Saving Dinner: 5 Rules to Prevent Mess-Ups When Measuring Ingredients

recipe ingredients

recipe ingredients

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Have you ever gotten distracted while cooking and wondered whether you added an ingredient or if you added the right amount?  It happens to me regularly, especially when I violate my rules.  Yes, I have rules.  I have to if I want to produce edible meals.  I learned early on that getting distracted while measuring ingredients could have very bad results and I needed rules to prevent it.

Rule No. 1: Measure out the ingredients IN ORDER.  Don’t skip an ingredient thinking you’ll come back and get it in a few minutes.  I did that just last night while making cornbread muffins.  I skipped the cornmeal temporarily because it was in the pantry and everything else was in the baking cabinet and the refrigerator.  After I mixed up the muffins I realized they didn’t look right and remembered I hadn’t added the cornmeal.  Close call!

Rule No. 2:  Don’t stop in the middle unless there’s an emergency – I mean a real emergency.

Rule No. 3:  Don’t put measuring utensils in the sink or dishwasher until all the ingredients are mixed in.  The reason I do this is in case I do get distracted or interrupted.  I can check the measuring utensils to see if I added something.  There’s often a little bit of residue in the utensils that gives me a clue.

Rule No. 4:  If I get really distracted and don’t have a clue what I’ve done, I throw it out and start over.  It’s tempting to try to save it and improvise, but for me, it’s not worth it.  I do make exceptions depending on the recipe.

Rule No. 5:  Talk myself through.  I’m one of those people who talks to myself all the time.  It’s especially helpful when I’m cooking.  Saying the ingredients and measurements out loud helps keep me focused on cooking and helps me remember what I’ve done.

If these rules aren’t enough, and once in a while they aren’t, I have two other strategies I use if I need to:

1.       Get all the ingredients out.  Measure out the correct amounts and combine as directed.  Then put everything away.

recipe ingredients


2.       Put the recipe in a sheet protector and mark ingredients off as they’re added.  Or print an extra copy of the recipe and mark items off directly on the paper.  This technique is very effective if I’m trying to cook in the midst of chaos.


If you’re one of those people who don’t get distracted and never mess up when measuring ingredients, these rules probably sound silly and extreme.  But trust me, for someone as easily distracted as I am, these rules save dinner!

Do you ever struggle to stay focused while measuring ingredients? What are your strategies for staying on track?

Other cooking articles are available in the Cooking Index

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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6 thoughts on “Saving Dinner: 5 Rules to Prevent Mess-Ups When Measuring Ingredients

  1. Those are all great strategies! I like the one about throwing it out and starting over. There have been times when I should have done that but did not. I also find it that if I catch myself early enough in the process; it helps to re-measure the ingredients (as long as they haven’t been combined). If one of my kids is talking to me and I can’t remember how much flour I added to the bowl, I measure it back out to confirm the amount.

    1. I hate when that happens. Measuring flour is the worst for me, too. I messed up the other day and had to add a little more liquid to offset too much flour.

  2. I always measure the dry ingredients first – flour, baking soda/powder, salt, etc and they go in one bowl. Then comes the wet ingredients – butter, eggs, vanilla and it goes separate bowls. Sugar and misc condiments – oats, choc chip, etc in their own bowls. Yes it is more to clean up but at least I know where I left off it interrupted.

  3. Like Denise I try to do the ingredients in batches by type — all the dry ingredients, all the spices, all the canned things, etc — but I don’t put them in separate bowls. If I do have to take a break, I do it between batches, as it’s a lot easier to remember that I already did all the spices than to remember I added the oregano and salt but not the pepper.

    Also, while I am sorry to laugh at your (near) misfortune, the idea of cornbread muffins without cornmeal is hilarious!

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