Do you want to start cooking at home more and don’t know where to start? I think I can help.
Growing up, my mom cooked every single day , three times a day. I enjoyed eating but I was too lazy to learn to cook. By the time I was out of college and ready to adult on my own, I hadn’t cooked a single day in my life. After the excitement of getting my own apartment and becoming an adult wore off, I was faced with the very first challenge of surviving on my own. Eating.
I was still a student, living on part time jobs and sharing the apartment with four other students. Eating out everyday wasn’t an option . So we came up with an idea. We would all take turns to cook once a week. And that’s what we did. Now, I will have to give massive credits to my room mates for enduring my cooking, because it did need endurance and also a very skinny paycheck. But this experience gave me a very important skill that I cherish till today.
Cooking my own meals is the single best thing I have been doing to sustain a healthy lifestyle. I have been cooking my own meals, everyday, for the past 11 years and I can tell you, this is the one habit, that has helped me maintain a healthy weight without a lot of thought. When you have to think about every thing you put in your mouth, eating becomes a chore and is no longer enjoyable or satisfying. I barely knew how to turn on the stove when I started, but since then I have come a long way. Now, ordering a take out seems to be much more work than cooking my meals.
Figure out the real reason you are not cooking.
Why do you think you are not cooking?
Do you think you are too busy?
Do you think you are not interested in cooking ?
Or maybe you are worried you don’t know how to cook?
Or panicking that it’s too much work?
If you are too busy, let me say that you can always squeeze into your schedule what needs to be done. Think of all the times that you have been super busy but managed to squeeze in your favorite show. Granted life does get busy and you might have to have take outs now and then, but that need not be everyday.
If you think you are not interested in cooking, you need a certain level of competence in the task before you dismiss it as “not interested”. If you have never held pan in your life, or if you haven’t tried it seriously for at least a few months, you need to explore that territory before you can claim to be uninterested. Like for instance, you might not be enjoying the new song that comes up on the radio until you have heard it so many times that you can sing along now.
If you think it’s too much work, let me remind you that anything worth doing is a lot of work. But it does get easier with time, that I can promise.
And that leaves us with “I don’t know how to cook”, now that we can work with. That is fixable. Now that we have got all our excuses out of the way, let’s see how we can make it a habit.
Food blogs and cooking channels are huge motivators. They make food look so good that not only do you want to eat it, but also make it. Subscribe to a few of those and stalk them. You need not try any of the recipes – at first, but I find looking at really good food motivates me to try and make them. Fast food does not look nearly as appetizing anymore.
Start with small steps. Maybe brew your coffee at home instead of going to the coffee shop or boil an egg to have with your take out order. When I started cooking, I just cooked once a week. This was excellent to introduce me to cooking, because I had a whole week to motivate myself to select a recipe, get the ingredients and make something . While cooking once a week took away the fear of cooking, the habit really took hold when I started doing it every day. Once you gain the confidence to make something, go into your kitchen everyday and try making something simple, even if it takes just 5 mins.
Make specific plans about the time and recipe
Was there a time when you told yourself I will cook today evening.
And then after work, you stepped out for a while to get some fresh air, met a friend, chatted for an hour and remembered you had to run to the post office to pick up a package. By the time you came back, you had to help your kids with homework and just when you were going to put on the pan to cook something, you don’t know what to cook.
So you start looking on the net for inspiration. You really like one *sigh*, but you don’t have lettuce. Here is another one, it looks really good, but it has peas and you hate it. By the time you look up, it is near dinner time. You put back the pan and order a take out instead.
Instead of telling yourself an ambiguous “I will cook in the evening”, fix a certain time. Make a date with yourself to start cooking. If you tell yourself , I am going to start cooking right after I finish my work, and I am going to make mushroom soup and pasta, you are most likely to follow it through. The more specific your plan is, the more motivated you will be to follow through. This could be the one crucial step which could take you through all the humps.
Even after all these years, the one thing that I find really hard is deciding what to cook for that day. If possible make a weekly plan and make the same recipes every week for simplicity sake. This will help you greatly long term.
Start before you get hungry
Well duh. This one was obvious.
But I live with someone who thinks of eating only after he gets hungry-so had to put it in. For me, hunger is the greatest motivation killer. Once I get hungry all I want to do is eat. Cooking will be a distant dream. This is where the previous tip of making a plan will help. Start cooking at least an hour before your usual dinner time.
Learn a recipe or two
When I started cooking, I was too excited to try out different recipes. I made a different one each day.
This was great as an experiment, but I wasn’t super enthusiastic every time I had to fish out my recipe book and read each line before adding the ingredient. I lost interest really fast.
You need to cook the same recipe a few times to get it right. And then make it more often. Find a few of your favorites, or beg a few from family and friends and practice them every week, till you can make them with your eyes closed (figuratively of course). Then add on new recipes.
Learn from someone and then teach someone
I learn better, when I watch someone cook rather than just reading a recipe. When that someone is a person I love to spend time with, learning the recipe from them makes it all the more significant and meaningful.
Also, I learn the best when I teach someone. I understand nuances which I didn’t before, and the act of thinking about what I am about to teach makes it more memorable. Try teaching it to someone you love. The recipe will become much more than that. It will become part of your identity in someone’s mind. It’s a beautiful thing.
Grocery shopping – Go with what you know instead of following a trend
Buy vegetables and ingredients you are familiar with. Kale might be all the rage and might be toted as the king of vegetables that must be absolutely consumed three times a day. None of that will matter ,if you don’t know how to prepare it. It will end up in the garbage along with your motivation. I have fallen into this pit many times. But you live and you learn.
I prep the vegetable and bases I use the most of in my recipes. I use an onion tomato base in almost all my recipes. I find it halves my time to have these prepared before hand.
Other ingredients like ginger garlic paste, coconut milk etc which I use often are frozen in bulk . These make cooking more pleasurable and stress free. If you prefer, you can buy prepped vegetables to make it easier.
Make gadgets your friend
Gadgets can be a huge help to speed up the process. I have a blender, slicer and spice mixer that I use everyday. I don’t have a slow cooker but I can see how it can make life so much easier for someone who has to run out in the morning . When you are back from work, your dinner is warm and ready for you to enjoy. Beats take out any day.
Freezing and leftovers stretches your effort
When I cook, I make a larger batch. I make dinner and pack for lunch as well. Sometimes the main dish for today can serve as a side dish tomorrow. Freeze soup bases and sauces that you can heat up in a pinch. Think of ways to stretch your efforts and suddenly you will be eating two to three days a week at home instead of a take out seven days a week.
Enjoy the process
Try to find ways to enjoy the process. Unwind with some music, cook with a significant other, invite friends over to try out your new recipe. I find it hard to sustain a habit if I don’t find a way to enjoy it and feel accomplished. Treat yourself with a takeout after a week of eating in. Cooking for yourself and your family is a wonderful thing. It is an act of self-care and of showing love. Cherish it.
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.-Jim Rohn
Subscribe to services that will ease you into cooking
There are plenty of services out there that makes cooking fun. By taking the planning, shopping and prepping out of the equation, these services will ease you into the habit of cooking.
This article has a good comparison on various services, so you can choose the best one that would suit your lifestyle.
When was the first time you cooked? What did you cook? I would love to hear all about it. Have you used any of the meal kit services? Did you like them? Comment below and let me know. I love to hear from you!