This post isn’t going to be about how to make you a lazy human, surrendering your cooking to the outside world. Nope, it’s more about flipping your culinary skills and time spent in the kitchen on a 180 rotation toward the opposite - the fundamentals around spending more time with your food, cooking it from scratch and making delectable dishes to be proud of.
At some point in the past year, it became easier for me to cook from scratch than buy pre-made meals. Sounds dumb, right? Think about it this way… some people struggle to envision a meal from scratch, find the time to buy the ingredients, and make the meal, when all they’d really like to do is pick something up or have something delivered. I, on the other hand, have become so accustomed to making my food and setting standards for what I put into my body that I get frustrated by not being able to find food that fits my standards of quality and that won’t upset me (physically). It’s really hard for me to create brain space for finding new places to eat, when I really just enjoy building upon my current growing knowledge of from-scratch cooking.
From scratch cooking isn’t always time consuming. There are many easy and fun ways to create your basic meal components in batches, saving time and money in the long run. Plus, it’s really satisfying to know you created what you get to eat and enjoy.
I was inspired to write this post, because I’ve become frustrated seeing all the food delivery and meal prep companies out there, encouraging busy lives and a disconnected approach to eating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against meal prep. Heck, I offer it! But, I’m more of the approach of helping those who truly care about what they’re putting into their bodies and still, though they may be busy, connect to their meals by appreciating where they came from and what they’ll do for them.
So, if you feel like I do and you’d like to strengthen your connection to the food you eat by taking the time and effort to listen to what your body’s craving, make your meals from scratch with love, and eating with a grateful heart, but you’re struggling with motivation and frustration around not being efficient enough at your kitchen game, then these tips are for you.
TIP 1: ORGANIZE YOUR KITCHEN
I just moved into a new pad and watched one of my trademark patterns on repeat: when I moved into a new place, I can’t do anything until everything’s put away and organized for functionality.
On the flip side of the coin, after living in a place for so long things can tend to get jumbled up and organization can go astray. It takes diligence and attention to keep a kitchen (and home) in working order.
What I’m saying is, if you’re struggling with being motivated to cook, take a look at reorganizing your kitchen to make cooking more exciting and easy!:
Move like items together. Bring most commonly used spices to the most accessible places. Open up counter space for cutting and prepping. Keep kitchen utensils closest to where they’ll be used. It may take time to understand what your cooking needs are, but over time this will limit your movement while cooking and make you feel like you’re crushing it as you become more and more efficient of a chef.
Get to know your kitchen arsenal. Knowing the tools and equipment you have will not only open up options for you in terms of what you can make, but it’ll limit duplicate purchases.
Get rid of the junk. In your equipment assessment, if you find something you haven’t used in the past year or ever, donate it. You probably don’t need it anyway. The point isn’t to get you to change the way you cook to the point you have to start over. It’s to help you use the cooking skills you already have and culinary styles you enjoy to create more of what you love to eat.
TIP 2: PREPARE YOUR CALENDAR FOR COOKING
If you’re starting out, you’ll need to give yourself more time to figure out a few things, like which meals you like the best, how much time you need to prepare them, and your most efficient order of operation (prepping, cooking, eating, cleaning, etc.). Here’s what I recommend:
Set aside time for each step. Each week, block off one hour for gathering recipes + one hour for buying groceries + 2 x three hour meal prep sessions each week. It may sound like a lot, but this is realistic in the beginning. Just turn some of the time you spend browsing the internet or watching television into time that will nourish your body, mind, and soul!
Shift your schedule week-to-week. My recommendations may not work for you, and that’s fine. You are your own person and you’ll cook your own way. However you find your rhythm is fine with me, just remember to include all the steps. After all, without preparation you can’t very well have a fruitful cooking session! The good news is that over time, your steps will shrink in time and preparing food will be more of a comfortable, intuitive process for you.
Be prepared to say NO to conflicting commitments. You’re on a mission here. You want to cook more and enjoy the process, so try not to let other temptations pull you away from your goal. Obviously, eating out or ordering delivery is allowed, but even this habit will shrink once you become more accustomed to preparing your own meals. You’ll find so much joy in creating meals from scratch that it’ll be easy to say NO.
TIP 3: STOCK YOUR BASIC INGREDIENTS
It’s typical to have a go-to grocery list, a.k.a. that list of items you always purchase every time you go to the grocery store. As you expand your repertoire in the kitchen, you’ll find the same thing happens. You’ll find yourself craving the same flavours and sourcing recipes with similar ingredients, which is smart, you’ll save money!
Once you get used to the types of ingredients certain recipes need, you can stock up on some of your favourite go-to’s. Here are some categories of foods to make sure to have on hand so you can make a meal from nothing:
Flours (chickpea, brown rice, almond, coconut).
Fresh or dried herbs & spices (cinnamon, sea salt, black pepper, paprika).
Superfoods (maca root powder, raw cacao powder, chaga).
Fresh fruits & veggies (greens, apples, bananas, root veg).
Oils & vinegars (apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, flax oil).
Dried, uncooked proteins (nuts & seeds, beans, legumes, lentils).
Bare condiments (tamari, maple syrup, raw honey).
TIP 4: SAVE YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPES
You need go-to meals and backup meals. Trust me! There will be days you just can’t fathom spending time searching for something to cook. Then you remember your fave meal you made last month that you’ve made 10 times before, that you can shop for in just 5 minutes and make in 30-45 minutes or less. Save recipes from Instagram feeds, tag pages in cookbooks, and bookmark pages on your web browser. These recipes make up your kitchen bible and you’ll be glad you have them in your arsenal.
For me, these include squash soup, stir fry, sautéed veg & eggs, and pesto pasta. I know exactly what I need from the grocery store without referencing the internet, and making them is second nature. No matter how simple the recipe, make sure you have at least one of these in your back pocket for a rainy day. If you need a helping hand, try these on for size:
TIP 5: LEAVE ROOM FOR PATIENCE
It’s taken me four and a half years to get to where I’m at in the kitchen. I can make more than half the meals and staple items I make from scratch without a recipe, but it’s taken time and dedication, errors and lost ingredients (and money), and lots of patience. And trust me, I still have mini hissy fits when I mess up a recipe when I know I shouldn’t have! But I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I didn’t try new things or make mistakes I could learn from. From my experience, you only make a mistake once in the kitchen, so it’s not as bad as it seems, because sometimes mistakes make happy accidents too!