Let’s face it, life in 21st Century America is ridiculously chaotic and stressful at times. Our attention shuttles quickly between work obligations and the myriad of concerns arising from raising children and taking care of our homes and families. Most people feel exhausted and overwhelmed by a lifestyle that leaves little time for anything beyond dealing with the most immediate obligation or crisis. Even on weekends, traditionally reserved for rest, we are in constant movement. As a result, we are like a dog chasing his tail; always trying to catch up but never quite getting there.
With so many people feeling overwhelmed, it is no wonder so many families say “yes, thank you!” when corporate America offers to cook us dinner. As we are vaguely aware, in the last 50 years or so we have changed from a society that largely cooks at home to one in which we pay someone else to cook for us. In fact, more than 50 percent of the money we spend on food is prepared outside the home.
Although we are spending more time working today than ever before, there is no doubt in my mind that most of us can and should find time to cook. The question is not whether we have the time but instead how to prioritize our precious hours. In fact, even in the face of tight schedules, we have managed to increase our time in front of screens (television, searching the web, phone games) by almost 2 hours per day than we did before. Given that we have only 24 hours in a day, where did we find 2 more hours for screens?
Not surprisingly, eating increasing amounts of processed and fast foods has resulted in Americans consuming a whopping 500 more calories per day on average. Much of this “food” is of extremely low quality prepared with salts, sugars, unhealthy fats, preservatives and chemicals never found in meals cooked at home. Studies are showing that the more time a nation devotes to cooking at home the lower it’s rate of obesity. It is essential for our health that we find the time and the commitment to cook.
Every time you prepare a meal at home you are not only supporting the health of your family, but you are also rejecting a culture of convenience that is contributing to our nation’s health crisis. The sooner we start thinking about food and cooking as a political act the sooner the current industrial food system will change.
Here are just a few of my tips to create time for cooking in your life:
1. Cook once and eat twice. When you cook make twice as much as you need to guarantee leftovers for later in the week and lunch. By following this suggestion you will cut your time in the kitchen dramatically.
2. Prepare food ahead. If you can carve out a couple of hours on Sunday you can prepare entire meals (especially slow cooked meals) that can be thrown in the fridge or freezer for later in the week. In fact, many slow cooked meals taste better the next day! You can also prepare partial meals in advance by preparing rice or chopping veggies to have available when you need them.
3. Finally, use a slow cooker! I am always amazed how simple and delicious food turns out in my slow cooker. Wake up 30 minutes early on occasion and throw simple ingredients into a slow cooker and you have dinner when you get home even on a busy day.
A couple of slow cooker recipes to try:
Irish Beef Stew - classic, yummy comfort food
Red Curry Lentils - I have said this before but if you aren't eating lentils you are really missing out on a hearty, delicious food. Ridiculously easy recipe.
Are you intimidated by cooking? Let me know what is stopping you from preparing healthy meals. I’d love to hear from you!