I don’t have time to cook.
I hear this all the time. Sure, I’m willing to eat healthier, but just don’t make me stand behind a stove. Yet eating at home with fresh ingredients is a great opportunity. Those who cook for themselves get more of the nutrients of what they eat and eat less sugar and other inflammatory processed ingredients. Cooking is also a way to save money. Yes the hectic, non-stop schedule that so many of us experience often keeps us from picking up a spatula. Well, I’m here to tell you that you do have time to cook. In fact, I’ve got 9 tips that will have you feel like Gordon Ramsey in no time.
Make a list –
You need to be prepared before going to the store. While it may be fine to shop haphazardly when purchasing everything processed, that won’t work when you cook from scratch. It’s kind of like trying to drive to a destination when you don’t have directions. You’ll end up with lots of ingredients that you’ll be lost at to what to do with when you get home.
Build a Spice Collection –
So maybe right now your spice rack is comprised of just a salt and pepper shaker. A good plan is to purchase a new spice every time you go to the store and you’ll have a good collection in no time. That way, you won’t have the overwhelm of needing a bunch of new ingredients to just try one recipe. And if you want to get really adventurous, get some herb plants like rosemary, thyme or cilantro to grow in your windowsill. Fresh herbs will really open up the possibilities.
Pre-Cut your vegetables –
Wash your vegetables and cut them on the weekend or whenever you have time. That will be a time saver when you actually get ready to cook. And if preparing your vegetables ahead of time still feels overwhelming, you can get packaged pre-cut vegetables. They are often about the same price as uncut.
Use a Slow Cooker –
Just too tired to cook after a long days work. There was a time before the invention of microwaves when every family had a slow cooker. Slow cookers are great because you can cook a nutritious meal from scratch with minimal effort during the cooking process.They also help retain the nutrients that microwave cooking often destroys. So plug in a slow cooker, and cook your meal while you are off living your life.
Make it Simple –
If you’re not used to cooking, don’t begin with a recipe that has 25 ingredients. That can just lead to being overwhelmed and will take more time. There are many recipes that only have 6 to 10 ingredients which is a much better place to start. Before you know it you may find time to cook something more elaborate. But you don’t have to get there overnight.
Cook Double –
Think bigger than making a single meal when you pick up a skillet. One dish can provide food for more than one meal if you plan right. So make extras. And don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing day after day. Most creations will last a few days in the refrigerator. And if you don’t want to eat it again by that point, throw it into a freezer safe container. You’ve just made your own microwavable meals.
Be Willing to Adapt –
Want to try a new recipe but don’t have time to get all the ingredients? Don’t worry about perfection. Great recipes were meant to be altered. Do the best with what you have. Substitute rice for quinoa. Maybe basil or thyme will work for oregano. Try black beans instead of lentils. Get creative with what you have and you’ll be surprised with what you can come up with.
Do Lunch on Sunday –
Find that you’re spending $10 to $20 everyday on lunch on the run? You can save lots of money by just doing some planning in advance. Take an hour or so on Sunday to get everything ready. Even if that means throwing the raw ingredients into a glass container and letting the microwave do the cooking on your lunch break. You’ll save a lot of time and money during the week by not spending your precious free time running through a drive-thru. And your meal will probably be a lot healthier too.
Make it a Family Affair –
Not just cooking for yourself? There’s no rule that you have to do everything by yourself.. Kids can take on roles that are age appropriate. A little kid might mix, or tear up lettuce for a salad. A bigger kid can be put in charge of washing and chopping. This will teach them the joy of eating food they’ve helped create. This will hopefully help them eat healthier when they become adults taking care of their own household.
This isn’t all or nothing. Don’t think that if you start cooking, that means you have to cook every meal right away. Start with just one short recipe.
The only way to really have control over what you’re eating is by cooking. Its the only way to know for sure what is in your food. Hopefully this habit will grow into something more frequent. And with the money you’ll save, maybe you can buy something that will save you time or make your life easier in other ways.
Doreen Pendgracs says
Great post, Erica. I love cooking, but my main motto is indeed to keep things simple. I love to grill meat or fish and accompany that wilth salad and/or vegetables. Those are our usual 2 meal components. Simple, healthy, and delicious.
It is great to have a grill, Doreen. If I had a grill, I would use it all the time too!
People have become dependent on take outs and microwavable food. These offer very little in the way of nutrition.
I enjoy cooking more and more. Every so often we will eat out but it does not beat home cooked food.
I agree that you need a variety of seasonings and herbs in order to start. I tend to cook for two consecutive days in order to save on time.
I got rid of the microwave in our house. At first my husband was really thrown off, but once you get used to it, it is really easy to get around using.
Kire Sdyor says
Erica, sound advise. My wife and kids tease me over #7. They were taught to be bakers before they became cooks and are rigid in following recipes. Needless to say, I am a terrible baker.
How great to have a bunch of bakers in the family! I would totally let them tease you, of course assuming they also bake for you!
Erica, this is such a neat, healthy follow-up to my post that people are going to think we collaborated. In reality it’s just a matter of ‘great minds thinking alike’ LOL. I’m glad you mentioned the slow cooker, that is the favourite time-saving kitchen appliance. Cutting the vegetables ahead of time is a dandy tip too. Might even get people eating more raw vegies if they’re available.
I agree. Great minds do think alike! Actually, having pre-cut broccoli helped me eat more veggies last night. I couldn’t be bothered to cook vegetables, but then I found the cut vegetables so I just popped some in my mouth!
Jacqueline Gum says
Because I live alone and cook only for me, batch cooking has been my staple for years. And keeping it simple. In order to take advantage of farmers markets and fresh ingredients, I often freeze vegetables to use later in soups and things.
Living alone is really great training for cooking in batches. When I went away to college, I was given a cookbook about making quick single serving meals. I always thought it was crazy to just cook for 1 when making more would save me time later in the week.
I have for a long time been big on cooking in quantity and utilizing the freezer when possible. I love eating out though so when at home or when traveling this is a hobby and a pleasure I like to keep. That said though, I have become much more healthy in the way I go about it.
I can see how you would rarely have access to a kitchen with your lifestyle. I love eating in restaurants, but I can see how it would be such a treat to eat at home if you rarely get to do it.
Ken Dowell says
In addition to the things you mentioned, I also find cooking relaxing. That is as long as I have time to do it. Every once in a while I’ll plan on spending an afternoon cooking and make three of four things. In addition to that night’s dinner I might make a soup or a gumbo or a pasta sauce that I’ll freeze.
Wow, you really have your cooking organized Ken. That must make things so much easier for you when things get hectic.
Good suggestions, Erica. Personally was a great “chef” for ten years. Then I travelled the world for years, lived in 5 star hotels and eat in restaurants and had room service. Then moved to London and lived next door to Harrods with all their wonderful ready made food. Never got into the habit of coocking again and with all the projects I’m working on I will not start cooking again the near future.
Catarina, I will say that if I ever strike it rich, I’ll probably hire a chef. I like have control over what I eat, but if I could find someone to make it for me, I would love it.
Susan Cooper says
I love this post, Erica. But think you knew I would… LOL. I’m all about making things ahead and prepping ahead whenever possible. For me it all about simple, healthy, and delicious and something anyone can make. 🙂
Yes, Susan, that definitely sounds like you! 🙂 I think it is great that there are people sharing recipes that are geared to the everyday person. Every cook started not knowing how to cook. Easy recipes help those who are overwhelmed with cooking realize that they can do it too.
Marquita Herald says
These are great tips Erica! Since I’ve been working at home I’ve adopted many of these strategies and it’s made a huge difference. I especially love my slow cooker! The one area I would really like to work on is building up a collection of spices. In fact I’ve been thinking how lovely it would be to grow some. I do a few of the basics now like chives, but it would be wonderful to add things like basil and rosemary. Great reminder and something to work on this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!
I’ve been wanting to grow spices from home, too! It has been on my to-do list for too long. One of us should do it and then motivate the other!
I’ve been doing more of the things you mention here the longer I freelance form home. I especially like the idea of making more dishes in a slow cooker, but have yet to go down that route. I did made two gallons of French onion soup from my garden onions, so now have a stockpile to last me through the winter.
The french onion soup sounds wonderful! That will definitely be nice as the weather turns cooler. What a great use of your garden.
William Rusho says
I like the idea of making a list. I think if I did that before I went to the store, I would not have to run back to it at the last minute for what I needed. I am notorious for doing that.
Thanks for sharing this with us.
I’ve been there too, William. I finally convinced myself that as much as I thought I would, I really wasn’t going to remember.
Beth Niebuhr says
Great suggestions, Erica. I remember when I was a single working mom and I was interviewed by the local paper and when asked how I handled cooking, I said I either cooked very slow or very fast – slow cooker or microwave. That’s not true anymore but I actually have begun using the slow cooker again sometimes. Better recipes these days.
I love that – I either cooked very slow or very fast. I’m sure it is much easier now than when you were raising little ones. Cooking for kids is a challenge on its own.
Great tips. I guess I am lucky because I do not have to think about cooking. I run the business and my husband cooks and shops. It works for me.
I love that, Arleen! You just reminded me that I always said as a kid that I would marry a chef. It didn’t work out that way for me, but I imagine it must be wonderful.
Diana Anjos says
I can’t Thank you enough Erica. Each time I’m dealing with a weight loss issue I receive an email from you helping me through it. From worried about how I look walking into the gym. To trying to stay on track with Birthdays and celebrations and now with prepping ahead. Their calling for rain all weekend, perfect for meal prep. Thanks again!
Thank you so much, Diana. It means so much to me to hear that my posts have been helpful to you. Keep up the good work with your weight loss!
I feel so blessed, that I found your website about helping people create a healthy lifestyle. I need this, when it comes to eating healthy I get an F, I don’t even like to cook. But having someone give me tips and allow me to put them to action at my own pace is great. I’m going to be subscribing to your email :} Thank you!
Thank you so much, Sacha. I really appreciate hearing that. And I never cooked at all until a few years ago myself so you’re in good company.