Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fast food the healthy way

People tell me that they do not have time to cook for the family and that it is easier to eat out. It may be true that it is easier and more convienent to eat out, but making meals at home can be done simply and easily if the mind is put to it.
                                                                    All pictures in this post courtesy of Mircosoft office

When we think of home cooked meals we think of Grandma slaving over a hot stove all day long to create a meal. We think of a large elaborate meal like Thanksgiving. We put it into our minds that it is too much work, too overwhelming, too much of a hassle, too messy to cook.  There is a long list of reasons that people have for not wanting to cook.  If we would take a challenge and cook for a period of time,  we would find that it is not nearly as impossible as it seems. I have some advice to help overcome the excuses and thoughts that arise in cooking real food at home.

1. It takes too long to cook.

Early on in my blogging, I wrote a post about making stove-top mac and cheese. It can be done in about the same time as a boxed mix. My husband finds it funny that it takes me twice as long to create from a box as it does otherwise. This last week we made Asian lettuce wraps. They came together very quickly. We had the meal on the table in about 20 minutes. We could not  load up the kids in the van and go get fast food  that quickly. Thin cut skillet steaks can be cooked in a matter of minutes. Heat some nice vegetables while the meat cooks and you have dinner in a snap. Watching Dr Oz the other day, he had a guest on the show advocating real food. He did an experiment with his family. He let each member of the family buy a microwave meal for dinner. It took nearly an hour to get all the food heated and on the table. There are many meals that can be prepared and on the table in less than 20 minutes. When people tell me I don't have time to cook, I know that it is more than an issue of time.

2. I don't know how to cook

So many have not learned the basics of cooking. It is something that used to be passed down from parent to child, but nowadays many have to start from scratch. In Chef school we learned. It is not all about recipes, it is about the techniques. Martha Stewart has a television show called Martha's cooking school. She goes into detail about different techniques each week. I enjoy this show and I learn each time I watch. Once you learn the techniques or methods then it is just a matter of applying it to different foods. Just recently I wrote a post on making salad dressings. Once you know the method, you can go from there and create a variety of dressings and sauces. There are many resources available to help.

Take a class, watch some instructional videos, borrow a book.

3. I don't know what to make.

This is very common, Coming up with dinner ideas can be a challenge. There are many planning strategies out there. Find one and see if it might work for you. The food nanny has a great plan. Pick a theme for each night of the week. Some examples could include pizza night, Mexican, Chinese, breakfast, soup, grill night, etc. Plan out for two weeks and make one large shopping trip for the main ingredients. You have a plan for what you will make each night, and you should have the ingredients on hand in the house. Having a plan is essential for most people. Create a plan or find one online and begin.

Give it some time to find what works for you. Some people love freezer cooking, others love slow cookers etc. Start wherever you are and build from there. Plan A may not work for you, so then you go on to plan B, or C ......on down the line until you find something that works. One pot meals have been a lifesaver for some. Freezer cooking is also another method that can help. There are some who do all the chopping of vegetables and fruits for the week all at once. Find a method that can work for you and your strengths.

I know one mother that has made a habit of starting a large pot of water to heat when she comes home from work. By the time she gets her clothes changed and back to the kitchen, the water is hot and ready for pasta, potatoes, rice etc. It saves her time and hassle. If she finds that the hot water is not needed for dinner then she uses it to wash up the dishes. It is simple things like this that make it possible to  put good food on the table quickly

4. It is such a mess to cook and clean up.

I think one thing that really deters people from cooking is the mess. For some this is a real concern. There are people that after cooking it looks like a  bomb exploded or tornado ran through the entire house. Sometimes the clean up can take 5 times as long as the cooking part. I am getting a bit more efficient in the kitchen. I am learning to keep the mess down. I do not make near the mess I once did. The more you practice the easier it gets.
 Cooking and cleaning up the kitchen mess can be beneficial for family life. Early on in my writing I wrote a post about washing the dishes by hand. It gives me a chance to get to know the kids better as we work together on a task such as this. It opens up conversations in a way that nothing else can. It is worth the efforts to ask the kids to put away the electronic devices and "unplug" long enough to help with the household chores. Try it, see what happens.

5. It does not have to be elaborate, simple can be extremely yummy.

A simple pasta dish can be made with  fresh tomato, a bit of olive oil, and a few fresh herbs, add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and you have something wonderful. Sometimes the simplest dishes are the very best. When you are starting out, look for simple recipes with easy to understand ingredients and instructions. It does not have to be complex.

Start the change in your life. Put your fears aside and begin. Start small if need be. Cook one or two nights a week. As you gain confidence you can build up to cooking nearly every night.

I would love to hear from my readers: What has worked for you? What is your lifesaver in the kitchen? Leave a comment below for us all to learn together.

links to my posts mentioned above
making salad dressing
easy stove top mac and cheese
why I hand wash dishes

Other helpful links

Food nanny meal planning
Money saving mom's freezer cooking 101
15 one pot dishes
slow cooker recipes from spark recipes
cook, eat, share recipes for beginners
monthly meal planners


  1. Love the hot water tip - just like in the old days when some announced it was time for a baby to be born and someone would say they put water on to boil. It's a comforting starting point. Nice post.

  2. All very true :) We eat at home 7 nights a week so a menu plan is essential. I don't boil water unless we need to but it is a funny story of being prepared!

  3. This is great information but we like to have recipes linked up on Foodie Friends Friday. Thanks for sharing.

  4. My technique leaves much to be desired, but it definitely is quicker to do at home with just a little planning. I don't rigidly plan meals for the week but have a loose idea in my head and make sure I have all the stuff required to make it. Additionally, I always make sure I have all the staples stocked whether I plan on needing them or not. Thanks for sharing!

    Please join us again Thursday at:
    The HomeAcre Hop


  5. I agree that most of the time......the simplest recipes are the ones we most enjoy. They take less time to prepare and my kids really enjoy simple ingredients that they can recognize. I have also found that meal planning is a must. Without it........I'm tempted way to much to just head to fast food alley. I don't need that temptation.

  6. Love this post! Great solutions to the more common "reasons" for not eating real food.

    Personally, I find menu planning works for me. I spend 30 minutes on the weekend planning what we'll eat for the week (with the exception of Saturday - that's a wildcard and when I do most of my fancy cooking) and then it's easy peasy for the rest of the week!

    Just an FYI m'dear - this post will be featured on the monthly Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up Round Up this week! If you have a chance, feel free to stop by and check out the other featurettes :) Hope to see you again soon with more seasonal & real food posts! xo, kristy

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I really enjoyed your post! I've pinned it to one of our Story City Locker Pinterest boards, the "you have time to cook" board. I love it when I'm wrestling with forming the words around a topic and I (serendipitously) run across it, well said already, in someone's blog post. Thanks!