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Home Cooking When You Don’t Know How: Is it Really That Hard?

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Good ‘ole home cooking. Real, whole food on the table to sustain our bodies. But what if a person doesn’t know how to cook food from scratch? Learning to cook at home is a great way to reduce our dependence on supermarket fare!

How to equip your kitchen with my must-have kitchen tools.

home cooked Irish stew with potatoes, carrots, meat

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at the idea of switching from the standard American diet (or even the standard American lifestyle)?

When I share something on social media about home cooking from scratch or how to make what some people think is a very simple dish, there are always a few people who can’t believe this is a hurdle for some people.

And yet, I know from comments and messages that cooking at home is a struggle for many of my readers.

Are people really overwhelmed by home cooking ?

It’s been quite awhile since a reader named Amy asked that question, but I responded:

Amy, absolutely! We have a generation (or two!) of people who had access to so many convenience foods that they just didn’t learn. No fault of theirs, but they don’t have the skill set, they just don’t know how. My mission is to change that. Join me?

Further conversation on Facebook brought forth a couple of stories from readers who grew up in the era of convenience foods but came to real food as adults. Some snippets:

I still struggle trying to figure out what to make for dinner after a long work day. It’s hard when you’re dead tired and your family is asking what’s for dinner. It’s so easy to just grab fast food or ready made. But I find that when I cook the food my son enjoys dinner a bit more. It’s a struggle but definitely worth it.

home cooked pasta salad on white plate

My mom very rarely cooked and when she did it was noodles with butter. We often didn’t have food in the house. I would spend hours in the store marveling at all the food.

I would read recipes on the back of everything that had one. When I was 7 years old I went to Safeway and asked one of the people that worked there if I could have the stuff to make Thanksgiving dinner for my family. They hooked me up, the lady even wrote down directions for making everything.

That was the first time I ever made dinner and the best experience of my life. I thought the food was amazing and to this day I still remember it being good. I still find myself perusing recipes and menus and cooking most days. It gives me a kind of peace knowing that no one I know will be hungry because I can feed them.

 

… we all start somewhere. For me it was more about focusing on time management and not taking on too much at once. Start with one dinner. Just one dinner. And maybe double it so you can use the leftovers for everyone’s lunch the next day. Just roll with your own journey; enjoy it.

pasta in a white bowl with hands holding a fork and spoon

Perhaps the more important question from Amy:

So, Attainable Sustainable, how can I help?

Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. We’ve got a whole lot of people out there in the world who are learning to cook at home for the first time and it’s not because they are faulty or inept, it’s because society has shifted priorities. Learning how to cook has fallen through the cracks.

I think the biggest thing we can all do is stop judging, to realize that sure, maybe some people will choose to stick with convenience foods and that’s their choice. But the people who just don’t know that there are other—better—alternatives? Or who know but don’t know how to begin to change?

Those are the people that might just be wishing for a little assistance in learning how to cook at home.

browned potatoes in a cast iron pan from above

So let’s talk about home cooking from scratch.

The most obvious way for us to help is to pass on our knowledge. Easy enough if you’re teaching your own kids in your house. It’s harder to reach random people who want to learn to cook at home, though.

  • Can you invite some acquaintances to your place for a cooking session?
  • Teach a class at your local adult education center?
  • Volunteer at a high school to do a cooking course?
  • Give a gift basket with ingredients to make your specialty, complete with lessons?

Basic cooking skills

There are a few basic skills to tackle when you’re ready to tackle home cooking. If you’ve not yet learned how to peel garlic or how to make a basic broth, head over here for 8 cooking skills to learn. (They’re not hard!) If time is the greatest hurdle for you to overcome, consider investing in an Instant Pot. These electric pressure cookers can help you get a meal on the table in a hurry. Check out these Instant Pot recipes for inspiration!

Know someone who wants to make a change but is feeling overwhelmed? The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn is truly a gem.

Learning to cook at home

If you’re unsure about cooking from scratch and don’t know anyone who can guide you, you might have to dig in and teach yourself. Let me assure you: You will make mistakes. It happens, even to the best of us.

But dive in and give it a try.

The following recipes are easy to make and don’t require any special equipment or skill, making them perfect when learning to cook at home. If you can chop veggies, use a stove or oven, and follow directions, you’ll have dinner on the table in no time!

rhubarb coffee cake ingredients

Now, purists will note that some of these recipes include canned tomatoes or canned beans. So what? Except for the bpa issue, these are healthy ingredients without a lot of additives that can help you on your way to home cooking from scratch. [See this link for companies that use bpa-free cans.]

Once you’ve mastered basic home cooking, you can tackle using dry beans or fresh tomatoes. You may not ever want to take that step. I’m okay with that. Using some single ingredient canned items in homemade meals is surely a better option than take-out.

Get cooking at home!

Breakfast recipes: 

Simple appetizers:

Easy dinner recipes:

Soup and chili recipes: 

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

4 comments… add one
  • marina Sharts Aug 14, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Crock pot cooking is an easy way to have a hot meal waiting for you. I see them at yard sales all the time.I used to prep peeling potatoes and veggies while cleaning up the kitchen after supper. thaw meet in frig or cook 2-3 meals at once and keep in frig. We do more quick stuff like sausage, ham slices. I always make a double or triple batch of meat balls and freeze for swedish, meatballs, spaghetti and meatball subs/. Taste of Home magazine is a good resource for quick meals too,

  • Lisa Sep 15, 2016, 6:27 am

    I’m one of those who never learned to cook. I came from a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic father. I had to figure out how to feed myself and siblings and I knew I could read directions on boxes (didn’t know about cook books)… that is the only way we ate… and to me that was “home cooking”. I didn’t learn until I was 30 that I’m dyslexic, so that has added to my challenge with reading recipes… I literally have to read them over and over and over as I’m cooking and read it again at each step and then I STILL make mistakes with “….wait, that said Tsp, not Tbs??” Oh no! 🙁 Cooking from “scratch” is overwhelming, to say the least, frustrating and exhausting. What you think is “easy”, many times just confounds me… maybe it’s just a mental block, but still… that’s my challenge. I HATE cooking with a passion. I have tried SO hard though over the years since I have my own children… I’ve made the attempt. Much to my joy, my daughter has figured out how to read COOK BOOKS and she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. Just thought I’d share my view for those of you who are asking. Thanks for letting me share. And, thanks for sharing your tips and easy recipes. 🙂

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 15, 2016, 7:54 am

      I think there are LOTS of people who are coming at cooking with similar frustrations. Learning to cook straight out of a cookbook is harder than learning *from someone, and clearly harder for someone who is dyslexic. I’m glad that your daughter has started dabbling! Consider pointing her to some of the cooking shows or YouTube videos she might like, too.

  • Charlotte Anderson Sep 26, 2016, 3:34 pm

    For myself, my cooking abilities have improved as I have gotten older. My husband and I have been married over 30 years. When we first got married, I swear I did not know that pinto beans would swell. So, I put a whole bag in a small pot. Well we ended up with several pots of beans. Don’t be afraid to try and 30 years from now you may have a funny story about the “magic bean pot”.

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