Tips for Stress-Free Cooking
Use these simple tips to take some of the work out of planning and preparing meals.
Take the Stress Out of Cooking
Whether you are working too much, taking care of a household of kids, or living with a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease, stress can easily take over your daily life. Add planning and cooking healthy meals to the mix, and it becomes overwhelming. One way to remove stress from your life is to make cooking a simple and gratifying process.
The following tips, as simple as they seem, can make meal preparation a less arduous task.
One of the easiest ways to eliminate stress is to take the guesswork out of dinnertime. Set aside time to plan your upcoming week’s meals. Want to reduce stress even more? Make a universal grocery list for all the meals, and go to the supermarket to get everything you’ll need for the week. Not only does this remove the stress of “what am I going to make for dinner tonight,” but you won’t have to take time out of each day to swing by the grocery store.
Preparing dinner isn’t about impressing your family with your culinary skills; it’s about putting a nutritious and tasty meal on the table without a lot of effort.
Start with dishes your family enjoys and then look for recipes you think are easy to prepare. In no time at all, you’ll have a collection of “stress-free” recipes everyone will love, and you can work them into the weekly rotation to simplify the planning process.
Mise en Place
One of the secrets professional chefs use to keep their kitchens running smoothly is a technique called mise en place, French for “everything in place.” It’s a fancy phrase for a simple idea. In a restaurant kitchen, all the ingredients and tools a chef needs to prepare a dish are organized within reach before he or she starts to cook. So before you begin to cook, read through your recipes, gather all the required ingredients, utensils, and pans, and organize them in an easy-to-reach area.
Get the Timing Right
Having everything hot and ready to eat at the same time is one of the hardest things for many people to accomplish. Take a few minutes before you start cooking to look at all your recipes and figure out which one takes the longest. With your dinnertime as your ending point, count backwards to determine when you need to start each recipe so they’re all ready at the same time.
With our busy schedules only getting busier, we’re always looking for ways to do two or more things at once, which only adds to our daily stress. Instead of multitasking, focus on one thing at a time. Step into your kitchen, and look for things that are vying for your attention when you’re trying to cook. Shut off the computer, and put the cell phone in another room. Instead of turning on the TV, try playing music, which numerous studies have shown help calm the nerves and relieve stress (Harvard Medical School, 2009).
Clean as You Go
Another tip you can borrow from professional chefs is the act of cleaning as you go. Professional kitchens are usually small, leaving no room for dirty pots, pans, and dishes. Have a sink full of soapy water ready for a quick wash when something gets dirty. Not only will this help to keep the kitchen clean while you’re cooking (which is a big stress reducer), but it also makes the clean-up after dinner that much easier.
We know there are times when you get home and the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. With a little planning, you can have meals all ready to be cooked. There are a number of great recipes you can partially prepare ahead of time and finish another day. Many recipe books and websites even label those meals as “Make Ahead.” Also, look for recipes you can double or triple and freeze the leftovers for another day.
Who says you have to do all the cooking? There are many ways to share the work of preparing dinner. Get the family together, and have each person prepare part or all of a recipe. Small children can help with some parts of the meal, like washing and tearing lettuce or setting the table. You can also have older kids take one night of the week to prepare something they want to eat. Not only does it take the work off you, but it also teaches them skills they’ll be able to use for the rest of their lives.
More on Crohn’s Disease
Food preparation is a large part of managing Crohn’s disease, but it’s not the only thing you have to worry about. For more tips and information on living with Crohn’s disease, check out these articles.