How to Save Time in the Homestead Kitchen

by Becky
Published: Updated:

When it comes to being food self-sufficient, I often marvel at how people have done it in the past. Little to no technology made food preparation and preservation long and arduous.

We have it easy!  With the right tools food preparation and preservation can be simple and time spent minimal. 

I thought about sharing ways to save time with just preserving but honestly cooking and preserving are so connected, I can’t talk about one without the other. And when it comes right down to it, I spend way more time cooking than I ever do preserving each year. 

So if you want to do more cooking from scratch and preserving but don’t know how to fit it in your already full schedule, I have some valuable tips for you.

I have spent many years cooking from scratch for my family. That is a lot of cooking and it does get tiring. Cooking isn’t really my favorite thing either. But I do it because I love homemade, homegrown, healthy, and great tasting food. 

Here are some things I do to save time in the kitchen.

Dehydrating Apples on Trays

#1 Purchase Proper Tools and Appliances

I mentioned this in my garden time saving post and it applies even more so in the kitchen. You can totally get by doing just about everything with a bare minimum supply of appliances. Even If you only have a good sharp knife that can work wonders.

However, why double, triple, or quadruple your time spent preserving or cooking when there is a tool that can do the same job in a fraction of the time? Ok, I know, I know. Insufficient money and space can definitely be hang ups in buying the right tools.

If you’re on a budget, really assess what would save you the most time and save up and get that. Over the years, my Birthday and Christmas presents have consisted of a dehydrator, sauce maker (food mill), Instant pot, and a food processor. These are all kitchen gadgets I now feel would be hard to live without and save tons of time in the kitchen. You can find my favorite kitchen tools HERE.

Kitchen appliances can save so much time and without a doubt, I consider them worth every penny. Actually they have probably paid themselves off by now with all the savings we reap from making homemade instead of store bought. 

We make a lot of pasta in Spring because our chickens lay lots of eggs

#2 Batch Cook and Preserve

I know you’ve probably heard of this time saving tip before but that is because it works! Batch cooking or preserving just means you do a bunch all at once (usually at least doubling a recipe) to save time. BUT I will say that batch cooking is a lot more useful to me than batch preserving and I will explain why.

Since I cook pretty much everything from scratch making a double batch of tortillas, pie crust, bread, soup, rice, you name it, is always a time saver. I either put the other half of what we didn’t eat in the freezer or I already have a meal planned out that will use the other half of what I made an extra supply of. 

It saves you from dirtying the same dishes on two or three or four separate occasions so you save time there. You also only have to take out and put away your ingredients once. And in some cases like baked goods, the oven can usually fit more than one pan in the oven so you save time there too.

I find that batch preserving can be a time saver but only sometimes. Here is why batch preserving sometimes doesn’t work out.

One reason is that the preservation method can have space limitations. For example, my dehydrator can only hold so much so I can’t batch and do more than the dehydrator could hold.

Another reason happens in canning jams or jellies. Recipes call for an exact amount and you can’t double the batch usually because it will have an effect of the jam or jelling gelling up properly. You can also scorch the fruit on the bottom because there is too much in the pan.

Canning foods which I will batch preserve are things like salsa, tomato sauce, or applesauce, for example. Anything that is ok left simmering in the pan while I prepare the next batch of jars is good to double or triple.

#3 Follow New Time-Saving Canning Guidelines.

Did you hear the news?! Here is a big time saving tip for canning that comes directly from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

“All jams, jellies, and pickled products processed less than 10 minutes should be filled into sterile empty jars…

Empty jars used for vegetables, meats, and fruits to be processed in a pressure canner need not be presterilized. It is also unnecessary [italics added] to presterilize jars for fruits, tomatoes, and pickled or fermented foods that will be processed 10 minutes or longer in a boiling-water canner.”

We learn from this that canned food which is processed in a water bath canner for more than 10 minutes doesn’t need to be presterilized! Yay! Keep in mind the jars still need to be kept hot before canning but you don’t need to boil for 10 minutes to ensure sterilization anymore. 

Pressure canned food also doesn’t need sterilized jars. That saves lots of time!

Another time saving tip with canning is that you no longer need to warm the canning jar lids before processing. This wasn’t a change from the USDA, which still recommends you follow the instructions for your canning lids in order to get proper seals. The change came from Ball canning (owned by Jarden).  They tested canning with and without warming the jar lids and they got great results either way. You can read more about this HERE

The real problem with seal failure comes when the water for warming the jar lids gets too hot- anything above 180ºF. I have also found this to be true.

You still need to clean canning jar lids with warm water before canning but then you can use them right after that. Or you can still put the lids in warm water until you are ready to can. I do the latter, mostly because it’s an old habit and it makes me feel better. 

#4 Share the load- Include Family and Friends

If you read my last post, …, you’ll notice a trend here. I love getting my family involved! My husband and my kids contribute to the cooking each week. Everyone cooks their own personal breakfast on most days. 

The kids make dinner one day a week and they work on it together. It takes a lot of patience at the beginning if your kids are young but it’s sooo worth it! 

My older two boys will occasionally do some baking because they have a craving for something but Dax, the youngest of the boys, has a definite interest in cooking and baking. At six years old he asked us to teach him how to make bread and we taught him. 

He picked it up super fast and could make homemade bread from start to finish by the time he was seven years old. He also knew how to make cookies, rolls, and could basically follow any recipe put in front of him as long as the directions were clear. 

Even though some of them like cooking more than others, they are all very capable cooks. They are still learning new skills and do need help from me sometimes. But it has been fun to teach them and even better to reap the rewards. 

Cameron sometimes will cook a family dinner on Saturday or Sunday. He has a few specialties like pizza, stir fries, and anything grilled. 

In preserving the same principle applies. Sometimes, I wait to do the bulk of canning after kids go to bed at night because I enjoy the solitude and quiet. But there are definitely times when I am canning during the day and the kids hover around and ask about what I’m making. Instead of shooing them away, I ask if they want to help. They usually want to help and for the most part they are helpful 🙂 

I should note here that when the kids were very little, I didn’t let them help with the canning much at all. It’s a lot of hot jars, hot liquids, and precise results are needed for safety. I needed to be 100% focused on canning because it was new to me and I didn’t want to accidentally forget ingredients because I was distracted. 

Now that the kids are bigger (my kids range in age from 5-12 years) they can help. I’m also more comfortable with canning now. 

In addition to having family help, you can also get together with friends and do preservation. It makes the time go by faster and you can do an assembly line where each person has a job. This really can get things preserved in no time and it is a lot of fun! 

#5 Plan in Advance

Every year, I decide what I am going to preserve. I ask myself, “What do I wish I had in my pantry, that I’m currently buying at the store and can replace with homemade and homegrown?” 

Planning out roughly what we will preserve and what we eat on average, gives me a good idea of how many plants to plant. I usually over plant some on purpose to allow for unforeseeable garden problems but I don’t go crazy with it.

The reason for planning out how much to plant is because you want to focus your time and energy on what you are going to preserve and eat. Don’t go overboard with growing food that you don’t consume a lot of. 

A friend from Instagram was talking recently about planting over 1000 onions for her family of four!  She says sometimes it’s just enough, and sometimes she can bless others with her excess. I think if you have the space that is a wonderful way to garden. Plan for what you need and sometimes you will be blessed with extra to share.

When you put your time into plants you will use and eat, it is time well spent.

When cooking, a little time spent doing Meal Planning saves lots of time and money in the long run. In the summer I like to plan two weeks at a time for meal planning. I assess what is in the garden and any additional items I need for the meals. Then I only need to go to the store once prior to those two weeks. Sometimes I can spread out going to the store to only once a month. There is so much time saved when you don’t need to run to the store for every little thing.

To recap here are the time-saving tips for cooking and preserving:

  1. Use kitchen tools and appliances
  2. Batch cook and preserve
  3. Follow new time-saving preservation guidelines
  4. Share the load and include family and friends
  5. Plan in Advance

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