30 Kitchen Hacks That Will Save You Tons of Time and Money
Even if you absolutely love to cook, it would be great to save a bit of time here and there in the kitchen. Not only does it free you up to do other fun things, but it gets you seated at the table for meals much faster. While you're focusing on saving, cutting costs in the kitchen also adds to the appeal of cooking at home.
Fortunately, a wide community of cooking experts out there have figured out the best ways to get things done. These 30 kitchen hacks will save you tons of time and money.
To Make an Omelet, You Need Some Eggs
Of course, you need to break a few eggs to make an omelet. If you’ve had eggs in your refrigerator for a while, you need to make sure they’re fresh enough to eat.
The date on the box is a starting point, but there’s actually a better way to check. Just put the raw eggs — this trick doesn’t work for boiled eggs — in a bowl of cold water. If the eggs sink, they are still perfectly safe to eat. The further up they float, the older — and less safe — they are. Once you’re ready to cook, the Copper Chef Perfect Egg Maker takes the hard work out of delivering great omelets as well as scrambled, poached and boiled eggs.
A Lesson in Improvisation
Picture it: You're almost ready to finish off the crust on your perfect pie when you suddenly realize you don't have a pastry brush to add the perfect glaze on top. There's no need to rush out and buy one — especially if it's a tool you rarely use.
Instead, make your own pastry brush by simply folding a piece of parchment paper into a small rectangle, over and over so there are plenty of layers. Make a few cuts in the bottom of the folded rectangle to create a ribboned effect, and voila! You have a makeshift pastry brush for all your emergency cooking needs.
Ready for Pumpkin
Whether you're scooping seeds out of your Jack-o-lantern or prepping a squash for an autumn soup, getting the seeds and other veggie innards out of your vegetables can be time-consuming, difficult — and yucky.
Try using an ice cream scoop instead of a normal spoon. It's built for scooping things and works wonders, even on the tough inside of a pumpkin. This trick can save you a lot of prep time, which will make it a cinch to get your soups — and that creepy Jack-o-lantern — ready for the season. Bring on the delicious pumpkin soups!
Avoid a Buttermilk Crisis
Most recipes don't call for buttermilk, so it's not the most common ingredient to have on hand. Even when you do need to use it, you probably won’t go through a whole container before it spoils. Rather than waste a bunch of buttermilk, try making your own substitute. Simply mix 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup skim milk to make the equivalent — for recipe purposes — of buttermilk.
You can adjust the measurements to control exactly how much you make, and you may already have milk and plain yogurt in your fridge, allowing you to skip a trip to the store. You could also opt to stock your pantry with powdered buttermilk to ensure you always have it exactly when you need it.
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
Birthdays are a wonderful excuse to dig into some scrumptious cake (with extra frosting, of course. It’s your birthday!) However, unless you throw a party with lots of people, you probably won't finish the cake in one sitting. You certainly don’t mind eating cake another few days — except the cut edges of the cake start drying out overnight.
Fortunately, there's a solution to this cake disaster. Simply use toothpicks to attach a piece of bread to the exposed portions of cake. It saves the pieces from drying out, allowing you to enjoy your cake for days without worrying about wasted time and effort.
Just Like New
Your wooden cutting board is probably one of the staples you use almost daily in your kitchen. So, what do you do when your board starts developing stains from all the colorful foods you chop on it? To keep your board looking great and eliminate any food stains, simply scrub it with coarse salt and rub it with half a lemon.
If you want to add an extra-special touch, you can also condition the wood by rubbing it with food-grade mineral oil once a month. Say goodbye to stained cutting boards and hello to beautiful wood cutting stations!
Stop, Drop and Sprinkle
Hopefully, you won't encounter many kitchen fires in your home, but you should always be prepared in case something ignites while you're not looking — or even when you are. Water isn't always the best option for putting out a fire. The solution depends on the type of fire.
If it's a grease or electrical fire, sprinkle baking soda over the fire to put out the flames. Every kitchen should be stocked with a fire extinguisher in case none of the quick and easy solutions work, and you should immediately call 9-1-1 if the fire is large.
A Little Salt Goes a Long Way
If you've ever bought salt in bulk, which generally means in a box instead of in new shakers, then you know what happens when you get to the bottom of the box. Some of the salt just doesn't want to come out of the hole on the side.
Rather than spending precious minutes and endangering your fingertips trying to widen the metal-lined hole on the box, simply cut off the corner of the box with a serrated knife. You save time and actually get to use that last bit of salt in the box, saving you money in the long run.
Safe From the Splatter Zone
Someones, one of the most difficult tasks when following a recipe is keeping the recipe clean. Splatters of sauce, flour and a whole host of other ingredients seem to magically find their way onto the pages of recipe books. When you're reading your next recipe, try keeping it elevated to keep it safe and out of the splatter zone.
Use a pants hanger to hold paper recipes at a safe height above the ingredients or a laptop stand for a cookbook — or your actual laptop. Following a recipe is a lot easier when it's not covered in tomato sauce, and future generations will thank you.
Make Your Own Taco Shells
If you're in the mood for tacos, you want to make them fast. Of course, you may not keep hard taco shells on hand, as they tend to go stale fairly quickly. Fortunately, you can make your own taco shells to cut down on waste, save a ton of money and even improve the flavor.
Simply drape corn tortillas over the wire racks in your oven, letting each tortilla hang down to form a perfect taco-shell shape. Cook until crispy, and then transfer the shells to handy taco plates for easy filling with all your favorite ingredients.
Although meatloaf might not be everybody's cup of tea, it certainly has a time-honored spot in many people's culinary rotations. (If you haven't ever eaten meatloaf, you should try this hearty, filling American tradition sometime.)
Making meatloaf can be a little time consuming, however, and it’s important to make sure the meat is properly cooked. There’s actually a simple hack for speeding up the process. Instead of waiting an hour — or longer — for your meatloaf to cook all the way through, you can divvy the meat up into muffin pans. Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, and you're all set!
Get Cleaner Fruit
It's a good idea to wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them, but you don't want to rely solely on water to get the job done. On the other hand, using soap and other chemicals to clean healthy food seems counterproductive, considering you don't want to ingest them.
To get your produce clean and safe for eating, use a mixture of water and baking soda to scrub off any dirt, germs or pesticides that might be hiding on the skin. You will enjoy cleaner fruit without worrying about damage from eating residue from the cleaner. Perfect!
Don't Let the Onions Get You Down
You’ve probably been the victim of an onion-induced weeping episode in the middle of your kitchen. Real emotion or not, it leaves you feeling red-eyed and sniffly. It may be worth it in the end, as onions add so much deliciousness to foods, but you certainly wouldn’t mind finding a better way to achieve it.
If you want to avoid crying the next time you're chopping onions, try freezing them before you start slicing and dicing. As long as you're cooking them after chopping, the pieces won't be soggy — and neither will your eyes!
Speaking of Onions...
Onions may taste and smell delicious in dishes — almost any savory recipe improves with the addition of an onion or garlic clove — but no-one wants to walk around with hands that smell like onions or garlic. Unfortunately, washing with hand soap doesn't usually eliminate the overpowering scent.
Instead, try rubbing your hands with lemon juice or baking soda to get rid of the smell. Your hands will be fresh again in no time, allowing you to boldly seek out that next handshake at work.
Powder Your Own Sugar
If you suddenly find yourself in need of powdered sugar but realize you don't have any on hand, don’t worry; your recipe isn't ruined. In fact, you don't even have to go buy a giant bag that would contain far more sugar than needed. (Most people never use more than a few tablespoons at a time).
You can easily make your own powdered sugar and save lots of money in the process. If you have a spice grinder — automatic or manual, it doesn't matter — you can grind regular sugar to turn it into the powdered form you need for your recipe.
Avoid the Cast-Iron Problem
Although cast iron skillets are amazing for cooking, cleaning them can get a bit tricky. You can’t use soap unless you want to ruin the seasoning on the pan — a huge no-no after spending years to get the seasoning just right — but scrubbing cooked-on food quickly gets tedious with plain water.
Instead of wasting valuable time scrubbing away at your frying pans, try using a salt-scrub to get at the worst of those stuck-on pieces of food. Food comes off much faster, leaving you with a lot more time for more fun cooking with your favorite pan!
It's a nightmare waiting to happen: Your coffee machine breaks, and there's no time to get a new one or you’re flat broke. Fear not, caffeine junkie! There's another way to make coffee.
Mix the same amount of coffee grounds and water you would normally use in a coffee pot, and bring it to a boil. Remove from heat and wait 4 to 5 minutes. The coffee grounds will settle at the bottom, allowing you to ladle — or go ahead and pour if you're feeling adventurous — fresh coffee from the pot into your favorite mug. It’s a perfect solution to an otherwise catastrophic mess.
We All Scream for Ice Cream
It's a real tragedy when ice cream goes bad from freezer burn in your own freezer. (Yes, this actually happens.) It feels like a betrayal of the technology you've counted on for so long. Never waste a bite of ice cream again with this neat hack.
To avoid freezer burn on your favorite frozen flavors (chocolate fudge brownie, anyone?), place a piece of wax paper on top of the ice cream before closing the lid and putting it back in the freezer. Your ice cream will stay fresh and ready for you to enjoy, saving you a trip to the store — or crushing disappointment — the next time you want ice cream.
If you want to make chicken stock but don't want to stand watch over a pot for hours on end, try this easier method and make stock in your sleep! Put all the ingredients in a Dutch oven and place it in the oven at 225 degrees. In the morning, your stock will be ready to go.
This method only works if you're okay with leaving the oven on overnight, of course. If you're worried about the risk of fire, this might not be the method for you. If you don't mind taking the (very low) risk, this method cuts out hours of otherwise wasted time.
Save Your Sautée
If you're sautéing onions and they start turning browner than you would like, there's a way to save them without throwing out the whole pan and starting over. Simply toss an ice cube into the sauté pan with the onions.
This cools the pan down fairly quickly and saves your onions before they become too brown. This method is much cheaper — and much less work — than starting over with a whole new pan of onions. Plus, you can impress friends and family who happen to witness your super-hero-level onion-saving skills.
Get the Butter in the Batter
As you start heading into cookie baking season, imagine this: You’re ready to start mixing your dough, but you forgot to leave the butter out to soften! Normally, you would have to wait at least an hour for the butter to reach a soft temperature, but who has time for that?
Try using this kitchen hack instead. Rather than sitting around waiting, try grating the butter or putting it in a bag and using a rolling pin to squish it down. You will have more malleable butter in a flash and can get right back to cooking without wasting more time.
Mass-Produced Egg Peels
Peeling the shell off a freshly boiled egg is one of the more tedious tasks in the kitchen, and that only increases when you have a dozen or more eggs to peel in a row. Fortunately, there's a quicker, more efficient way to peel all the eggs at once, saving you valuable time you can spend on other things.
Simply put all the boiled eggs in a container, snap on a lid and shake. The shells will break right off! The eggs themselves won’t be particularly pretty to look at — probably not the best idea for deviled eggs for a party platter — but if you're prepping them for an egg salad, you will be smashing up shell-free eggs in much less time.
Avoid a Hairy Situation
If you've ever found yourself with more leftover food containers than lids — has anyone ever solved the mystery of where the lids go? — then this is a hack for you. Use a shower cap to help keep food fresh!
A good (clean, unused) shower cap will keep your food safe from bugs and things in the air outside as well as refrigerator hazards. It’s not as airtight as plastic wrap, but you can reuse it and stop running to the store for more food storage. It’s a great solution in a pinch.
Make the Most of Your Lemons
When life — or a great sale at the supermarket — hands you lemons, start making that lemonade! Start by squeezing every drop of juice you can out of each lemon. Don’t let any of that delicious flavor go to waste when you toss out the peels later.
To get the most juice out of your lemons, or out of any citrus fruit, refrigerate the fruit first and then microwave them for 15 to 20 seconds. Cut each lemon in half, and use a pair of tongs — not your own hands — to squeeze all that zesty juice out.
Go a Little Nuts
Some recipes call for you to toast your own almonds, pecans or other nuts. Although roasted nuts are delicious and probably vital to the recipe, it’s more than a little time consuming, especially since you're probably only roasting a few tablespoons at a time, at most.
Next time you need to toast a few nuts, take a different approach and toast a mass batch. Freeze the nuts you don't need right away, and then just pull them out of the freezer when the next recipe calls for roasted nuts. You will save yourself a few steps and a lot of time the next time you cook — even if it doesn’t immediately help you today.
For the Love of Cheese
Cheese should really be part of every recipe, shouldn’t it? In the meantime, you’ll just have to make the most of all the recipes that include it by making those dishes as efficiently as you can. If you're ever faced with grating a relatively soft cheese — think mozzarella — it’s a great idea to freeze the cheese for about 30 minutes before you start grating it.
It will be much easier to work with and take a lot less time to grate, making the job less tedious and less time consuming. It's a win-win! Give it a go the next time you make pizza, pasta or anything with cheese.
Save More Bananas
One of the true tragedies of the kitchen is walking in full of expectation, ready to eat one of the delicious ripe bananas you just bought — only to find the whole bunch apparently turned into mush overnight. To keep your bananas from going bad quickly — and causing frequent emergency shopping trips — try wrapping the tops of the bananas in plastic wrap.
Although it feels like a bunch should stay a bunch, it’s also better to separate the bananas. This prevents the fruit from ripening too quickly and turning brown before you can enjoy it. You could actually eat most of your bananas instead of throwing them away. Awesome idea!
Instant Banana Bread
On the opposite end of the banana-ripening spectrum, sometimes you want your bananas to ripen a little faster for a very delicious reason. You're craving banana bread. If you just can't wait for the fruit to take its natural course, microwave the bananas for a few minutes to add some instant ripening.
You can also toss them in the oven while it preheats to ripen them magically and almost instantly. Before you know it, the bananas are nicely blackened and ready for bread. You will never have to wait for days to make banana bread again. Your ingredients will be ready when you are.
Don't Cry Over Spilled Sugar
No matter how hard you try to keep it clean while cooking, it’s a safe bet you’ve had a few spills from time to time. Some of those spills have probably included super messy things like sugar, flour and salt. Is it really your fault if it comes out too quickly, resulting in almost as much on the counter as in the measuring cups?
To save your ingredients and cut down on waste, try measuring ingredients like this over a piece of clean, dry parchment paper. If any of the ingredients spill, you can easily slide them from the paper straight back into their containers.
Ever start drinking a bottle of wine, and there's just a little bit left when you’re done? It's not enough for another full glass, but it doesn’t seem right to throw it away. Instead of tossing small bits of wine down the drain, freeze it into ice cubes!
You can then throw the ice cubes into sangria or other drinks to keep them cold without watering them down — and to add a little extra kick. You could also toss them into a sauce when you want to add some extra flavor. It's the perfect way to save your wine and add some great flavor to an already great recipe. Definitely give this hack a try!