Secrets To Saving Time In The Kitchen

By Jo Stepaniak

Chop fresh onion and keep it in the refrigerator for ready use. Have a special glass container with a tight-fitting lid designated for the onion so the smell is contained and does not permeate the refrigerator or your other containers. Chopped onion will keep for 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator.

Mince fresh garlic and keep it in the refrigerator for ready use. Have a special glass container with a tight-fitting lid designated for the garlic so the smell is contained and does not permeate the refrigerator or your other containers. Minced garlic will keep for 7 to 10 days in the refrigerator.

Juice lots of fresh lemons or limes at a time, and store the unused juice in the refrigerator in a sealed container. This will save several minutes of preparation time when putting together salads, dressings, and other recipes. Fresh lemon juice will keep for about 10 days.

Prepare several salad dressings in advance and store them in the refrigerator (see The Saucy Vegetarian by Jo Stepaniak for countless recipes and ideas). Depending on the dressing, it will keep for at least a week, although some can be stored for a month or longer. Dressings are versatile and can be used not only on salads but to also dress up simple vegetable and grain dishes and add a quick boost of flavor.

Prepare larger amounts of brown rice, beans, and other longer-cooking foods and freeze them in small portions so they will defrost more quickly when you need them and will be the right amount required for the number of people you will be serving.

Use leftovers in soups or casseroles for a quick, creative meal.

Blanch fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market or your garden, drain them well, and freeze them in heavy-duty zipper-lock storage bags. That way you can have farm-fresh produce year-round. To blanch vegetables, clean and trim them as needed and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander in the sink, quickly cool them under cold water (or in ice water), drain again, pat dry, and freeze.

Learn how to use a pressure cooker. Pressure cooking can cut standard cooking times by about two-thirds while preserving more nutrients than conventional cooking methods.

Eat more raw foods, simply prepared, and salads (no cooking time required).

This is just a fraction of what you'll find in our full lesson on this topic. In Lesson 42 of The Mastery Program, you'll also get the best-kept secrets of Nomi Shannon, Lara Adler CHHC, Jill Nussinow RD, and yours truly.

Do you have comments? Or suggestions of your own? If so, please post them below!

35 Comment(s)

  1. Thanks for the tips. I like the blanch and freeze vegies tip!  How about dehydrating vegies in a low oven? Any suggestion on this?
    Ann in Tx

    Ann | Reply

  2. Ann — We recommend a dehydrator if you can afford one, as it will do a much better job and preserve more nutrition if dehydrated at a low temperature. However, you can put your oven on the lowest setting, keep the oven door open, spread the veggies (sliced to 1/4 inch thickness or less) on parchment paper or a silicone sheet, and let them dry. Adding sea salt will improve flavor and decrease the likelihood of them spoiling.

    ~ Raederle

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  3. I recently read that cut onions absorb bacteria…to the extent where some people have avoided the flu by placing a cut onion in their nearby environment. It has been said that cut onions left for a while in the fridge will be filled with bacteria, if examined under a microscope. The article also says cooking onions will help kill the bacteria…

    Sheilah Renaud | Reply

  4. Sheilah — While it is true that onions absorb bacteria, this doesn’t mean that you have to worry terribly about consuming an already cut onion. We’re exposed to a lot of bacteria every day, with every thing we touch, eat and smell. The best protection is to take probiotics daily. If you want to be cautious, place a slice of onion on a plate in the fridge to absorb extra bacteria, and throw it away and replace it every few days. Then, in a sealed glass container, keep your chopped onion.

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  5. I am a PHD student on a tight budget in meat centric UK. I don't have the budget to buy a lot of gadgets like pressure cookers, dehydrators, juicers etc…
    I am definitely one that the articles about a weeks worth of meals or how to freeze for future use is of interest.
    Can one switch to raw/vegan without this tools? Is it harder and more time consuming because I don't have alot of time. Also, share a small flat with 3 other flatmates so have limited access to kitchen and limited space in fridge. 

    paba | Reply

  6. Paba — You can switch to raw vegan with nothing but a knife and a cutting board. However, limited fridge space will make things more difficult. Oranges, apples, pomegranates, grapefruits, avocados, tomatoes, and many other fruits, may all be stored on the counter without a problem. Leafy greens, cucumbers, celery, carrots, beets, and many other foods must be stored in the fridge.

    My recommendation is to learn one or two new raw vegan recipes per week, and just add them in and see how that goes.

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  7. Yes, you can eat vegan and even raw without those tools. This diet is actually really simple. It is all about eating fresh fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and beans. You do not need to make fancy dishes. Beans and lentils can be soaked over night and cooked in a regular pot. Fruits and veggies can be eaten staight from the fridge. Simlpe salads can easily be made.

    Lisa | Reply

  8. @Paba I’m in the process of going Vegan and it’s not that it’s harder-it’s just a different ‘system’ to get used to, different recipes to learn and commit to memory but everything I’ve made doesn’t require THAT much stuff and its been DELICIOUS. It’s kind of like switching from Imperial measure to Metrics or vice versa. As for jucing-I just got into that with Nutribullet and can tell you while I love it and have seen noticeable improvements in my health, clearer skin and ‘clearer’ thinking-MEGA EXPENSIVE and you need a LOT of space for produce in the fridge. Not so bad if you buy frozen organic fruit but a lot of them you need to add 50% greens and kale, spinach, watercress, etc. takes up space. My dad lives with me (taking care of him, he has dementia) and he gets mad at all the space my greens take up LOL!

    Jerry | Reply

  9. Love your tips; i teach people how to do some of those things and others in my food education program.  Been a while since I've pressure-cooked; is there one you recommend?

    Marissa Joinson | Reply

  10. Marissa — When it comes to pressure cookers, there are now a lot of options. We have a Cuisine-Art brand, but we’re disappointed in the fact that its inner metal has a non-stick coating which is not ideal for health. To get around that, we bought silicone steaming baskets and “trays” so that veggies don’t touch the metal. This solution, however, doesn’t work for rice.

    I recommend looking for one that has automated settings, a clear read-out, a good warrentee, a lot of great reviews (don’t trust a product without good reviews) and an interior metal that isn’t coated with non-stick stuff.

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  11. I just recently started using a pressure cooker and I love it. I have the Instant Pot, its an electric pressure cooker and is so easy to use. I highly recommend it.

    Yvonne | Reply

  12. Yvonne — Thanks for your feedback.

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  13. Both onions and garlic lose their flavor if put in the frig. Along with tomatoes they should never be kept in frig.

    Deb | Reply

  14. Deb — While its true that flavor is diminished over time in the fridge, it isn’t just because its kept cold. Its because its kept more moist, therefore distributing the flavor over more area. Nutrition is lost over time will all foods, and sitting out where it can dry and concentrate gives the illusion of staying as flavorful as it was originally. In general, its always best to consume foods as fresh as possible, whether you store them on the counter or in the fridge.

    ~ Raederle
    Staff at The Vegetarian Health Institute
    Nutritionist, speaker & author

    Raederle | Reply

  15. I read that too Sheilah, about raw onions… Actually, aside from the chemical nutrition of the food and its freshness being diminished as each day passes, the most important thing that few nutritionists ever bother considering is the energy of our food, their vitality, their aliveness. Sure we can save food for 10 days in the fridge, it won’t cause us to be poisoned, but will it replenish our health? will it enliven us? In the end, go with your gut feeling. Does it make your heart sing to eat 10 day old food because you dread spending time in the kitchen and convenience is a priority? Go for it, it is better then a Big Mac. But if you cringe at the idea, cut fresh every meal. There will always be contradictory advice and info every where, just consult your inner wisdom.

    Anne | Reply

  16. Anne, agree with everything you say. I also cut fresh at every meal. I will not consume any food ‘stored’ after 2 days! It’s either in my mouth or outta the house!!

    Helen Spingola | Reply

  17. The information is useful. I want to know for keeping herbs fresh for a long time.

    Rabab mehdi | Reply

  18. Hi Rabab – if they’re dried herbs, store in an airtight container in the freezer. If they’re fresh, storage methods vary for different herbs. Check this page.

    Trevor Justice | Reply

  19. I was wondering about garlic. To get the most benefit from this wonder food, I read that you should peel it, leave it for about 10 min before you cut it and cook it. By mincing it and storing it, does that dilute the potency? I have often wondered about the already minced garlic you can buy prepared or the whole already peeled cloves in bags. Any comments about those? Thanks

    Cheryl | Reply

  20. Hi Cheryl – research shows that chopping, mincing or pressing garlic enhances its health-promoting properties. A sulfur-based compound called alliin and an enzyme called alliinase are separated in the garlic’s cell structure when it is whole. Cutting garlic ruptures the cells and releases these elements, allowing them to come in contact and form a powerful new compound called alliicin, which adds to garlic’s health-promoting benefits. It’s also behind garlic’s pungent aroma and its “bite.”

    Waiting 5-10 minutes allows the health-promoting alliicin to form. The more pungent the smell, the better it is for your health.

    But waiting any longer will inevitably lead to a disintegration of all compounds. Once you rupture cell walls, the cell’s contents begin to oxidize. Always store all your produce in a whole form. Even the peeled garlic I wouldn’t buy. Go for the whole unpeeled garlic and prep it only 5-10 minutes before using it.

    Trevor Justice | Reply

  21. Hi,
    If you go to any Indisn store in your vicinity, you will be able to buy a pressure cooker for a fraction of the cost in a health store. The money you will save because you are more likely to cook and eat at home rather than eat out – will pay for itself within a few months. Plus you will be eating more nutritiously

    Gauravi Pal | Reply

  22. “Chop fresh onion and keep it in the refrigerator for ready use“. This is bad advice. Onion picks up smells & airborne bacteria once it`s been chopped.
    Chopped onion is actually effective to clean the air in a room where someone who has a cold or flu…

    Mike | Reply

  23. Storing tomatoes in the fridge REALLY reduces their flavor as the cold compromises their cell walls. I recently experimented with farmer’s market cherry tomatoes. Those left out were amazingly more flavorful than those left in the fridge. Yes, you need to eat them sooner, but when you see them sitting there on the counter deliciously, you often just pop them in your mouth. They won’t last too long ;-) .
    Conversely, citrus lasts much better if refrigerated.

    kanta | Reply

  24. Gauravi,

    Thanks for the hot tip on where to get a cheap pressure cooker!

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  25. Thanks for all the nutritional help. I could use I can get.

    sherry | Reply

  26. I have been a healthy vegan for years but always open to new and fresh ideas. Thank you for this.

    kirsty | Reply

  27. This article describes how I have lived most of my life.

    Marvin L. Zinn | Reply

  28. im concerned about exposing our foods to unnecessary plastic by blanching and freezing. plastic wrap or bags seep BPA into our frozen food. we should be eating by season, eating freshly purchased produce and not freezing and exposing our bodies to the toxicity of BPA

    margaret stephens | Reply

  29. Better yet, saute about 4-5 chopped onions and freeze them in small containers for later use.

    Shankari | Reply

  30. Garlic is best raw – mash it 10 mins before using -
    NEVER cook garlic, you destroy the allicin .
    I grow many herbs, year round, and use fresh,
    If I am keeping any leftovers in the fridge, always in pyrex or glass bowls, and Yes, only
    for a day or two..
    This is an interesting site for info, thanks
    for your input.

    Harvey | Reply

  31. I wonder if it is really safe to cook something in a silicone base. I wonder if later it will come out studies that this is not good for our health. Would stainless steel or copper not be the best.

    Kim VanMaele | Reply

  32. Hi Kim — stainless steel and glass have long been recommended as the best way to cook. I personally would not cook with anything else. Copper doesn’t sound too healthy at all. The copper-zinc ratio is critical for your immune system and most vegans eat too much copper (high in fruits & veg) in relation to zinc. I’d worry that copper ions would leach out into the food.

    Harold McGee in “On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen” writes: “copper cookware can be harmful. Its oxide coating is sometimes porous and powdery, and copper ions are easily leached into food solutions. … the human body can excrete copper in only limited amounts, and excessive intake may cause gastrointestinal problems and, in more extreme cases, liver damage. No one will be poisoned by the occasional meringue whipped in a copper bowl, but bare copper isn’t a good candidate for everyday cooking.”

    Trevor Justice | Reply

  33. I do not understand how you can recommend using a pressure cooker, which cooks at such high temperatures that there is no goodness left in the food, and is almost as bad a microwaving.THEN you recommend eating as much raw food as possible, which I whole heartedly agree with! The two shouldn’t be within the same line of thinking.

    Ann | Reply

  34. Hi there Ann,

    I’m a raw vegetarian who eats 99% raw food. My husband eats a whole-foods, mostly plant-based vegetarian diet that is 40% to 60% cooked. The only cooking device in our kitchen is a pressure cooker. We do not own a stove, toaster, microwave or oven.

    We chose a pressure cooker for a few reasons:
    1. Because it cooks more quickly, it creates less fume-time in our house. I’m sensitive to smokes/fumes created from cooking. Broccoli and kale, for example, takes 1 minute at full pressure, plus about five minutes to get up to full pressure. Potatoes take 3 minutes of full pressure.
    2. It uses less water and is more water-efficient in general.
    3. It results in move flavorful food, because when my husband steams his food, there is very little space for anything to escape. There isn’t much water, and the water has nowhere to go. So the minerals and flavor stay in the food.
    4. Food is more evenly cooked, so you don’t have to over-cook the outside of a potato (or whatever) to cook the inside.
    5. We focus mostly on raw food, so we didn’t want to have multiple cooking appliances. My husband can use it as a rice cooker or a squash cooker. It is a versatile counter-resting device that takes up no more space than our food processor. On the same counter we have two juicers, our food processor and our dehydrator.

    For all things, there is a purpose, even if the purpose is simply to learn that you want something that is NOT that. If you prefer raw food, great! Go with it girl, and don’t worry about all the cooked folks. :)

    ~ Raederle

    Raederle Phoenix | Reply

  35. what is the difference between brewers yeast and nutritional yeast? How do they compare with yeast to make bread? Can they be substituted for each other? I use nutritional yeast a lot but notice sometimes a recipe calls for Brewers yeast.

    Marjorie | Reply

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