“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”
Celebrity Chef Paul Prudhomme
Did you know the amount an average American spends on eating out has surpassed what consumers spend on meals at home? According to data gathered by the USDA, consumer spending on restaurant fare has steadily increased since the late 1950s, while dollars spent on preparing food at home was declining. The two biggest contributors seem to be a steady increase in disposable income and the access and convenience of fast food options.
To borrow a line from Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame, it has been determined that eating at home increases your longevity and prosperity. Preparing home cooked meals at least five times a week increases your odds of being alive in ten years by 47%. And it is more than just keeping you off the roads in today’s ever busier, traffic-jammed cities since that alone would increase your life expectancy. It seems the act of cooking; the planning, shopping, prepping and socializing all have a positive impact on longevity.
But what if you don’t fancy yourself a home cook? Well, it might be time to learn a few of the basics. If nothing else, you will improve your brain health by learning a new skill. And, as I will share in a moment, it is also a good way to improve your social life.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Start by sitting down with pen and paper and decide on a few recipes to prepare. A couple of sites I could recommend for inspiration include Quick and Easy Healthy Dinner Recipes and for my vegan friends 30 Delicious Vegan Meals You Can Make In Under 30 Minutes. Get adventuresome, try new things but keep it simple. Making a béarnaise sauce as a newbie home cook might be a little optimistic. After choosing a recipe, make a list of the ingredients you will need.
- Next comes the trip to the store. If you haven’t been in a while or your trips are infrequent, go on a weekday morning when you can leisurely stroll through the aisles looking for what you need. Don’t be overwhelmed by the selections. As you shop for fruits and vegetables, if an ingredient is on the Dirty Dozen list, buy organic, if possible. In the meat category, look for organic, grass-fed, and pasture raised. For fish, go with wild caught. And don’t get carried away with portions here. For the balance of the items, buy what looks good to you until you get a little more experienced.
- Learn some basic cooking skills. Every home cook should learn how to handle a knife to chop vegetables, heat a pot of water to boil potatoes or cook pasta, steam rice and sauté meats. With a few fundamental skills in your apron pocket, you have what you need to prepare several great tasting dishes.
- Now comes the big moment-time to cook. Begin by prepping all your ingredients. Peel, slice and dice everything ahead of time. For meats, pat dry and season as your recipe instructions suggest. For all other ingredients, have the measured amounts ready to go. Don’t try and do this on the fly, be prepared.
- Now get cookin’! Stick to the cooking times suggested in the recipe. Once you’ve prepared a few dishes on your own you will get a sense of how to recognize doneness. If boiling, be sure to use a large enough pot and, for now, when cooking in a skillet use light olive oil. Later you can experiment with different options such as ghee, coconut oil, and peanut oil. Of course, for oven baking stick to the recommended temperatures.
So, how did you do? If you nailed it, then good for you. If the results were a bit off don’t get discouraged. Keep at it, your skills will improve. And once you have mastered a dish or two it will be time to invite friends. I told you this activity would improve your social life!
Enjoy your journey!
Gary A. Weuve, CFP®
Founder and CEO
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