14 Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen on the Feingold Diet

I think the biggest fear of those considering the Feingold Diet is, “Am I going to have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen?”  Yes and no.  If you have the money, you can buy all the food you need and spend a minimal amount of time in the kitchen. 

However, if you’re strapped for cash, or if your kids want something that you can’t buy at the store, you end up making it.  At first, the thought of making your food from scratch can seem daunting.  

When I first got the Feingold program material, I didn’t at all feel like I had to make a lot of food from scratch.  There were so many foods in the shopping guide that my son could eat and liked.  My grocery bill can attest to that.  It just seemed like a substitution of brands.  Instead of Cheetos, we got Trader Joe’s Cheese Crunchies.  Instead of Kraft Mac-N-Cheese, it was Annie’s mac-n-cheese.  Instead of apple juice, it was lemonade.  I was relieved to have a list to shop off of that I knew was healthier and was not going to cause him problems.  There were even some fast food and pizza options.  Thank goodness! 

Partly out of necessity, and partly out of a sincere desire to feed my family better, I started looking for and experimenting with recipes for meals.  I dug out cookbooks (my mom had a boatload), and my son and I had fun going through them together.   Of course, he picked out all the desserts, and begged me to make them for him. 

This was big fun for a 4 year old.  He loved all the attention.  I was making new foods just for him.  The reward of him enjoying what I made stirred me on to make more. 

Now, was I good cook before starting Feingold?  Ummm…no.  My sister loved to ask my husband, “What’s for dinner? Spaghettios or mac-n-cheese?”  She thought she was so funny.  Now, her daughter begs her to make food she's had at our house. :) 

But, if you can read, you can cook.  It might take two or three tries to get a recipe just right, but in the end, nobody knows you failed your first two attempts.  It still takes me a couple tries to get a new recipe just right.  Success is built upon past failures.  You learn from your mistakes and move on.   

So, slowly, I started making new things.  Not because I necessarily had to, but because I actually found it fun and rewarding.  When you’ve started at a place where you have never cooked much, to a place of, “I can make marshmallows and donuts and homemade treats that my kids love”, you feel like you can accomplish anything. 

Marshmallow Recipe

Now, instead of looking up a substitute for a food that my kids want, I look for a recipe.  I think, “I can make that.”  It’s a whole lot cheaper and healthier too.  A GFCF cupcake at Whole Foods costs $3.99!  My kids are just as happy with a homemade banana muffin with fancy frosting designs and adding their own sprinkles.  My son showed off his decorated “cupcake” at a party this past weekend.  Besides, you can’t add love to a cupcake bought at Whole Foods. 

When you’re baking and cooking with your kids, you’re not only saving money and creating food for them to eat, you’re making memories.  I sometimes have to remind myself of this when one of my kids anxiously turns on the mixer before I’m ready and flour goes flying everywhere, or they cut out their own cookies, making some very imperfect shaped cookies.  Sometimes through gritted teeth, I have to say to myself, “I’m making memories, not just cookies.”  If I’m making desserts for a party or for a function, or I’m just short on patience that day, then I just let the kids know that Mommy’s going to make it by herself this time.

My youngest three kids and I are now also GFCF (gluten and dairy free) and egg free, so meals take on a whole new dimension.  There are basically no fast food options.  We’re eating at home for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts, most of which are from scratch.  Good thing Feingold broke the ice because I would have been up a creek.  We were already used to bringing our own food and cooking some things at home, but this was a new challenge. 

I found myself cooking constantly and by means of mere survival, I’ve had to find ways to reduce my time in the kitchen.  I also recently read a couple books on how to save time and consequently how to save money, and found that I was doing some of these things already.  Yay me! 

Now, I still spend more time than I’d like in the kitchen, but I figure it’s for a season.  My kids are young now and soon they’ll be grown, able to help out in the kitchen, and then off to college.  Then I’ll wish I had someone to cook for.  So, we’ll make it through one day and one meal at a time, with God’s help.  It’s isn’t always easy, but somehow we make it all work. - Quote from 19 Kids and Counting. J  I’m really missing their shows.  Wish they’d come back on soon! 

Also, if you start to feel overwhelmed, go and watch some 19 Kids and Counting shows on TLC.  You’ll feel a lot better!  Can you imagine cooking for 19 kids?!  Talk about anxiety.  I walk away feeling thankful that I only have four kids to feed and take care of.  And they do it so well! 

Anyways, below are some tips and ideas for saving a little time in the kitchen that have worked well for us.  Some people are wired differently so do what works best for you, but these have been helpful for me. 

14 Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen

1.      Don’t be shy.  Make double or triple batches.  This thought never occurred to me when I had only 2 or 3 kids, but when I had 4, it became a must.  You’ll save time by doubling your batches and freezing them.  Of course, make sure it’s something that your kids really like and are likely to go through, and I wouldn’t try this the first time you try a recipe. Pancakes are the easiest to do this with. We use Aunt Jemima Original pancake mix (not the Complete where you just add water).

If the recipe doesn’t double easily, make two batches back to back.  You’ll save time by having all the ingredients out already and being familiar with the recipe and you’ll save on clean up time.  If you made them on two separate days, you’d have twice as much to clean up.

If you’re making bread a lot, buy two loaf pans and make two loaves at the same time.  Freeze one of them (slice it first).  When I make pancakes, I make a quadruple batch because we go through them.  Don’t stack them when you freeze them or they’ll stick together.  We go through a lot of muffins and homemade popsicles too. 

How To Make All Natural Homemade Popsicles

2.     Going along with number 1 - Get an extra freezer.  Though this will cost you money up front, I don’t know what I’d do without mine.  I actually have 4!  I have one big 21 cubic foot upright freezer in our play room.  I love it.  It comes with an alarm if the freezer is left open.  When we first started Feingold, we had the kids leave the freezer door open four times within a few months, having all the food spoil.  “Why God?!” was all I could say the fourth time.  

But, having an extra freezer allows me to stock up on things that go on sale or things that I use a lot, so I’m spending less time at the store.  It also allows me to freeze lots of things.  When my kids are hungry, they often go straight to the freezer, not the pantry.  

My sister’s power went out this summer and she said she put everything from her freezer in a big cooler.  I had to laugh.  I’d need about 10 coolers to fit all our food.  Praying we never have a black out.  I also order grass fed beef so I need a place to store that.

3.     Freeze everything!  I’ve frozen leftover pizza to have on hand for parties, French toast, pancakes, muffins, bagels, frosted cupcakes, soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, cake slices, chicken nuggets, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, soups, sauces for chicken recipes, chili, beef stew, chicken stew, brownies, frosting, sliced bread, bananas and canned pineapple for smoothies, strawberries that go on sale, homemade pear sauce for recipes, smoothies for the baby (I put in ice cube trays to freeze and then store in a zip lock bag), meatballs, etc.  My freezer is full of zip lock freezer bags.  Make sure you label everything though with the name and date.  Very important!  

Recipe: French Toast

To freeze some things like frosted cupcakes, you first want to put them on a plate and place in the freezer for about 30-60 minutes, or until the frosting is set.  Then transfer them to a zip lock freezer bag.  These defrost quickly (30-60 minutes), or my kids have taken a liking to frozen muffins.  They claim they like them better this way, but I think they just lack patience.

4.     Double or triple your spice combinations, and store for later use.  I do this for taco seasoning, hamburger seasoning, red potato seasoning, chicken fajitas, garlic lime chicken, etc.  When I go to make these, I cut down my prep time by not having to make the spice combinations right then and there.  This saves a lot of time and reduces the stress of making dinner.  It’s just as easy as using a package of McCormick seasoning.  

        Recipe: Taco Seasoning

I also keep on hand all the ingredients needed to make chicken nuggets and chicken tenders in a glass jar.  Then I keep a large zip lock bag full of crushed Erewhon rice krispy cereal since I use them in several recipes.  I took 3 boxes of the cereal and crushed them up one day in my food processor.

5.     Make ahead.  Anything you can make ahead of time, do it.  How does this save you time?  If you can make a marinade for tomorrow’s dinner after the kids are in bed, and not crawling around at your feet or calling for you to make them more juice, or to come outside to see the giant bug, you will go faster and save time.  Less interruptions means less time in the kitchen.  I also do this during nap time.  Although I won’t be making dinner for another couple of hours, I know this is the only time I won’t have the baby, so I get as much done for dinner as I can.

Recipe: Lemon Mustard Chicken

If you’re going to need fresh lemon juice, do that now.  If you need to make a sauce for dinner, make it now and put it in the fridge.  Get everything out that you’re going to need while the baby is sleeping.  It also just feels better when you work ahead and have as much done before you actually need it as possible.  Less stress equals happier Mommy. 

6.     Plan your meals.  Now I can’t say that I’ve got this down yet, but I did do this while we were on vacation for a week at a timeshare that had a full kitchen.  I came prepared with a spreadsheet of every single meal for each day.  I then had all the spices prepared and labeled for each meal that I needed.  When the kids woke up and my mom asked me what was for breakfast and what we needed to pack for lunch for the day, I just said, “I don’t know.  Check the menu.” 

Post: Feingold Vacation Menu Planning

I don’t function well in the morning, so it takes a lot of focus and concentration to remember what the kids had the day before so I don’t feed them the same thing.  I loved being able to just look at the menu.  We also knew what foods we needed to have on hand and what to buy at the store so we saved a lot of money there.

On other vacations, I didn’t plan, and the day we left Florida, we threw out so much food.  It took me a long time to make that menu plan (and shopping list), but I know it would only get easier with practice, and as meals would repeat.  I hope to start doing this when school starts. 

My daughter is also big on schedules and routine.  She would probably thrive with this system.  She’s always saying, “I’m hungry!” despite eating constantly, and then rummaging through the freezer looking for a snack.  If I had a schedule that she helped me make, she could just look on the menu. 

7.     Enlist the help of family or friends.  My mom will often make cookies or pancakes for me.  Sometimes she’ll just come over to my house so she can use all of my ingredients, or sometimes I’ve made up a zip lock bag of all the dry ingredients and given her the recipe.  She already knows what kind of butter, milk, etc. to use that is acceptable. I started typing up my favorite recipes for the very purpose of getting help with making them!  I wanted my husband or my mom to be able to make them too so I tried to be as specific as possible and list brands that I use.  

        Recipe: Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

Many churches also have meals ministries made up of ladies who love to bless others by cooking for them.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a little help if you really need it.  They will likely be honored to help because that is probably their spiritual gift.  You will just have to be specific in telling them what ingredients to use. 

8.      Have a cooking day.  Get your husband or even a babysitter to watch the kids one day, and spend a couple hours cooking and baking so that you can stock your freezer.  Some days I feel like cooking and some days I absolutely do not.  Those are the days when I’m really glad my freezer is stocked.  When you do feel like cooking, take advantage of that, and get it done. 

9.     Take a day off.  I try not to cook on Sunday unless I just really feel like it for fun.  God says to rest one day of the week so I try to.  It doesn’t always happen but I’m working on it.  On Sundays, we usually opt for either leftovers or some kind of Ian’s or Amy’s frozen products like chicken nuggets or patties, microwavable meals, soup, etc.  It is expensive, but still cheaper than eating out which is what we usually did before.  You’ll feel much more refreshed and ready to go on Monday.  Monday’s are usually my cooking days where I try to get a lot of stuff done in the kitchen.  I usually just feel like cooking, probably because I’ve taken a break. 

10.  Use a crock pot.  Though I’m not convinced this saves you time, it does feel a lot better to prepare the food in advance and then wait several hours while it cooks itself.  You can go out and come back with dinner already ready.  I make beef stew, chicken stew, and pot roast in my crock pot.  I’m hoping to expand my options with my crock pot this year. 

Recipe: Beef Stew

If you’re buying a new crock pot, get a Hamilton Beach.  It is the only one with nearly zero traces of lead.  Other brands have higher concentrations of lead in the glaze that when heated, releases right into your food.    

11.  Eat leftovers.  We often eat dinner leftovers for breakfast.  It’s usually chicken and rice.  I don’t save rice for more than 24 hours.  It starts to grow mold quickly.  I really don’t save any leftovers for more than a day or two.  I also use glass Pyrex type containers to store the leftovers so that I can just pop it in to the toaster oven without using an extra dish.

Recipe: Garlic Lime Chicken and Rice

12.  Use paper plates sometimes.  My daughter doesn’t always like to use paper plates because she says we’re wasting trees.  I say too bad.  Sorry, I’m not super in to saving the earth.  I am in to saving my kids and if that means saving time on dishes so that I have more time and energy to cook then so be it.  I’m not against going green.  I use cloth diapers for Pete sake.  I figure I’m saving the earth way more by using cloth diapers, so if I use some paper plates now and then, I don’t feel guilty.  I tell my daughter we’re saving water by not washing as many dishes. 

Is it more expensive to use paper plates?  Yes.  But guess what I ask for for Christmas?  Paper plates!  A big huge stack of paper plates.  When I started doing three loads of dishes a day, I decided this was getting out of hand.  I either had to hire a dish washer or start using some paper plates.  Now, I do about two loads a day and my son is responsible for putting the clean dishes away.  I also only use the paper plates for foods that aren’t super hot. 

13.  Organize your freezer and pantry by food types, etc.  I'm due for a pantry clean out right now.  I’ve found this has saved me a lot of time searching for ingredients and foods.  We have 4 freezers so I don’t want to be searching through all four before I find what I’m looking for.  I keep everything for my son who is non-GFCF in one spot, desserts get hidden and moved around but for the most part they are underneath a basket in the chest freezer.  Shhh!  Don’t tell. 

You’ll save a lot of money too.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something because I thought I was out when I really wasn’t.  I just couldn’t find it.  By the time I do find it, it’s usually expired. 

I also have three pantries.  One has mostly all stuff for my Feingold son.  He knows where to go when he wants a snack.  If I don’t want the kids to find something (cookies for me!), I wrap it in a plastic grocery bag.  They haven’t figured this out yet. 

14.   When all else fails, order a pizza!  I wish this was still an option for us, but too many of us are now GFCF. But, Papa John’s Pizza was Feingold approved for years.  A couple years ago, they disappeared from the shopping guide, and there still is no definitive answer as to why.  It’s likely that they stopped filling out forms.  This is usually a sign that they’ve added something artificial or a preservative but don’t want anyone to know.  Or, they just don’t want to fill out the forms anymore.  So, eat at your own risk. I did contact them via e-mail. See the link below for their response.

Papa John's Response

We also do Chipotle, McDonald’s hamburgers or cheeseburgers (no fries or pickles), Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, Subway, and Five Guys (my favorite) on occasion.   Most contain corn syrup and probably MSG.

There you have it.  If you have any other things that help you save time in the kitchen, please share with the rest of us!  I don’t want to become a permanent fixture in my kitchen.  J 

Look for my new e-book, "All Natural Mom's Guide to the Feingold Diet" coming August 11, 2014 to Kindle!