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Students cooking in the Collegia
October 10, 2017
3 mins read

5 honest thoughts about cooking as a beginner

Cooking as a beginner can seem challenging. Navigating blogs and cookbooks to find recipes that are healthy, tasty, and with all the ingredients you have might feel like a daunting task.

Reading recipes with unfamiliar ingredients that require kitchen tools you don’t have can make cooking feel intimidating.

You don’t need to be a skilled cook to make healthy, tasty, feel-good meals - you just need an open mind and a willingness to try new things! Here are some honest tips to make healthy cooking feel less overwhelming.

1. You don't have to follow the recipe

If you’re a perfectionist like me and always want to follow the recipe exactly, don’t stress! If you’re missing an ingredient, you can skip it as long as it’s not a major component of the recipe (say pasta noodles for a pasta recipe). Don’t let a specific missing ingredient prevent you from making a tempting recipe. As you gain some experience, you can even figure out ways to substitute for ingredients that you don’t have. You can get inspiration from Bon Appetite’s ‘no recipe’ recipes.

Depending on the recipe, you can make ingredient substitutions, such as:

  • Interchange dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and swiss chard. You can even substitute parsley for spinach.
  • Don’t have celery? You can substitute it for another crunchy vegetable like cucumber or carrot.
  • Different types of nuts, such as almonds and cashews, can be swapped.

2. Not everything needs to be made from scratch

Despite what you might think, some pre-made foods can be healthy. While cooking your meals is a great way to eat healthier, it’s realistic to realize that not everything we eat can be made from scratch. Identify and prioritize what you’d like to cook versus what you’d prefer to buy. You can buy some premade ingredients and make additions or substitutions to amp up your meal’s nutritional value.

Here are a few examples:

  • If you purchase food or get takeout, such as pasta or chicken, make a side salad to add some vegetables to your meal.
  • You can make canned soup healthier by adding fresh or frozen vegetables such as peas, carrots, or spinach.
  • If you’re eating frozen waffles for breakfast, make them healthier by adding some peanut butter and banana slices.
  • You can purchase pre-made sauces and dips so that a portion of your meal is ready to eat, saving you time.

3. Be mindful of your budget

There are lots of strategies to help you stick to your budget. Look out for sales, coupons, and flyers from your local grocery store.

Flipp is a great smartphone app that lets you look at flyers and coupons from different grocery stores. You can even use it to make a grocery list and easily check out what’s on sale.

Also, check out produce stores (there are tons on West Broadway!). They tend to have cheaper products than supermarkets.

4. Plan ahead but also be flexible

Planning your meals and cooking schedule ahead of time can help you save time, money, and food waste. Spend some time doing meal preparation over the weekend by cooking a big batch of lunches for the week, cutting up vegetables, or cooking your grains in advance.

At the same time, you don’t have to know exactly what you’ll be eating every day or stick to a rigid meal plan. The reality of life is that plans change and unexpected things come up. A last-minute social gathering might pop up or you might have leftovers from the night before. It’s all about being flexible.

5. Expect that things don't always turn out

Despite what the glamour of social media may show us, your meals don’t have to be ‘Insta-perfect’. Sometimes the simplest meals can bring us the greatest pleasures.

Don’t be discouraged when a recipe doesn’t turn out or it’s not as tasty as you thought it would be. It’s all part of the process. Learning anything new takes time - and sometimes a few Pinterest fails. So get messy and get cooking!

For more cooking inspiration check out Cookspiration, Epicurious, and the UBC Nutrition Blog.

Yummy skewers