Six Simple Ways to Make Cooking at Home Easier

There is not much better than the satisfaction of a delicious, home cooked meal. This true from the perspective of both the cook and the consumers. Everyone has their own version of a favorite homey meal, complete with smells, tastes, and good company. Despite the obvious benefits of cooking from scratch, it is becoming less and less popular in our society. With our busy schedules and hectic lifestyles, the time required for cooking from scratch is just not there. But does the lack of time actually devalue the home cooked meals, or does it just signify a shift in priorities? Maybe a better way to phrase this is as follows: does the perceived lack of time justify frequent meals that are expensively outsourced and usually less nutritious? Does convenience justify compromise?

In this day and age, we tend to choose activities over family time around the dinner table. While more activities mean more well rounded people, the consequences of faster, lower quality food has also left us overweight, chronically ill, and addicted to high sugar foods. When this is combined with our sedentary lifestyles, this is a recipe for obesity, which leads to a whole host of other health concerns. Consider the following health concerns that go hand in hand with obesity:

  • Type 2 Diabetes (this alone has a myriad of health concerns that result)
    • Increased risk of amputations due to poor circulation and wound healing
      • Traumatic and life altering
      • Need for extensive nursing care and rehabilitation 
    • Diabetic neuropathy in hands and feet
      • Uncomfortable or painful burning/tingling sensation
      • Leads to reduced sensory input, which leads to balance deficits
        • Increased risk of orthopedic injuries from falls
        • Limits mobility
    • Increased risk of losing vision partially or totally
    • High blood pressure
    • Poor wound healing
      • Major cause of amputations
      • Requires frequent MD visits and nursing care to address
    • Increased risk of kidney disease
      • Severe cases can lead to kidney failure
      • Increased risk of needing dialysis
        • Normally becomes a lifelong need
        • Usually is done 3 days/week for approximately 6 hours each time
        • A semi- permanent portal has to be surgically implanted
        • Restricted salt and liquid diet to reduce strain on kidneys
        • Typical lifespan of 5-10 years (National Kidney Foundation, 2019)
  • Increased risk of stroke
    • Increased risk of death
    • Lifelong mobility, cognitive, expressive, or receptive deficits can occur
  • Increased risk of heart attack 
    • Increased risk of death
    • Expensive surgeries and rehabilitation may be required 
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Increased risk of stroke
    • Increased risk of heart attack
    • Increased risk of losing vision partially or totally 
  • Sleep Apnea
    • Requires use of cumbersome CPAP at night
    • Decreases quality of sleep
      • Affects mood, energy, etc
      • Risk factor for developing dementia later in life 
  • Acceleration of Osteoarthritis
    • Expensive surgeries, procedures, and rehab are required to address this
    • Further decreases mobility, which perpetuates obesity and all its results

As a healthcare professional, I have treated many people who were/are directly impacted by these things. Having spent a lot of time working in long term care facilities and rehabilitation facilities, I have seen the more severe complications from diabetes and obesity. Amputations, orthopedic injuries, heart attacks, strokes, diabetic neuropathy, and falls all have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life. They affect the families, the friends, and the communities. They contribute to rising healthcare costs, and they are a societal burden. The good news is, a lot of these things can be minimized or prevented by taking a hard look at the food we eat. 

Now, it is important to point out that obesity usually has multiple contributors, such as genetics, co-existing conditions, mobility, access to healthy food, and overall lifestyle choices. Obesity is a complicated, multi-factorial issue, but it is undoubtedly due in large part to our diet.

When consuming fast and processed food became a national hobby, it exchanged homemade, nutritious meals for food that was sold to make a profit for businesses. Now, when you consider a successful business model, it usually revolves around providing the customer the desired goods at the lowest cost to the business. When you apply this to food, where does that leave you? The answer is low quality food that can be cooked or reheated quickly. These business are not going to be most concerned with the nutritional content of your food. They are going to be concerned with the profit margins on each sale, and the volume of sales they make. 

When we start taking a hard look at the food that we consume, we gain the ability to make informed decisions for our health. Once we recognize that the companies who sell us fast or processed food are not in the business of keeping us healthy, we will be much better off. These quickly available foods are nutritionally poor, high carb, high sugar, and high fat. They serve little to no purpose except to keep us coming back for more, while expanding our waistlines and increasing our resistance to insulin.

As I’ve been reading up on this subject, it’s become very clear to me the cost that we pay when we buy cheap food, and it’s not pretty. Poor overall health, fatigue, weight gain, low energy, and a potential myriad of health concerns are the result. Here are a few thought provoking reads on the origins of processed and fast foods, as well as how they are marketed, advertised, and developed to keep us addicted. 

  • Sugar, Salt, and Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
  • Fast Food Nation
  • The Obesity Code

There is a vast wealth of information on this subject; these are simply the books that I found to be eye opening and informative. When we understand what we eat and where it comes from, it gives us the power to be informed consumers, which means we have the responsibility to make informed decision for us and our families.

Now that I’ve talked about the scary effects of obesity and the food that contributes to it, let’s talk about a plan to reduce our risk for these things. A great way to start is by cooking at home. Sure, it takes time, and it takes effort, but it is well worth it. Everyone should know how to cook a good, simple meal. After all, the deliciousness of fresh ingredients cannot be replicated! Here are tips and shortcuts I use to make cooking easier and more time efficient!

  1. Make technology work for you — Use an Instapot, Air Fryer, or Crockpot. These are such huge timesavers, and it’s an added bonus that you do not have to babysit your food. Set it, and forget it. I use these devices to cook my meats while I tend to the side dishes. You can even make full meals in these devices for busy nights. Technology in the kitchen is a must for a busy person or family. Fun fact, I have a lot of trouble cooking chicken unless it is in the Instapot or the Crockpot. Both of these methods leave me with perfectly cooked chicken, without babysitting. Win.
  2. Use a menu board for weekly meals, and stick with it. I write our weekly dinners down every Friday, which is the day I go grocery shopping. That way, I know exactly what I need to get from the store, so I do not underbuy or overspend. Also, everyone knows what to expect for dinner each night, which is helpful if you have a busy household. Another benefit for our family is that it allows us to forecast who will be home which nights, and that allows me to plan food accordingly. The tricky part is to stick with it, regardless of what happens that week. The hardest part about dinner is usually deciding what to make. That has already been decided, so there really is no excuse not to cook, right?
  3. Get comfortable making a few easy sides that can be thrown together in a pinch. For me, this looks like rice, carrots, and green beans. If the schedule changes suddenly, and I’m stuck making dinner, I can always throw these things together quickly while I figure out what protein to add. Combine this with a handy, dandy Instapot, and there is nothing you can’t handle!
  4. Find something that excites you about cooking at home. This could be using a favorite cookbook, listening to music while you cook, getting to spend time in your nice kitchen, or using it as your “me” time away from the noise and chaos of family life. If you hate being in the kitchen, it will be reflected in your food. Before I learned to enjoy being in the kitchen, most of my meals were subpar at best. My heart just wasn’t in it, and you could tell. Since becoming a mom, I’ve learned to enjoy my time in the heart of the home, and my food is definitely improving.
  5. Double your recipes, and have leftovers the next night. This is such an easy thing to do, and it reduces your weekly time in the kitchen by 50% if you do it for every meal! The obvious issue with this is to make sure you like the meal, otherwise, you are stuck with it! All of the ingredients are already out, so just make twice as much. Easy. Line this up with your weekly schedule so you can have leftovers if you have a busy weeknight.
  6. Reward yourself by making a fun food “project” every week. If you like chocolate chip cookies, make a bunch on a free night. If you have a bunch of overripe bananas, find a delicious sounding banana bread recipe. The more positive experiences you have in the kitchen, the more often you will find yourself there. There is something really special about serving delicious food to those you love. Improving your skills and repertoire as a baker/cook will yield great benefits for you and your family.
The result of a baking project — my first apple pie!

While I cannot honestly say that I love cooking, I am enjoying it. Maturity, life experience, and realization of the food/health relationship have all pushed me towards the kitchen, and I welcome the continued progress. There is just something great about serving delicious food to those that you love, and I am working on improving the frequency of this occurrence!

How do you make cooking at home happen on a regular basis?

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