With restaurant spending exceeding grocery store spending for the first time ever, we should all sit up and take notice of our food preparation habits. Cooking and convenience don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms. If you want eat out less, but lack confidence in cooking, here are a few simple ways to get you started-up not stressed out in the kitchen.
Plan. Mapping out a simple list of family favorites, simple meals or even recipes you’d like to try may sound overly simple, but if you don’t write (or type) it down, it will remain simply wishful thinking instead of delicious dining. Starting with a food-map or menu is the foundation for the next steps in the process – finding recipes, making a grocery list, and even planning any make-ahead preparations to allow time for dinner prep on a busy weeknight.
Choose convenience foods carefully. Quick-cooking grains, frozen, canned, or even prepped produce may be just the ticket to simplifying your cooking experience. If the thought of washing, peeling, and julienne-ing carrots makes your eyes glaze over, it’s probably best that you purchase match-stick carrots. If rinsing, soaking and slow cooking beans or legumes makes you dread that batch of chili, go with low-sodium canned beans.
Start with what you know. If making bread from scratch to accompany your chicken noodle soup makes you hyperventilate, start with frozen dough. Home-cooked family dinners need to happen, and if that means a bag of salad, store-bought dressing, a loaf of French bread and a simple homemade soup – then great! Start where you are, and get used to the routine of cooking on a regular basis. Once that becomes more of a habit, then start to tackle one recipe or cooking skill at a time. The slower the change the more permanent it will be, so be patient!
Incorporate produce. Whether it’s a microwaved or crock-pot baked potato or washed and sliced fresh fruit at dinner, enjoy the convenience of produce. Most fruits and veggies require little to no cooking, and give you more bang for you buck when it comes to flavor and nutrition than most other foods. So even if you do pick up some Chinese takeout, steam up some broccoli, or slice up some oranges to balance out your meal.
Remember that comparison is the enemy of contentment so don’t compare your cooking abilities to the deluge of cooking competition shows and amazing pins out there. Start where you are and gradually build up your cooking confidence and your health at the same time.