Cooking can be daunting. Especially when you have to worry about crazy stuff like fires, and sharp knives, and the dreaded clean up afterwards. We get it!
Read about common cooking challenges singles and couples face when cooking at home and check out our solutions on how to make things in the kitchen run a tad bit smoother. Practice makes perfect, so dive on in!
1. EVERY TIME I COOK, I MAKE A HUGE @#$)(* MESS.
Every great Chef will tell you, a good cook keeps his workstation clean. It's all about organization -- anytime I know I'll be cutting fresh ingredients I make sure I have a big bowl that I can throw food scraps in. Be sure to keep kitchen rags or paper towels handy to wipe up any spills or messes that happen a long the way. In order to keep your workstation tidy, clean up any dirty utensils or bowls and toss them in the sink or dishwasher as you cook. Once you get the hang of things, you can eventually clean your dishes in between prepping, leaving virtually no mess behind by the time you finish cooking.
2. I COOK WAY TOO MUCH FOOD AND I'M STUCK EATING THE SAME THING FOR THE WHOLE WEEK.
Before you cook anything for the week, ask yourself, how many days/meals will I be eating this week? If you're not planning on cooking too much at home, opt to make smaller meals like sandwiches, wraps, and salads which require less ingredients. If you are planning to eat at home for at least 4-5 days a week, it's a good idea to make a big meal in the beginning of the week like a nice Roast Chicken or a couple Pan Seared Steaks. They make great leftovers for pretty much anything -- salads, sandwiches, pizzas, tacos, soups. Then you can make awesome meals like Steak Tacos or a nice hearty Chicken Burrito Bowl with any leftovers.
3. WHAT IF I SET MY KITCHEN ON FIRE?
You should scream and jump up and down and pray for the best. But seriously, face your fears head on! Every kitchen should be equipped with a fire extinguisher just in case small kitchen fires do happen. Common reasons for kitchen fires include grease fires, paper or kitchen rags near the stove, burning ingredients in the oven, and accidentally heating metals in the microwave. The more aware you are about the causes and dangers of kitchen fires, the less likely they'll happen. Here's a great guide from She Knows on how to prevent kitchen fires.
4. I NEVER KNOW WHAT OR HOW MUCH TO BUY AT THE STORE.
It's hard to gauge these things without making a plan. I always like to look at my fridge and pantry to see what ingredients need restocking and what I have leftover. From there, I plan out 3-4 recipes that I want to cook for the week and make a list of the ingredients I'll need. This way I only buy what I need, opposed to blindly guessing when I'm at the store. There's plenty of handy apps that you can use to help with your meal planning or grocery lists like Evernote and Menu Planner.
5. I DONT HAVE ENOUGH KITCHEN TOOLS TO COOK AT HOME.
If people can make food when they're camping, it comes to show you you don't need much to get started. If you have a stovetop, cutting board, a knife, and an iron skillet, you are ready to go. The rest can be built up with time. Your parents and relatives might even have some tools they don't need or use anymore, and always never forget the beauty of garage sales and Craigslist. You'd be surprised as to what you can find.
6. IT TAKES ME FOREVER TO CHOP VEGETABLES, I AM POSSIBLY THE SLOWEST CHOPPER EVER.
Practice really makes perfect. There's no way around it. It's better to take your time then rushing and increasing your chances of hurting yourself. For beginners, start out simple. Practice large dicing ingredients until you become more confident with the knife -- these types of cuts are great for roasting vegetables (check out our roasted carrot video) or making soup stock. With time, you'll find yourself being able to chop faster, more uniformly, and consistently.
7. WHAT TERRIFIES ME MORE THAN FIRES ARE KNIVES - I DON'T WANT TO LOSE ANY FINGERS!
I won't lie to you. Knives can be dangerous. I have cut myself before but it was solely due to the fact that I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing, and I was in a hurry. Whenever you're cutting ANYTHING, be sure you curl your fingers under to avoid the knife's blade. This is a perfect example of what your fingers should look like when cutting.
Also, when cutting produce, always make sure that your ingredient isn't rolling around. If it's a rounded surface like a carrot or squash or potato, slice off a tiny bit of one of the edges and place the flat side against the board. This prevents your ingredient from rolling around and provides a sturdy suction that makes cutting safer and easier.
Lastly, the better the quality of your knife, the easier cutting will be. But again, this also means the blade will be much sharper than your average knife so please, please, pretty pretty please, always be attentive and cautious.
8. I DONT HAVE TIME TO COOK, I'M WAY TOO BUSY.
Story of our lives! Cooking is a personal journey and I believe every one approaches it differently. When you choose to cook at home, you are choosing to take control of what you put into your food. It brings a sense of consciousness to not only what you eat but how you eat. You might suddenly start to care about food labels, and nutritional facts, and ways to nourish your body in general. Who knows, you might even become the next Iron Chef.
One of my favorite reasons for cooking, is the way it brings people together and serve as a common ground of connecting with others. It's a great outlet for creativity and being able to share with others something that you make from not only your hands, but your heart. (Cue Oprah Winfrey music)
9. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SEASON MY FOOD -- IT'S EITHER BLAND OR OVERLY SALTY.
If there's one solid piece of advice that I can give to all beginning cooks is taste, taste, taste. Anytime you add any ingredient, mix, and then taste it. What is it missing? A little sweetness? A little acid? A little salt? From there, add your flavors sparingly. I always say it's easier to save a dish that is under-seasoned than over-seasoned.
lt takes practice but with time, you'll be able to gauge how much salt/sugar/acid to put in and how to balance out your flavors. Seasoning doesn't always just include salt/sweet/acid -- you can try flavored oils and fresh herbs to add a nice finish to many dishes.
10. I'M BROKE. I DON'T HAVE MONEY TO FEED MYSELF "HEALTHY" MEALS.
The biggest misconception I think people have is that eating healthy is more expensive than eating unhealthy. Let's make a simple calculation -- if you opted to eat out 5-7 times a week and spending around $15-20 each time, you are looking at about $80-140 on food for ONE PERSON. Eating out is one of the easiest ways to drain your account. Though it's convenient, with time, it can really make your wallet hurt and depending on what you choose to eat, it can also be unhealthy.
If you don't eat out and cook a lot at home, buying prepackaged meals, frozen dinners, and junk food may save you time in the kitchen but can often be pricier and many times nutritionally empty.
When you stick to buying whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, while shopping seasonally, you'd be surprised as to how much you can buy with just $20. One of my favorite places to grab groceries every week is from Asian markets. They usually have cheaper prices and many places have weekly specials and coupons that can help you save. On average, to feed my husband and I for the week, it usually costs us right around $100. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner for the two of us for about 5 days.
Check out our shopping guide for more helpful tips like when to buy organic, how to plan efficiently, and what to keep stocked in your fridge.