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

-

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

  • Marcie

    I think I spend 2-3 hours a days in the kitten too, but I don’t think I get ahead as much as you do. It seems that making larger quantities takes longer, so what’s the difference, now or later? I guess it saves time on clean up though. I too like to cook, but if I had a kitchen like yours, I would enjoy it more! Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  • Pamela

    We do all of our own cooking and food preparation, but I work 8-6, so we spend about 1.5 hours cooking and cleaning in the evening and save leftovers for lunches and breakfasts. Snacks more than likely will be “nature’s fast food” of nuts, fruit or veggies. I love to cook, but can’t do it during the day…and sure get tired of the cleanup. But it is worth it.

  • I spend 3 hours or so on Sundays cooking/grilling all my meats and chopping my veggies. During the week, I just reheat and add spices, sauces and vegetables to make something different. It helps a ton for lunches too. I can pack my lunch and 2 snacks for work in 5 minutes flat now. It makes a huge difference if I get home late starving and just reheat fast. No more ordering pizza or fast food! :-)

  • Traci

    I think this about sums up my time as well except I have the kids do the dishes first (and then I have to go in an really wipe down counters etc!). We make our own bread and every once in awhile I try and do some ‘prep’ cooking for those super busy days I can pull some meatballs out of the freezer and add to sauce or a casserole that is prepped. I don’t have much freezer space, but I try to keep some on hand. Anymore I really detest going out unless it is date night. :)

  • anitaL

    Thank you Lisa for your tips. When I read this post, I started to think how much time I spend in the kitchen and realized it is about 2 – 4 hours a day. I love cooking healthy meals just not the cleaning after it. :-)

  • lisa

    wtf?!?!? No processed foods? your first job of the day was to ‘prepare’ the kids cereal. First of all, I personally do not consider opening packets and decanting the contents into bowls a skilled, ‘cooking’ job. This should not be counted. Also, Im not sure you could get a more highly processed food than cereal!! Even the ‘good’ ones are junk. I shall walk you through what life is like in a REAL home kitchen.
    5pm Soak oat groats in slow cooker and set for morning: 5 mins.
    8pm Prepare 2 sourdough loaves and set to proov overnight, soak bowl of nuts and bowl of oats for home made muesli. 20 mins.
    6:30am Prepare breakfast. Either porridge with nuts, dried fruit and honey etc. Or if not porridge then scrambled eggs, soft boiled eggs and kippers. Bake Sourdough loaves. Prepare lunch boxes. Occasionally this involves home made fresh pasta and sauce (home made sauce too) or fruit compote and yoghurt. Total time on average. 1 hr.
    12am Lunch. Usually home made bread with chorizo and cheese. Sometimes soup or salad. 20mins.
    5pm. Prepare dinner. Whatever it is on average it takes about 1hr 30mins.

    Other extras that supplement this day to day log: Chicken stock (once a week about 30 mins), Pate, home made muesli, We buy beef mince in bulk and then spend a good few hours making burgers and meat balls.

    3hrs in the kitchen is typical in this house and is frequently shared between myself and my partner.

  • michelle

    There is no need to be rude with a “Wtf” comment. I think the information here is fabulous and helpful to most who read this blog. Your food preparation routine is impressive but actually seems more cumbersome and not likely to convert anyone to adopt a more healthy lifestyle which is what Lisa is hoping to do. If you read her bio you will see that. Kudos to her.

  • Lanette

    Wow…I just don’t understand haters…. If you do not like what she has to say, don’t read her blog. I personally find this blog one of the best as far as useful and practical source of information regarding healthy eating out there. I find this breakdown of time is interesting with respect to Micheal Pollan’s discussion about the amount of time westerners spend preparing food.. WTF Lisa: get informed …read the book…read the blog and maybe go for a walk in the sunshine before your post hate on the Internet again.

  • Stacy

    This may have been brought up somewhere already, but what advice do you have for women who work all day? I want so bad to do these things, but, sadly I have about a total of one hour to give to the kitchen a day, total. Help!

    • Lani H

      Just do it! I work all day and was quite surprised that I spend just as much time as Lisa in the kitchen! I already cook but I could cook healthier. Instead of smuckers jam, I’ll make jam this weekend and use it instead. Instead of kraft mayo, I’ll make my own mayo and use it. I see the opportunity to have the kids make tortillas (instead of sitting in front of the TV on Saturday afternoon) and use those all week. More family time together prepping will make throwing it all together into a meal easier.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Stacy. We have had many who work outside of the home share that they try and do as much preparation on the weekends. I know some have said they try and chop as many veggies as they can on the weekends to be used in meals during the week. I know many like the crock pot recipes since they can be put together in the morning and ready by the time you get home. At the end of the day, I think it just takes a lot more advance preparation to be able to pull it together quickly. Hope that helps. Jill

  • Kimby

    Lisa, I just stumbled upon this blog today and I love you:) As in I could see us being great friends. Of course I also have been reading the harsh comments too (I guess it just happens when you put yourself out there like this) Don’t let it get you down, I think your blog is great and has so many wonderful things that moms can benefit from. I think what the other lisa and her partner are doing is great too, no judgement, we are all doing the best we can with the best intentions in our heart. I will definitely be trying to incorporate some of your ideas. They are more realistic than the other Lisa’s ideas and more easily adaptable. We (as in my family) are always striving to eat better, but like this morning cinnamon bread from Targets bakery won the battle:) My advise…don’t ever buy it, then you wont ever know what your missing:) Lunch will be better!

  • Rachel

    I wish I could get the cleaning done as efficiently as you do! I love your blog and what you are doing for your family and all of us by sharing with us. ???/comment for you… I’ve noticed in other posts that you clean the gals Ziploc lunch containers in the dishwasher, and noticed here that most of your cleaning seems to be related to the dishwasher. Do you have much plastic in your home? I’m looking forward to the day where sippy cups are history in my home because I hate to put any plastic in the dishwasher or microwave. We are trying to phase all plastic out of our kitchen because of the possible chemicals leached into our food from them. Have you run across anything on this topic yet? Like I said, I LOVE all you are doing, but I’d hate for some junk to be going into all of you despite all the effort you are putting in to get rid of it. THANK YOU!

    • Lisa

      I am so glad you are enjoying the blog! I most definitely wash everything in the dishwasher, but we do use very little plastic (compared to the old days!). Our kitchen essentials page actually show the glass cups and plates that we use for the kids now, as well as their stainless thermos cups for school lunches, and glass storage containers that we use for leftovers instead of tupperware. I actually do have a stainless steel lunch container, but it’s very heavy so I haven’t used it yet for girls’ school lunches. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/my-kitchen-essentials/

  • meredith

    Thank you! I’ve always wondered if the time I’m spending to prep real food is more than the norm. This helps a lot. It’s probably about average for me too.

  • Setjay

    I read your post and some of the comments and i’m amazed how culture (even so occidental) make us eat and cook differently…

    In France, we have 3 ou 4 meals per day :
    - breakfast between 6 and 8 (sweet)
    - lunch for 12 (salty)
    - snack for 16 (usually for kids – sweet)
    - and dinner for 19-20h (salty)

    Usually these meals are :
    - for breakfast coffee or tea with bread, croissants, buns…
    - for snack juice, milk, chocolate with cakes, biscuits…
    - for lunch and dinner we spend the same time in kitchen, between 1/2h and 1h30 ; usually we eat meat or fish with cereals and vegetables + cheese or yogurt + fruits or desserts.

    So predictable ;)

    I read your meal plans and the truth is that if i serve my hub bread / peanut butter / banana for lunch (for example), he’s going to look at me weirdly… And saying where is the dish ? lol

  • Rose

    Lisa, can you please give me some tips for doing this when I work full time (40 hours/week)? I don’t have but maybe 30 minutes/day to spend in the kitchen. I try to prepare all of our meals on the weekends right now. We are going to slowly try to switch to all real food with picky eaters. We had already started making some changes when I found your site. Love it by the way!!!

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Rose. I think what you are doing is right…trying to get as much prepped on the weekends to have during the week. Obviously some meals are quicker to prepare than others, so, you could try and do those during the week too and save the more complicated ones for the weekend. Maybe add slow cooker recipes for the weekdays which require less “kitchen time”. Also, make enough to have leftovers a night or 2 during the week. Good luck. Jill

  • Robyn

    I do love this website…I haven’t been able to try out anything yet because I need to prepare for it. I am also a mom who doesn’t get alot of time during the day. I work 40 hrs, take night classes, and then bring my daughter to soccer three days a week,tutor on the weekends… all while my husband is working second shift and my house is under major construction…(I’m not sure why I haven’t gone bananas yet)
    I hope to at least add a few aspects of this into our lifestyle, I know I won’t be able to go full force, but even just a little bit will make a big difference :)

    • Loren

      I’m like you, Robyn. Since this a post from a while ago, how has this worked for you? My family has known for a long time (we were planning on starting this once summer hit…it’s here now.) real food was the menu. I’m now struggling when to really jump in. I am definitely starting with the weekly challenges purely because of time. Did you do that? I hope you found great results. Thanks.

  • Kara

    I feel like I am in the kitchen more often than not! But I am like you and I enjoy being in my kitchen and cooking/prepping.

    Breakfast and Dinner take most of my time. I make fresh juice for the family in the morning, it’s a little time consuming but I believe it is worth it and gives them a good dose of veggies and fruit in the morning. We juice: (organic of course) Kale, Carrots, Green Apples, blueberries/strawberries and sometimes I throw in an orange or two. The kids love it, even my 2 year old sucks his down, the berries and apples really disguise the veggies. The juicer cleans up pretty easy and I dry it and set it back up for the next day. So if I cook, I try to only do cereal 2 times a week or less, I spend a good hour or so in the kitchen in the morning.

    At lunch time I try to make crock pot meals, so it depends on whether or not I prepare a crock pot meal. I love my crock pot and rely on it heavily! It makes for an easier evening and more time with the family!

  • Laura

    my husband and i are just now getting on this “band wagon”…and it is a slow process for us. we both have health problems; he has high blood pressure and i have asthma, we are both over-weight. we get plenty of exercise (even with my asthma), we are very active people. but we just couldn’t lose weight. so i started knit-picking our diet. whoa!! i work a full time job away from home. so, i started small…shopped smarter, clipped coupons on Organic products, started meal planning. i kept a log of what we ate, and that made me realize how much junk i was consuming b/c i wasn’t prepared for the work day away from home. so, now, at night, i come in, start supper and prepare for a quick breakfast and my lunch for work. making lists has helped me A LOT. not only to organize what we eat, but just to be FOCUSED and PREPARED. b/c i spend so much time away from home, evenings and weekends have become very important to me. i have started saying No to friends who just want to “hang out” b/c i need to meal plan. instead, i invite them over so they can see what i’m doing and we can still hang out! my husband and i have already started dropping pounds and i’m using my inhaler less and less and my husband is having less blood-pressure related migraines. i can tell such a difference…it is WELL worth every minute it takes!!! at first, i didn’t particularly enjoy the time i spent preparing and planning…but now, i absolutely love it!!!!

  • Well, I didn’t think this would be a hot topic. I actually am happy with the topic because when I did the October Unprocessed challenge with Andrew I discovered I was in the kitchen a WHOLE lot. I love cooking but I was doing it a lot more!!!!! I felt like I was in the kitchen all the time. I must say you are very efficient because I am in the kitchen a lot longer with the cooking and cleaning…washing dishes. I do a good job during the week with quick meals like RR 30 min meals. But usually Sunday I cook for 4 hours to cook for all week! I will time myself next time

  • Gayle

    Hi Lisa,
    I have a son and daughter in law who have been educating me on all the junk we eat. They have informed me of Monsanto and and the pesticides, herbicides they are doing with our food. They had me watch Food Inc., Fat Sick and nearly dead, I still have to watch forks over spoons. My eyes has been “WIDE OPENED”. My daughter in law sent me your link to all the healthy ways of eating and cooking food. This is such an awesome site. I have cleaned out my kitchen cabinets and went grocery shopping. Now I buy all organic and having so much fun. I really have been feeling better as well. I need to loose 100 lbs! With your website and all the good reading on your blogs I feel like I can really do this and not feel like I can’t eat anything. I love the granola. I now have a bread machine, saving seeds from the vegetables in my garden. I found a man down the street that has raw honey, I now use that to sweeten everything. I could go on and on. Thank you so much for all you do to help educate the American people, to get back to the basics of life. I cringe to think of putting any chemicals in my body. I love my son and daughter in law also for helping me!

  • 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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