There are numerous benefits to eating at home and preparing your own food. In fact, it’s one of the best things we can do for our own nutrition and the health of our families. But often it just doesn’t seem feasible with all of our other day-to-day obligations. There may be real obstacles keeping us from cooking, but I think they can be overcome more easily than we think, and we can begin to enjoy this healthy practice again.
What’s keeping you from cooking more? For me, it’s often the resulting mess I am left with afterward. Imagining the starchy pasta pots, skillets full of stuck-on food, dirty plates and utensils can inhibit me from committing to a home-cooked meal more often than I’d like to admit. This hurdle seems even higher when I have to clean my kitchen ahead of meal preparation. I enjoy spending time preparing a delicious meal, but this all seems like too much after a long day at work when I really just want to relax on my couch. We all have our favorite excuses to not be cooking, but the following tips can get you jumping over the hurdles and back into the kitchen again.
Barrier #1: I hate the mess!
The idea for this blog came to me while staring down a pile of dirty dishes. I’d worked all day, done a little shopping for dinner ingredients, invited a friend over to eat and came home to a kitchen in slight disarray with more cleaning to come after the meal. SIGH.
We wash all the dishes by hand in our house and it’s no one’s favorite chore. How do we make this inevitability less of a task… or make fewer dirty dishes to start with?
When I consider potential meals on busy nights, I try to find recipes that require minimal cookware. One skillet meals and stir-frys are my favorite meal hacks for these occasions. If you are able to think ahead a bit and own these appliances, using a crock pot or Instant Pot are all major dish (and time!) savers.
When making a more involved meal, the age-old wisdom of “clean as you go” is valuable. During downtime, while things are in the oven or chilling in the fridge, wash what you can and organize your space. Keep messes contained, discard food scraps, wipe surfaces, etc. This technique makes the final clean-up more manageable. When it comes to enjoying the task of washing dishes more, well, that’s a tough one. But I find pumping up the jams or tuning into a favorite podcast makes standing over the sink, scraping stuck-on bits off my cast iron much more bearable.
Barrier #2: I’m short on time
Something I think most of us have in common when thinking about what’s keeping you from cooking is time, or rather the lack thereof. Between work, school, social obligations, the kid’s activities, we just don’t have time at the end of the day to work on a home-cooked meal – especially when we could just pick something up.
I’d venture to say that eating at home can be just as easy as getting takeout, can taste better, and you can skip the heartburn and belly ache afterward. One of my favorite bloggers spends an hour or two of hands-on time on Sunday to make her meal preparation throughout the week easier and faster. Prepping meal components like grains, roasting vegetables, washing salad greens, marinating meat, and perhaps making a batch of soup or oatmeal makes it really easy to throw together healthy meals on the fly throughout the week.
And don’t put pressure on yourself to make flawless, made-from-scratch meals every night. Take necessary short-cuts (like canned beans, frozen vegetables, and rotisserie chicken) to make things easier. Shoot for a quality protein source, a whole grain or starch, and a decent helping of vegetables, and relax about the rest.
Barrier #3: I’m not a chef
Maybe you’ve never fancied yourself much of a home cook. Forget knife skills, scrambling an egg is a challenge.
I believe everyone is capable of mastering basic cooking skills while letting go of the notion that we must be perfect. If you desire to learn, seek out resources. Check with the local library or your Co-op for upcoming community cooking classes that are often free or fairly inexpensive.
Barrier #4: I don’t have the motivation
I often run into the issue of feeling wholly uninspired and unmotivated to make food in my own kitchen. This can be very discouraging and often tempts me to find dinner out. What does excite me is diving into cookbooks.
Maybe you love browsing Pinterest for meal ideas, or leisurely strolling the aisles of the grocery store until inspiration strikes. Whatever “sparks joy” for you (thanks, Marie Kondo) get back into it!
Make a list or create a Pinterest board of recipes you’d like to try soon. If you meal plan, think about a few meals you’d like to shop for that week and plan when you’ll make them. Dedicate time in your schedule for this activity.
If cooking is something you generally enjoy, give yourself this gift and reignite the passion. It will personally fulfill you and your interests while offering better nutrition and financial savings!
Barrier #5: I just don’t like it
Then there are folks who simply do not enjoy cooking. That’s okay, it’s not everyone’s favorite. If this describes you, I challenge you to find 3-5 simple meals you can throw together with minimal kitchen time. This is where cutting corners comes back into the frame.
Boil pasta and heat some sauce, combine pre-cooked rice, canned beans and frozen vegetables, or make a quick quesadilla with some spinach and salsa. This is still light years better than eating all your meals out.
And if that is just too much, your Co-op is stocked with a plethora of pre-cooked Grab ‘n Go offerings like grilled chicken breasts, fish, roasted vegetables, salads, and sides like mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. I suppose this is not technically you doing the cooking, but it allows you to enjoy a balanced meal at home, prepared in our home kitchen.
Whatever your greatest barrier to getting into your kitchen, it can be overcome with a little desire and a touch of planning. Keep it simple, keep it balanced, don’t stress.