We want to eat better, and for less. We’re tired of relying on foods we know aren’t good for us, but we’re afraid that cooking more at home will end up costing us more, or costing us time we don’t have.
Two of the most common misconceptions about home cooking is that it takes too much time and too much money to make it practical. It’s easier and cheaper, we tell ourselves, to get dinner in a bag or a box. We tell ourselves that it’s okay to stuff our kids’ lunches full of prepackaged foods, while deep down we know it’s not. We don’t have time to make lunches or breakfasts that don’t involve boxes and bags, and we don’t have the money to make dinners from scratch with all the fixings.
Let’s talk about the most common reason, real reason, why most people don’t cook at home. No, it’s not laziness. That is another common misconception. Most Americans who don’t cook at home don’t do so not because they’re lazy. They don’t do it because they don’t know how, and letting the rest of the world believe that it’s because their lazy, or don’t have the time or money, is less of a blow to the ego.
Cooking is basic life skill after all. Everyone should know how to cook, right? It’s kind of like knowing how to read or add two plus two. If you know how to make a fire then you must obviously know what to do with it… right? No, there are more people than you that still need to learn to cook.
If you don’t know how to cook don’t beat yourself up about it, endeavor to learn to cook. If you know some basics of cooking but not as much as you’d like, again, it’s okay. You don’t have to admit to another man (or woman, as the case may be) that you don’t know how to cook. And if you’re coming to the conclusion that you don’t know how to cook because you’re comparing your skills to those of the 4-star chefs on Food Network or any slew of popular cooking shows… STOP IT! They all had to learn to cook at some point in their lives too!
You don’t have to be a 4-start chef to make great tasting, nutritious food at home.
You also don’t have to break the bank. Home cooked meals don’t have to cost and arm and a leg. In fact, most of the time meals made from scratch are far less expensive than store bought meals, even fast food.
A friend of mine once asked me what I was making for dinner, and when I replied that I was grilling smoked sausage and vegetables he said that sounded great, but that he couldn’t afford it that night, so he’d just order a pizza to be delivered. My reaction was one of shock. I knew how much my meal was going to cost altogether: about $6 for a family of 5. His meal was going to cost at the very least twice that for a family of 4, probably more. And the real kicker was, my meal was on the table faster than his! So I saved both money AND time.
I know, it’s easy for me to do because I know how to cook. But it doesn’t take an extensive knowledge of the culinary arts to produce dinner. That meal is a really good example. I bought the smoked sausage from the store, taking control of which brand and ingredients I was getting. I prepared the vegetables myself by simply cutting them up and dressing them with olive oil and salt before wrapping them in foil to put on the grill. I served them with grilled potato rolls I picked up from my grocer’s bakery on sale. If I remember right we had fresh strawberries for desert. That meal was more assembly than cooking, yet I had all of the control over how much it cost and what was in it. Putting together meals like that are a good first step in learning to cook.
It’s okay to not know how to cook, but cooking isn’t as hard to learn as we very often think it is. They key to learning to cook is to refrain from overwhelming yourself by trying to learn everything at once. Pick one type of food and learn to cook that first. Don’t pick something that’s too hard, or something you don’t eat very often. Pick something simple and basic, like biscuits. You can find an quick and easy recipe for them by clicking here.
If you can, invest in a good all-around cookbook. I recommend the Joy of Cooking (Scribner), by Rombauer, Becker, and Becker. Don’t be afraid to look up recipes online either, and try out new things. There are some great websites out there that can really help, like Allrecipes.com, Cooks.com, and my own website, CandesKing.com. For examples of techniques and explanations of how things work no one beats the king of food science, Alton Brown. You can find his information on FoodNetwork.com, or watch helpful clips of his show, Good Eats, by looking it up on Hulu.com. I will also be putting out How-To technique guides and recipe collections geared towards the beginner.
The bottom line is, don’t be afraid of your kitchen. Don’t be afraid to learn to cook. Don’t be afraid of screwing up a recipe, because it happens even to the best of us. Even Chef Gordon Ramsey admitted that it took years for him to perfect his signature dish, and that some his trials were things you wouldn’t feed a pig. If you don’t succeed at first try again. And verify your recipe because it may not be your fault if something turns out bad. If you try a recipe, follow it to a “t”, and still comes out disgusting try a different recipe.
Be fearless friends! Learn to cook! And happy eating!