1) Sunday Dinners: Who doesn’t appreciate a leisurely meal on a Sunday evening? The way to make this happen is to cook together. Invite another family over and prepare the meal together. Delegate age appropriate tasks to the kids, like setting the table, grating the cheese or writing a menu. While you’re at it, make a double batch of soup for Monday. Then, clean the kitchen only once, together. Rediscovering the joy of preparing and sharing a meal as a family is an invaluable life lesson and an investment in your health on so many levels.
2) “Women’s Circle” not merely a cooking club, this can be a thoroughly enjoyable event for busy moms and single women. Choose a day and prepare three meals all together. Divide the cost of the food by the ultimate number of recipients. If no one knows how to cook, enroll a personal chef for the first few weeks just to get you started. Once you feel comfortable with the format you’ll be able to do it yourself. Be sure to include, wine, snacks and good music so it feels like an outlet for creativity rather than one more thing to do. Whenever a woman tells me she hates to cook, I invite her to one of these. She always leaves smiling! Even my friend who thought “The Joy of Cooking” must surely be a joke.
3) Balance: Notice the first two ideas don’t say to make a weeks worth of meals. If you go into this feeling it’s all or nothing you set yourself up for failure. It’s o.k. to supplement your efforts by eating out once or twice a week. You’ll enjoy it more and the money you save cooking at home the other nights means you’ll be able to splurge a little when you do go out.
4) Make it Special: If going to your favorite restaurant every week isn’t an option you can still pick up some amazing food already prepared and bring it to your favorite park. Another fun idea is to coordinate the menu with a foodie movie like Tortilla Soup or Mostly Martha (the original version of No Reservations). Invite some friends to join you. Food movies are usually very inspiring! During the summer months, combine your weekly get togethers with a sport—soccer night/taco night.
5) Dad Night: Wouldn’t it be nice to come home to a home cooked meal even one night a week? It doesn’t have to be complicated to be good. If you have kids, dad just needs to be the coach in the kitchen. (Note to dads: this makes a wonderful Mother’s Day Gift!) This is the reason I wrote Wow! Look Who’s Cooking.
6) Get the kids involved. One way or another they need to learn how to cook or they’ll be dependent on packaged, processed food designed for profit and we now know where that leads. A valuable lesson I learned while cooking with teens, is that when they know what’s in it, they’re more likely to eat it and that’s just one more reason to have them help.
7) Personal Chef: You could hire a personal chef to make your meals just two or three nights a week. If you have a family who shares similar food values, you can share the cost and make it really affordable. Two other creative uses of a chef’s expertise: Hire one to coach you just long enough to get you on the right track. This is kind of like hiring a personal trainer, sometimes you just need help starting new, healthier habits. Chefs can also teach your kids to cook—talk about the gift that keeps on giving!
The next best thing to a personal chef of your own is a high quality deli with a team of chefs who use super fresh ingredients, like the ones you find at health food stores.
8) High Quality Ingredients taste so much better! They make it worth the effort you put in. With more flavor impact you actually eat less because your taste buds are so satisfied. Classic example: Aged cheese like Parmesan is worth the extra expense. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals and a little bit goes a long way!
9) High Quality Recipes: Use fewer ingredients; they’re not complicated. A great recipe relies on just the right combination of the freshest produce, herbs and spices. You only need 10-20 recipes you really love to keep it flowing! With a repertoire of high quality recipes , you’ll be cooking like a pro before you know it! By choosing recipes that are easy to remember, you’ll be far more likely to make them again and again.
10) Keep It Simple: Some short cuts are worth taking, others you really want to make yourself! When you have more time to cook, its really cost effective to make your own chicken broth and use the chicken a couple of different ways. During the work week it may be better to use prepared broth, if it means the difference between making something yourself or eating fast food that night.
A good rule of thumb: If it has less than 5 ingredients you can quite easily make it yourself. It will cost less and taste better. Examples: Pesto, caramel sauce, Thai peanut sauce…Then again single ingredients like canned organic tomatoes, artichoke hearts and beans can save you just enough time to make the over all task less over-whelming and all the more do-able.
To summarize: Find ways to make it fun! Togetherness is key to fun. Togetherness also makes it easy. Delegating makes it easy. Multi- prepping meals together makes it really fun and easy. Like anything else you value, schedule it. Find a buddy, get a coach, make it happen. The rewards of home cooking/eating right will surprise you and delight you all the rest of your long and prosperous life.