Presumably you are already cooking at home two or three times a week, following a recipe you found online or in a cookbook. But do you feel connected to the meals you produce with your own two hands and a selection of kitchen tools, or do you view cooking as a chore? Have you tried to think differently about food?
Thinking differently about food doesn’t mean you wake up one day, decide to not see cooking as a chore, and then you don’t struggle. There are some days when I don’t feel like cooking. My strategy is to make those crockpot days.
I touch, prep, and cook food for a living, and I find the time to make meals at home for my family and friends. Does it feel like a chore some days? Yes. But I have the knowledge and skill to combat it, which is what I am passing on to you today.
Your mindset around cooking matters when you are trying to change your habits and live your values. Loving the food you select from the start will make you look forward to cooking at home. No one can put as much care into your meals as you can. No one can make your meals exactly the way you want besides you. There’s great power and satisfaction from making a delicious meal, completely crafted by you.
These five steps will help you think differently about food, change your mindset around cooking, and help you view it with less dread and more excitement. In the kitchen, you are in charge which means avoiding unhealthy or expensive takeout when you don’t want to cook. You can decide how much effort and time you put into your meals.
5 Steps to Think Differently About Food
- Check in with yourself
Even before thinking about what you want to eat, the first step is connecting your body to your mind. Though we are all composed of both, it is very easy to feel as if we are floating brains carried along by a body we don’t acknowledge. Check in with yourself physically and emotionally. Are you tired or energetic? What emotions are you having? Are you sad, apathetic, happy or somewhere in between? The answer will dictate what you should think about eating that day or week.
If you’re low on energy, don’t make an involved meal with 15 ingredients and 20 separate steps. Focus on ingredients you are familiar with that won’t spoil within the week. If you are happy and energetic, pick that week to try a new ingredient or a more involved recipe.
- Be honest about time
Sometimes when we try to change our mindset and think differently about food, instead of starting with baby steps, we rush headlong into it. Instead of setting yourself up to quit cooking at home after a week, start small. If you have 30 minutes every night you can dedicate to cooking, use that time for sheet pan meals like baked potatoes, cauliflower, and chicken with a store-bought barbecue sauce or try a one-pot pasta with butter, garlic, and leftover chicken from the sheet pan meal.
These nights are perfect for vegetables that don’t require much preparation or attention like potatoes, broccoli, or squash. With hardier vegetables like these, you can cut them up and bake them in the oven for an hour or longer without having to worry about them cooking too quickly or burning.
Save new ingredients for when you feel inspired, energized, and have an hour to dedicate.
- What’s the weather like?
Why does it make sense to think about the weather when most of us have A/C units and heaters in our homes? Regardless of how much we pretend the weather doesn’t affect us, it does. The moment we look or step outside, we are affected. What can better protect against the chilly winter wind than a hearty soup? What can better stimulate the senses on a hot summer day than a light salad and a chilled cucumber soup?
Go with your gut.
- “Grocery Shop” at home
Before stressing out about what to make and how much you’ll have to buy, check your fridge, cupboards, and freezer to see if you have enough ingredients to make a quick meal without running to the store. Stock your pantry with the basic building blocks of your meals using ingredients that can be kept for months without spoiling. (link to pantry post) By checking your surroundings, you’re grounding yourself within your kitchen and forcing yourself to be more creative with your choices, even if you still have to follow a recipe.
- Go Shopping
Should you need a trip to the grocery store, corner store, or local farmer’s market, you will be better prepared by knowing what mood you’re in, how much time you have, what the weather’s like, and what you already have at home. Write out potential meals on one sheet of paper and ingredients needed on another. When you are in the store or at the market, instead of snatching the first thing that you see, take the time to look closely at the ingredients.
Don’t pick up the slightly wilted kale with brown spots if you aren’t going to cook it immediately when you get home or if you’re using it for a salad. If you’re lacking in energy or time that week, don’t buy fresh herbs that will wilt after two days. That will only serve to frustrate you.
When you begin to practice these 5 easy steps to think differently about food, you will inevitably feel more nourished and more pleased with your finished dishes. The act of preparing and cooking is not just a physical one but a complete mind/body experience. Choosing ingredients based on the weather, your energy level, and your time will help you form this new habit of cooking at home. You will be able to roll with the “mistakes” and end up satisfied with the result. Connecting your mind and your body to the meals you prepare will make it easier to truly connect with others as you begin to share your hard work and dedication with your family and friends.