Do you love to cook? Personally, I hate it. I hate planning meals, grocery shopping, touching meat. Julia Child said, “Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything.” Well, I have plenty of things I’m interested in and cooking isn’t one of them.
Enter Lane Jordan. She’s a professional life coach, national speaker and has authored many books. She wrote “12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Cook” to help the many women who told her the dinner hour was the hardest part of their day. As she puts it, “The last thing most women want to do at 5:30pm is a 2 hour ordeal of cooking, eating and cleaning up a meal” (that will be heavily critiqued by “diners”).
This is her theory on women and cooking: “It’s hard! But, as a mom and wife, I know that cooking is important to my family. I cook for my family’s emotional needs - not just for their physical needs. I always wanted my kitchen to be a warm cocoon where my family felt safe, loved and where they wanted to be. I believe it’s imperative that I have a healthy meal planned for my family because that’s where they are physically and emotionally fed. That’s where we reconnect and share the events of our day with each other.”
And, it doesn’t have to be hard! Whether you love to cook or hate it, Lane’s 6 simple tips will help you, too!
1) Attitude Adjustment
She says “if you don’t like cooking, you have to make a conscious decision to WANT to cook!” You can’t think “I don’t want to do this, it’s hard, this is a lot of work, etc.” Right, so how do I do that? Lane suggests two ideas:
**Adjust your thinking! Cooking nightly meals doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. As Lane says, “You’re responsible for feeding your family, NOT for being a gourmet cook!” Our busy lives, homes and kitchens are different now than in the “Leave it to Beaver” era and the Brady’s had a live-in maid, so take the pressure off yourself!
**Prayer! The Golden Rule says to love others as we love ourselves. Preparing meals is a way we care for and show love to our families, so ask God to help you keep His request! Think bigger picture: When you’re serving your family, you’re serving God.
2) Get Creative
A meal doesn’t have to consist of duck breast with grilled radicchio, corn polenta, and winter squash caponata!
Wrap some salmon in foil, throw on some spices and bake for 20 minutes. Steam some broccoli and throw a couple sweet potatoes in the microwave. Done! And let’s not forget about the wonders of a crockpot.
I recently went to someone’s house for what I thought was going to be a homemade dinner. The woman had warned that she wasn’t a cook, but would grab something at Cowboy Chicken. When we arrived at her house, she had put the chicken halves in a beautiful warming dish, twice baked potatoes and green beans in crystal serving dishes. The salad was even purchased and she had small serving dishes with feta cheese and salad dressings. If I didn’t know it was from Cowboy Chicken, I would never have guessed it wasn’t homemade.
We have more food options available to us than any other time in the history of mankind – grocery store delis, restaurants, healthy fast food, even Ikea has Swedish meatballs! And, I think we have more coupons than any other time in history, too. Use both of those to your advantage for a couple meals a week!
3) Break It Down
It’s not up to you EVERY night. Here’s how Lane breaks it down: “I’ll cook on Monday and we might dine out on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I’ll cook or do leftovers. Dad cooks on Thursday and on Friday, we order pizza and make salad. I don’t plan meals on Saturday because we usually do dinner out or have friends over. On Sunday, we usually grab a bite out after church and then make dinner together as a family – easy stuff like grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Really, I end up only ‘cooking’ 2-3 nights a week…that’s not so bad!”
4) Use Your Kids
That sounds bad, but kids can do a LOT more than we give them credit for! Getting their help in the kitchen keeps them busy and out of trouble while teaching them important lessons - and most importantly, helping YOU. Your master plan is coming together - BWAH HA HA!
Buy them an apron and christen them the official Sous Chef for your kitchen (use a butcher knife to touch each of their shoulders)! Peeling, stirring, finding the proper kitchenware, setting the table and clean-up are all great activities for kidlets. Lane says, “When your kids leave your home for a job or college, they should be a self-sufficient cook!” They need chores and they need to learn how to cook, so it’s a perfect fit.
5) Have a Plan
When you wake up, do you know the dinner plan for the evening? Each week, Lane sits down to make a meal plan. She says, “You have to take some time to just sit and do it!” Have a list of your 10-15 favorite meals or recipes and plug them into the calendar – fill in with new recipes you want to try, take-out nights and dine-out nights. This helps when cutting coupons, too!
Be sure to communicate with the family so you know about all the events of the month. Which nights of the week will be family nights and which will be a bag of burgers at the soccer field?
Lane suggests shopping one week at a time so you’re not overwhelmed and food stays fresh. Oh, and sometimes plans change…really? Keep a pad of paper and pen in one place at all times for your grocery list so everyone knows where to add items you’re out of or that are needed.
6) Have a Place
You know that saying “a place for everything and everything in its place”? Most people are not great at this, but it’s a HUGE time, $ and energy saver if you can get organized and stay disciplined to keep it up. Lane says, “You can’t be a prepared cook without the proper equipment in an organized space! It’s like a research scientist trying to cure cancer in a messy laboratory without proper equipment.”
First, open every cabinet and drawer in your kitchen to determine what areas need help. Are mixing bowls or pans or knives stored in 3 different places? Pull them together and create zones for each type of kitchenware or activity. For instance, a lunch zone might have baggies, bags, cutting board, etc.
Do you have kitchenware you haven’t used in more than a year that is just adding clutter? We all know Tupperware multiplies like rabbits! It’s time to clean it out and get it organized - by the way, there are people who need those items you aren’t using!
Lane suggests setting all electronic devices to OFF during the dinner hour. A nightly meal isn’t just about eating – it’s about learning how to cook, learning manners, learning how to have a conversation. It’s about building a family bond and it’s important!
Now it’s your turn to give us some tips! How do you organize cooking and meal planning to make it easier for you?