Cooking is hard work. When our environment (both internal and external) isn’t in the right place it makes this work even harder. Read on to find out how to create a more positive cooking environment and make cooking less of a chore.
Cooking for a family is hard work.
It’s easy to let negative thoughts about everything that is required of us to put a meal on the table consume us and this makes the process of cooking and preparing meals even more difficult.
Thoughts like “I wish I could afford to just a hire a chef” or “my kids never eat anything I cook so why do I bother?” just make your cooking environment an even less pleasant place to be and make the process of cooking even more burdensome.
You also might have negative thoughts about your cooking environment. Thoughts like “this kitchen is so old and dingy, or I don’t have room for anything in here.”
Our mindset is HUGE when it comes to tackling the feat of feeding our family (or anything for that matter)
Our environment can also play a huge role in determining the thoughts that come into our minds.
For this reason, I find it the most useful to change both your thoughts about cooking and your cooking environment, and changing your environment so it’s a more pleasant and positive place to be.
10 ways to create a more positive cooking environment.
1. Start with a snack- This sounds super silly, I know. But I like to sit down before I make dinner every day and eat a small, healthy snack. I also like to start my kids off with a small healthy snack. Part of the reason that cooking can be is so miserable is that you’re HUNGRY while you are doing it.
2. Start cooking with a clean kitchen.– It doesn’t have to be perfect, and again this seems a little silly, but if you can at least clear off the counters, get the garbages emptied, and your sink/dishwasher clear cooking will feel so much more manageable and you won’t feel like you are creating more chaos from chaos.
3. Choose recipes that excite you- I find this particularly useful for times when you are just really dreading the kitchen. Forget your diet for a few days and get in there and make something you really want to eat, or really want to learn how to cook.
4. Use positive affirmations and positive self-talk- I’ve been amazed at how useful this is. As you are cooking or eating dinner with your family start to notice the thoughts that come into your mind. It might even be helpful to journal them or write them down. Think about how you can reframe them to be more positive and speak kindly to yourself. You are not a terrible cook, your are learning. Your kids aren’t terrible eaters, they are learning and you are teaching them. Continually challenging your negative thoughts will slowly make a huge difference in your cooking experience (and anything else you apply these thoughts to as well!)
5. Cook mindfully– Notice what the onions and garlic smell like sauteing on the stove, notice how pleasant the pizza dough feels as you roll it out, listen to the sizzling of the grill when you put the meat on. All of these sensations are pleasing and can really help you to discover the pleasant parts about cooking instead of focusing only on the negative.
6. Don’t cook in silence-A lot of people recommend listening to music, and that’s great if that excites you. But you could also use this time to catch up on that audiobook you’ve been loving, or listening to your favorite podcast. Sometimes i’ll even call a friend and chat while I cook. All of these things make a more positive cooking environment and help you actually look forward to cooking rather than dreading it.
7. Make the kitchen a place for conversation-especially true around the dinner table. If I am focused on what my kids ate, how much they ate, why they can’t stay in their freaking seat, why they spilled their water for the 800th time, dinner is miserable. If instead, I take the time to ask my kids about their day I have a much more pleasant experience. …and your kids might even start to join in on the fun. For example my 5-year old asked me last week if I were a fairy and had magical powers if I would want my magic to be in my hands or in a wand. So fun to see her use her cute little imagination (and so much more enjoyable to talk about that than to tell her to eat her chicken for the thousandth time). If you’re looking for conversation starters, this post has loads of ideas!
8. Give yourself enough time-One of the biggest reasons cooking feels so stressful is not having enough time to get it done. Kids are hungry, tired, bedtime is closing in, and you feel rushed to put dinner on the table. For this reason it’s so important to give yourself enough time. This might seem easier said than done, but you can do it with a little meal prep early on in the week, or by preparing some of dinner at nap time. You can also always start just a little earlier than you think you need to to account for the crazi-ness that is parenting.
9. Break the rules– I get it, we need to limit screen time, toys stay in the play-room. I understand rules and their importance, but one thing I’m working on is balancing rules with my own mental health. Because if a rule makes me more miserable than it’s worth, than it might be time to change or at least bend the rules from time to time. We have very limited screen time in our house, but if there’s a day that I can tell that my mental state is just not going to allow me the patience I need to make dinner while dealing with my kid’s antics, then a 20 minute tv break is not the end of the world….and in fact it’s a far better alternative to me screaming or losing my temper. We don’t do it all the time, but give yourself the grace to bend the rules when you need to.
10. Invest in kitchen helps as you can afford to-The very first thing you need? A good quality chef’s knife. You can create a more positive cooking environment slowly as you add quality cooking equipment to your arsenal. Remember you positive self-talk here too, you can absolutely cook a great meal without all the latest and greatest equipment. If you are looking to add to your cooking arsenal, check out this post/episode about my favorite products for meal planning and meal prep.
Okay, now I can’t promise that doing these things will make you love cooking. But by changing your mindset and cooking environment you may be able to take cooking from being a dreaded chore to something that is tolerable, and at times enjoyable.
And as an added bonus, your family will likely start to enjoy dinnertime and the kitchen more as a direct result of making an effort to make the kitchen a more positive place all around.
Next week’s episode is inspired by my sister-in-law (and listener!). She came to me a few week’s back to ask about meal planning and meal prep and food allergies/intolerances, and instead of just answering privately, I decided that this would be a great topic for a podcast. So if you or any of your loved ones are struggling to figure out how to manage food allergies, be sure to tune in next week.
Until next time, happy planning!