Cooking a lot at home these days? Who isn't? Culinary burnout is affecting many of us, especially those who don't revel in the glories of cooking. Or maybe you once did but based on the past year's situation, it has reached its limit.
Cooking is labor-intensive, especially if you have a family. And it tends to get a bit redundant, resulting in rather insipid meals. Let's be honest, how many times in the past year have you cooked the same meal? How many different ways can you make spaghetti without getting sick at the sight of it? How many tuna-fish casseroles have you subjected your family to?
Or, are you stuck on take-out? While there are plenty of food delivery options these days, many of them lack the nutritional value we standardize for ourselves and our family. Pizza, burgers, and Chinese food are popular go-to take-out meals that are fine once in a while, but you don't want to make a habit of them.
Indeed, cooking fatigue is a real thing, and because we're not getting out as much these days, we're not eating as healthy either. Our access to nutritious ingredients, like fresh fruits and vegetables, is limited.
How quickly a once rewarding activity can become a source of stress. However, you can change that with a few helpful tips here in this article.
#1: Make cooking a family activity.
Unless it incites more stress and frustration, cooking together can inspire a greater appreciation for food and family. It also supports the 'divide and conquer' approach to getting more done in less time. Sometimes coming up with new ideas for meals takes more effort than the cooking itself. If that's the case, take the family affair one step further and have everyone choose one meal per week. You'll each be responsible on your day for acquiring the necessary ingredients and managing roles. The kids will love it because when their turn comes around, they'll feel like they're the boss, so to speak!
#2: Set aside ample time for cooking.
When we feel rushed in our cooking endeavors, our sense of control dwindles, and we can spiral into feeling stressed, inadequate, and resistant to any future cooking-related task. We know it's one more thing you have to schedule, but when devoted a window of time just to meal prep, it actually does help you take a load off. If it makes sense in your lifestyle, batch cook once or twice a week, so that you're spending a few hours all at once, freeing up other days to non-cooking tasks.
#3: Keep your knives sharpened & honed.
Seems obvious, right? But alas, we forget or simply don't take the time to do it, expecting our knives to stay sharp and ready to slice, sliver, scallop, and serve our chopping requirements for as long as we need. But knives need a little TLC from time to time, and a whetstone is the best tool to achieve a crisp, clean, honed blade. If you're into something a little more straightforward (no pun intended), a Diamond Knife Sharpener will bring your knives to razor-sharpness in just seconds. It's comfortable and easy to use too.
#4: Experiment with new dishes.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel to do this. Google gives us access to a plethora of homespun, surprisingly exciting recipes that can kick the usual weekly jam up a notch. One of the best ways to access ideas is to start in your pantry. What ingredients inhabit the shelves, and what possibilities lie within? Search terms like "recipes with artichokes" or "what can I make with black beans" will spit forth heaps of ideas for tasty and unique meals that your family will love. Even something as simple as using the same ingredients in different ways can birth new casserole concoctions, soups, and salads that are next to impossible to conjure up alone.
#5: Minimize the elbow grease.
Culinary tools are invented for a reason. There are a gazillion kitchen contraptions out there, not only to simplify your cooking endeavors, but to ease the burden of time devoted to each task. Of course, kitchen gadgets can become something of a swamp into which the eager chef could drown, so choose wisely.
Notice what tasks produce the most frustration and see if there is a tool that can help. For example, in my traveling days where I lived out of a suitcase and rented monthly, hopping from one place to the next, I never had access to a vegetable peeler. Even if my place didn't have a kitchen, I could still prepare a fresh raw veggie or fruit salad. As long as I had a semi-sharp knife, I could peel apples or cucumbers (an absolute must in many countries), but that's a time-confusing task, and even risky if I was dealing with a dull knife. So, I bought myself a good-quality vegetable peeler and packed it around with me. I've never regretted it.
Another frustration-saving device is the potato masher. But not those radiator/branding style ones of yesteryear that require an awful lot of pounding and pose potential wrist injuries. A potato ricer. Now, three years ago, I would've asked, what the heck is a potato ricer? I thought it was a tool that made rice out of its equally starchy cousin, sort of like making rice out of cauliflower. But behold the chef's most treasured tool for shaving time and effort from the task of mashing potatoes. Please do yourself a favor and check out our potato ricer here.
Keep Your Kitchen Well Organized
This is especially critical if you have a small kitchen. We recommended some excellent DIY storage & organization tips and ideas for optimizing space in small kitchens and campervans too. Check them out next!
And our April guide is all about selecting the right countertop for your kitchen, so click here to find out everything you need to know.
Have you spotted a theme here? It's make-it-easy-on-yourself. Our lives are wrought with enough stresses and responsibilities, so use these tips to ease the burden and make cooking a fun, lighthearted, family activity.
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From our kitchen to yours, enjoy fuss-free cooking and delicious new meals!