No Excuse Cooking

0217lewisI have had my fair share of frozen meals, and even a period when I ate mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, and peas for dinner (at least all of the important food groups were represented, right?). My excuse was to have one less thing to worry about, so that I could focus on school. The longer I went without seeing my family, the more I found myself flipping through my homemade cookbook and cooking my mom’s recipes instead of the frozen meals. Whenever I did this, the thousand-mile distance between us would shrink, and I’d feel that much closer to her. Cooking your own meals doesn’t just strengthen your connection with family, or even your heritage, it also benefits other aspects in your life. I can already hear some of your excuses—after all, I used to have the same ones.

“I live with my parents so there’s no need to cook!” 

But there is a need for you to learn. Living at home is even more of a reason to join your mom, or whoever, in the kitchen! Also, the cook deserves a break, so why not cook a meal for her? And if your mom ends up pushing you out of the way to show you how it’s done, then let her—it’s part of the experience.

“I don’t have anything to cook a meal!” 

Easy fix: stock up on essentials for the pantry such as rice, pasta, canned diced tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, bouillon cubes, flour, sugar, salt and pepper, other seasonings like cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder (do not use baking soda if the recipe says baking powder and vice versa!). Stock the fridge with ingredients like butter, cheese, milk, eggs, yogurt, jelly, ketchup and so on. I like to keep chicken and vegetables in the freezer for last-minute dinner ideas. Stocking up may seem expensive at first if you don’t have a lot of the essentials, but the investment is worth it. I don’t know how many times I walked into my kitchen thinking I was out of food, but I was able to scavenge from the essentials and make an amazing meal!

“I don’t know what to make!” 

Inspiration is literally at your fingertips. So many videos, blogs, and recipe sites exist to help you. Take a few minutes to browse Relish, Yummly, and VeganRicha. Don’t be afraid to experiment too! One day, I added dried apricots to my favorite Apricot Chicken recipe, even though the recipe didn’t call for it, and I haven’t gone back since! Ok, adding dried fruit didn’t have the potential to ruin the meal, but you get the point.

“I don’t have time to cook” and “I don’t have money to cook.” 

These two excuses are often connected. In addition to saving you money, cooking your own meals doesn’t have to be time-consuming. One time-saving step I have been doing for years is cooking a meal for the entire week. If you like variety, then you can easily cook two meals with this solution. Spend a couple of hours cooking lunch and dinner for the week. You can even make recipes that require less effort on your part. Or, you can just combine ingredients into a crockpot and cook while you’re at work or sleeping.

There you have it! A few simple solutions to help you channel your inner cook. So what are you waiting for? No more excuses—get in that kitchen!

Dvorah Lewis is a contributing writer and an archivist for Los Angeles Jewish institutions.

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