This is the first post in my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment! I’m going to try to post a new Cooking School installment on Thursdays.
The first hurdle to overcome when making the switch from eating out (or eating a lot of processed foods) to eating homemade food is having food in your house to cook! This seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how often I hear people complaining that they eat out because they have nothing in their fridge. If this sounds like you, I’m guessing you still go to the grocery store occasionally, but if you want to start cooking more regularly, you will have to change up what you are buying a little bit.
Everyone has different tastes, and anything you cook at home is going to be healthier than processed food (fewer additives, and probably less sugar, salt and fat, too), so at this point I would encourage a newbie cook to buy things you like to eat, and not feel pressure to only buy the healthiest foods.
I think the easiest way to grocery shop, when you’re not planning on cooking any gourmet meals that require special ingredients, is to have a basic list that you follow each time you visit the grocery store. Fill in the categories with things you like, then you can mix and match ingredients to make different meals.
Proteins – chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs, tofu, beans
Fruit and Veggies – usually what’s on sale is what’s in season, and it will taste the best. Don’t buy more than you think you will reasonably eat; throwing away rotten food can be so frustrating. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great way to keep stuff on hand and not have to worry about it going bad before you can eat it.
Fats – Have you heard? Good fat is good for you! Also, it really helps you feel full without eating a huge amount of carbs. Plus, it tastes good. Butter, avocado, olive oil, nuts, cheese…. or bacon.
Carbs – Forgive me, paleo friends. I think bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes (sweet potatoes and regular ones too) – in moderation – all have a place in a healthy diet.
Seasonings/Spices/Sauces – these can be a little expensive to buy all at once, but they can make such a big difference in making food taste good. I encourage you to just pick up one or two per grocery trip so the sticker shock isn’t so bad. Are you making tacos? Buy some taco seasoning and salsa. Next week, get some barbeque sauce to put on your grilled or broiled chicken.
Okay, now I’ve given you a shopping list and absolutely no guidance on how to cook anything yet. Hmm… what’s next? A basic recipe? Instructions on how to cook, say, meat or vegetables?