More Relief for Kitchen Combat Fatigue

I’ve written about this before, but even with these great tips for fighting fatigue in the kitchen, I have still had plenty of days this month where the kitchen and I were not on the best of terms. Either we were fighting constantly, or we gave each other the silent treatment…which simply meant the battle would resume when I had regained some energy. (Or Jeremy or some other kind soul would intervene and do a load of dishes).

So, one night when I was feeling particularly lucid, I decided I needed to analyze my strategy and see if there was room for improvement in my battle plan. Setting things down on paper, I realized that I had been setting myself up for failure more days than not. I share with you my findings and my revised ‘battle plan’ in hopes you may be inspired and encouraged to look at a challenge you face (wether it be keeping on top of the kitchen, the laundry, or whatever) from a new angle and perhaps craft yourself a brand new strategy.

First thing I did was figure out how much time I was actually spending in the kitchen. I did not foster any hope of cutting down on that amount of time, as I am so addicted to making things from scratch, but I did want to see what that looked like. What I found amazed me. I spend literally 4-6 hours in the kitchen every day! Ooof. No wonder we don’t get along. Familiarity breeds contempt, right? This is what my time in the kitchen typically looked like…

7-:30-8:30am – get up, run around starting husband’s coffee getting kids up, and making our breakfast. Eat, half-heatedly clear table, maybe wash a few dishes, then gravitate towards the couch or the computer to recover from the Morning Rush.

12:00-1:00pm – realize it’s time to eat. Frantically heat leftovers for lunch, wrack addled brain for ideas for supper, pull out meat to thaw (maybe), mentally list what else needs to be done for dinner prep, glance despairingly at the growing pile of dishes in the sink and on the counter, eat lunch, half-heartedly tidy up, and then gravitate toward any other chore in the house (I call this “productive procrastination” – please tell me you do it, too!)

3:00-7:00pm – Suddenly remember that if dinner’s gonna happen, I better get going. Begin Dinner prep in a messy kitchen – try to clean kitchen first, then realized dinner will be late if I wash all those dishes first. Settle for using my least favorite utensils and pots ’cause my best ones are all dirty, and working on %50 less counter space. Ugg and Ack! Finally get dinner in the oven or on the stove, begin cleaning up mess. Serve dinner, clear table, beg for husband’s help. By 6:30 or 7 we finish, and then I remember that I have to grind grain to start tortilla dough or get tomorrow’s breakfast started, or preparation for tomorrow’s potluck. Sometimes I don’t leave the kitchen until 8pm, weary, tear-stained, and utterly wasted.

Does that sound familiar? I should say “I hope not”, but misery does love company! I’ll tell you what, I’ll share my tips for how I improved this recipe for daily disaster, and then we can all be sane and calm together, and won’t that be more fun?

1. Analyze. Figure out what you are doing that works, and what doesn’t work. For me, it was not working to have the majority of my kitchen duties fall into the time of day when I had the least energy and desire to be in the kitchen. I decided what would work better is if I…

2. Reschedule my time in the kitchen. Dinner would be easier and quicker if I came into a clean kitchen. I could get the next day’s do-ahead tasks done (like soaking grains and thawing meat) if I spent more time in the kitchen around lunch. And my whole day would go smoother if I stayed in the kitchen long enough in the morning to tidy up. All this requires…

3.Thinking Ahead. If I know I want Baked Oatmeal for breakfast on Thursday (yum!) then I should really plan to make it on Wednesday! Then it’s ready in the morning before the kids are starving and my blood sugar has dropped too low. And if I want baked chicken for dinner, I better go get it out of the freezer in the morning, rather than at 3pm (Pardon me – I’ll be right back!) Planning what you’re gonna make – even just one day in advance, ladies! – makes all the difference in the time you spend in the kitchen. I am much less stressed when I get my tasks done in a timely fashion, rather than racing the clock ’cause dinner’s not in the oven and we’re starving.

4. Don’t multitask outside of the kitchen. If it’s kitchen time, stay in the kitchen! It’s so easy for me to get sucked into the laundry room, tidying the family room, or looking up ‘something important’ on the computer. This will just make the kitchen chores take longer! Stay focused and be sure to…

5. Multitask IN the kitchen! While dough is kneading, wipe the counters. While the onion is sauteing, get out the rest of the ingredients you need. While the sauce is coming to a boil, turn around and put away all the spices you got out. This is one place where you really can cut down on the total time you spend in the kitchen! Make every moment -every trip to the fridge or pantry, every pause while something bakes or cooks – every moment count. Suddenly you’ll turn around and realized the kitchen is clean at the same time as dinner is ready – and all you have to wash is plates and forks after you eat!

So, now that you have inspiration for revising your personal kitchen battle plan, I’ll share with you what my new schedule looks like. Notice, I haven’t cut down on time in the kitchen, but I am spending that time less stressed and overwhelmed, and yes, even enjoying the challenge some days…

7:00-9:00am – Make coffee and breakfast. Empty dishwasher and drain. Thaw meat and start dinner prep. Put breakfast dishes in dishwasher. Wash anything that can’t go in dishwasher (ie. cast iron fry pan). I make myself keep working until 9, but boy do I watch that clock, ’cause I really do feel like a bit of couch time after breakfast! But I remind myself I’ll want that couch time even more at 7pm! It’s amazing how much I can get done in those two hours, if I stick with it. Makes the whole difference in my day.

12:00 – 2:00pm – Heat up, eat, and clean up lunch thoroughly. Again, address dinner prep if needed (peel veggies, wash salad, make dressing, thaw freezer meal or assemble casserole, etc.). Grind grain and get flour or grains soaking for the next day’s meals. Again, I watch the clock, pushing myself to keep finding tasks to do until 2!

4:00-6:00pm – Finish dinner prep. Actually have a chance to set the table well so I can sit during most of dinner! Greet husband cheerfully when he gets home from work. Serve dinner on time (5:30 is what works for us), enjoy dinner, knowing there isn’t a two-hour marathon of clean up to do after you eat. Clear table, load dishwasher (Jeremy and the kids usually help with this part – it’s great family time), wash pots and pans, wipe down counters, turn off lights, and LEAVE the kitchen for a relaxing evening with your family!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;”
2 Timothy 4:7 NAS

I hope you have been inspired (or, at least, mildly entertained) by my strategizing. Try some analyzing and rescheduling yourself and let me know how it works for you! This post is part of what is becoming a bit of a series – read more tips for fighting “Kitchen Combat Fatigue” here.  For ideas for what to make for dinner, visit my recipe page. And I just last week I shared tips on Freezer Meals and Once a Month Cooking – it made a huge difference in the kitchen last month! And if you’re wondering how I get it all done in the kitchen with two little ones, I’ll share my tips in an upcoming post!

This post is part of Nourishing Kitchen’s Pennywise Platter for Thursday, March 25th. 

If you have tips or ideas to share, now is the time, here is the place! Leave them in a comment, or link to a post you’ve written, or one you’ve read that you’ve enjoyed. I love when you all throw in your two bits! I have gotten some great tips from my readers. Keep the conversation going!

5 responses to “More Relief for Kitchen Combat Fatigue”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    I found it helpful to rearrange my kitchen so the items I use frequently are close by (baking dishes stored close to the oven, knives by the cutting board, etc…I keep the cutting board out on the counter, and bought a long magnet that screws to the wall, so I could have my knives right at my finger tips.) I used to have to walk over to my pantry for my spices, but I cleaned out a drawer next to my stove top for them. I saved myself a lot of steps that way. My poor husband was confused about where things were for a while, but we both adjusted:)

  2. glenda Avatar

    Thanks for sharing what works for you, and I really am looking forward to hearing what the little ones do while you work in the kitchen, since you mentioned you'll post on that. I really think that is my biggest obstacle. If they are in the kitchen w/me I may end up having to clean the floor if one child spills while she was only trying to 'help' me. If they are in another room, they often try 'naughty' things because they know I'm not watching. Each day is different, that's for sure. Sometimes I find it's best to have each child play on their own because they're usually more wild together. Or I have a quiet reading hour while I do mandatory work in the kitchen, but during that hour I'll occasionally call my 7 or 8 year old to take the trash or compost or unload the dishes,etc. I have learned it is best not to have too many little helpers in the kitchen at once since they all want to do everything. But we have to remember to just be glad they are willing, and to be sure to even let a toddler help from time to time, because that is special for them.

  3. Traci Avatar

    I'll chime in and say that I actually like to make it a “bedtime ritual” to pull out my meat right before I head to bed the night before and put it in the fridge to thaw. That's when I'm sure to remember it because the only other thing on my mind is bed, lol!

    I don't have many other tips to share with you because we keep such entirely different schedules and Michael is particular about “meal types”, preferring cold breakfasts, etc.

    I can't remember if I shared this with you or Rachel previously but one thing that does help me is that when I break down a big package of meat (i.e. chicken) I add marinade to the individual packages and freeze the meat with the marinade. That way as it thaws it will marinade itself and be ready to throw in the oven, grill or pan or whatever.

  4. Mrs. Guthrie Avatar

    *sigh* It's a bit of fresh air to know that I'm not the only one that has been on bad terms with my kitchen lately. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for this! Not only was I entertained, but I was inspired, too!! ๐Ÿ˜€ (Today, not only do I already know WHAT we are eating, but it is not frozen!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ WOW! Time to go marinade it, though!! lol)

  5. Rachel Avatar

    Loved the post…makes me think that maybe I should go and make salad dressing and wash lettuce for supper! Lol…thankfully I already have the meat thawing… ๐Ÿ™‚

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