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How to cook for yourself when you have no time or inclination

One reason for not cooking at home that I consistently hear is that they don’t have enough time. I have been there myself, and what I realized was that I actually did have the time, but that I was so exhausted/stressed/hangry that I didn’t actually want to cook, that it was easier to just go out or eat whatever I could find in the cupboards. The times that I actually bucked up and did make my way into the kitchen to cook a meal, I almost always found myself feeling better- especially when I got to eat! In order to remedy this situation I have adopted a couple of ways that makes it easy to always put something together, even when I really don’t want to.

1. Have the basics on hand. When you have the essentials that are common in many recipes it makes going to the store quick and easy. Everyone will have a different list of ingredients that they most commonly use, but the idea remains the same. Keep the shelf stable items you use all the time on hand so all you really need to get from the store is a protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. By having a stocked larder it also helps utilize and re-purpose leftovers without having to go to the store to buy new ingredients. Always keep your dried goods in an airtight container (like a glass jar) and in reasonable quantities. This helps them from going bad or losing nutritional value.

My essentials are: ⁃ cooking oils: avocado, coconut and camelina ⁃ dressing and garnish oils: olive, sesame and butternut squash seed ⁃ butter: frozen and non ⁃ dried herbs and spices ⁃ fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric ⁃ dried grains such as quinoa, brown rice, polenta, amaranth, barley, oats ⁃ apple cider, red wine and balsamic vinegars ⁃ dried and canned beans ⁃ dried lentils: red, brown and french green. ⁃ dried seaweed for stocks, soups and rolls ⁃ canned tomatoes ⁃ tomato paste ⁃ curry paste ⁃ coconut milk ⁃ tamari ⁃ rice noodles ⁃ nuts and seeds ⁃ popcorn ⁃ broth ⁃ frozen tortillas ⁃ eggs ⁃ plain yogurt

2. Maintain a kitchen garden. When going to the store seems like too much, imagine being able to just go out in your backyard and harvest all that you need to make a meal. I know this isn’t feasible for everyone, but unless you are living in a windowless room- you can have an herb garden. Herbs are always so expensive at the store, come in wasteful packaging and are never the amount you actually need. Plus fresh herbs are extremely good for you and their beneficial compounds are strongest when fresh picked. Herbs are also really easy to grow, do well with little care, and some are perennial indoors or out. I tend to grow things that either: can go in a salad, are expensive to buy at the store or are so specialty that I can’t buy it at the store. Here’s a list of edibles growing around my (small) yard: ⁃ artichokes ⁃ arugula ⁃ blueberries ⁃ sorrel ⁃ strawberries ⁃ specialty popcorn ⁃ cherry tomatoes ⁃ roma tomatoes ⁃ pickling cucumbers ⁃ calendula, nasturtiums, borage: for medicine and salad flowers ⁃ carrots ⁃ beets ⁃ kale (so much kale) ⁃ mixed salad greens ⁃ orach ⁃ shiso ⁃ rhubarb ⁃ thai basil ⁃ tulsi basil ⁃ basil basil ⁃ marjoram ⁃ thyme ⁃ sage ⁃ oregano ⁃ parsley ⁃ cilantro ⁃ chamomile ⁃ rosemary ⁃ mint

3. Prepare ahead. Make larger quantities of meals when you are relaxed and happy in the kitchen and package them up for the week ahead, or package them into meal sized portions and freeze them. I always have quarts of bone broth in my freezer which I know I can easily turn into a soup at any time. I also usually have some bits of meat frozen as well. Another option is to get a crockpot. Low and slow cooking is one of the healthiest ways to cook food (especially meat) and is magic to put raw ingredients in and come home to a hearty, warm and perfectly cooked meal.

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