I Hate Cooking: An Update, Podcast Interview, and Tips for the Unwilling Chef

I was recently interviewed for an episode of The Food Chain, a BBC World Service podcast. As you might imagine after reading this oldie but goodie post by yours truly, this particular episode featured people who don’t cook or don’t like to cook. You can listen or download it here.

The irony at this point is that I actually DO cook, out of necessity. And truly, I never said that I don’t cook at all, or that I can’t do it when push comes to shove. I just love to avoid it as much as possible.

Over time, I got tired of making the same old go-to meals, so I did level up a bit with my food knowledge and cooking abilities. Meal preparation does get easier – and less hate-able – when you have some basic skills down pat and find ways to save time and energy in the cookery process. I promise that I will never become a cooking enthusiast or from-scratch evangelist (baking is another story – I always bake from scratch), but here are some tips I have gleaned in the past few years since that original post. Since most of us need to cook at one point or another, let’s at least make the ordeal a bit easier to stomach:

I Hate to Cook Tip #1:  Tune Out the Foodies.

Foodies aren’t necessarily into cooking, but their fawning over fancy artisan meals and small-batch ridiculousness can leave you feeling like you missed out on some cooking appreciation gene. Unfollow or ignore those Instagram food hipsters, and just focus on getting your family fed.

I Hate to Cook Tip #2:  Don’t Buy Organic.

I know you. I was you. If you’re struggling to put together a meal that doesn’t bore you to tears while also not taking three and a half hours to concoct in that frantic space between the end of the work day and bedtime for the kids, don’t even worry about avoiding GMOs or getting Omega-3s or whatever other health and nutrition topics are trending. Just figure out some basic foodstuffs that work for you and your family. When the time is right, you can start focusing on what to buy organic or local or free-range, grass-fed, etc.

I Hate to Cook Tip #3:  Skip Your Starch.

Perhaps your image of a meal is a protein/meat accompanied by a vegetable side as well as some manner of rice, potatoes, or pasta. If this is one too many steps or ingredients for you to manage, consider dropping that carbohydrate, especially if it’s a grain rather than a starchy vegetable. White rice, potatoes and pasta add little or no nutritional value anyway. My four-year-old is a picky eater, so I tend to focus on a protein-packed main dish that I know she’ll enjoy, along with some leafy greens that I beg her to eat. Spinach wilts quickly in a warm pan, and frozen broccoli florets come in a little microwaveable bags. Chicken + microwaved broccoli = Dinner!

I Hate to Cook Tip #4:  Sandwiches, Breakfast for Dinner, and Leftovers Count as “Cooking.”

Even people who love to cook will tell you that they don’t cook every single day. At least the busy parents I know don’t cook every day. It’s just really not possible if you have a life outside of the kitchen, especially with kids who have school projects due, or with a parent working late, or a mountain of laundry that just can’t sit any longer. I feel like this one is obvious, but this is a reminder that you need not feel like a failure if you didn’t create something new for your evening meal.

I Hate to Cook Tip #5:  Try Not Eating (maybe Breakfast, not Dinner).

This one is a bit more controversial. Before you call me a monster, let me say that you absolutely MUST feed your children three square meals a day, and that any pregnant or nursing mom, or a person with a history of disordered eating, should NOT skip meals or fast. But if you really don’t want to cook, and you’re also not that hungry, consider just not eating. I recently began “fat-fasting” between 8:00 p.m. and noon every day after reading this blog post. I have a substantial amount of weight that I would like to lose, and come to find out, I’m just not really hungry during these hours anyway. I know this isn’t about skipping dinner so much as dropping night-time snacks and breakfast. But removing those mealtimes from my day means less food I need to worry about purchasing, storing, and prepping into meals. If I eat a salad or leftovers for lunch, that leaves only the family dinner as the one big meal I need to focus on.

I am still amazed by the supportive and appreciative comments I continue to get since I wrote my “I Hate Cooking” post four years ago. If you catch me on The Food Chain, let me know what you think. Please feel free to share any cooking or non-cooking tips, or feedback on mine, in the comments below.

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