I had someone ask me a few months ago how I could devote an hour or more to making a meal almost every night that only takes 5 -10 minutes to eat. "Isn't it just easier to go out to eat?" you ask yourself I had not really reflected on how I am willing to give up so much time to cooking, and I came up with a few reasons why I stay home and cook dinner and a few tips of things I do to make cooking a little easier and more fun.
This is actually a part 1 of a two part post that I felt like ought to go together. Ironically, this one has been sitting in draft from for about 5 months, and finally I finished it and have a sequel for it too! Tomorrow, I will share with you the way I grocery shop and about 30 of my favorite recipes, so stay tuned for that!
1. Eating out is overrated. Adam told me the other day that he doesn't like eating out as much as he used to because we eat good meals at home consistently (this was just about the nicest thing anyone has ever told me!). That isn't to say that I am the world's best cook (I am not) or that we never go out to eat (we do and love it), but we have found some recipes that we absolutely love eating at home and it makes it a pleasure to stay in and eat dinner. Pinterest makes finding recipes so much easier. I often go look at Janssen, Merrick and other friends meal boards for ideas or recipes. I also have a few go-to blogs where I trust the cook's opinion.
2. Cooking is a great way to show others that you care about them. I love making a delicious meal and knowing that Adam will like and appreciate that I took the time to make something for us to eat together.
3. Sit down together to eat. Even if we only spend 10 minutes at the dinner table, that is 10 minutes that we wouldn't have had to catch up and enjoy spending time together. My parents always felt like it was important to have a sit down family dinner every night, and I am already on board with this idea. Our dinnertime is more time for us to enjoy each other's company in our own home.
4. This last point brings me to another which we are still working on: Eat more slowly. I enjoy a meal more if I am not wolfing it down and getting ready to run off to do something. Eating slowly helps me really taste what I am eating and enjoy it. Eating is much more worthwhile if you savor the food.
4. A little preparation goes a long way. On the weekends, I often get things ready for the weeknight meals so that my weeknight prep is much faster. I will often make a pizza dough, pie crust, or cook dried beans in the crockpot so that I don't have to worry about it mid-week.
5. Make a comprehensive shopping list/menu and go the store once a week. I spend about an hour or so every week choosing meals to make. I usually make 4 or 5 new recipes per week, and even though this takes extra time finding and cooking new recipes, it saves me time later, because I know I have the ingredients for the list on the fridge, and cooking something new allows for my creative juices to flow at night after a long day of work. I have no problem improvising if I don't feel like making the list, but having a planned menu makes making a meal SO much easier.
6. Don't let the thought of failure keep you from cooking. Not everything that you make will be good. I often tell myself that if dinner is awful, we can just run and grab a burger. Thankfully we have never had to do this, but it takes off a lot of the pressure and stress of trying something new.
7. Cooking at home is lots cheaper. We are pretty frugal around here, and I would almost prefer to stay at home for dinner because I hate the idea of spending 1/4 of my grocery budget (which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole week) on one meal. If you can start thinking about it this way, I think you will be more likely to stay in more often.
8. Invest in a sharp knife. Adam's parents gave us 2 very sharp knives from Costco that cost about $8, and we love them. They make cutting things such a joy. Just be sure not to catch your finger in them (Yes, I have done this on more than one occasion...)
9. Share what you make. So much joy of cooking comes from sharing it with neighbors, friends and family. I had a roommate in college who used to say that sharing food with friends often brings about the 'loaves and fishes principle' from the Bible: if you are willing to share with others, somehow, there is always enough to go around.