I distinctly remember my first job out of college.
I lived in Chicago and commuted for 20 hours a week. After long days on the train, it would be pitch black outside and I would be starving.
Hungry and frustrated by the long day, I would stop by the local Subway and grab a sandwich or get peer pressured into happy hour drinks with bar food.
Naturally, I began to pack on the pounds. My dress pants fit a little tighter and my shirts a little more fitted.
I was frustrated by the unhealthiness in my life and had no clue how to change it. I made sure to run a couple miles a day, but I was seeing no movement on the scale.
The worst part was I genuinely meant well, I was just too damn tired after the long day to make it to the grocery store and cook an entire meal.
At the time, I had no cooking skills and limited cooking equipment. I thought I needed a professional kitchen just to get started and a few hours a day to be a confident cook.
Over the course of the next 12 months, I developed basic cooking skills and became a relatively confident beginner cook.
More than any other skill in my journey, learning to cook was the turning point in my life.
I now spend less than 2 hours a week cooking and cleaning, but eat amazing meals people would pay a lot of money for in restaurants.
If you are stuck in your life from a health perspective, I am here to tell you there is a better way.
Cooking is a foundational skill and one of the major keystone habits that leads to long term health.
If you want to effortlessly get in shape, learning to cook is non-negotiable.
Now buckle up..It’s time to get your hands dirty, learn some basic knife skills, and start cooking.
Eat Delicious Food, Get in Amazing Shape.
Counting calories. Whole30. Paleo. Keto. Low Carb.
If you learn how to cook food you love, being healthy doesn’t have to be so damn complicated.
When you control the foods that you put into your meals and ultimately into your mouth, you are in the driver’s seat.
In my experience, the biggest misconception with cooking is that it is extremely challenging and there are advanced techniques you must master to cook delicious meals.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, at the end of the day, cooking is no more than following simple directions (via a recipe) and executing exactly what the recipe says.
You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsey or take fancy in person cooking classes to cook a delicious meal.
Starting simple is the key to learning how to cook. To be successful, you just have to be adequate and have the bare minimum cooking skills to create flavorful dishes.
Start with the Basics & Develop a Life Long Skill
If you have never cooked before or are a beginner in the kitchen, the first piece of advice is to not get overwhelmed and to start with the basics.
Most people buy a few cookbooks and give up after seeing the number of ingredients on the recipes. No room for the nervous novice here!
To help you gain confidence, I am recommending you start with:
- 5 Basic Kitchen Utensils
- Learning how to cook 3 meals
The reality is that you can cook enough meals to make yourself happy over the next several months with less than 5 utensils in the kitchen.
All you need are:
- Cast Iron Skillet (10-12 inch): A cast iron skilling is a frying pan on steroids and will last a lifetime.
- Chef’s Knife (8 inch): Perfect for cutting raw and cooked foods as well as chopped vegetables
- Cutting Board (Plastic): Use your Chef’s Knife to chop veggies, onions, and herbs.
- Mixing Bowl: A basic bowl can be used for mixing
- Baking Sheet: Perfect for roasting in the oven
We will go into deep detail on each utensil, but avoid all worry about professional cooking devices that are simply not needed at this point in your cooking career (Sous vide, spiralizer, etc.)
By learning how to master just 3 meals, I was able to develop my cooking skills to the point where I am now fully self sufficient.
Remember, we aren’t trying to be professional chefs. We are just trying to be adequate in the kitchen.
Take baby steps and learn to cook.
Save Time in Your Life
Being self sufficient in the kitchen not only has game changing health benefits, but it has just as much impact on on your time.
In fact, following these basic strategies allowed me to cut back spending on food by 50% while also gaining 5 hours of free time back per week.
I literally prepare an entire weeks worth of fantastic meals while watching a football game on Sundays in my sweatpants.
The key to saving time and money is learning one of the most important cooking tips we call batching or Meal Prep.
The idea behind this method is to cook all of your meals for the week ahead of time. The ideal time to do this (at least for me) is on a Sunday afternoon when you have extra free time.
After mastering your cooking skills to put together 3 delicious meals, it will be easy to batch these and cook them all at once.
With a few tricks, you can add variety to these meals so it feels like you are eating something completely new. The meals will be stored in glasscontainers that can easily be reheated for lunch and dinner each day.
The time investment we are looking at for batching is roughly 2 hours to cook an entire weeks worth of meals (lunch/dinner) and this includes cleanup.
Even better, the reality is a lot of this 2 hour time block will be passive and will not require your attention. Your food will literally be cooking and you can do whatever you want in your house/apartment (ex: get back to watching football).
In the previous section, I mentioned that I was able to cut my overall food costs by at least 50% when I went from eating out every night to cooking just once a week. I
Previously I was spending an embarrassing amount of money at restaurants and bars.
The reality is, I don’t go out of my way to save money when I am shopping at the grocery store. I typically go to Whole Foods and for the most part I am not overly cost sensitive. If something sounds good, I buy it.
Even with that attitude, I am saving a tremendous amount of money on cooking versus eating out.
With that said, if frugality is an important part of the process for you, the overall costs can be reduced drastically.
Here are some simple techniques that can get cost per meal to below $3.00:
- Planning Ahead: The worst thing you can do is go to the grocery store without any idea of what you are going to cook for the week. I am extremely firm on my plan on what I am going to cook and only buy the exact things that were on my list.
- Freezing: Buying large quantities of meat can result in drastic cost reductions when you freeze the leftovers. This includes chicken (breasts, thighs, or whole chicken), pork, ground beef, steak, and fish. Freezing the excess meat/poultry/fish can save a trip to the grocery store and reduce costs.
- Bulk Buying: For any accessory items that are used on a daily basis (olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, spices, etc), buying larger quantities will obviously reduce cost and the need to buy on a monthly basis.
Additional Benefits: Consistency and Portion Control
Developing basic cooking skills will have a life changing impact on your health, food, and time.
One of the most common challenges people face in their health journey is resorting to cheat meals when life gets in the way (busy work days, unexpected issues, etc).
The beautiful thing about batching/meal prep is that it naturally prevents cheating during the week.
You front loaded the effort at the beginning of the week by doing all of your cooking and cleaning. You have a stake in the game, so you are naturally inclined to follow through on eating what you cooked.
In fact, it is easier to just go home and eat the delicious healthy meal you cooked rather than waiting on a pizza to deliver (Save that for the weekend).
The next amazing benefit to following this cooking strategy is the natural portion control that comes along with batching/meal prep.
Using the recommended meal prep containers, there is limited space for food in each meal. Since your food is already divided up by day, you are less likely to dig into another days meal if you are still hungry.
I am notorious for eating way more food than I need to, so this has been an quick and easy win in my life when it comes to portion control.
The practice of cooking and developing cooking skills creates natural self discipline.
Forget trying to use will power to eat healthy each night. Instead, cook your emails ahead of time and the rest is history.
In Conclusion: Start Now and Start Basic
Cooking is a skill that can change your life and is one of the foundations of my healthy lifestyle.
If you are serious about becoming a healthy person, learning to cook is non-negotiable.
I am here to tell you that the myths of cooking are false and you can easily learn to cook delicious recipes with minimal effort.
It is easy to become distracted by Food Network gimmick personalities and an endless supply of cooking gadgets on Amazon, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Following the plan outlined in this article is the easiest way to develop cooking skills. Remember, it is as simple as:
- Start slow by learning how to cook just 3 recipes.
- Start basic by batch cooking these 3 recipes on Sunday afternoon.
The rest will take care of itself. Whatever you do, just start.