There are a lot of people out there who love to cook. These are the people who don’t mind putting in all of that effort to shop, chop, dice, and sauté because they get rewarded for their efforts with a nice meal. But, for a lot of us, the reward simply isn’t enough. Even though you know you should cook for your health and to save money, you still find yourself ordering a pizza. Cooking doesn’t have to be painful though. Follow these kitchen tips and you’ll find cooking a lot easier. Heck, you might even start to like it!
Table of Contents
- 1 Upgrade Your Kitchen Tools
- 2 Choose a Foods, Not a Recipe
- 3 Keep Your Kitchen Stocked with Staples
- 4 Initiate Spaghetti Wednesdays
- 5 Invite People Over for a Cook Fest
- 6 Cut Down on the Cooking Time
- 7 Make Cleanup Easier
- 8 The One Thing You Must Do to Find Time to Eat Healthy
Upgrade Your Kitchen Tools
Chances are that you hate to cook because it takes you too long. A lot of this is simply practice, but it could be because you are using the wrong tools. If you are trying to cut an onion with the wrong knife (which will be dull too since you don’t take care of your kitchen gear), then it will probably take over a minute. With the right knife, you can get that onion chopped in 20 seconds flat.
While you are at it, you might want to invest in some handy kitchen tools which save a lot of time:
Great for making soups and dips. To clean, all you need to do is rinse.
Just throw in a bunch of ingredients, turn it on, and you’ve got a tasty stew. You can even set it to cook while you are at work. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
A mini food processors like the Magic Bullet makes it super fast and easy to chop up foods like onions and carrots. Just make sure you choose one which doesn’t have a lot of parts so it is easy to clean too!
Choose a Foods, Not a Recipe
Here is how a lot of people decide what to eat: they find a recipe which looks good and then set about cooking it. They should be doing it in reverse! First, pick out a main ingredient (in other words, see what you’ve got in the fridge or what is on sale at the store). Then search online for a simple recipe which uses this ingredient.
*Tip: To find a recipe using the foods you have on hand, go to Google Image Search. Just type in the ingredients + recipe. For example, search for tofu carrots tomato rice recipe and you get these results.
Keep Your Kitchen Stocked with Staples
If you are making a trip to the supermarket each time you need to cook, then it is no wonder you hate cooking! Keep your pantry stocked with the staples (like oil, seasonings, rice, beans, onions) and you will be able to cook just about any recipe with just the addition of an ingredient or two. Use this vegan shopping list to make sure you always have staples and ingredients on hand for a complete meal!
Initiate Spaghetti Wednesdays
Lots of people love to cook. Then they start having families and have to cook every day. A common complaint from these people isn’t that they hate cooking, but hate figuring out what to cook. So, make it easier on yourself by having a fallback. Make Wednesdays pasta day, or Fridays pizza day. This way, you at least get one day that you don’t have to think about.
Invite People Over for a Cook Fest
Cooking for one seems like a lot of trouble. Sure, you can cook lots of food so you have leftovers – but who wants to eat the same leftovers for days on end? To make it more enjoyable, invite a friend over for dinner. Be explicit about the fact that the cooking will be a joint effort.
Cut Down on the Cooking Time
Pasta normally takes about 10-20 minutes to cook. But, if you soak it in water overnight first, the cooking time is reduced to just a couple minutes. The same applies to grains like rice, couscous, and quinoa. Likewise, there are all sorts of other tricks to make cooking go faster. The easiest one is to simply cut foods smaller — like those potatoes you want to boil and mash. My favorite tip is to bulk cook grains, beans, legumes, etc. Then I put them into baggies and put them in my freezer so they are always ready.
Make Cleanup Easier
One of the main reasons that people hate cooking is because they’ve got to cleanup afterwards. Seriously, cleanup doesn’t have to be difficult. For starters, choose simple meals that can be cooked with one pot. If you are serving a multi-course meal (like the main dish with a salad or soup), first serve the salad or soup and then serve the main course on the same dish. You’ve just reduced your dishes by nearly half!
Make use of all that time you spend waiting for the onions to sauté or water to boil by cleaning up as you cook. As for washing pots and pans, put some hot water in them immediately. Then let them soak. Cleaning them up tomorrow will be a lot easier.
The One Thing You Must Do to Find Time to Eat Healthy
Eating healthy: it is all something we strive to do. But, when asked why they repeatedly return to eating junk food which they know will harm them, the most common excuse people give is that they don’t have time to eat healthy.
I could give you dozens of small tips on how to make more time to eat healthy.
- Cook food in large batches and put in the freezer for later
- Buy a slow cooker so you can just throw everything in there before work and come home to a healthy stew
- Focus on simple recipes which are quick to cook
- Etc, etc, etc…
But, ultimately, none of these tips are going to help you find time to eat healthy. The only way you are going to eat healthy is if you make it an obligation.
You don’t “find time” to go to work every day. You do it because you must.
You don’t “find time” to get dressed in the morning. You do it because you’d probably get arrested if you went outside naked.
You don’t find time to pay the bills. You know if you don’t that your electricity will get shut off.
The problem with finding time to eat healthy is that the consequences aren’t immediately evident. Sure, you might feel like crap right after eating fast food for lunch, but the real effects are going to gradually take their toll, deteriorating your health, adding to your waistline, and accumulate as a major crisis in your older age.
No one really cares about the future when they’ve got NOW to worry about. This is why it is so easy to dismiss eating healthy as something you will worry about later, when you “find time.”
So, how do you turn eating healthy into an obligation?
There is no set answer to this. But, I do know what works for me: I need to hold myself accountable. For example, I proudly tell the other moms in the park that I rarely let my child eat packaged food. If they were to see me giving her cookies from a box, I would feel really hypocritical and embarrassed. Now, the other moms probably don’t give a rat’s arse what I feed my kid. The point is that I care. By stating something publicly, I have to hold myself accountable to it.
This accountability is the same reason I don’t like the gradual approach to going vegan (or any other diet). Sure, it may be easier to gradually make the switch (such as cutting out one animal product per week, or doing Meatless Mondays, then Tuesdays…), but it also gives you a lot more wiggle room. You won’t feel so guilty if you “cheat,” meaning you probably won’t stick to the diet for the long term. By contrast, if you make a public declaration that you are “going vegan,” it will hold a lot more weight than trying to explain to your friends and family that “This week I am not eating pig products. Next week I won’t be eating dairy.”
At first, when you try to make something an obligation and hold yourself accountable, it is really hard. But, over time, it becomes a habit. Soon, you are doing it without even thinking. Not long after, you feel terrible if you don’t do that habit. For example, if I eat fast food for lunch, I get mad at myself for wasting money on junk food when I’ve got the makings of a good rice pilaf at home.
If you are struggling with making or breaking bag habits, I strongly suggest that you read this article about the science of habit formation at the NY Times. The article does a great job of breaking down the “habit loop” which is cue, routine, and reward. Big companies use the habit loop to get you hooked on their products, but you can easily apply this information to your own life for creating healthy habits.
How did I turn healthy eating into an obligation? It probably had something to do with the fact that, when I was 18, I lived in a house with 5 other vegans who were a lot older than me and a lot better at cooking (one was a professional cook). I felt pressured to cook things which would impress them. So I experimented with recipes. We also had weekly vegan potlucks, which came with the unspoken competition to see who could make the most popular dish at the potluck. And, when you are cooking for umpteen people, you don’t buy expensive, unhealthy vegan processed food. You learn how to make a mean burger from dirt-cheap lentils.
I’m lucky that I unintentionally made healthy eating an obligation when I was still really young. Now, it is second nature to me. But I still understand what a struggle it can be to do things which you know are good for you. For the past 5+ years, I’ve been trying to start exercising, always citing the fact that “I don’t have time” as an excuse. Recently, I was finally able to start exercising. How? No, I didn’t suddenly find more hours in the day. I just found a way to make it an obligation. I signed up for a small women-only gym near my house. I usually go to a wifi café to work (I work online), so I just started working at the gym’s café. After working 3 hours in the café, I just hop over to the gym. It feels like part of my work routine, and thus an obligation to fulfill.
After just a month of going to the gym, I can’t imagine not exercising. It has gone from being a painful task that I couldn’t “find time” for to one of the best parts of my day. So, as hard as it is to eat healthy, don’t worry. You’ll soon start to love the time spent in the kitchen, the smell of the foods cooking, exploring new recipes, and sitting down with your family for a meal which fills and fulfills them.