I mentioned in my last post, that each of us has our own unique cooking style. Many of us find ourselves in the ‘mood’ to cook one day and other days we’d rather do anything but be in the kitchen. If we are unknowingly creating conditions that go against our cooking style, then we might find ourselves loathing the idea of time in the kitchen.
With a little awareness you might find that your ‘mood’ to cook has more to do with the conditions. Change the conditions and you will very likely find your mood shifts as well. I have narrowed down people’s cooking styles to four basic types, but you will likely find that you are a combination of more than one.
The Four Types of ‘Cooks’
1) The Magician – In my experience these cooks are more appropriately called the ‘chefs’ since they are the ones who seem to have a natural talent for the art of cooking. My husband definitely falls under this category. The Magicians are able to make an exquisite meal, even when to everyone else, the cupboards are bare and the fridge seems empty. They intuitively know what ingredients go well together and are even able to ‘fix’ a recipe that someone else might have buggered up. They can whip something up in a minute; give them a fridge full of food, and some herbs and spices and be prepared to enjoy a five-star meal.
If you are a Magician you likely love cooking so I have little need to offer suggestions in terms of how to make cooking less painful. For the most part you enjoy cooking and very little arm-twisting is required to get you in the kitchen. Continue to challenge yourself and try new recipes to nurture your love for cooking.
2) The Planner – This is where my husband and I are polar opposites. I enjoy cooking best when I have a plan-not necessarily a recipe, but a plan of what I need and where I am going. Don’t ask Planners to throw together a meal without allowing them to run to the grocery with their list. Their fridge needs to be stalked and the pantry full. If you are a Planner have a routine where you plan your grocery list around what meals you plan to eat that week. I often spend Thursday night planning my meals, lunches and snacks for the following week. Friday after work or Saturday morning I go grocery shopping and then spend a few hours on Sunday afternoons prepping my food. This makes for less cooking throughout the work week and little stress in trying to figure out what lunches or meals to make.
Most Planners love recipes and cookbooks. Like a lot of Planners, I get bored of cooking the same ‘routine’ meals; I love to try new recipes. If you are a Planner invest in some inspiring cookbooks with pictures and get inspired by going on sites like Pinterest and Instagram. As Planners become more confident in the kitchen they are more apt to branch off and play with their favourite recipes to make it their own or to simply invent one, cold.
3) The Habit Keeper – This individual is usually not fond of experimenting or last minute meal preparation that requires ‘making something out of nothing’. The Habit Keeper is a step-up from the Planner. They like to stick to their regular recipes which they have made numerous times and are fool-proof. They are not interested in constantly adding in or trying new recipes–they like their routine just fine. If the Habit Keeper is the regular cook at home they may very well have a weekly meal plan and grocery list.
If you are a Habit Keeper and struggle with healthy eating, try switching up a favorite recipe for a healthier alternative-but only learn one at a time. Try a new recipe only once every two weeks or only once per month until that new recipe has become your habit. Add another when you feel like the previous one has become a habit and soon enough healthy recipes will be a part of your routine. If there is one meal during the day in which you regularly find yourself eating poorly, start with that first. Many people struggle with healthy lunches, so try learning one recipe (or two at the most) and then slowly weave in other recipes.
4) The Experimenter – Many of us have at least a little of the Experimenter in us regardless if we’re Magicians, Planners or Habit Keepers. What differs is to what degree we like to experiment. A Habit Keeper might simply substitute blueberries for raspberries where a Magician is more comfortable taking ‘leaps of faith’ in the kitchen since they are fairly confident about how things will turn out. The true Experimenters (who do not resemble much of any of the above cooking styles) prefer not to follow a recipe-their idea of cooking is ‘playing’. Their cooking moods are more likely to be spontaneous. If you are an Experimenter then make sure you have a variety of herbs, spices and healthy food in stock at all times so that you can ‘play’ hassle-free when the mood to cook strikes.
Tips for Making Meal-Prep Painless
The best way to return to the kitchen is to learn how to make cooking more enjoyable and to uncover what motivates you to cook. What sets you in the mood to cook?
- Is it a clean-house?
- Playing certain music while cooking?
- Friends coming for dinner?
- A new recipe?
- A fridge full of ingredients?
Once you have this figured out, then you can start creating the conditions that set you in the mood to cook. I encourage you to actually take a piece of paper and write down what inspires you to cook.
Cooking and food preparation are now habits and routines that I have woven into my life. Instead of being ‘a waste of my time’ they are a part of my life. I see cooking as a non-negotiable to honour the health and wellness of my family and myself. I also find that with the right attitude and ditching the need for perfection, it is downright playful.
Below are a few of my suggestions:
- Start in a clean kitchen and clean as you go. Nothing hinders the ‘zen of cooking’ like a messy kitchen. Cleaning as you go makes the whole process less overwhelming.
- Make the investment of purchasing cookbooks with lots of pictures that will inspire you (especially if you are a Planner like myself!) If you can’t afford this, get organized on Pinterest and Instagram.
- Meal Making Meditation – Put some music on. Make this your time. I can do almost any daunting task with a smile on my face if I am listening to some great music. Sometimes I even light some candles to add an extra element of tranquility and to also remind myself to be mindful and stay in the present. Chopping, slicing and blending is truly rhythmic.
- Make it a Date – My husband and I both cook together in the kitchen on Sunday afternoons. We each take our place at a counter and work on our respective meals. Most of the time we don’t get in each others way. We have some great conversations while my daughter has some down time from the weekend.
- Mother-daughter time – My daughter is more than glad to help make muffins or protein balls and it gives us a great opportunity to learn together and talk about the small and important things in life. Cook with your kids and they will be more likely to eat their dinner. Eventually, they will be able to cook for you!
- Listen to the Radio or Watch TV – We have one TV and it’s in the basement, but I love to listen to the CBC and zone out while I am prepping. I tell clients that there is nothing wrong with setting up a small TV in your kitchen to start. If you absolutely hate cooking and this can inspire you to be in the kitchen more often-then do it. Avoid having the TV on at other times and do not get into the habit of eating in front of the TV. You can also set up a laptop or tablet in the kitchen and watch a Tedtalks or Youtube video if you don’t have or want a TV in your kitchen.
- Set aside time to plan your cooking. As I mentioned before, Thursday is my planning night (usually while watching something on Netflix). I also have a ‘Staples’ grocery list. For example, regardless of what I am cooking I always have beets, carrots, apples, parsnips, avocado and cilantro in my fridge because they are always a part of my recipes or snacks. Keeping a Master Grocery List is another stress free way to minimize planning time.
- Determine the best time for you to prepare and cook food for the week. Sunday afternoon might not work for you, but find something that does. I tend to cook main meals, lunches and chop veggies on Sunday. On Monday, while my husband is at work, my daughter and I spend the late afternoon making snacks for the week: coconut balls and grain-free carrot ginger muffins are some of our favourites.
While some people love cooking and others just like it, recognizing and accepting that you may not ever love cooking is key. Some days you might like it and other days you might hate it. On the days that I have no interest I manage to get my butt off the couch by reminding myself that cooking healthy meals is as much about survival as it is an act of self-love. With the right recipe, it is downright delicious!
Preparing food is about taking the time to do what is good for the your health and wholeness. If you don’t have your health-it is very difficult to have happiness. So be healthy, wholly and happy-honour yourself by eating real, delicious food made in your own kitchen.