Whilst at work meetings at the office, do your thoughts wander to meals that need to be cooked on getting home? If yes, then welcome to the club of beleaguered working women – ladies who want to do the right thing by cooking homemade, nutritious meals daily but don’t know how to manage the time for it, burdened as they are with their professional demands.
With an increasing number of women joining the workforce, the kitchen has emerged as their biggest battle zone as they try to juggle cooking after a hard day’s work, whilst also trying to devote time to their family’s needs and scourge some me-time for themselves. The best of multi-taskers often throw in the kitchen towel in defeat and every time they heat a pack of precooked food, their conscience takes them on a one-way ticket guilt trip.
What if we told you that it need not be so and that you can serve healthy meals without taxing yourself?
Follow the tips shared by Chef Rahul Dhavale, Executive Chef of Westin Mumbai Garden City to take the anxiety out of cooking and make it a pleasurable exercise.
#Tip 1: Plan in advance
The thumb rule to running a tight ship, or kitchen, is planning well in advance. Plan all meals for the upcoming week, including snacks, over the weekend. Factor in a couple of quick-to-prepare contingency meals for days when you could be racing against time.
# Tip 2: Rely on technology
Take the help of various apps available to plan your weekly menu. Over the weekend, you can then shop for ingredients according to this schedule, leading to minimal wastage of produce. Put this menu on the refrigerator so you can take a quick peek at what is up for the next day’s meals.
#Tip 3: Buy Fresh
Stick to buying fresh and seasonal produce. Underrated local vegetables like snake gourd, ridge gourd, colocassia, raw turmeric, etc, have great taste and can be prepared in multiple ways. It’s good for the palate and the pocket!
# Tip 4: Prepare beforehand
Foods that require steaming or poaching can be prepared in advance and stored. Ideally, do it a day before so their nutritional value is not entirely lost.
# Tip 5: Seek time saving gadgets
Invest in products like non-stick cookware, cookers, ovens, soup makers, etc, based on your family’s food preferences. For instance, a soup maker is great if you have soups regularly as you can put all ingredients in it, set the time and have the soup ready. Similarly, a microwave is useful for cooking different types of food without needing constant monitoring.
# Tip 6: Learn the art of substitution
Opt for healthier eating choices like choosing fish over beef or lamb and turkey over chicken. Substitute table salt with sea salt, since it has better flavour and leads to lesser consumption of sodium. Stock up on fresh herbs, as they can elevate the flavour of the most mundane dish and have medicinal properties to boot.
# Tip 7: Act, don’t procrastinate
As much as you are tempted to not work in the kitchen over the weekend, make an effort to make spice mixes and condiments that you will need through the week. For instance, you can grind ginger garlic paste, make tomato puree and onion paste and refrigerate it in bottles. When cooking a dish, use these and you can save a lot of time that is needed to make this on a regular basis.
#Tip 8: Use TV time effectively
While watching TV, chop vegetables that you will need for the next day. Pack them in separate airtight containers and refrigerate.
# Tip 9: do what the pros do
If you watch any cooking show, you will see that chefs organise their mise en place or keep all the ingredients ready and close at hand before they begin cooking. This is a great time saver as you will not be scouting for ingredients while something is bubbling away to nothing on the stove pot. Also, read recipes twice before you put them on your schedule. If something appears a little difficult, plan it for days when you know you have the luxury of time.
#Tip 10: Share the good word
Exchange healthy recipes with your colleagues and friends. It will perk up your repertoire and end the monotony on your table (you can also try the recipes shared by Chef Rahul Dhavale in this issue of CaLDRON magazine). Ultimately, everyone wins!