Do you joke around that you’re a “terrible cook” while chowing down on yet another carton of Chinese food? Do you always say you should learn how to cook but just don’t have the time?
If you’ve never been taught, building a cooking habit can seem pretty daunting. I know this because I used to struggle in the kitchen too. I spent most of my life surviving on turkey and mayo sandwiches, frozen pizza, and restaurant meals. When I could build up enough motivation to cook something, I’d just boil pasta.
In hindsight, the excuses I employed seem ridiculous, but I remember how difficult (and frustrating) it was to want to make a lifestyle change, but lack the know-how to do so. Eventually, through years of trial and error, I figured out how to change my habits. Now with a program called the Feast Bootcamp, my cofounder Nadia and I help people develop their own habit of cooking at home. And after a year and a half in business, we’ve heard every excuse in the book when it comes to why cooking is too hard. Don’t worry, though—we’ve also witnessed people overcome their fears to become confident, capable home cooks.
How to Ditch the Excuses and Learn to Cook
The first step in building a sustainable cooking habit is to address your challenges head on and come up with rational solutions. Here are some of the most common reasons people say they can’t cook, and tips to overcome each one.
The Excuse: I Don’t Have Time
This popular excuse is pretty powerful, and we use this rationale to avoid much more than cooking. To overcome this block, the most important thing that’s needed is a shift in mindset.
“Not having time” is just a matter of priorities. If learning how to cook isn’t a priority for you, then you’re doomed, regardless of effort. If cooking isimportant to you, you can make time by shifting around other activities. For example, before I learned how to cook, I’d get home from work each night and watch TV. When I said I didn’t have time to make dinner, I really meant that I’d rather watch another episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia than cook. Tackle this block with the following steps:
1. Write it down. Start by recording what you do every day when you get home, along with a rough estimate of how much time you spend doing each activity. Don’t leave anything out. Do you go out for drinks with friends? Watch TV? Play games on your phone? Write everything down.
2. Prioritize. Next, look at each item on the list and think about whether or not it’s more important to you than cooking yourself a healthy meal. Maybe you can cut 30 minutes out of watching TV or cut out Angry Bird completely. Find the time.
3. Try it out. Commit to a one-week trial in which you swap in cooking activities for the time you would have spent doing a task of lesser importance. Once that week is over, commit to another week—and so on.
The Excuse:: I Don’t Like to Wash Dishes
This is entirely reasonable, since a lot of people don’t like cleaning in general. But you do shower, right? As human beings, we clean ourselves so we can live and feel better. You can apply the same thinking to cleaning dishes!
Here are three very simple approaches to overcome this stumbling block:
Incorporate cleaning into your cooking process. There’s almost always some downtime when prepping a meal, like when food is roasting in the oven or simmering away on the stovetop. Use those spare minutes to get dishes out of the way.
Shift your mindset. Think about how cleaning dishes can be an opportunity rather than a chore. I decided to turn cleaning dishes into a moment to unwind after a busy day. Washing plates and pots can be tedious, but it also provides a brief time to clear your mind while your hands do the work. Play some music, dance while you clean, and turn it into a fun, relaxing experience.
Enlist help. If all else fails, people who live with others (roommates, family members, or partners) can trade off cooking and cleaning duties to make the workload lighter for everyone.
Once you incorporate washing dishes into your cooking routine, these tasks will become a natural part of the process and you won’t think twice about the hassle.