Why Learn to Cook?
Cooking at home encourages a greater variety of food choices and promotes healthy eating. Ingredient quality is better controlled at home and therefore the dish tends to be less processed, lower in sodium and calories, and higher in nutritional value. Cooking also provides a sense of achievement and increases self-confidence. No one looks back and fondly remembers the times they threw a frozen pizza in the oven (well maybe sometimes because we all love pizza), but it’s not the same as when you make a dish from start to finish. And if nothing else, cooking at home saves you money. Contrary to all the hype about fast food being cheaper, many studies have proven home cooked meals come out ahead in price.
If cooking at home has all these benefits, why don’t more people do it? One of the main reasons is not knowing where to begin and the intimidation of following a new recipe. Therefore, it’s important to start with what you know! I am a big proponent of making small changes over time. Recipes with ingredients you don’t know how to use or don’t have readily on hand can be overwhelming. Plus, who wants to go to buy ingredients they only use a small amount of and end up wasting the rest! If you start with ingredients you already know you enjoy, cooking can be fun and rewarding when you learn how to put items together in different ways.
One of the internet’s hidden gems is the reverse-recipe search engines. They allow you to plug in all the ingredients you already have to generate a variety of recipes from the most popular cooking websites!
Here are a few of my favorites:
Super Cook allows you to type in the items or choose from categories. As you enter ingredients the list updates in real time, generating new recipes each time you enter a new ingredient. You can filter further by cuisine, key ingredient, and meal type (breakfast, dinner, etc. but also includes kid friendly, quick and easy, veggie recipes, etc. as options). It’s great for new cooks because the recipes are fairly simple and will even generate a recipe when you only have 2-3 ingredients. They also offer recipes that could be made if you had 1-2 more ingredients instead of finding recipes you’re missing many items from. I like this because you are encouraged to try new items but it is not as overwhelming because you already know 90% of them!
Recipe Matcher – Just like Super Cook, it allows you to freely type your ingredients and also pick ingredients from categories. This website has the most detailed list under categories I’ve found. When you generate the recipes after selecting ingredients, you can filter by percentage of ingredients you have, highest rated recipes, most popular, recipe name, newest, or ones with photos. However, it does not generate simple recipes only containing a few ingredients like Super Cook will. This website is better for the user with some cooking experience but might be looking for different recipes and ways to use the ingredients they already enjoy.
My Fridge Food also allows you to filter by category and has a large list of ingredients to choose from if you click “show detailed kitchen”. However, it does not let you freely type ingredients so you are somewhat limited. I do like this website though because it shows you the calorie count, fat, carbohydrate and protein content for each recipe – helpful for health conscious users. You can also create an account to save your recipes, submit recipes and receive coupons on kitchen products.
(There are plenty more reverse recipe websites generators out there, but these are a few of the ones I have personally tried.)
Have ingredients on hand that have a long shelf life. Eating fresh food is great, but the following items are convenient to have on hand when you run out of the fresh products you bought earlier in the week. Items I keep on hand include – frozen vegetables (bell peppers, onion, spinach, peas, broccoli…), grains (rice, quinoa, faro, oats…), seasonings (staples – salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, rep pepper, cumin, Italian, oregano, paprika – you don’t need this many, but pick a few!), frozen meat/seafood, beans/lentils, baking ingredients (oils, baking powder/salt, sugar, flour, vanilla). I make sure to keep these stocked, but love that I don’t have to worry about them going to waste. Staple items that will not go bad over time make a huge difference for cooking at home.
STILL OVERWHELMED? Start small and make a goal to cook one meal at home per week. Make extra so you can have it for lunch later. Maybe you’ll make a goal of trying one new ingredient each week. Once you get the hang of cooking, it really doesn’t have to take that much time or effort at all.
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When I got home last night after playing volleyball with friends, I wanted to just make some eggs and toast for dinner and call it good. But then I knew I’d be stuck making something in the morning for lunch to bring to work. I decided to not be lazy and threw this together with all staple/ long-shelf life items. It did not take long and I had dinner for the night and a few lunches for later in the week.
- All frozen – bell peppers, onions, asparagus and mushrooms (reheated by sautéing on stove top for 10-15 minutes)
- Frozen chicken breast (cooked in same pan after vegetables on stove top)
- Garlic powder, onion powder, Italian, red pepper, salt and pepper (used on chicken and added again to final dish)
- Balsamic glaze – found a Trader Joes! SO good (not a typical staple item but I found it last week for a mozzarella, tomato, basil dish I love and figured it won’t go bad anytime soon, why not have it on hand!)
- Hilarie ❤