Activities that waste hours at a time, even if they don’t occur very often, are often thought of as the worst time offenders.
When optimizing your life, however, it’s those high frequency time wasters that should be focused on. It’s those activities that you have to do every day that drain more time than they should.
Preparing food and cooking are often the biggest time waste culprits, but because they’re something we have to do, we don’t often think about how to optimize them.
With a small amount of preparation, however, you can save a ton of time and frustration every day. Here are the biggest food related time wasters and how to solve them.
1. Not knowing what to cook for dinner
Without preparation, dinner can be a fiasco. From spending time each evening trying to find quick and easy recipes to grocery shopping multiple times per week, dinner can eat up (no pun intended) hours per week.
In my own life, I found that each grocery store trip took at least 34 minutes. This included walking to and from the grocery store, browsing the aisles and trying to decide what to buy, waiting in line, paying, and organizing the products at home.
This in itself isn’t awful, except that I went to the grocery store 5 times per week. These visits accounted for a staggering 11 hours per month of time wasted when I was frustrated and tired after a long day’s work.
How to cook dinner in 30 minutes by meal planning
Because I didn’t know what I’d be cooking for dinner each weeknight, searching for recipes and visiting the grocery store consumed the majority of time that I spent on dinner – time I could have spent relaxing.
So, how does one minimize these daily time expenses?
A small amount of preparation goes a long way. Planning your meals in advance for the coming week allows you to go to the grocery store only once per week and not worry about what to cook for dinner each night.
Take some time on the weekend to plan your meals and write a grocery shopping list. Grocery shop once on the weekend and forget about dinner for the rest of the week. Use your favorite to-do list app or Evernote to make your list; grab your mobile, and head to the store.
Tip: Choose similar types of dishes so you can use the same ingredients – this drastically cuts down on costly food waste.
2. Always grabbing takeout for lunch at work
Aside from costing $2,500 per year, regularly going out for lunch at work is a major time drain.
Getting takeout wastes time that could be spent being productive (while the rest of the office is gone), catching up on personal emails, or relaxing and recharging for the afternoon ahead.
How to claim back your lunch hour
Bringing lunch to work (or brown bagging) is a great way to eat healthier and save time everyday. It’s also easier than you might think.
Simply cook a double portion of food for dinner, then pack up half of it for the following day’s lunch. When meal planning and creating a shopping list on the weekends, just double the ingredients you need for each recipe.
3. Not taking advantage of idle cooking time
Cooking is perceived as a luxury for people who have lots of time to spare. As a busy professional myself, I also used to think this was true.
After much experimentation, however, I found that most recipes follow a linear formula chock full of idle periods, dead time, and a lack of multitasking instructions.
How to reduce the time of any recipe
Before you start cooking, take a minute to think about how you can prepare the recipe quicker. Can you re-arrange the instructions to make better use of idle cooking time? For example:
- Rather than prepping all ingredients before you start cooking, do it as you go. In most cases, you will have enough time to chop up vegetables or prepare a sauce while the meat is cooking.
- Incorporate cleanup time into cooking time when you have a couple of extra minutes in between tasks.
- Make hands-off dishes that require little preparation. A great example is roasting – putting your meat and vegetables in one baking dish, and baking them together.
A small amount of planning can optimize the most inefficient part of your day
As food is something we all have to think about every day, a small amount of optimization will save you hundreds of hours each year. Plan your meals on the weekend and cook at home to save time, save money, and eat healthier.