Labor Day — a holiday devoted to workers — celebrates strides that have been made to reduce harsh working conditions.
Remember, the 8-hour workday and 40-hour workweek weren’t always standards.
Breaks during the workday weren’t required, either.
While workplace requirements have eased, there’s still a fair amount of work that goes into preparing, serving and cleaning up after meals.
It’s not just a matter of the work you do at home to prepare meals, there’s also menu planning, a shopping list and putting away your groceries — before you even start to prepare your meals.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture study, done through the Economic Research Service, revealed that in 2014 it took 51 minutes for the average American adult to prep and serve a meal, then clean up after it.
That varies, too, based on the demographics. Those without children spend 50 minutes on average, and those who are employed, spend 45 minutes.
Those with children spend 74 minutes, and those who are unemployed or retired spend 72 minutes, on average.
Men tend to spend less time, 37 minutes a day, while women spend 66 minutes a day, prepping meals.
Those surveyed who said they purchased carry-out, delivery, prepared foods, and so on, said they saved about 30 minutes a day in meal preparation.
Of course, there’s a price for that convenience.
There are tools you can use that can reduce the work you do in the kitchen — while stretching your food budget, too.
Here’s a look at some of those tools:
- Pressure cookers: These trap the steam, creating pressure, and increase the temperature beyond the boiling point (212°F). This higher temperature shortens the cooking time.
Electric pressure cookers (think Instant Pot), are widely popular. However, stovetop pressure cookers, another option, cook faster because they reach even higher temperatures and pressure.
The electric ones automate many of the steps and, for that, many find them easier to use.
- Slow cookers: These can be used to make meals that are assembled into the cooker, then cooked slowly over a period. (I will usually make a slow cooker dish early in the week so I can prep for it on a Sunday and then make it Monday or Tuesday. I add in extra food to get a second dinner out of it later in the week.)
- Electric vegetable chopper: Chopping foods to prep them for dishes, to cook in the pressure cooker or in a slow cooker, takes a considerable amount of time. The electric vegetable chopper is much smaller and less complex than a food processor and chops foods much faster than doing it by hand.
If you don’t want an electrical vegetable chopper, you can use veggie dicers, which work manually, as another option.
Another way to save time is to use a meal-planning calendar.
That will help you to know what you need to prep in advance and you can do prep work in batches.
When planning meals, always start with taking inventory of what’s currently in your fridge and pantry. Also, check the weekly grocery ads to help in planning.
You can get the kids involved, too, so they have a say in the meals. They also can remind you of events, such as a baseball game, that can help you in your planning.
A weekly template for meal planning can be found online from Iowa State University Extension: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/plan/menu-planning/.
By Shari Bresin
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
Here’s a recipe for honey garlic chicken you can try, using your electric pressure cooker. It’s from the Mississippi State University Extension Service:
Honey Garlic Chicken
⅓ cup honey
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
½ cup no-salt ketchup
½ teaspoon oregano, dried
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons sesame seed oil (or vegetable oil)
4–6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skinless
Salt and pepper to taste
½ Tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted (for garnish)
Green onions (optional, for garnish)
Wash your hands with soap and water.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the honey, onion powder, minced garlic, soy sauce, ketchup, oregano, and parsley. Mix until well-combined and set aside.
Heat your pressure cooker in sauté mode. Add the sesame oil to the pot.
Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and arrange so they are close but not touching in the cooker.
Wash your hands.
Cook the chicken thighs for 2 minutes to 3 minutes per side.
Add the prepared honey garlic sauce to the pot; cover and lock the lid.
Cook in poultry mode for 20 minutes.
Turn off the pot and allow it to release the pressure about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken thighs to a serving plate and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and green onions.
Published September 01, 2021