One of the reasons I love blogging is the ability to help other people in areas where they struggle. When readers sign up for my “Don’t Waste the Crumbs” newsletter, they’re asked to fill out a short survey that asks a very important question: What’s your biggest challenge today?
I get quite the variety of answers, but one issue that keeps popping up over and over is this: Fitting real foods into a busy schedule – where should I spend my time?
I addressed this particular question in The Crumbs newsletter last week, and many readers found it helpful, so I thought I’d share this simple strategy with you all here at The Nourishing Home as well.
In order to make best use of your time in the kitchen, determine your Most Important Tasks (MITs).
Not sure what I mean? Consider this: There are 24 hours in each day and you have a to-do list that’s a mile long. You know it’s absolutely impossible to complete the entire list without losing your sanity (or driving your family nuts), so you choose just a few of the “must-do’s.” They won’t take up too much time, yet will help you make it through the week without the house falling apart and make a big impact in your schedule in the long run.
Use the same approach when it comes to the time you spend in the kitchen. What food-related tasks can you accomplish that will give you the most bang for your buck, yet won’t keep you locked in the kitchen all day?
The answer to this question will be different for everyone. Some say making butter is a top priority while others would say spending some time turning freshly picked berries into homemade jam is worth every minute, and every penny.
I can’t answer the question for you, but I can share what my own top 3 MIT’s are!
1. Homemade Yogurt
We drink smoothies on a daily basis, and they almost always have yogurt in them (when they don’t have yogurt, they have kefir). In terms of meals, we use yogurt for homemade blue cheese dressing, for soaking oats and as a substitute for most recipes that call for sour cream. Regular yogurt is delicious as is, but lately I’ve been straining it to make homemade Greek yogurt and whey. I then use the whey to soak the flour in soaked whole wheat bread to break down the phytase and get as many nutrients as I can out of the grains!
Personally, I prefer making yogurt with a heating pad, but that’s just one of many ways to make it. Here are a few other methods for making yogurt from fellow real food bloggers:
- simple homemade yogurt with a heating pad
- creamy yogurt from raw milk
- yogurt in a slow cooker
- awesome homemade yogurt troubleshooting guide
- for the dairy-free folks, coconut yogurt
- homemade Greek yogurt without straining
- flavored drinkable yogurt in a slow cooker
- yogurt incubated in a cooler
With all the different ways we eat yogurt, we go through an average of one gallon each month. My total cost is $9.72 for a gallon of organic whole milk and Greek yogurt (as a starter). It would cost at least $16 to buy a gallon of Greek yogurt from the store, and it wouldn’t even be organic!
2. Homemade Chicken Stock
We keep our grocery bill low by having soup several times each month, but that wouldn’t do us any good if we were paying for chicken stock! We’re already buying two whole chickens each month and using them for several meals. Why not keep the bones and create nutrient-rich and delicious homemade stock? The most basic chicken stock recipe uses just chicken bones, water and apple cider vinegar and can be made in just two minutes. Depending on what you have in the kitchen though, you can really amp up the flavor!
- Kelly’s slow cooker bone broth
- homemade stock in a slow cooker
- traditional stock with feet
- 10 tips for better chicken stock
With soup at least three times a month, we go through anywhere between four to eight quarts of chicken stock each month. Local stores carry organic chicken stock for $1.99 per quart, which means we’d be paying nearly $16 for chicken stock during the colder winter months. Homemade chicken stock costs only 13¢ per quart when you take into account the cost of the three basic ingredients and electricity. This one task alone saves us up to $15 each month – well worth those two minutes!
3. Homemade Bread
Now you’re probably thinking, “But homemade bread takes HOURS to make. Is it REALLY worth all the time?” Absolutely!
You all know that Kelly is gluten-free, so my favorite whole grain bread recipe certainly wouldn’t be on her MIT list, but not all of you guys follow a gluten-free diet. If this is the case, allow me to explain why homemade whole grain bread is one of my own personal MIT’s.
First, I control the ingredients. I know exactly what goes into my soaked whole wheat bread. Store-bought bread often contains high fructose corn syrup, flour enriched with synthetic vitamins and preservatives to keep it fresh while it makes it way from manufacturer to store shelves. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t sound that any of those are really helping the cause of healthy food in my house.
Second, it doesn’t take any more time when I’m already home. Common sense should dictate not to bake bread when you’re spending the day at the beach. Instead, bake it on a day you know you’re going to be home or at least in town. Thursday is bread day in the Crumbs house, which was strategically planned to be the same day to catch up on laundry and house cleaning. I simply set the timer in the kitchen and tend to the bread when the timer goes off.
It’s not quite as easy when school is in session, but creative scheduling means kneading, rising and baking is planned around trips to the library and errands around town on busier days. Because baking bread is one of my MIT’s, I make time to get it done!
Finally, homemade bread costs less than half of the store-bought counterpart. Whatever you pay for bread, whether it’s whole grain or sprouted with nine-seeds, take the cost and divide it in half. That’s how much homemade bread costs. Sure, $1 or $2 might not seem like much, but at the average rate of two loaves a week, once again we save $16 every month!
Are you gluten-free? Think this doesn’t apply to you? Au contraire mon frere! This savings goes for you too! Gluten-free ingredients can be very affordable when you buy them in bulk and Kelly’s brown bread recipe will turn you into a homemade bread convert too!
Have you been keeping tally of how much just these three tasks can save? In just four hours, these three tasks alone save me almost $40 off my grocery budget!
So regardless of how busy my week is, or full my to-do list is, I always make time to do these three MIT’s.
How do you get the most bang for your buck in terms of time and energy in the kitchen? What are you MIT’s? Share them in the comments for others to see!
Note from Kelly: I love Tiffany’s weekly newsletter and am sure you will too! In fact, when you subscribe to the Don’t Waste the Crumbs newsletter, Tiffany is offering a free eBook “22 Days to a Fresh Start.” PLUS, five pages worth of printables to help you get your grocery budget under control. If you struggle with eating real food on a budget, I encourage you to subscribe to Tiffany’s newsletter to get these freebies. You’ll also get the same survey she mentioned above. And you never know – your biggest challenge could be addressed in a future issue of her newsletter! Click HERE to subscribe to Don’t Waste the Crumbs today!