How to Fix the Daily Time Waster You Never Even Considered

Daily Time Wasters

Jeffrey Bunn is Co-Founder of Mealime, the first meal planning service exclusively for busy professionals. His mission is to make cooking for one easier and to get young people away from takeout and back into the kitchen. Connect with Jeffrey on Twitter.

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.

8 thoughts on “How to Fix the Daily Time Waster You Never Even Considered

  1. How about thinking about how work is intruding on one of the most important elements of life? I agree that these things can be made more efficient but really … get a life and focus on what’s important. What’s next in this brilliant series? How to spend less time having sex and more time working?

  2. Excellent tips. My wife and I do this regularly and find that we eat healthy in addition to saving time and money by doing so.

    1. Thanks Sunny! It really shows benefits all around if you can resolve to cook at home. Good on you!

  3. Cook double at once, and you only have to cook every second day. This means I have time to go to the gym every second day rather than shop and cook again and again!

  4. “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.

    I really take issue with the premise of this article. The idea that taking time to prepare a healthy delicious meal is “time wasted” strike me as odd. When my wife or my son or I prepare a meal we never fell that our time making family dinner or lunch is ever wasted.

    1. Hi Khurt – thanks for the comment! Honestly, I totally agree with you. I personally love cooking a meal with my roommate, girlfriend, family, or simply by myself. However in my experience, young busy professionals do view cooking in this manner which is why I framed the article this way. Cooking at home can seem insurmountable if you have little experience so I think the above hacks will help people create the cooking habit. Once the habit is created and the kitchen is less ‘scary’, then people can branch out. Thanks again!

      1. “Cooking at home can seem insurmountable if you have little experience”

        I think that parents can include kids now so that the next generation will have cooking skills. Experience comes from doing. As parents we are supposed to be teaching our kids life skills. I think cooking is one of them.

  5. In many organization, most of the employees are wasting their time more often. So to keep track of
    those peoples, my boss have introduced Replicon’s time recording software (… ) at our office. It tracks our employees time, tasks and other activities more efficiently.

    Any employer or any business would definitely require this software to monitor their employees activities. Managing projects in offices overseas and keeping track of subordinates while on the go, is really easy with this wonderful software.

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