Updated: Mar 22, 2020
It was around 3 years ago. I was new to this whole cook most meals at home thing. As such, I spent my "free time" scouring the internet for healthy meal ideas and recipes to cook for my family. I'd find a recipe, then check out the prep time and list of ingredients. I was interested in the prep time, well because as a family of six spending hours cooking dinner every night was not an efficient use of time. Besides, I worked unpredictable hours, and at times would not be home until six to seven in the evening. Feeding kids dinner at 9 o'clock at night is not ideal to say the least; however, I would not be telling the truth if I said that it has never happened before. Nevertheless, I eyed the list of ingredients to determine if I needed to make a quick grocery store run before getting home. Often times, for a new recipe, I would need to stop to pick a few mundane ingredients and usually an obscure ingredient or two. Some of these obscure ingredients were simply just new to me. We were embarking on a new way of eating with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains being the stars of the dishes. With that seafood, poultry, and dairy were often not a part of the dishes that I was making for my family to try. As a side note, we stopped serving red meat prior to this diet change. This new style of cooking, basically, scared my husband out of the kitchen. Prior to our eating transformation, he cooked most of our family's meals. However, with all the recent changes our family was experiencing at the time, learning a new way cooking was a little much him. He is not fond of change, and although, he was supportive of our diet change for our daughter, cooking became overwhelming for him. I understood and took on the role.
With that, there I was in the kitchen, recipe in hand, list of ingredients sprawled across the island, and a can-do attitude. I'd come right in the door and beeline to the kitchen to get dinner going, often times not even taking some time to decompress from the workday. Besides, the prep time on the recipe is only 30 minutes, I can crank this recipe out in no time practically. Two hours later, dinner was done. Hold up, two hours later?!? Yes, two hours! I spent all this time making a meal only to find out, well, it tasted "okay." All this time for a "meh" response!!! Really? Ugh! I was offended like they were my recipes. I was frustrated. I felt like I was wasting my time, and my family was not trying these meals with an open-mind. I get it. This is not our usual. Everyone had their opinions, except the baby, who, at the time, was too young to care. However, I'm sure going through my oldest son's head was "Where are the chicken burritos?". My youngest daughter had to be thinking, "I want Mac and cheese!". My husband was not shy about sharing his opinion either but expressed his gratitude for the attempt. My oldest daughter was usually grateful as well, and for the most part, open to the new meals. Here was I frustrated and defeated until the day it all changed.
If I was going to change my family's eating habits, I was going to have to keep at this. I was determined to do it. So, I started looking for ways to cook to dinner more efficiently. I could not stand mincing garlic, cutting garlic into tiny little pieces. It was just such a tedious task with little reward it felt like in the end. All this for that? I had just started using a kitchen knife on a regular basis and was still figuring out how to become efficient with it. I needed to make my life easier in the meantime. I was at Home Goods scouring the wall of kitchen tools looking for solutions, and there it was, a garlic press. I remember getting it home, washing it, and putting it away until the fateful day that I needed it. Turns out that day was not too long after its acquisition. I was making a recipe that called for a few cloves of garlic. I placed the first clove into the silver compartment and pressed the black gripped handles together. One clove down and two to go! In just seconds. That garlic press made a task that would have taken this amateur cook several minutes into to a task that only took a few seconds. Yes! Win for me! I was hooked after that. What other kitchen tools were out there? What else could increase my efficiency in making my family "meh" dinners? Oh, I was on the hunt for sure.
On an efficiency mission, I bought all sorts of things over the next several months. I made sure that we had an adequate number of mixing bowls and measuring cups. I bought a food processor, citrus press, several whisks, another cutting board or two, a grater, vegetable peeler, more tongs. You catch my drift here? I was committed to cooking dinner and just as committed to doing it more efficiently. It changed my kitchen experiences for then on out. I was able to shave time off my meal preparations. They were closer to the times on the recipes. Although, I feel those are never accurate any way, at least the first few times you're making the meal. You are constantly going back and forth between the recipe and what you have going on in your kitchen and, when the family is around, what you have going on in your life. I would say the biggest favor any home cook could do for themselves to figure out ways to prepare meals more efficiently. It was life changing for me.
Some kitchen essentials I've found helpful for me
Measuring cups and spoons
Pizza cutter and baking sheets
Parchment paper or aluminum foil
Pots and pans of various sizes
Your list may be different from or similar to mine. The goal, however, is to discover what is essential for you. It will make cooking a more enjoyable experience. For starters, even if the recipe makes a "just okay" dinner, at least you didn't spend two hours doing it! Keep in mind, when changing your eating habits and trying new recipes that these experiences are new. Just because you do not like a meal or food the first time you try it does not mean you will never like it. Sometimes you have to try it again or prepare it differently. The point is you need to be open to experimenting. You will find ways that you enjoy to eating whole foods. Hope this helps! Time to get my day started.
Always striving to help,
For more help on changing your eating habits, check out getfitward.com