5 Small Things You Can Do While Dinner Is Cooking

published Jan 27, 2015
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Kitchen Tour: Joan & Jim’s Jolly Kitchen (Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Some nights, cooking dinner is a hands-on task. But on other nights, after the prep work is done, dinner is left to bake in the oven or simmer on the stove, and you’re left with a little down time.

So what do you do with those precious minutes while dinner is cooking? Since I’m already there, I like to reserve this time for things that need to get done in the kitchen. These tasks are all quick and simple, yet they make life in the kitchen a little better.

5 Small Tasks to Tackle While Dinner Is Cooking

Here are the five most helpful things I do in those 20 or 30 minutes of hands-off cooking time, after the obvious things are finished — setting the table, tossing a salad, mixing a cocktail, and pouring wine!

1. Do the dishes.

Of course, right?! Use this as a time to empty the dishwasher, wash the dishes from breakfast, and the ones used to prepare dinner. You’ll still have a few dishes after dinner, but at least the load will be a little lighter.

2. Prepare your breakfast.

Mornings are hectic and rushed, so my key to eating a solid breakfast during the week is preparing it ahead of time. This can mean different things for everyone. For you maybe it means making a big pot of oatmeal, hard-boiling eggs, cutting up fresh fruit, or even making muffins. Some of us here at The Kitchn like to plan a hands-off dinner for Sunday or Monday night and use that time to make lunches for the whole week.

3. Pack tomorrow’s lunch.

Why put off for later what you can do now? Treat yourself to a few more minutes of sleep and simplify your morning routine by prepping and packing lunch in the evening while dinner is cooking. If you’re planning to use leftovers from dinner for lunch, clean or set out your lunchbox, and chop up a few extra vegetables on the side.

4. Tackle one small kitchen chore.

I have this one drawer in my kitchen that seems like it’s in a constant state of clutter, and it totally irks me every time I open it. Organizing it would probably take no more than 15 minutes, yet carving out that time in the evening or on the weekend always feels like a hassle. I finally tackled it the other night while my dinner was in the oven!

Surely you have something similar you want to accomplish. Maybe cleaning out your spice cabinet, reorganizing the baking shelf in your pantry, or purging the cabinet above the refrigerator. Maybe it’s as small as remembering to start a load of kitchen towels in the washer. For bigger projects, break them down into smaller steps over a few days.

5. Browse cookbooks for recipe inspiration!

Want to cook more from your cookbooks more often but can’t seem to find the time to actually look through them? Use the time while dinner is in the oven! Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit down to browse through recipes to make for dinner next week, and then prepare a list with any ingredients you need to pick up at the store.

What do you do while dinner is in the oven? We’d love more ideas for making this little slice of time even more useful.