LEARN TO COOK
Since the day my husband and I were married nearly nine years ago, I have cooked probably 90% of our dinners. If you had asked me four years ago, if we ate healthy, I would have said yes. If you had asked me four years ago if I was a good cook, I would have replied, "Not too shabby." We never ate frozen dinners (except for pizza). I only gave my kids 100% juice. Junky snacks like fruit snacks and fruit roll-ups were reserved for special occasions...And yet, pretty much all of our food came from a box, a bag, or a can.
Three and a half years ago, I decided to join a CSA. The day I received my first bag of goodies, I stood in my kitchen surrounded by beautiful local/organic produce and thought to myself, "Now what?"
The only broccoli I had ever cooked came in a bag: I would dump them into a bowl, add a tablespoon of water and some salt, and nuke 'em until they were warm. Easy peasy.
Now here I was with a raw head of broccoli and no idea how to cook the thing. Boil it? Steam it? Fry it? Can we eat the stalk? The leaves?
Not to mention the bag of purslane I'd have to tackle later that week...
In the past three and a half years, I have learned to cook vegetables from Asparagus to Zucchini. Thanks to our CSAs, we have tried veggies I wouldn't in a million years have picked out myself...and discovered that we like them. We eat much healthier because most of our produce is fresh and in season, most of our food is free of preservatives and artificial flavors, and nothing that we eat is a weirdly neon orange color. And I have learned to cook well enough that I'm losing my appetite for eating out.
This month, I'm challenging you to Green Your Groceries, and learning to cook is an important part of that. When you know how to cook from scratch, you can buy basic ingredients like oats, beans, and rice from the bulk bins and cut back on your trash production; use fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, casting a vote for a reformed food system and keeping your family healthier; and save money, making it possible for you to afford those fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.
I've been sitting here trying to come up with my very best gems of advice to help you cook from scratch, but really the best thing I can say is Dive Right In! Some days will be a total failure in the kitchen, but as I tell my kids, you can't learn to do something unless you practice. But here are a couple other tips I've come up with:
- Learn to make a roux. A huge portion of recipes start with a roux, and once you can make your own, you'll be free from canned sauces and gravies.
- Make a list of your family's favorite meals and learn to make them from scratch.
- Or obtain a good basic cookbook and find some new favorites.
- Join a CSA. You'll be forced to learn how to cook or let your vegetables/money go to waste.
- Purchase a good knife and keep it sharp. You know those big wooden blocks that come with a dozen different types of knives? You probably have one sitting on your counter - I used to have one too. But here's the thing about cooking: you really only need one good knife - maybe two - as long as you keep them sharp. Sharpness is key; my knives are on the very blunt side right now, and it's really slowing down my cooking time.
- K.I.S.S Method for Saving Time in the Kitchen
- Save Time in the Kitchen by Meal Planning
- More Tips for Saving Time in the Kitchen