for moms. Here are 12 kitchen hacks that will save you time and money as you keep your family fed each day.
Note: This post includes affiliate links to the products discussed, but always feel free to shop around for the best deals. See my disclosure to learn more.
I love cooking, which is good since I do it pretty much every single day. Before I had kids, it wasn’t uncommon for me to take my time in the kitchen making a really nice meal at least a couple times a week. Delicious soups with homemade bread…from-scratch lasagna with sauteed veggies on the side…whatever my taste buds craved, I made. If it wasn’t a fancy meal, I was baking…bread, rolls, cakes, whatever.
However, kids changed a few things in life (understatement of the century, right?).
Unless it’s a weekend when Dad can entertain the boys, I now choose meals based on whether or not I can make it start to finish in the amount of time it takes my boys to watch one episode of PAW Patrol (27 minutes, but who’s counting?).
For us moms, finding ways to simplify cooking is essential. Thankfully, over the years, I’ve learned some handy tips and tricks for getting dinner on the table with a little less stress.
In hopes that a few of them might help you, too, here are 11 kitchen hacks that will save you time and money in the kitchen. Enjoy!
12 kitchen hacks every mom needs to know
1. Cut up an entire watermelon in less than 5 minutes.
This was such a game changer for me! I used to dread cutting watermelon because it always made such a mess, and it didn’t seem like there was a good way to cut off the rind…until I discovered THIS method of slicing and dicing that bad boy. Simply cut your watermelon into fourths, then …… Awesome!
2. How to get ALL the juice out of a lemon.
Use a teaspoon! Forget squeezing the lemon with your hands, forget buying a special tool (because who has room to store a kitchen tool that only does one obscure task?), all you need is a spoon. Cut the lemon in half, dig the tip of the spoon into the center, and twist! That’s it. The juice will come flowing out. If you want to avoid seeds and pulp, rest a strainer on top of whatever bowl/measuring cup you’re catching your juice in.
3. The fastest way to shred chicken.
I hope you know this already. If not, it will change your life. I learned it from a roommate in college. Want shredded chicken breast meat for soup, burritos or casseroles? Simply cook your chicken (crock pots are wonderful, but you can also just boil it in salted water), and then get out your mixer. A Kitchen Aid works well, but a hand mixer will do the job just fine, too. Once the chicken has cooled just a bit, put it in a mixing bowl, and go to town on it with the mixer. In a matter of seconds, your chicken will be perfectly shredded! One word of warning, don’t mix it for too long or you’ll end up with pulverized chicken instead of shredded chicken. This is especially an issue with slow-cooked chicken because it falls apart so easily. Just keep an eye on it and don’t get too excited.
4. How to soften butter without melting it.
Have you ever gone to make a recipe and realized that you need SOFTENED butter. Most microwaves can do the job, but in my experience it goes from “soft” to “melted” really quickly, which will pretty much ruin your cookies. Sad. Instead, skip the microwave and use a simple little trick. Cut up your butter into small pieces and spread them out on a plate or sheet of wax paper. Leave it alone for 10 minutes or so, and you’ll be amazed at how much softer it is. Increasing the surface area of the butter that is exposed to the room temperature air allows the temperature to raise more quickly. Yay! Cookies are back on the menu!
5. Make your own DIY foaming hand soap for pennies.
I love the foaming hand soap…actually my husband was the one who requested that we make it our standard soap. He likes how it washes off so much easier than the typical stuff. And he’s right. However, I hate spending the money on it because it’s way more expensive. So, I figured out how to make it myself. Basically, it’s regular soap and water mixed together in the special foaming pump. That’s it. So, you have to buy the special foamy pump once, but after that, you simply add about an inch of soap to the empty bottle, then fill it the rest of the way with WARM water (it needs to be warm to help the soap dissolve into the water). Put the top on, shake, and you’re ready to go! Easy peasy…and cheap!
6. Keep a rubber band on hard-to-open jars.
When my husband is home, he regularly hears me say, “I need you to be strong” (i.e. – I need you to open this stupid jar). But, he’s not always home. In fact, he’s usually NOT home when I am cooking, so I’ve had to get creative. My bottle of minced garlic from Costco is the worst! I love the stuff, but the lid always seems to be glued on. However, I now keep a rubber band (a thick one like the kind that comes wrapped around celery or broccoli is good) on the lid and the friction makes it so much easier to open.
7. Save yourself from unnecessary dishes by cooking with foil or parchment.
This is not rocket science, but it saves me so much time! Dishes are one of my least favorite chores (I actually made a deal with my mom in high school that I would do certain other chores in exchange for never having to do dishes). Whenever possible (and it’s almost always possible), I line baking pans with parchment or foil. I love when I can “do” the dishes by simply pulling off the foil and throwing it away. Rinse the pan quickly to be sure everything is clean, and you’re done!
8. How to peel garlic quickly.
Truth be told, I haven’t peeled garlic ever since I discovered the bottled, minced garlic at Costco, but for a long time, I did it regularly. Real garlic is so much better than just using garlic powder, and it’s easy to use…if you know this trick. Take a clove of garlic (not the whole head), cut off the ends, and then using the side of a large knife, SMASH the garlic. Just put your palm against the flat of the blade and bang it once or twice. When you lift up the knife you’ll see the skin split and coming away from the inside meat of the garlic. It will come away easily and then you can chop or press your garlic as desired.
9. Keep a “trash” bowl on the counter when you cook.
When I’m making dinner, I’m constantly faced with garbage that needs to be dealt with: butter wrappers, vegetable scraps, etc. A friend of mine told me that she keeps a bowl on her counter during cooking to catch all these extras. That way, your counters stay cleaner and you’re not constantly taking trips to the garbage can. When you’re all done cooking, just take one trip, dump the bowl’s contents, and you’re done!
10. Hang a kitchen towel from your apron.
The same friend who taught me about the trash bowl also gave me this idea. Whether you tuck it into your apron pocket or hang it from the apron strings, having a towel always at the ready is super convenient. No more dripping fingers all across the kitchen floor. It’s nice to be able to quickly dry my hands or wipe them off without stopping what I’m doing to go looking for a towel. Simple, but effective.
11. How to form perfectly round, equal-sized burgers.
Cover your kitchen scale with wax paper or plastic wrap (If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can eye-ball it, but really scales are awesome! And you can get a decent one for under $15 dollars). Find a bowl, lid, or Tupperware container that is the size you want your burgers to be (I use my kid-size IKEA bowls). This will be your mold. Line the bowl/container with plastic wrap, and press your burger meat into the “mold”. Use the plastic wrap to lift the meat out, and place it on a plate or platter to be taken to the grill. Repeat as many times as you need for however many burgers you want to make.
12. How to mix frozen juice concentrate lightning fast
Pet peeve moment: I HATE when I’m trying to mix up some orange juice for breakfast and I can’t seem to get the frozen concentrate to dissolve in the water. Anybody else been there? You stab at the lump of orange juice with a wooden spoon endlessly, hoping that you’ve finally smushed the last of the chunks? A few months ago, I discovered a better way! If you have a hand blender (I LOVE mine), use it to mix your juice! Just dump the concentrate and the water in a pitcher, stick in the immersion blender, and in a few seconds you’ll be done! Hooray for quick fixes.
What do you think? Have you used any of these kitchen hacks? Do you have any others that make your life easier? Share in the comments!
If you liked this article, check out my list of 10 essential kitchen tools under $20.