Kitchen Tips for Time & Pocket Efficiency

Kitchen Tips for Time & Pocket Efficiency

Illustration courtesy of Maira Kalman

Illustration courtesy of Maira Kalman

Measure Accordingly

Whenever you use a cup to measure finicky ingredients, such as flour, use a knife or other flat edge to cut against the rim and scrape excess. Many recipes call for precise gram-for-gram measurements, so this will also lend for accuracy and thus appropriate texture. This way, you don’t waste little bits of excess ingredients or, worst case scenario, an entire recipe’s worth of them.

Stock Up Your Freezer

  • Unsalted butter: We recommend stocking up on this kitchen staple especially when there’s a sale then freezing extras cut in tablespoons since they don’t take on freezer odours and you will always need some.

  • Parmesan rinds: Instead of throwing the rinds out and creating waste, freeze them to soups. stews, or simple dishes like a pot of beans to add an extra oomph of umami flavour.

  • Raw nuts: Freezing nuts and seeds preserve their oils and thus prevent them from going rancid in warmer, possibly damp environments. Freeze them instead to directly add to dishes or toasting for a warmer, deeper flavour in salads or pesto.

To Refrigerate or Not to Refrigerate?


  • Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Asian pears, Berries, Cherries, Cut fruits, Figs, and Grapes

  • Vegetables: Artichokes, Asparagus, Green Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cut Vegetables, Green Onions, Herbs except for Basil, Leafy vegetables, Leeks, Mushrooms, Peas, Radishes, Spinach, Sprouts, Summer Squashes, Sweet Corn

Ripen on the counter first then refrigerate:

  • Avocados, Kiwi, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Plumcots. To prevent moisture loss, store fruits and vegetables separately in a paper bag, or separate ripening bowl on the counter away from sunlightRipening fruit in a bowl or paper bag can be enhanced by placing an apple with the fruit to be ripened.

Don’t refrigerate: 

  • Fruits: Apples (fewer than 7 days), Bananas, Citrus fruits, Mangoes, Melons, Papayas, Persimmons, Pineapple, Plantain, and Pomegranates

  • Vegetables: Basil (in water), Cucumber, Eggplant, Garlic*, Peppers, Ginger, Potatoes*, Jicama, Pumpkins, Onions*, Sweet Potatoes*, Tomatoes, Winter Squashes

    *Store garlic, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes in a well-ventilated area in the pantry.

Know What Oils to Use When

  • Neutral: Avocado Oil for high-heat cooking like pan-frying, roasting, and oil-based baked goods.

  • Olive: Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil for unheated or lightly heated dishes to preserve its flavour and nutritional profile. Use it in salads, cold dishes, in slow-cooked soups, and whisking into vinaigrettes. A reliable gauge for good olive oil is a price of $15 to $20 per 750 ml. We recommend sticking to California-based olive oils since the price is more accessible and imported olive oils can often be cut with cheaper or rancid oils, including vegetable oils.

  • Finishing: Fancy, robust, nuanced olive oil (buy in smaller bottles) for drizzling and never heating or lesser-used oils like walnut or hazelnut oils.

Know Your Ratios

Going off of Samin Nosrat’s love of puckery acidity, we recommend following this reliable guide to creating a variety of vinaigrettes:

DIY Vinaigrette: 2 parts oil, 1 part vinegar mixed with two tablespoons of a thick emulsifier

We often combine & shake in a near-empty mustard jar to emulsify, which also lends to reusing bottles rather than creating more waste.

Be Creative With Your Leftovers & “Trash” or Compost

From repurposing ingredients to old bread, we have a handy guide to ensuring that what appears to make its way to the rubbish bin gets new life

Know The Basics: Egg Timing According to Bon Appétit

  • Hard-boiled: Lower into gently boiling water and cook 10 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath and let cool

  • Jammy: Lower into gently boiling water and cook 6½ minutes. Transfer to an ice bath and let cool

  • Poached: Crack and slip into simmering water. Cook, occasionally stirring gently, 3 minutes

Not Ripe, Not Ripe, Gone . . .

  • Artichoke: fresh at cut end; heavy for size; tight leaves

  • Avocado: firm with just a hint of yielding when pressed

  • Eggplant: shiny, taut skin; no visible bruises or blemishes

  • Melons: should be fragrant; a bit of give when pressed at stem

  • Pineapple: yellow, fragrant; leaf can be plucked out easily

Clean & Preserve Your Greens Well

Cleaning and cutting greens ahead of time can not only save time during the busy workweek but also entice you to eat more of them since there’d be no necessary preparation. To do so, tear leaves into thirds, submerge in a deep bowl of very cold water, and swirl the leaves around to release sandy bits. Lift out the leaves—rather than dumping— from the water and place in a colander. Rub leaves under running water again if necessary and drain. Pat-dry with a towel and transfer into an airtight bag or one of these cloth vegetable bags to store in the crisper drawer.

Know Your Meat Temperatures

Meat is expensive when you source it sustainably. Don’t take chances on any cut by guessing doneness—get a digital thermometer. Bon Appetit magazine suggests inserting the probe horizontally from an outside edge rather than straight down from the shallow surface.

Very rare: 115° • Rare: 120° • Medium-rare: 130° • Dry and chewy: 145°

Toast Nuts to Enliven the Simplest Meals

Nuts highten the flavour of already-intricate dishes like a crushed nut-encrusted fish and vivify what might have been a bland batch fo roasted Brussels sprouts. To increase their punch, roast nuts—walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, or pecans—by spreading them on a rimmed baking sheet and baking at 350° until evenly golden brown and fragrant, 8–10 minutes.


About the Author

Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at John’s Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.

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