Food52 in 5

5-Minute Tricks to Make the Most of Your Downtime

March  3, 2018

What can you do with just five minutes? Actually, way more than you think! Introducing Food52 in 5: your cheat sheet for speedy, delicious recipes, fun mini projects, and more.

I think I may have learned to stretch time—and not just a little bit, but a lot, like saltwater taffy.

I discovered this skill recently, over a few busier-than-normal weekends that made me realize it's the days that look craziest on the calendar—the ones where I squeeze in a trip to the diner, a farmer’s market run, an out-of-town hike, a for-the-heck-of-it dance class, and a date with the newspaper, all back-to-back—that last the longest. I don’t know if it's the fun of having so many to-dos on the daily roster, or the Sunday-night satisfaction of thinking about everything I banged out in two, too-quick days, but it’s reason enough for me to want to jam. every. last. moment. with some kind of plan.

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This principle of time-stretching doesn't just apply to weekends, and my plan-making isn't limited to bigger activities (like taking a day trip) either. Sometimes they take no more than 5 minutes, hardly big enough to call "plans," and manageable enough to slip into any spare moment of downtime. Respond to a personal, totally-non-work-related email you've been meaning to get to, or make a playlist, or jot off a postcard to your college roommate/pen pal/parents. Devoting a few moments of free time to any one of these teeny tasks makes a 5-minute window (one that I'd probably otherwise fill with a glazed-over slide down a social media feed) feel like a happy expanse.

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Top Comment:
“If it's very cold, I have to go in after a minute or two, otherwise, it's a delicious five minutes.”

Let’s start with a drink!

1. Find your perfect classic cocktail.

No more um-uh-ing at the bar, no more staring down your own little collection of bottles before reaching for a cold beer. Not that there’s anything wrong with a cold beer. But James Bond had the martini, Carrie Bradshaw had the Cosmo, and maybe you want a drink—Your Drink, the one your friends know to order you and any bartender can make. All it takes is a few minutes of “research.” Learn how to make it just the way you like it.

2. Write a postcard to someone just because.

Nothing makes me feel more like a little kid than getting a letter, something totally unexpected, in the mail. It totally makes my day, so why not make someone else’s: Pick out a fun postcard at a bookstore, or take the one that comes with your receipt from your next dinner out, then slap a stamp on the back and jot anything that comes to mind. A poem! A heart as big as the postcard! A narration of whatever funny thing you see on the street! Send it to whoever you think of first.

3. Give your sink a spa day.

Cleaning your sink is one of those little things that you think won’t make much of a difference and then you wonder, aghast, what you were possibly waiting for. (Right up there with cleaning your glasses.) A quick but thorough scrub, something bright and citrusy down the disposal, and a few moments of attention dedicated to a pesky clog gets you to a whole new world.

4. Make a 5-minute dessert.

Maybe part of your weekend plan involves baking elaborate desserts that require plenty of prep and active time. Or maybe it involves spending 5 minutes and minimal thought on something sweet to enjoy. Enter the mug cake: a tiny personal cake you make in the microwave, in a mug that you can snuggle with your hand while slumping onto the couch. This one’s good for when the chocolate cravings threaten to shake you silly if not acknowledged.

5. Get outside.

Ever feel like you went morning to night without seeing the light of day? Like there's a distinct possibility you didn't get outside once? We've all been there. Make a daily “appointment,” if you have to—put it on your calendar. And then devote yourself, totally, intentionally, for just 5 minutes, to being outside and listening to the birds chirping.

What do you devote 5 minutes a day to? Tell us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Joy
  • Marissa
  • 70&holding
  • ELLE
  • thom
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Joy October 3, 2018
It is NOT downtime is you are filling it with things to do. lol
Marissa September 20, 2018
Love this article!! Will try the postcard idea. : ) Weekend putterers, unite! xx
70&holding March 7, 2018
I have so many small things to do, in 'down time' I sometimes forget, I can just, put my feet up and be still for 5 minutes. I just sit back and wait to hear, what ever comes to my ears. Sounds of Children Laughing! Green Parrots in the trees! The Ocean. The word I could not remember an hour ago! A cup of tea and my Head Phones or Book. Or, just 'silence'!!!!raf
ELLE March 4, 2018
Close to midnight, before I go to bed, I step outside. I sniff the air, put out my hand to feel precipitation, look up at the sky. It's dark here, so on moonless nights, the sky is a spectacular carpet of stars and the Milky Way. I've been doing this for years and I'm not tired of it. If it's very cold, I have to go in after a minute or two, otherwise, it's a delicious five minutes.
Safstar March 6, 2018
I really, really like this - thank you for sharing it!
thom March 4, 2018
Postcard idea is perfect. All our thank you notes are written on old postcards (from cleaning out relatives' houses and from past vacations.) I address and stamp them, then put them on 'the spot.' I never mention them again, very important. Hubby eventually writes the note and mails them. People comment on receiving our thank you notes.
Also, while they were still with us, I wrote a postcard a month to my grandmothers and great aunts. They didn't live near each other so I could get away with using the same message. At least two of them kept them all in a drawer so I know they loved getting them.
Hint: if you write large you don't have to write much.
BerryBaby March 3, 2018
1. Feed the outside birds
2. Feed my puppies
3. Take quick pantry inventory and jot down what’s needed
4. Hug my puppies (this can take up all 5 minutes🐶🐶)!
5. Make a salad for lunch
AntoniaJames March 3, 2018
Sit down with a blank index card and think of 3 new ideas for current creative projects

Review menu plan, check fridge/freezer/pantry, confirm grocery list

Organize receipts, enter cash amounts into PocketMoney (app that records expenses by category, date, payee, etc., for export to Quicken database)

Select a recipe to try in the coming weeks from one of 3 or 4 cookbooks checked out from the library (or my own); make a note of it on my menu plan

Select one of my older bread recipes to queue up for testing/converting to metric

Knit a test swatch

Spend exactly 5 minutes working on my current bead necklace project (it’s laid out on a beading board in my rollmop desk, always ready)

Think of more ways to use short pockets of time (this list took less than 3 minutes)

More cooking and related tasks are in this Hotline thread from a month ago:

And an incomplete list - all kitchen related -- that I compiled some time ago: