Learn to experience the joy of cooking by simplifying the process and focusing on the parts you enjoy the most. It will save you time and money.

The real issue with cooking is that it requires multiple steps.  We often forget about the time needed for planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, serving and cleaning up.  It’s no wonder so many people loose the joy of cooking when they’re pressed for time and opt for take out.

Unfortunately loosing our joy for cooking is a bit of a problem.  Home cooking not only costs less than fast food, it is significantly lower in calories than most food eaten outside the home.  When you consider an extra 200 calories per day increases your body weight by 20 pounds per year, cooking suddenly becomes worth the effort.  

So now that you’re interested in finding your joy for cooking, we have a few tips to make the whole process easier and more fun.

Planning:  Spend a few minutes once a week to pick out recipes for soup and salad.  Both can be made ahead and served multiple times over the week together or with different sides. Serve with meat, a grain, another veggie or anything else you like that will keep the meal interesting.

Shopping: Use an online service to shop for your household staples or your whole order if you’re really pressed for time.  However, if you have time for shopping go to the farmer’s market or a local market for fresh produce, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt.  Why these things?

Fresh produce, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt are the most fun to shop for and make cooking easy.  Seasonal produce turns everyone into a good cook because it tastes good without doing much to it.  Plus farmer’s and produce people usually have good tips for selecting the best produce and simple tips for preparing it.  Chances are you’ll end up eating produce that you wouldn’t have tried otherwise which is another good thing – variety. 

Olive oil, vinegar and salt is all you need to bring out the flavor of food and shopping for them has become a fun thing to do.  Most specialty shops do regular tastings.  So go with a friend or take your kids to pick an olive oil and/or vinegar to use in place of pre-made salad dressings and marinades.  We just learned this simple rule, cook with sea salt and finish with flake salt.  Believe it or not, some salts have followings but we’re not going to tell you which ones so that you can discover them on your own.  Discovering new things is part of the joy of cooking.

Fresh bread is delicious and and a good staple for soups and salads as well as a good option for making meals to take with you or eat on the run.  As a general rule, the darker the better.  Just don’t over do it.

Preparing:  Doing all the prep at once per week makes for light work during the work week when you’re busy and tired and reduces the temptation to eat out or order in.  If you need to do prep more than once a week, try to make it enjoyable.  Play some music or use the time to also catch up with family or friends.  A headset for your phone is a good investment if calling is required. 

Cooking: Grill, bake, steam or reheat during the week to keep cooking simple.  Save the complicated recipes for the weekend or special occasions unless you really love cooking and have the time to do it.  Just be mindful of the portion size.

Serving: The key to feeling satisfied is to enjoy your food however and wherever you eat it.  If can, enjoy a meal with your family and friends at least once a week.  It’s a great way to connect with the people you care about and who care about you.  Plus it makes you slow down and enjoy your food that much more.

Clean Up: Well what can we say, it’s just something you have to do one way or another.