I grew up in a house where most of the cooking was done from scratch and my mom put lots of time and effort into inviting us into the kitchen and teaching us cooking skills. And yet, when I first started out on my own as an “adult” I didn’t know where to begin when it came to day to day cooking. I felt paralyzed. It felt like if I was going to cook it needed to be something amazing. Something complicated. Something to feed an army. So I often found myself taking on big cooking projects on Sunday nights and then being so sick of the dish I had made by the end of the week that I couldn’t make it again for months. So then, for a while, I kind of gave up on cooking. I would cook from time to time but mostly I ate pasta, ramen, and salads.
Overtime, though, I started to venture back into the kitchen and discovered that for me the best way to take it slow and get comfortable in the kitchen was to start by doctoring already made foods. I added spices, vegetables, and meats to jarred tomato sauces and soups. I added healthy toppings to frozen pizzas. These sorts of steps helped me to no longer feel overwhelmed by the prospect of cooking. They also helped me to begin to experiment with cuisines and flavors I hadn’t cooked with before in a way that felt safe to me.
As my confidence in the kitchen grew so did my understanding of proportions, flavor combinations, and how to work efficiently in the kitchen. Overtime those skills and that knowledge helped me to be ready to start making more and more things from scratch. Now many of the prepared foods I used to depend on I make myself and I am much more comfortable trying new recipes because I have a sense of what will work together and want won’t. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did start with prepared foods that I worked to make better.
Even now there are still some prepackaged foods that I keep around and some that I occasionally make from scratch but usually get prepackaged. I do try to buy packaged foods with ingredients I recognize and ideally 5 ingredients or less, but most I just let these be part of the rotation so that on those nights when I don’t feel like cooking or don’t feel inspired, we have something to fall back on.
Do you have other tricks that have helped you to get into the kitchen? If so, I’d love to hear them! And don’t forget, if this idea sounds good and/or you would like more tricks and tips to get you started in the kitchen, join me for my 10-Day Cooking Challenge which starts on September 23rd.