You hear it all the time; cooking from scratch, at home, is just worlds better than eating processed foods, takeaway, microwave ready meals, and all the rest. In fact, more than a few people have laid the blame of virtually all modern health problems — certainly the rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes — at the feet of the processed food industry.
What’s more, research indicates that the average American only spends in the region of half an hour a day cooking and preparing food, as well as cleaning up. Suffice to say, that’s not exactly the profile of someone who’s preparing authentic home-cooked meals from whole food ingredients.
But it’s easier said than done to prepare home-cooked meals from scratch if you, yourself, have never been in the habit of regularly cooking in the first place. All kinds of protests are likely to be raised, ranging from “it’s complicated”, to “I just don’t have enough time, what with work”.
At the end of the day, though, it is possible for just about everyone to develop a healthier and more authentic relationship with food, and to begin cooking from scratch. Here are a few tips for getting started.
Get the basic utensils and equipment for the job
Perhaps the first thing you should do when planning to begin cooking more from scratch, is to do an audit of your kitchen. Is it the kind of place that’s well-suited to proper cooking, or is your current setup pretty much just a microwave?
Get the basic utensils and equipment for the job of doing some real cooking. Look into buying wholesale aprons to keep your clothes clean and make you feel like a proper chef. Buy some cutting knives, spatulas, ladles, and other essentials.
If you don’t have any pots and pans — or, at least, if you don’t have many of them — stock up. You’ll want at least one frying pan, a couple of saucepans, and maybe some more specialist items such as a wok. You’ll also want to acquire a set of containers that can be used for storing your food conveniently in the fridge after you’ve done preparing your meals.
Invest in cookbooks
If you’re brand new to the world of cooking, roughly speaking, and you decide to dive headfirst into experimenting with your own recipes, you’re likely going to find that things are just not turning out at all how you’d like. In fact, it’s probably not too much of a stretch to suggest that you may be disgusted by your own creations, and get instantly put off the idea of cooking at all.
Look, cooking is a skill, just like anything else. You need to develop a sense of how things work in the kitchen before you fly solo and get busy experimenting.
As a new cook, you’ll be well served by investing in some beginner’s level cookbooks, and following the recipes contained within word for word. It’s much more likely that you’ll be able to maintain positive associations with the kitchen, and keep up with your new habit of routine cooking, if you actually enjoy the food you’ve produced, and can take pride in the work you’ve put in, in the kitchen.
Cookbooks also allow you to hone your sense of how different recipes commonly work out, which will also better equip you for your conducting your own culinary experiments down the line.
Stock your kitchen with whole food ingredients, not snacks
People are typically drawn to follow the path of least resistance in life, and it seems as though this might be especially true when it comes to matters of food and nutrition.
Put it like this — if you arrive home from work one day, and you’re starving and in a bad mood, and you wander into the kitchen looking for something to take the edge off, and find that you’ve got several packs of chocolate chip cookies, some ice cream, and some Nutella, but no healthy alternatives — what do you think is most likely to happen?
Prepare your kitchen so that it makes it easier for you to eat healthy than to eat junk. Don’t keep any processed foods in the house at all. Rather, stock your kitchen up with whole food ingredients — and always try to have a few meals ready and waiting in the fridge, so that you can eat at a moment’s notice.Your environment has a big impact on your behaviour, so structure your environment so that it makes regular cooking and healthy eating an easy path to follow.
Cook at a certain time — and maybe batch meals
Everyone has bad days from time to time, and it’s more likely than not that at least on some occasions, you’re going to return home from work and find that you just have no energy or motivation to spend time in the kitchen preparing yourself a meal.
It’s at moments like this when a phone call to Pizza Hut is a real danger.
Get around this problem by making it a habit to cook at certain times, and maybe to batch your meals, as well.
You could, for example, get up an hour early each morning to cook, while enjoying your morning coffee. Or, then again, you could dedicate Sunday afternoons to whipping up meals for the rest of the week, and then freeze them in batches.
Perhaps look into using recipe box services
If you can realistically fit recipe box services such as Blue Apron into your grocery budget, and are interested in the different recipes they offer, and nutritional claims they make, you may find that they give you a bit of extra motivation to stay on the right track with your meal preparation.
Typically, these services will send you a box with all the ingredients you need to create a particular meal, as well as instructions on how to prepare that meal. This removes the need for you to carefully measure out and buy your own ingredients separately.
Instead, just prepare everything for the pot (or oven, or skillet) and get cooking.
This post is a collaboration. From time to time, I collaborate with outside writers, to put together posts that you’ll find interesting. If you would like to work with me on a collaboration, please drop me an email.
I’m Heather, Hetty is a nickname, given to me by my besties daughter. I’m a Social Media Recruiter by day and a foodie by night, weekend and any time i’m not working. My main hobby is searching London for food I find on the Internet.