3 easy steps to make time to cook and love every second of it
Working my way around the kitchen is not my strong suite. Blend, broil, braise - oh my! Needless to say, I am not the next Rachel Ray which is exactly why I was boiling over with happiness to partner with Talia Koren of workweeklunch.com. Talia and I have partnered to bring you 3 easy steps to not only make time for cooking but to actually enjoy it! Get your notebooks ready, this a good one!
Part of adulthood is dealing with the fact that the chores will just never end.
I used to see cooking as just another exhausting but necessary chore, like reorganizing my closet and cleaning my shower. The last thing I wanted to do after work was shlep to the grocery store, choose ingredients, go home to assemble a meal and clean up afterwards.
If my apartment is a restaurant, I’m the waitress, picky customer, chef, and dishwasher. It’s a lot of work for something as basic as sustenance, but it has to be done, right?
Healthy eating goes under the golden umbrella of what we know as balance, right next to a fulfilling job, positive relationships and most importantly, relaxation.
In living a balanced life, having time to recharge is crucial.
If you’re a busy person, you’re constantly making decisions that cut into down time. If you’re not vegging out, you’re seeing friends, running errands, or being productive in general.
Paying for prepared food allows you to spend money at the expense of losing time. It takes about 12 minutes to walk into Chipotle, wait on line, tell them what you want in your burrito bowl and walk out with lunch taken care of.
Time spent not cooking means more time to chill, right?
It doesn’t have to be that way. What if you turned cooking into a relaxing activity you look forward to each week?
It might sound counterintuitive, but you can be productive and relax simultaneously. Here’s how to turn cooking into much deserved “me time.”
Beat your grocery store stress with an airtight plan
Sometimes picking the recipe is the most stressful part. Searching for something general like, “baked chicken recipes” will leave you drowning in thousands of options. It’s overwhelming and scary, and here’s a much better way to approach it.
Think about your favorite restaurant or lunch spot. What do you always order there? What would you be in the mood for if you ordered from there right now? Once you can figure that out - try making it.
Craving pizza? Want a juicy burger? In the mood for enchiladas? You can make these dishes in your very own kitchen at home.
Skip the lines and high spending by making your favorite food at home. I can make a mean burrito bowl better than anything I’ve ever bought from Chipotle.
Instead of doing a recipe search, start with the menu of your favorite takeout spot. Pick out your favorite dish, and search for a recipe online for it. Chances are you’ll find one that’s easy enough to tackle even if you’re not a chef.
If all else fails, use Yummly. You can enter ingredients you already know you have lying around and can find recipes based on that. You can also search based on a dietary restriction you may have.
Once you choose a meal and recipe, make an ingredient list in your phone. Don’t write it down.
I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time I wrote a list and left it at home or at the office. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get in the habit of writing a list in your phone. Write it in the notes app. Email it to yourself. Write it in a text to your best friend. Whatever you have to do.
If you want to be more organized, here’s a list of apps you can use to easily make grocery lists.
After making a grocery list based on a recipe you’re dying to tackle, you’ll be ready to hit the supermarket. Making a list ahead of time prevents you from hunger shopping and aimlessly buying ingredients you think you’ll use but end up wasting..
Schedule a steamy date for you and your kitchen
I don’t believe in magic, but when you write something down, it’s more likely to happen. That right there is some next level fortune telling stuff. Still don’t think you can find the time? If you don’t believe me, read this piece on Lifehack about how this habit could literally change your life.
I’m not saying a weeks worth of meals is going to magically appear in your fridge if you write them down, but putting it on paper is more of a commitment than just saying, “Yeah, I should cook more.”
Start small. Pick one night for grocery shopping and another night for cooking. Or do both in the same chunk of time. You know what’s best for you. Make it easy for yourself.
You probably have some idea of what your schedule is. You know what your commitments are the next few nights. Drinks with friends? Dinner with your parents? Tickets to a concert? Whatever you have down, plan around it instead of trying to move your schedule around.
Make cooking work with your schedule, not against it. If you feel like you have to cancel fun stuff to cook, that’s probably why you feel like it’s a burden!
When you do get to cooking, it NEVER takes as long or feels like as big of a deal as you thought.
Take out your calendar, planner or whatever you use for scheduling right now. Look at your week. When can you set aside time for food shopping? What night can you get to cooking?
If you think it’s not possible to make time in your schedule, look at it this way: You’re setting aside this time to take care of yourself.
When you take care of yourself first, the rest of your life is more likely to fall into place. It’s part of the reason why “getting your sh*t together” is so hard at first. Taking care of yourself is the first step towards leading a healthy life, and there’s really nothing more important than that.
Keep yourself entertained (and distracted)
Now for the really fun part.
For me, cooking is prime time to catch up on TV. I would never let anything make me fall behind on ‘Game Of Thrones’ or ‘The Bachelorette.’
Entertainment makes cooking go by much faster. I barely feel like I’m doing anything because I’m so distracted by how attractive John Snow is.
Time hack: make meals with prep and cooking times that last as long as your favorite shows. My easiest meal is made in the same amount of time it takes to watch an episode of ‘Shark Tank.’ I don’t have a TV in my kitchen- I just use my laptop.
If you’re feeling extra lazy, cook things that don’t need constant attention. Throw some veggies and a filet of fish on a tray in the oven for a half hour while doing something else. Imagine the possibilities!
Here are some things you can passively enjoy while cooking:
● Your favorite TV shows
● An audiobook
● Call or skype with someone you don’t get to talk to enough
● Start a new TV show you’ve always wanted to get into
● Start a movie- you’ll have something to continue watching when you’re done cooking
● Listen to a new album (I listened to Beyonce’s Lemonade while making lunches for the week)
● Catch up on your favorite podcasts
● Binge on YouTube videos of cute animals
● Invite a friend over to watch you cook, like you’re on a cooking show (my favorite)
The possibilities are endless. By turning cooking into “me-time” you can do more of what you love while nourishing yourself. At the end of the day, it’s a win/win for your schedule and your body because you’ll spend less time worrying about what you’re eating and when.
If you’re trying to get back into cooking for yourself or just starting, take baby steps. You’re not going to become Gordon Ramsey or Rachel Ray overnight.
Maybe making a batch of meals the first few times is intimidating. If you’re new to cooking, start with one meal. Go from there. Pick something simple that you know you’re going to enjoy, but follow the steps above to make it happen instead of throwing it all together randomly.
To remind you, the three steps to turn cooking to an activity you look forward to are:
1. Plan the meals you want to cook
2. Schedule time for grocery shopping and cooking
3. Make it fun with your favorite forms of entertainment
Doing stuff that makes you happy while cooking will instantly turn it into valuable, stress-free “me-time.” You’ll start to look forward to it every week. By making a plan, scheduling a time and choosing a form of entertainment, it will feel like you’re making a date with yourself. And that’s the best kind of date there is.
thank you Talia for marinating us with your cooking wisdom and for inspiring us to get in the kitchen
Talia Koren is a health and cooking writer who genuinely wants to help 20somethings get their lives together. She lives in New York City and loves to cook anything that involves sweet potatoes. Check out her healthy lifestyle blog for more tips on how to save money and feel great by cooking for yourself.