This past summer I was casually walking through Powell’s Bookstore in the food section skimming the endless number of titles on the ceiling-to-floor shelves. While exploring what kind of books are out there, even though I don’t ever buy cookbooks, I came upon a section full of food memoirs. Filled with curiosity, I picked up a book called “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love The Stove” by Cathy Erway. Quickly flipping through it I saw that at the end of each chapter were a couple of recipes. Interesting, I thought. A memoir and a mini cook book.

As a single woman I have the unintentional burden and luxury of cooking for one. I say it’s a luxury because I really don’t have to care about what I’m making all that much. I can throw together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner if I wanted and be completely satisfied. But it’s also a burden because at the end of a long work day sometimes I don’t make the effort to cook a meal from scratch when it’s just for me. (Plus I end up with a ton of leftovers and then get sick of it after eating the same thing for the third night in a row. Someone once told me to freeze my leftovers but I never end up eating them.)

This is where the moral food and health dilemma comes in. As a RD I know that eating highly processed convenience meals is not good for my health or pocketbook. Sure, it’s a time savior and in this day and age we’re all about saving time. But at the end of the day is it really worth it?

Obvious answer – No.

Reality – BUT… (Enter excuse here).

Let’s go back to what I was first talking about. So I ended up purchasing this intriguing book.

Here’s the basis of the book: A twenty-something woman living in New York City decides not to eat out for two whole years (and blogged about it, which then turned into a book). Mouth drops. What?! How is it possible for her to do such a thing? How could she – or anyone (especially foodies) – decide to abandon all of what Manhattan, a foodie’s restaurant Mecca, has to offer?

I don’t know about you, but food is one of the key links between my friends and I. Everything revolves around food. Hanging out usually includes at least one meal. So I pondered how someone my age could decide not to eat out and still be social with friends. Surprisingly it is possible. (You’ll have to read the book to find out how.)

She discusses everything from her adventures of making her own pizza dough to going on restaurant-less dates. It’s definitely a fun read and an inspiring book that led me back into the kitchen.

It sparked a light in me to start eating in with friends. Yes – dinner parties! (Sadly I only had about 3 of them this past summer, which was more convenient since I was unemployed at the time.) I had a wonderful time in the kitchen and a lovely time feeding some great company. One of the things about food that I love is that it can bring people from all walks of life together.

Now let’s fast forward to present day. The spark has kind of dwindled. Actually it’s completely out. I have been bitten by the too-busy-to-cook bug. I think I might need to read the book again.

It’s past 5 pm when I get home. I’m starving because the last meal I had was at noon, so I decide to stop by the neighborhood grocery store and pick up a premade salad that nearly costs $5. But I think many people can relate to this scenario.

Friends! It’s time to change things around. For all of us. But how?

Here are three suggestions I have that we can do to move in the right direction. (I will be working on this myself as well.)

  1. Plan, plan and plan. Take the time to plan out your meals for the week at the beginning of the week. Go shopping for groceries on a weekend day or on a day when you have the time.  Maybe even make a meal at the beginning of the week or prep the ingredients ahead of time to cut your cooking time.
  2. One homemade meal a week. You can just start with one dish a week. Don’t feel like you need to jump in head first by having every meal of the week be homemade (unless you’re really up for the challenge.) I’m all about taking baby steps here. Sometimes we can get overwhelmed and distraught by having unrealistic goals, especially when we fail to reach them. It’s okay! Give yourself a little grace.
  3. Invite a friend over for dinner. Do you hate leftovers? Does the thought of eating the same meal three days in a row sound unappetizing? Call up a friend and plan a dinner date or dinner party. You can even make it a cooking party. You don’t need to tackle the kitchen alone. Having a friend to cook with can make things fun and if you mess up then at least you’ve got something to laugh about! Plus making it a social event makes it less of a chore and more pleasurable.

You don’t have to do all three. Just pick one and see how it goes. I think I will start with #2. Hmm… I wonder what I will make. (If you’re having a difficult time figuring out a dish to create click here  or here for some ideas.)

And what if you don’t feel motivated at all? Try reading this book. Then reevaluate if you’re ready to make some changes. So for those deciding to head back into the kitchen – best of luck (to both of us)! May we both take the first step to mastering the art of eating in!

-Jenn

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