It wasn’t too long ago that I made the decision to feed my family more real food. We were a family who primarily ate restaurant and fast food. If it was a really good day, we might eat packaged food that I had to heat up on the stove. I hardly had any cooking skills , but I decided to go for it and start our real food journey anyway. I’ve got to tell you………..some of you home cooks out there were downright scary to me at the time. You were soaking grains, grinding your own flour, and using ingredients I had never heard of. You see, my area of cooking expertise and claim to fame was the grilled cheese. Nobody could quite make a grilled cheese sandwich as good as I could. And that friends……….is where my cooking skills started and ended.
When I write about our real food journey, I’m not coming to you as a master chef. I am coming to you as woman who should have paid more attention to her mother when she was trying to show me the way around a kitchen. (She is going to totally love this confession.) You see, I wasn’t really paying attention because I was too busy trying to be a young feminist. I was planning to be a career woman and I really could care less about homemaking. I really think my teenage self thought that I would make enough money to hire a chef. Oh, the dreams I had! And………..when that didn’t happen……….I figured out that I would have to learn to cook on my own.
I encourage you to take a deep breathe, put your Flirty Apron on, and know that you can be a real food cook. Regardless of your level of cooking, you will be doing the right thing for your family when you make the decision to switch from fast and processed food to nutrient dense real food. As the old song goes, ” I can bring home the bacon. Fry it up in a pan…………” Yes, ladies we can do both and a whole lot more too!
Tips for Beginning Home Cooks
- Keep it simple. Real simple. Choose recipes with only a few ingredients that you are familiar with. Consider simple sides like chopped veggies and no-sugar added applesauce until your cooking skills improve. Save the time consuming recipes for the weekends or days where you might have more time. This is Wednesday and you are Mom. You are not Iron Chef Michael Symon. I don’t want you running around, getting all sweaty, and stressed out.
- Homemade-ish is good to start. I am not going to judge you if you use some convenience foods in your meal prep. There is nothing wrong with using the minced garlic in the jar, canned tomatoes, or boxed chicken stock. In fact, I encourage you to look in your produce department and buy as many already chopped items as your budget allows. You can chop the onions yourself next week when you are feeling more confident in your abilities.
- Add one new meal a week. Oh sure…….we would all love to sit down with Pinterest and plan our meals for the week, but a week’s worth of new recipes is sure to drive you crazy. Try one new dish a week and you won’t feel as overwhelmed. Fill in the rest of the week with simple sandwiches, salads, and whole wheat pasta with good jar sauce.
- Prep the night before. If you are anything like me, 6:00 is not actually the best time to be cooking. My kids are starving. I’m starving. Let’s just say that we are not very friendly when we are hungry. My goal is to get the food to the table before World War III breaks out in my house. Once they get food in their bellies, my angels return. Because of this, I like to prepare as much as I can the night before. I chop, mix, and bake as much as I can so that dinner can come together in about a half hour or less. Be creative. See how much you can get done the night before.
- Manage your expectations. Understand that everything you make is not going to come out perfectly the first time you try it. I’ve burned plenty. However, each time I make a new dish it does get a little better and quickly my new recipes become my favorite old recipes. It is also quite possible that you and your family may not like everything you make. Don’t worry about it. If you think that you’ve made a mistake (whoops, forgot the salt!) then give it another try. If it is truly a recipe that your family doesn’t enjoy then toss it out and try something new next week. Bad recipes certainly do not make you a bad cook.
For simple recipes your family is sure to love make sure you check out my recipe index. I am adding new recipes all of the time so make sure you check back often. You will also want to grab this free meal-planning printable calendar to make your meal planning easier. It has areas to plan your daily activities and your evening meal prep.
Tell me……….what tips do you have to offer to a beginning cook? How often do you cook at home each week? Who taught you how to cook? Leave me a comment and let’s get the conversation started.