Between work and family commitments, it can be difficult to devote much time to preparing meals – especially when cooking takes so long. Fortunately, there are plenty of kitchen-based hacks to make our culinary lives easier. Yes, from keeping food fresher for longer to making the most of your storage space, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without these stellar top tips.
40. Make clear ice cubes
It shouldn’t be that hard to make clear ice cubes. After all, you’re just freezing clear water, right? Well, thanks to the minerals and dissolved air in that H2O, your ice cubes will pretty much always turn out cloudy. Unless, that is, you boil the water twice first. And as you’ll see, the difference is staggering.
39. Quick and easy frozen yogurt
If you’re craving ice cream but don’t want to deal with the calorific consequences, you could always try frozen yogurt as a healthier alternative. It couldn’t be easier to make yourself; simply push a stick for a popsicle into the yogurt of your choice, then freeze it for a couple of hours. Voila: you have a healthy, refreshing summer snack.
38. Never run out of hand soap
Refilling the soap dispenser bottle is nobody’s favorite chore. However, it is a task that you can completely eliminate with a simple kitchen hack. All you need to do is find tubing that fits over your pump. Then, push it down through the dispenser into a much larger soap container – which you can keep under your sink.
37. No-mess piping bags
Cleaning out piping bags is such a hassle that you usually end up just never icing anything again. To avoid the mess, then, first wrap your frosting in plastic wrap and twirl it until both ends are tight. Place it in your piping bag, cut off the end and ice away. Afterwards, remove the still-wrapped leftovers with no mess.
36. Heart-shaped eggs
If you’re preparing a romantic breakfast, you’d be remiss to leave out these heart-shaped eggs. Once you’ve boiled and peeled your egg, place it on a folded piece of card. Then, lay a chopstick on top and tie it all together with a couple of rubber bands. Let the egg rest for ten minutes and then cut it in two for an adorable, tasty snack.
35. Use a laundry bag in the dishwasher
Do you worry about placing small items in the dishwasher, for fear that they’ll slip through the basket and cause havoc with your machine? Well, there’s no need to stand there handwashing them. You can instead just throw them in a laundry bag to keep them together in the dishwasher.
34. Hang up cookbooks
Placing recipes or cookbooks on your kitchen counter can be a major hassle. After all, they can very quickly get covered in whatever you’re baking with and they take up valuable real estate. Why not try using a clip-hanger to hang them from your cupboard doors – you could solve all your problems in one fell swoop.
33. Use onions to keep avocados fresh
If your avocados keep ripening too quickly, try storing them with a fresh onion. Either red or yellow will work, although the yellow flavor is stronger and more likely to affect the taste of your avocado. Whichever you choose, though, it’ll stop the avocado from browning at such a rapid rate.
32. Organize your below-sink storage
Open the cupboard door beneath your sink; chances are, it’s full of cleaning products. And even more likely, it’s such a mess that you have no idea what you’ve really got back there. A simple way to organize things, then, is with a tension rod across the cupboard’s interior. And you can use to hang your spray bottles on – freeing up space.
31. Hang a cork board inside your cupboards
Cork is useful for all sorts of things, and you can pin any number of objects to it: including recipes, measuring spoons and other handy kitchen utensils. Pop it on the inside of a cupboard door, and you’ve got yourself an instant space-saver. Just make sure it will still close.
30. Keep sugar from drying out
Brown sugar isn’t going to go off, but it can grow rock hard if left unused. And when you’re in the mood for some impromptu baking, that can spell disaster. A sugar saver, then, is a great way to keep it moist. Just soak the terracotta wonder in water, dry it off and pop it into an airtight container with your sugar.
29. Keep bugs out of your drink
Dining – and drinking – al fresco is one of summer’s greatest delights. But if flies and other insects keep finding their way into your drink, it can really sour the mood. Thankfully, there’s a solution: simply take a cupcake case and poke a straw through it. You’ll cover your glass while still having access to its delicious contents.
28. Keep water from boiling over
We’ve all been there: you think you’ve measured out just enough water to boil in your pan, only to find that it’s actually way too much once the bubbles start to rise. To avoid accidentally scalding yourself, then, try resting a wooden spoon over the top of the pan.
27. Easy peel boiled eggs
If you always have trouble removing the shell from your egg after boiling it then this is the kitchen hack for you. Indeed, simply adding a spoonful of baking soda to the cooking water will make the shell come straight off. And it couldn’t be easier – making this hack a real timesaver.
26. Freeze onions to stop the tears
Onions may be super tasty, but cutting them up is surely every home chef’s most dreaded culinary nightmare. You can avoid the tears, however, by simply putting it in the freezer. And if you don’t fancy cutting through a frozen onion, you can place it in the fridge first, then pre-cut it before freezing with minimal fuss.
25. Use salt to clean a cast-iron skillet
When it comes to cleaning a cast-iron skillet, there’s a cast-iron list of things not to do. It’s recommended that you not only steer clear steel wool, but also soap and the dishwasher. Instead, use a paste of water and salt – along with a hard brush – to remove any stubborn stains.
24. Remove excess fat with ice cubes
If you’re making a casserole, soup or sauce and find that it’s a little oily, don’t panic; just pop in an ice cube. The grease will be attracted to the ice – leaving you free to remove it with a ladle or spoon. You’ll have to be on your toes, though, to get it all before the ice cube melts.
23. Keep plastic wrap in the fridge
Is every encounter with plastic wrap a frustrating, losing battle for you? Then you may want to start keeping it in the fridge. Believe it or not, the cold air will allow the wrap to tear just as easily, while preventing it from sticking to itself. And you should also be able to unroll it more easily – basically, it’s a no-brainer.
22. Get more juice out of citrus fruit
When it comes to getting every last delicious drop of juice out of citrus fruit, it’s best to take a two-pronged approach. After all, you need to refrigerate them to keep them fresh – but that makes the fruit less suitable for juicing. When it’s time to squeeze their liquid goodness out, then, simply toss them in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.
21. Neutralize hand odors with lemon juice
Sometimes, just washing your hands with soap after cooking isn’t enough. Indeed, if you’ve been preparing something particularly pungent, you may find that the odor refuses to disappear. Rinsing your mitts with lemon juice, however, can absolutely do the trick – especially if you’ve been cooking with something whiffy like fish.
20. Use veggie scraps to make broth
Preparing vegetables inevitably leaves behind scraps. But don’t just discard those odds and ends – instead, toss them in a stock pot and make a vegetable broth. Not only will you cut down on waste, you’ll also have a healthy, mineral-rich base for sauces, stews and soups. Plus, you can keep the stock for up to a week in an airtight container – or even longer in the freezer.
19. Freeze leftover stock in an ice cube tray
If you really want to get savvy with your stock, you can take things a step further by freezing it in an ice cube tray. After all, it’s essentially a ready made means of measurement – allowing you to pop out the perfect portion of stock as and when required. And if you need your ice cube tray back, you can simply transfer the cubes into a Ziploc bag.
18. Slow-cook cheaper cuts of meat
Spending less on meat seems like a no-brainer for saving money –but not everyone wants to endure those tougher cuts. Fortunately, there’s a sure-fire way to make even the cheapest meat mouthwateringly tender. All you need is a slow cooker; drop your meat cuts in there for a few hours and the only tangible difference will be the price.
17. Buy vegetables that regrow from scraps
Even if you’ve got no need for stock, many vegetable scraps are still worth holding onto, because you can use them to grow into new plants. Yes, with a little time and effort, there are plenty of fruit and vegetable leftovers that can be entirely regrown – from green onions and garlic to carrot tops and cabbage.
16. Buy rarely used spices from the bulk section
Are you trying out a new recipe? Rather than getting saddled with jars of spices that you might not even like, head to the bulk spice section of your local grocery store. There, you’ll be able to measure out and buy the specific quantity required. It’s perfect if you want to try new flavors in your cooking but aren’t looking to buy an entire jar of spice.
15. Buy prepped ingredients from the salad bar
If you’re whipping up a dish that involves chopped veggies, make a beeline for the salad bar. It’s a perfect one-stop shop for making homemade meals with minimal effort. The pre-prepared ingredients make for ideal toppings for everything from sandwiches to pizza. And not only will it save time, you’ll also cut down your grocery bill by only buying exactly what you need.
14. Get the most out of your tubes
It’s tempting to throw away tubed ingredients before they’re fully used up, but there are plenty of different household items that can be employed to eke out those last drops. For example, a clothes peg or a bulldog clip will offer a tighter grip than your own fingers. Alternatively, you could use a heavy jar to roll the tube flat and slowly squeeze out any remaining contents.
13. Rescue crystallized honey
Depending on how quickly you go through a jar of honey, you might find that it’s begun to crystallize before you’ve reached the bottom. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s beyond salvation. All you need to do is apply a little heat – either by placing it in warm water, or popping it in the oven for a few minutes. The warmth will cause the crystals to liquefy – restoring the sweet nectar.
12. Wash and reuse “disposable” kitchen items
Many sandwich bags, sponges and kitchen cloths may claim to be disposable, but they’ll actually last a lot longer than you might first assume. Apparently, all you need to do is keep them clean. Cloths and sponges can simply be thrown in the washing machine – while hand-washing sandwich bags will do plenty to extend their lifespan.
11. Use old cereal bags to separate freezer items
Next time you finish a box of cereal, hold onto the bag inside. Its waxy properties apparently make it ideal for freezer storage, and you can keep your loose leftovers – such as burgers or chicken breasts – separate from one another. Not only will you be actively recycling a bag you’d otherwise throw away, you’ll also save money on buying freezer storage bags.
10. Keep potatoes white
If you’ve ever chopped up potatoes without cooking them immediately, you’ll probably have noticed that the oxidization process causes them to turn an unappetizing shade of grey. That particular eventuality can easily be avoided, however, by popping your potatoes into a bowl of cold water. So give this hack a try and you’ll notice that they still look fabulously fresh.
9. Extend the lifespan of bananas
Watching a fresh bunch of bananas quickly turn brown is a seemingly universal experience – but it doesn’t have to be. To extend the period between unripe and unusable, then, try using plastic wrap to cover the end of the bunch. It’ll stop the bananas emitting ethylene gases from the stem – which can cause the rapid ripening of the potassium-packed fruit.
8. Ripen fruit faster
Of course, sometimes you might actually want your fruit to ripen faster so that you can chow down on it as soon as possible. If your banana is too green or your peach too crunchy, just throw it into a paper bag. The concentration of the fruit’s naturally emitted ethylene gas will speed up the ripening process – giving you an edible snack within a much shorter timeframe.
7. Use shower caps to cover food
It might sound crazy, but throwing a shower cap over your food is actually an amazing kitchen hack. Not only will it protect your leftovers from outside contaminants, but it also beats using tin foil or plastic wrap in almost every way. After all, shower caps are much easier to stretch over a dish, and they’re also reusable – saving you time and money.
6. Easily peel garlic
Garlic is one of the easiest ways to transform a dish from dull to delicious – but peeling it can be a pain. Unless, of course, you know the secret to removing the skin quickly. All you need to do is grab a clove, lie it flat, then hit it with the side of your knife. And from there, watch the skin simply fall off.
5. Use a straw to hull strawberries
It almost seems too perfect, but you really can use a straw to remove the white center from strawberries. Just push it through the bottom of the luscious red berry until it comes out of the top. Then simply pull it through, and it should bring the strawberry’s hull with it.
4. Make cheese easier to grate
Few culinary experiences are as frustrating as grating semisoft cheese. Instead of turning your kitchen surfaces into a messy mush of mozzarella, then, try popping your cheese in the freezer first. It doesn’t need long – in fact, just 30 minutes should be enough to make it much easier to grate.
3. Use rubber bands to open jars
If you’re having trouble opening a particularly stubborn jar, head for the stationery cupboard. Wrapping a rubber band around the lid will provide some much-needed extra traction – helping the lid to pop off easier. You can also relieve the pressure on your own hands – and add a fraction more traction – by covering the lid with a dishtowel.
2. Foam milk at home
You don’t need a top-of-the-range espresso machine to get frothy milk at home. In fact, all you need is a small jar. Fill it around halfway with milk, pop the lid on, then give it a vigorous shake. Once it fills the entire receptacle, remove the lid and place the container in the microwave for around half a minute.
1. Reheat pizza without drying it out
If you’re short on time, the microwave can be a lifesaver for reheating leftovers. However, it can also completely dry them out – particularly if you’re warming up a doughy dish such as pizza. To make sure your slice stays salivating, then, try adding a cup of water to the microwave.