A bunch of people at my school ask me if I cook my own breakfast and lunch. And the answer is: yes!
The idea of cooking your own food sounds extremely difficult. It’s so easy to order a meal at a restaurant, take-out, or even just a frozen pre-made meal from the grocery store. But, if you currently don’t cook your own food often, then you seriously should. It’s healthier, cheaper, and not as time-consuming as you think if you plan accordingly and if you stock up on some great kitchen tools that will get the job done.
Even though I said before that cooking is more inexpensive, there are some investments that you should look into if you want to make it easier. For instance, there are many temperamental mini-blenders out there that will break within a few months but cost less than $40 on Amazon, while you could find a long-lasting, durable and high-speed food processor or blender that’s a hefty $100 (or more!). Imagine that you have to buy five of the cheap mini blenders in a year; you’ll be spending double the money. I would much rather make a big sacrifice to something I would use to death for forever than deal with planned obsolescence.
Also, the devices that you invest in have to be useful to you in many ways. Your schedule, how fast you can cook and how much time you spend on the stove-top will depend whether or not you need a slow cooker. On average, if you spend more time at home than at work of if you work at home, and if you can cook a nice meal pretty quickly, then you probably don’t need one. However, if your office is practically your home and you have NO time to cook at all, then you should look for a really good slow cooker. I personally don’t have one because I find I don’t need it.
If you’re wondering why I’m suggesting that you buy your own tools, it’s because you’re not a kitchen wizard. I know, so sad, I’m not either 😦 but there are indeed times when you just can’t get the job done alone. You can’t make a smoothie without a blender. You can’t make stir-fries without a nonstick pan. Sometimes you need to finely grind something and it’ll take a millennium by hand. You can get something from a juice bar, but it’s over-priced, and you can get take-out, but it’s not very healthy for you, depending on what you order. Imagine how convenient it would be if you could just make a liter-sized smoothie with ice, an overripe frozen banana, some almond milk, a spoonful of cacao powder and peanut butter, all for less than $2. Trust me, it’s absolutely possible.
Health-wise, I could go on and on and on. You know exactly what goes into your food. If you’re at a restaurant, you only know the main components of your entree. Even if a chocolate cake is labeled gluten free, low fat and sugar free, that cake may have white rice flour (which chemically converts the refined carbohydrates into fat the same way as sugar), some butter and artificial sweeteners.
Many restaurants will use cheap oils (usually vegetable oil which you should avoid like the plague), MSG, artificial sweeteners and other ingredients that are meant to enhance the flavor of the food but are really not good for you at all. Unless said otherwise, the produce and animal products used are usually conventional to reduce cost, meaning that fruits and veggies could contain GMOs, while animal products hormones or grain-fed meat. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating out too often can be even more detrimental for this reason.
Sometimes something unexpected will come with your order that you cannot have. It’s especially important if you have a severe food intolerance or if you have strong ethics behind your diet regimen (Me to my sister: “uhhh, those chips are not vegetarian…” You should have seen the look on her face.). Meanwhile, if you cook your own food at home, you consciously put in every component, knowing that you’ll be comfortable eating it.
The last reason that may surprise you is that you can actually cook a larger quantity of food for a cheaper price. You order a cup of sweet potato fries for $4 when you can just make a pound at home for $1.73! If you don’t know how to cook, simply search up healthy recipes that require few ingredients and little complications.If you’re in school or at work, buy your most-used foods in bulk such as oats, almonds, bananas, beans and quinoa and meal prep on one day–basically making a ton of food and dividing portions for the week. Breakfast, lunch and dinner already served!
On the other hand, say you’re a student or you’re not in charge of cooking, and whoever’s in charge of cooking–generally your parents–don’t cook with the healthiest ingredients or don’t cook at all. You have several options. You can talk to them about re-organizing the fridge and pantry with wholesome foods, picking better restaurant options and incorporating your healthy lifestyle as an influence to them.
Try to surround your environment with as much natural food as possible so that you automatically have to use them in cooking. You don’t have to go crazy fresh and organic, just the best possible sources that you can easily access! Offer to help with grocery shopping and make a list. You can introduce your family to new sources of cooking: coconut oil instead of canola oil, oranges instead of fruit snacks, brown rice instead of white, you get the idea. It may or may not be easy depending on the current cooking system your family has.
From personal experience, I’ve had success introducing olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, lentils, quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, eggplant, zucchini, sweet potatoes (YES!), nut butter, frozen fruit such as acai, whole grain pancake mix and chia seeds in my kitchen! Introducing my mother to these foods has actually led her to inspire the rest of my family to eat healthier overall! We used to have cheesy paninis, salty soups, heavy pastas, and lots and lots of rice–all dunked in soy sauce. Now we regularly eat balsamic capreses, lentil soups, kale salads, zucchini noodles with fresh marinara (sometimes my parents have spinach pasta), short-grain brown rice and curry! How big of a difference is that?!
And if your family doesn’t want to make the healthy changes that you want? Don’t let that interfere with your journey. You are ultimately the only person who can progress yourself further towards your goals. What I suggest is to try to be as healthy as possible with what you’ve got. Offer to cook for yourself, get your own food and make the wise decisions on your own. Not only do you gain more independence to prepare yourself for the future, but your family may see you thriving from being healthy and start to join you. Food is more than nourishment. It can be a way of community.
Well that just wraps up the reasons why you should cook more! Yes, there are SO many photos and articles raving about these hotspot restaurants that serve the fanciest and tastiest dishes you can possibly imagine. They’re nice to enjoy once in a while, but at the same time, there comes the costs of overpricing and not knowing what goes into your food. Gain the skills of the master chefs and you will become one yourself.
What are your best tips on how to make cooking easy and enjoyable?