I have never been much of a cook…or at least much of a GOOD cook. Growing up, my parents cooked most meals, which was very lucky for me. However, that also means that I didn’t receive a crash course in cooking until I moved out of their house! While the first few weeks (let’s be real–months!) involved very little cooking or grocery shopping and a lot of going out to eat, I recently realized that it’s time for me to commit to cooking and developing my skills in the kitchen.
My main motivation? MONEY! It costs so much more to eat out, even at fast food or quick restaurants, than it does if you shop for groceries and cook yourself. Eating out is also far more unhealthy than cooking, as you can’t control which ingredients are used (or how much!) in your favorite dishes. I’ve found that I can cut the calories in half (or more) by cooking at home using fresh ingredients instead of buying a dish in a restaurant!
Here are my top tips to get started (and a few kitchen essentials I recommend you grab as well):
Invest in tools you need!
To prepare food:
- Knife set (or just a few sharp knives)
- Cutting board
- Frying pan
- Medium/large pot
- Crockpot/slow cooker
- Oven-proof baking dish (Pyrex is a good option)
- Metal baking/cookie sheet
To store leftovers:
- Glass or plastic storage containers with lids
See, that’s not so bad! I have made some pretty awesome meals using only a handful of the tools listed above. Plus, all of these (except perhaps the Crockpot and knife set) can be found at thrift stores for next-to-nothing! If you have the money saved, I would splurge on a big Crockpot if you plan to entertain crowds and a nice set of glass storage dishes for leftovers.
Stock up on staple ingredients.
There are a few things that most recipes call for or that you can add in to your own taste. Consider stocking up on the following:
- Olive oil
- Garlic (I go with the pre-minced garlic that can be stored in the fridge for months!)
- Seasoned salt (which add some extra flavor to plainer dishes)
- Favorite spices (use your best judgement here!) I always have Oregano, Cumin, Paprika, and Red Pepper Flakes on hand.
For a more extensive list of pantry basics that you can acquire slowly as your cooking skills improve, check out this post by Sam.
Find recipes that you are excited try out!
Here are a couple of my favorite places to find quick, healthy recipes.
- AllRecipes: great for a full list of recipes, with easy search features to help you narrow down
- Clean Food Crush: yummy clean recipes with basic ingredients
- Cooking Light: awesome “clean” recipes, with nutritional information provided
- Pinterest: everything under the sun, with specific boards/users that post recipes
- Real Simple: fun to browse and find recipes to try
Google should be your best friend as you learn to cook. “Easy chicken recipes.” “One-pan salmon.” “Quick dinner ideas.” “Simple side-dishes.” “Crock pot chicken recipes.” Trust me, there are a TON of resources out there if you take a few minutes to search around.
Even if you don’t have the time or interest for meal-prepping, make sure you tentatively plan your weekly lunch/dinner menu. I do my grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon, and usually pick up a bunch of fresh chicken (that I immediately freeze to minimize the chance of waste, then thaw in the fridge on the morning I plan to use it for dinner), fish, vegetables (like romaine lettuce for salads, asparagus, broccoli), and carbs like rice. From there, I start my Google searches for “easy chicken recipes” or “Asian-inspired salmon” and can run to the store for extra ingredients if necessary.
Set yourself up for success in the kitchen, and you will find it! Any questions from a scaredy-cat turned chef? Let me know!