Popular food hacks that will change the way you eat

Let's face it. It's easy to get stuck in a routine or bookmark countless new recipes and swear you'll get around to trying them. It's even easier to make the same old go-to meals, and suddenly, you realize that old favorites have become boring and humdrum.

No matter how little time you have in the morning, afternoon, or evening, there are plenty of ways to kick-start your desire to try something new. These food hacks will get you thinking, and they're all easy enough that they're going to encourage you to think — and eat — outside that boring old box.

Use muffins tins to portion and freeze steel-cut oatmeal

When it comes to breakfast, time is one of the biggest problems a lot of people face. Whether you're getting ready for a long commute or trying to get the kids off to school, most of us don't have the time to spend an hour making breakfast every morning. If you love oatmeal, you might find yourself turning to the instant stuff. They aren't the same as homemade, steel-cut oats, though, and like any other premade meals, there might be some added ingredients you just don't want. Fortunately, there's an awesome hack that'll let you enjoy a tasty dish of steel-cut oats any morning, without the 45-minute time sink.

You can portion out and freeze individual servings of steel-cut oats, but the go-to freezer bags are a hassle. Instead, portion them out into muffin tins and leave them in the freezer for a few hours. Once they're good and solid, pop them out and transfer them to a freezer bag. When you want a hot breakfast or middle-of-the-day snack, take out a portion and pop it in the microwave for a few minutes. They'll be piping hot and just as good as the day you made them, and you can garnish them with whatever strikes your fancy. (Or, use ice cube trays and throw a few in your morning smoothie!)

Don't throw out that funky chocolate

Who doesn't love a bit of chocolate? If you like to keep a special bar stashed somewhere secret for one of those days, you know there's nothing more disappointing than opening that piece of chocolate to find it's gone all funky and gray. There are two different kinds of chocolate bloom, and they can both happen when chocolate isn't stored properly. Fat bloom happens when the chocolate starts to melt and fat rises to the surface and reforms. Sugar bloom happens when the chocolate gets damp and some of the sugar dissolves then dries.

It's still safe to eat, albeit a bit off-putting. It's no longer good for melting, either, as it's not going to melt, look, or set right with the damage that's been done to its fat content. What's the hack? Use it for baking. Once it's baked into cookies or any other sort of goodie you'd care to put in the oven, the bloom isn't going to be noticeable anymore, and it'll taste and act like any other chocolate.

Use your waffle iron for cookies

Let's say you're a huge fan of cookies but making a full batch always ends with more than a little guilt. Sure, you can freeze some of the dough and use it for later, but that's still going to mean firing up the oven, waiting for it to heat, and then waiting for it to actually bake your cookies if you find yourself craving them. Instead, try using your waffle iron to make some amazing cookies in a matter of minutes!

How To: Simplify has a tried-and-true recipe that works great in the waffle iron and takes only minutes to cook. They're easy, they're fun, and they're perfect for giving you the little cookie fix that you need without the guilt attached to the feeling that you really should eat that entire batch you just baked, because it would be wasteful not to. Win!

Freeze wine in ice cube trays for cooking

There are a lot of recipes that call for wine of one sort or another. Whatever you're making sauce for, adding wine is one of those tried-and-true hacks that can take your cooking game to the next level. If you don't want to have to crack open a bottle of wine for the bit that your recipe calls for, there's an incredibly easy wine hack that will solve two problems at once.

Next time you have a bit of wine left in the bottom of the bottle that you just can't finish, freeze it. An ice cube tray is incredibly handy for this, and it'll let you freeze leftover wine (and even wine that's no longer good enough to drink) into handy portion sizes that are perfect for dropping into whatever you're making. Save that full bottle and keep wine from going to waste at the same time!

Remove strawberry stems with a straw

If strawberries are a favorite fruit, chances are good that you hate wasting any bit of these wonderful little berries. Cutting off the stem and getting rid of that white bit in the middle is a pain, but there's a super easy way to do it that means no waste, no mess, and no massive time investment.

Use a straw! Just push the straw through the center of the berry, and you'll remove that center core and the stem while leaving the rest of the berry whole. Not only is it a lot faster than trying to cut strawberries apart with a knife, but it's going to leave the berries whole and perfect for decorating that cake you're baking or topping that strawberry shortcake.

Remove cherry pits with a paper clip

Cherries are amazing, but you've probably walked past them in the store a hundred times thinking they're just too much of a hassle. Getting that pit out is … the pits, after all, and investing in a cherry pitter means having just one more kitchen gadget taking up space in the drawers. That's a pain, especially if you hardly ever use it. Fortunately, there's an easy way to deal with those pesky pits that uses something you probably already have around the house: a paper clip.

Just bend the paper clip open, slide it into the stem end of the cherry, and use it to slice around the pit. Out comes the pit with minimal mess, and you still have the whole cherry.

Use plastic bottles for airtight seals on plastic bags

There are few things more annoying than that bag of powdered sugar that wiggles its way open and spills all over your cabinet, unless it's the bag of trail mix that did the same thing all over your nicely packed lunch. If you're not a fan of — or don't have space for — plastic containers, try this easy hack that will make opening your packed lunch less of a surprise.

Cut the top off a plastic water bottle or any other appropriately sized bottle. Push the opening of the plastic bag through, then fold the edges down over the bottle's opening. Screw the top back on, and you have a tightly sealed plastic bag that won't spill its content all over your lunch, no matter how bumpy a ride to work you have in the morning.

Use brown sugar to create chocolate molds

If you're gearing up for a party and looking for a way to make completely unique chocolates, you could spend countless hours — and countless dollars — scouring the internet for the perfect molds. Fortunately, that's something you absolutely don't need to do, and you probably have everything you need to make your own molds right in the kitchen.

Rise and Shine suggests taking regular brown sugar and packing it into a tin. Press any item you want into the sugar to make a mold, then just pour in the chocolate, let it sit, and you have your shapes. It's easy to remove, easy to clean up, and you can use anything you want to create your own, completely unique chocolates.

Use a spoon to peel ginger

When a recipe calls for ginger root, it might seem like the time and effort of using fresh ginger isn't worth the hassle. Use a knife, and it's going to take off a lot of the good stuff while making those knobbly bits next to impossible to clean. There's a simple hack, and Gourmet magazine says you should simply use a spoon.

The root is more delicate than it looks, and by using a spoon you can just scrape off that tough outer skin while doing the least amount of damage to the inner part you want to use. Foodie for Two suggests a slight modification to the method: using a grapefruit spoon. The pointed end will get you in all those little nooks and crannies, making this kitchen task a whole lot easier.

Replace mayo with Greek yogurt

There's pretty much nothing healthy about mayonnaise. Unfortunately, mayo is a key ingredient in many dishes, including some of your favorite sandwiches. Even if you can't fathom that tuna sandwich without mayo, you can hack your Greek yogurt into a replacement that's so good you'll never miss the mayo.

Just replace the mayo with Greek yogurt. It'll be thick enough to keep your sandwich together just like mayo, which is a big help since texture is a huge part of the culinary experience. You probably want to start with plain yogurt, but if you're making chicken salad or tuna salad, try lemon yogurt for a whole new flavor to make your lunchtime a lot more exciting!

Cooling down drinks quickly

How often have you resigned yourself to a can of beer or pop that's only slightly cold, knowing that there's only so fast a fridge can work? Gizmodo hacked the science of chilling drinks, and they say the quick way to do it is fill a cooler — or other basin — with a mixture of ice, salt, and water. The result should be a freezing cold but watery solution, made possible by the salt that lowers the temperature water freezes at. Leave your drinks to sit in this for about five minutes, and since the chill wraps around the entire surface of the bottle or can, it gets cold a lot faster than it would if you put it in ice alone.

There's also a slightly more risky method that involves wrapping the bottle or can in a wet paper towel and popping it in the freezer, but the downside to this one is that it's going to take a bit longer, and if you happen to forget about it, you might find yourself in for a bit of a cleanup.

Freeze your tofu

Tofu is a love-it-or-hate-it sort of thing, and if you're firmly in the "hate" camp, there's something simple you can do to help open the door to all those recipes that call for tofu … even though you might not be able to bring yourself to try right now.

When you buy tofu, you probably assume you should store it in the same form it's in when you buy it. Nope! Open and drain your tofu, then pop it in the freezer until you're ready to use it. Freezing tofu changes the thing most people have a problem with: tofu's texture. As tofu freezes, ice crystals form inside. That creates a series of holes inside, which means that not only does the texture change and that sogginess disappears, but it's going to be better at absorbing all the flavor you're cooking with.

Elevate your cupcake game

If you really want to impress by bringing cupcakes to a gathering, you might feel like you need to head to a bakery instead of putting together your own creations at home. That's not the case at all, and there's one simple food hack that's going to let you elevate your cupcake game to the point where you might never feel tempted by those professionally frosted cupcakes again.

Let's face it, getting the frosting right is the hard part. It's the best part of the cupcake, and it's tough to get those swirls just right. Multicolored swirls might seem like even more of a challenge, but it's simple! Just take a single sheet of cling film, and lay it on your table. Spread your first layer of frosting out in a line, and flatten down the top. Spread the second color alongside the first, and smooth out the top of this one, too. Fold one layer over the other, and wrap the cling film into a tube. Pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to get the frosting to firm up enough not to mix together. Slide one end of your frosting-filled tube into a piping bag, cut off the extra plastic, and put on the star tip. Start piping, and you'll have perfectly accented frosting colors, just like the pros!

Make coffee ice cubes for iced coffee

If you're a coffee drinker, you'll know that there's nothing better during the hot months than a cold cup of iced coffee. With milk or without, with sugar, with flavoring or just black, it's a must-have when the temperature starts climbing. But there's a drawback: the ice. Iced coffee is great, but watered-down iced coffee? Not so much.

With one simple hack and a little bit of preparation, your iced coffees will be better than ever. Fill an ice cube tray with coffee, let it freeze, and use those cubes for your favorite summertime beverage. No matter how fast — or how slow — you drink it, you'll never have watered-down iced coffee again.

Use scraps to infuse water

You probably know that in order to keep at the top of your game, you need to keep hydrated. But drinking even a few glasses of plain water can leave you feeling bloated and full, and commercial flavorings often have added sugar you don't want. If you're looking for an easy way to make flavored water that doesn't have any additives and that you actually want to drink, look no further than whatever you're making for dinner … or lunch, or breakfast.

Keep a Mason jar or two in the fridge and use a bit of your leftovers from cooking other meals to infuse your water. Toss in some citrus peels, or the last of the mandarin oranges you bought but just can't eat. If you're using fresh herbs for a dish, add those, too. Just imagine how much more interesting your water is going to be if it's infused with cucumbers and mint from last night's dinner. Get creative with things like strawberries and jalapeno, pineapple and thyme, or blackberry and mint.

If you want a strong flavor, just let the jar sit in the fridge overnight. It'll be ready for you in the morning. Or let it sit for only a few hours to make a lightly infused water. Staying hydrated will be something different each and every day.

Freeze herbs in oil, broth, or butter

There's something about the addition of fresh herbs that just makes any dish better. If you have an herb garden, there's an awesome way you can hack it to help give your meals that extra little kick no matter what time of the year it is or how little you feel like doing on any given night.

This one takes a little planning ahead, but there's little enough commitment here that you can easily add a little variety to what you're doing. Take an ice cube tray, and fill it with herbs of your choice. Then add whatever liquid is going to work best for whatever you have in mind for the final product. If you're planning on using your cubes for soup, freeze them in some broth. You can also try melted butter or olive oil, if you're going to use them in the frying pan for sauces or fresh veggies. Once they're frozen, you can transfer them to freezer bags for easier storage. And don't forget to label them! It's super easy to add a dash of springtime to any dish, even in the depths of winter.