A number of my clients signed on to work with because they want to be feeding their families healthier foods and they know that the best way to do that is through home cooking. Home cooking can be challenging for some people. Some blame meal planning—it is difficult to get organized, I never know what to plan, etc. Others blame not having the right recipes—being sick of the same meals, finding recipes takes to long, etc. But more and more what I am finding to be the real culprit in the lack of home cooking: people don’t want to cook.
Let’s be honest, cooking, like most other skills, takes practice. And for people who are trying to quickly get dinner on the table after a long day, practicing a rusty (or never used) skill can feel quite overwhelming, intimidating, and downright unappealing.
So here are some tips that I recommend to my clients that might help you when you are facing that same hump:
1) Keep it simple. Don’t try a complicated new recipe after a long day at work. Save it for the weekend when you have time to take it slow, make sense of the steps, and feel more relaxed. Then, once you are more comfortable with the recipe, maybe it can become one for the weeknight rotation.
2) Staples are your friend. What are your easy, go-to meals that you feel comfortable making anytime? Keep the ingredients for those items on hand all the time and then, if they aren’t the healthiest options, try to find ways to boost the nutritional content. Pasta with canned marinara- how about adding some fresh or frozen veggies? Burgers- how about adding a big salad on the side or swapping in a veggie or salmon burger? Grilled cheese- how about adding some tomato or apple slices into the sandwich and have a nice veggie or salad on the side?
3) Cook on the weekends. If you can, make something big on the weekend and then use it in different, simpler ways throughout the week. So have a roast chicken with roasted veggies for family dinner on Sunday night, then, with the leftovers you can make: chicken and roasted veggie quesadillas, a quick pasta with chicken and peas, or a roasted veggie omelet. Or make a big pot of beans on Sunday and then during the week have: a big chef salad with beans as the protein, beans and veggie quesadillas, fried rice with eggs, beans, and veggies, etc.
4) Cook once, eat three times. Make a big pot of a whole grain and then use it as a side in different ways throughout the week: fried rice, pilaf, “risotto,” etc.
5) Spice up your life! Spices and condiments can be a big help when you are stuck in a rut. For instance, a fried rice with the same egg and veggies will taste completely different with soy sauce and ginger than it will with chili powder, cheese, and salsa.
Above all, though, be kind to yourself. While it may never be your favorite activity, cooking should not make you miserable. Start slow, start with where you’re comfortable and build from there. When you find something you like to make, explore it some more. Find the fun in it and congratulate yourself for small victories!