How much time I spend in the kitchen

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I get a lot of questions about how much time I spend in the kitchen and how to best manage your cooking/cleaning time so you aren’t always in the kitchen. And after putting some energy into this post though I realized I may not be the best person to ask because…I honestly like to be in the kitchen! And more importantly I LOVE good food so more often than not I think it’s worth the effort it takes to prepare it. I’ve seriously seen my husband sit there and munch on lettuce (yes, plain lettuce!) because he didn’t want to take the time to make it into a tasty salad. First of all, I guarantee I will never be caught dead eating plain lettuce and the reason is because the enjoyment I get out of a delicious meal is worth the time it takes me to prepare it.

While lots of people might quickly throw together a sandwich for lunch (and trust me this can be done quickly while not relying on any highly processed food), a basic sandwich doesn’t cut it for me. Sure it would provide sustenance, but a PB&J just doesn’t satisfy me like a grilled caprese pita sandwich made with fresh, homemade pesto. So as a result I take the time to make it.

Regardless,  I recorded every moment I spent working on food preparation, dishes, and meal planning for a few days (below). And since I’ve never before added up how much time I actually spend in the kitchen I was a little shocked at some of the totals! I realize some of it (although not all) is because I want to be in there, and my goal is not always to “do it as fast as I can.” Often times my girls are in the kitchen with me helping out, eating/sampling the food I am making, and talking about whatever silly things are on their minds. So please keep in mind this is not a minimum of how much you have to cook and clean if you want to eat real food…in reality it’s probably more like a maximum! But since inquiring minds want to know the charts below show a typical week at my house.

Some Notes About the Times Recorded in the Charts Below:

  • The time it took us to eat our meals is not included (unless we were eating/snacking while cooking).
  • Sometimes it was me and sometimes it was my husband doing the cooking and cleaning…he helps around here!
  • All interruptions are included in the time slots…so if we had to answer the door, answer the phone, discipline the kids, etc. while cooking then it took a lot longer to get our task done. :)
  • As you can see we oftentimes eat a late lunch in the summer…we like things this way so don’t judge!

 Time Management Tips (for the Kitchen)

  • Leftovers are king! If you are making a big pot of soup, spaghetti sauce, or gumbo then consider doubling the recipe while you are at it and freeze the leftovers so you can have a break another day.
  • If you are already making muffins or bread then think about what else you might be able to cook simultaneously (like granola or tortillas) while you are already in the kitchen making a mess.
  • Don’t plan labor intensive dinners every single night of the week. One or two nights is realistic and then on the other nights plan to have leftovers or a super quick and easy real food dinner.
  • Meal planning helps so you know what will be expected out of you each night, and it will also ensure you have the right groceries on hand to make it happen (making a trip to the store for only one thing takes time!).

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Our Kitchen Time Charts (Recorded Last Week)

Monday
Start
Time
End
Time
Total
Time
Code Task
8:39 AM 8:42 AM 3 min Cook Prepare cereal for kids
8:42 AM 8:50 AM 8 min Cook / Clean Prepare kids’ camp snack, some breakfast clean up
9:20 AM 9:22 AM 2 min Cook Prepare my cereal
9:45 AM 9:49 AM 4 min Cook Make a maple syrup mocha
12:28 PM 12:42 PM 14 min Clean Empty clean dishes, load dirty dishes
12:42 PM 1:05 PM 23 min Cook Make lunch
1:13 PM 1:24 PM 11 min Clean Clean up after lunch, load dirty dishes
5:33 PM 5:41 PM 8 min Cook Smoothie snack
5:35 PM 7:10 PM 1 hr 35 min Cook / Clean Make gumbo for dinner, set table, some
dinner clean up
8:55 PM 9:15 PM 20 min Clean Finish dinner clean up, start dishwasher
Monday Total 3 hrs 8 min Cook / Clean

-

Tuesday
Start
Time
End
Time
Total
Time
Code Task
8:33 AM 8:43 AM 10 min Cook Pour cereal for kids’ breakfast, prepare kids’ camp snack
9:25 AM 9:34 AM 9 min Clean Work on dishes
9:33 AM 9:36 AM 3 min Cook My cereal
11:03 AM 11:07 AM 4 min Cook Make a maple syrup mocha
1:58 PM 2:18 PM 20 min Cook Make lunch
2:26 PM 2:53 PM 27 min Clean / Freeze Clean up after lunch, start dishwasher, make camp snack for next day, freeze some smoothie pops
6:11 PM 6:24 PM 13 min Meal Plan Plan out dinners for week and start grocery list
7:15 PM 7:55 PM 40 min Cook /
Groceries
Put together dinner (leftovers plus salad) and put away farmers’ market groceries
9:15 PM 9:43 PM 28 min Clean Clean up after dinner, start dishwasher
10:02 PM 10:10 PM 8 min Freeze Put leftover gumbo in individual containers in freezer
Tuesday Total 2 hrs 42 min Cook / Clean / Freeze / Meal Plan / Groceries

-

Wednesday
Start
Time
End
Time
Total
Time
Code Task
8:40 AM 8:50 AM 10 min Cook Pour cereal for kids, prepare kids’ camp snack
9:19 AM 9:21 AM 2 min Cook Pour my cereal
1:29 PM 1:58 PM 29 min Cook Prepare lunch
2:04 PM 2:33 PM 29 min Clean / Freeze Clean up after lunch, empty dishes, start
dishwasher, freeze leftover smoothies
5:50 PM 7:22 PM 1 hr 32 min Cook Cook dinner (including making tortillas)
8:45 PM 9:15 PM 30 min Clean Clean up after dinner, start dishwasher
Wednesday Total 3 hrs 12 min Cook / Clean / Freeze

-

Thursday
Start
Time
End
Time
Total
Time
Code Task
8:43 AM 8:52 AM 9 min Cook Make oatmeal
1:45 PM 2:40 PM 55 min Cook / Clean Make lunch (eating a little simultaneously), clean
5:00 PM 5:20 PM 20 min Meal Plan Make out grocery list
Note: out to dinner
7:40 PM 8:23 PM 43 min Cook / Clean /
Groceries
Put away groceries, work on dishes (empty and load), make granola
Thursday Total 2 hrs 7 min Cook / Clean / Meal Plan / Groceries

-

Friday
Start
Time
End
Time
Total
Time
Code Task
8:32 AM 8:40 AM 8 min Cook Prepare cereal for breakfast, some clean up
1:12 PM 1:40 PM 28 min Cook Lunch preparation (eating a little simultaneously)
1:50 PM 2:12 PM 22 min Clean Clean up, start dishwasher, make a
dessert recipe for freezer
5:00 PM 5:05 PM 5 min Cook Make a maple syrup mocha
6:48 PM 7:14 PM 26 min Cook / Clean Make dinner, some cleanup
7:20 PM 7:45 PM 25 min Clean Finish dinner cleanup (my husband and I together)
Friday Total 1 hr 54 min Cook / Clean

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Please share how much time you spend in the kitchen and your time management tips in the comments below!

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99 comments to How much time I spend in the kitchen

  • Tracy

    Hi Lisa,

    I’m new to your blog and love it! I’ve purchased several items already and have been making some recipes. I’m not sure if I missed it on another comment but I’m having a hard time figuring out how you have enough food for 5 days of lunch. I have 4 children and need different variety daily, as I see in your pics that you do. When do you have time to make all the smoothie pops and muffins to freeze? I spent 3 hours in the kitchen one evening cutting up apples and sweet potatoes for the dehydrator and making smoothie pops. Those lasted one day with my 4 children. I can’t spend 3 hours every evening preparing things for one day. How do you manage?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Tracy. Welcome to the blog. I do a lot of prep on the weekends and freeze much of it. I try and plan out what I will make for the week as much as possible. Good luck. Jill

  • Dawn

    Just found your blog and am enjoying your tips. We live in a developing country and for several years have had to use whole foods and make things from “scratch”. I would say I spend an average of 3-4 hours in the kitchen every day. I make my own stock/broth, bread, cereal, pickled beets, cream cheese; sprout dried beans and use only fresh vegetables (which it seems I am forever peeling and chopping!). It has all become routine and I enjoy the work for the most part. A couple of years ago we went back to the U.S. for three months and quickly fell into bad eating habits. It didn’t take long before everyone in our family felt tired and bloated, had gastro-intestinal problems and gained weight. I was so glad to go back to eating healthy! We’re getting ready to go back to the U.S. later this year and I’ve already decided we’re not changing the way we eat just because we can!

  • Emily

    Hello Lisa and Staff,
    My family and I are starting this journey soon! In regards to time in the kitchen- I have health conditions that make standing for a long time painful (1.5 hrs to me is long, sadly) so I was curious if you have ever used the Debbie Meyer Green products to store veggies for a week or so? That way my hubby could help prep on the weekend and I’d have chopped veggies/fruits for the week? Or do you have another idea? Certain veggies/fruits don’t seem to freeze well, or maybe I am doing it wrong… I hope by cutting out junky foods my pain will decrease and we’ll have happier livers!
    Take Care.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Emily. Sorry, I have not used the Debbie Meyer Green products. Perhaps they would stay in the refrigerator if you stored them somewhere where they are not constantly being exposed to the change in temperature from opening the door (i.e. a drawer). Good luck. Jill

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