Today we’re tackling everything you don’t like about being in the kitchen and my tips and habits to help you enjoy cooking more.
What Helped You Enjoy Cooking More?
I think for anyone starting to cook, it’s not that enjoyable. Prepping ingredients takes time, learning how to season takes a lot of experimenting and failing, there’s that fear of burning your food and undercooking it at the same time. It’s a balancing act between what’s on the stove or in the oven, reading the recipe, setting a timer, and preparing for the next steps. Worst of all, the clean up.
There’s a lot of joy in cooking too. My favorite thing in this world is being able to make something from scratch and to share that with family and friends. I enjoy seeing how happy it makes them. It’s also a fun challenge to make something new with whatever is available in the kitchen.
Cooking and Food is a core personality trait for me. When I think of hanging out, I think about sharing a meal and experiences with people. Going to the beach? The first thing I’m thinking about is what snacks to bring. Wanna have a picnic at the park? Yeah, I guess we can play frisbee too.
Cooking is work, but, it’s work worth doing. Especially if you’re trying to save some money.
Still, there are a lot of things that I do in the kitchen that can help you save time, energy, and some of the burden of cooking at home.
Here are some of the complaints about cooking and ways to improve your experience.
I Don’t Enjoy Cooking Because… Cleanup is a Pain in the Butt.
We all know this problem. Seriously, I don’t get how the dishes pile up either! Here I go to make a grilled cheese sandwich and I’ve managed to dirty half my kitchen. Recipes should really start including cleanup time.
There are few things you can do to minimize dish duty.
Start Using One-Pot Recipes.
The fewer tools, pots, and pans that a recipe calls for, the less you’ll have to clean up. One pot recipes are exactly what they sound like. Recipes designed specifically to cook up a fantastic meal with one pan. That math is simple enough right?
Clean Up As You Go.
Make it a habit to clean up as you cook. Your world will change when you start cleaning up the dishes while you’re cooking. Waiting for the water to boil? Start cleaning up. Waiting for that pan of veggies to come out of the oven? Start cleaning up.
Have A Bowl Nearby for Your Scraps.
Save yourself some time and effort by bringing a bowl or ziplock bag to your prep station. This way, when you’re chopping up your veggies you can just throw the scraps into the bowl and then toss the scraps into the garbage can, or compost bin, when you’re done. This saves a lot of time from you walking back and forth to the garbage can and cleaning up countertops.
Or… Have A Ziplock Bag Nearby for your Vegetable Scraps.
You can save the scraps to make homemade vegetable broth. All you have to do is put the vegetable scraps in a gallon sized ziplock bag and store it in the freezer. When it’s full, take it out, boil the scraps in 6-8 cups of water, and strain it out. Tada! Fresh homemade veggie broth!
I Don’t Enjoy Cooking Because… All The Prep Work Takes Forever.
No one likes being stuck in the kitchen, and preparing all the ingredients can take up a good chunk of time.
These are a few ways to cut down on cooking time.
Get A Good Knife.
Investing in a good quality set of knives will cut your prep time in half. When your knife can literally cut through an onion like it’s a stick of butter, you’ll thank me.
It’s also a lot safer to work with a sharp knife. So, for your safety and future happiness in the kitchen, learn how to hone your knife to keep it in good shape.
Serious Eats made this fantastic post that offers suggestions for great knives at different price ranges “The Best Chef’s Knives.“
Practice, Practice, Practice.
Learn how to hold your knife properly and cut veggies efficiently. The more experience you put under your belt the less time you’ll spend in the kitchen. It’s just the way it works. If you’re just starting out, I recommend watching this video on Knife Skills by Tasty 101 to get you started.
Get Prepared Items.
Get precut or frozen vegetables and store bought sauces and dressings. Use your money to buy you time in the kitchen. You should feel proud of yourself for getting a home cooked meal on the table. Even if that means you got help from a store bought jar of pasta sauce, chopped veggies, or canned beans.
I know that there are a lot of people who just don’t have the time or energy to make everything from scratch. If your budget allows it, buy the pre-chopped, ready-made, instant stuff! You’ll be saving less on your food bill, but it still saves you a lot more money than going out to eat.
I Don’t Enjoy Cooking Because… Following A Recipe Is Stressful!
You’re cooking something for the first time. You’re reading the recipe while the pot of water is boiling, just hoping you have time to re-read that one section before the pot starts to boil over. You end up playing this balancing act in an already unfamiliar territory.
Well, I have some tips for you to prevent the anxiety of following a recipe.
Prep Most/All of Your Ingredients Before Getting Started
When you have all the ingredients ready, it’s much easier to follow the recipe. Yup. It’s simple, but effective. You’re not going to be scrambling to dice the onions or mince the garlic before the oil starts to burn.
There is a small downside to this though, and that’s all the dishes. All the bowls you’ll end up using to have your ingredients ready for your cooking session.
For this problem, I recommend one of two things.
- Put your prepped veggies in containers that you can use later to store leftovers. That way you don’t need to wash them. Unless you put raw meats in the container, then definitely wash your container.
- Use a large cutting board. Keep your ingredients on the board as you prep them so you don’t have to wash too many extra things.
Read The Recipe Before Getting Started
Read the recipe at least once before getting started. You want to be familiar enough with the recipe so it doesn’t feel like you’re looking at it for the first time while you’re cooking.
- Know what ingredients are grouped together and when you’ll need them so that you’re always ready for the next step.
- Get a good idea of when you have some downtime to get ahead on dishes or just get the rest of the prepwork done.
- Address any questions about the recipe before getting started.
Use Your Smartphone to Keep Time
Use Voice commands to make keeping time easier. These days, it’s so easy to set a timer when you can just say “Hey Siri, put a timer for 10 minutes” while you’re flipping a chicken, or washing dishes.
I Don’t Enjoy Cooking Because… Grocery Shopping Takes Forever!
If you find grocery shopping stressful, you may be doing it wrong. Yeah, there is actually a wrong way to shop. Either that, or you have three kids that you bring along with you, and at that point, I don’t blame you for feeling overwhelmed or frazzled.
Here are a few ways you can make grocery shopping more enjoyable, or at the very least, less stressful and time consuming.
Make an Organized List
Are you guilty of scribbling all the items on a list and then getting to the store, finding yourself going back and forth because you just realized that you forgot to get the tomatoes from the produce section? Or maybe you don’t even write a list! God help you and your budget!
A good list will be organized in the way that you shop at the store. Like most things, the key to success is planning. The more you get to know your grocery store the easier planning a list will be.
In most cases, stores are organized in this general order from the entrance:
- Bakery & Deli
- General Products
- Dairy & Meats
- Frozen Items
When you organize your list by the different sections in the store, it’s easier to figure out what’s missing from your cart before moving onto the rest of the store.
Stock Your Pantry With the Essentials
Build a good pantry full of essentials, so you don’t have to run to the store so often. Isn’t it the worst when you find a recipe you really want to make, you have nearly everything on that list of ingredient, only to find you don’t have brown sugar.
Your ideal pantry may be different from mine. If you’re interested in seeing what I generally have in stock you can check out my Pantry Essentials List and learn how to build your own with “A Complete Guide to Making A Pantry Essentials List.” I go over my personal pantry essential and my tips for building your own list of essentials.
Order Online and Pickup in Store
If saving time is really important for you and you’re not too picky about what produce gets chosen for you, ordering online and picking up in stores may be a route you want to take.
Save time and have someone else do the shopping for you. Curbside pickup is a fantastic way to save you some time and money. With online ordering you just look up what’s on your list and add it to your cart. Avoid having to drag your kids to the grocery store or being tempted by the check out aisle.
Minimum order. There’s usually a minimum order price. To save money, only use this option for regular shopping trips. For convenient items, you may be tempted to over buy just to reach the minimum order price.
I’ve personally only ever used Walmarts Curbside Pickup service. There’s a minimum order of $35. I compared the prices online to that of previous receipts in person and confirmed that the prices are the same.
You won’t be able to pick your own produce. For example, I like to stock my fridge with tomatoes. But, in order to have ripe tomatoes for the week I will get a range of very ripe to not so ripe tomatoes. With someone else doing the job for you, there’s no control over what produce you’ll get.
Get Your Groceries Delivered
If you have the budget for it, get your groceries delivered to you. We all have different budgets, and if time is valuable to you, then it may be worth it to get your groceries delivered.
Getting groceries delivered will cost more. Consumers’ Checkbook does a fantastic job evaluating popular delivery services and the difference in cost between grocery shopping and getting groceries delivered. The markup ranges between $100 – $400 a month for a family of four.
Even with that mark up in price, it’s still cheaper than going out to eat. If going to the grocery store is really what’s stopping you from using your kitchen more, then this is a good option for you.
Personally, I don’t have the budget to afford the markup in cost. It’s important to review your finances before jumping into grocery deliveries.
I Don’t Enjoy Cooking Because… I Have to Cook Everyday and Spend Too Much Time in the Kitchen.
Who would have thought that one of the biggest dilemmas of growing up would be having to decide what you’re going to eat everyday!
I feel you on this one. There are times when I want to take a whole day making a bowl of Ramen (checkout my instagram stories for that masterpiece), and days I’d rather just pop over to Wendys for the spicy chicken nuggets.
Cook Enough Food to Have Leftovers.
Make enough food to have leftovers on purpose. This way you can skip cooking for a meal or two at a time and you won’t get bored of what you’re eating.
Anytime I make pasta, curry, a stir fry, roast chickens, whatever I’m cooking, I cook 2-3 times more than I need. That evening I will freeze a couple of portions and refrigerate the rest to purposely have lunch and dinner the next day and a freezer meal ready to go for busy days.
A general rule to follow is that most meals will only last about 4 days in the fridge.
It’s like doing mini meal prep sessions. I’m not a fan of meal prepping once a week. I just can’t endorse having the same meal for so many days in a row. I find planned leftover to be a great alternative to meal prepping.
Organize Your Kitchen.
You will spend less time in the kitchen when it’s well organized. I know what it’s like to cook in a disorganized kitchen. I can’t. It’s so frustrating to waste time looking for measuring cups or just the salt, the salt guys! No matter how much I organized my parents kitchen, it ends up a mess.
Practice keeping your kitchen as organized as you can. My biggest tip for you is to find a place for everything. Especially the things you know you will use over and over again. And make sure everyone in your family knows where that thing belongs, so it doesn’t end up elsewhere, hopefully.
I Don’t Enjoy Cooking.
I’m confident that as you start to become more experienced, this thought will change. Until then, here are some things I do that make cooking more enjoyable.
Listen to Music.
Just like working out, cooking is a lot more enjoyable with music. Ready up your ingredients and cook up a storm with your favorite jams.
Looking for a playlist? Check out my Spotify cooking playlists.
Cook with Family.
My favorite cooking sessions are with family. I usually cook with family for big events and we’re cooking enough to feed a herd of people. It’s a lot of work, but it’s much more enjoyable when my parents, sisters, and husband are working together.
I’m always amazed at the feast we can create when the whole family works together.
Choose Less Involved Recipes
Spend less time standing over a pot and let your kitchen appliances work for you. There are different ways to get more hands off in your kitchen.
Use your oven. What I like about using the oven is that you prep everything on a tray, set it in the oven to roast, and then you can go watch tv while you wait for dinner to be ready.
Use a slow cooker. You can literally dump a bunch of ingredients in a pot, flick a switch, and call it a day. With a little preparation, you can get juicy tender results with little effort.
Use a pressure cooker. There are two ways to cook beans: Slowly on a stove top, or quickly in a pressure cooker. The benefit of the pressure cooker is that you don’t have to keep refilling or stirring the pot.