I wrote earlier how important it is to celebrate “Little Big Wins”, and I documented a recent such win, about overcoming my fear (or hatred) of water. I’d like to tell you about what has happened with another horrendous activity that I really dislike, and how I’ve noticed an improvement with it: cooking.
Unhealthy (non)cooking habits
I have never liked cooking much, and even during those blissful periods of time when I haven’t been affected with depression or anxiety, I rarely cooked anything elaborate myself. I prefer if someone else, such as my boyfriend, does the cooking for me 😂, or I get my food from the grocery store. I often have “instant” stuff like sandwiches, instant noodles, or ready-to-eat pasta salads.
When Deliveroo started operating in my area, I was ecstatic! Easy takeaways without having to call anyone or go anywhere. Absolutely amazing!
I started ordering from my favourite restaurants, mostly for Italian dishes like lasagna, different types of pasta dishes, even starters, sides and desserts! I very much enjoyed my red wine some months ago, so of course, I used Deliveroo to bring me a bottle of something with my dinner… sometimes even with my lunch. 🙊 (Typing that makes me really wish I had a glass of red right now… I’m halfway through Sober October).
I relied on Deliveroo too much in the end, forming an unhealthy routine without thinking about it, and that, of course, gets very expensive. I also gained weight and had too much alcohol. It contributed to many occasions of feeling guilty and even anxious. I often made promises to cut down on my Deliveroo usage, but I was not able to keep those promises and broke them again and again.
This month, I have set some October goals for myself. One of them is to, if not get rid of, then at least significantly reduce ordering via Deliveroo, and instead cook as many meals as possible at home. It hasn’t been easy, but as of tonight, I’ve managed about 4 days in a row not ordering anything via Deliveroo.
How I managed to start a cooking routine
Well, kind of start. It’s been on and off during the beginning of October, however, recently it’s been going pretty well. I feel like I might be on the right path now for a routine to form! It’s been 4 days and I’ve read that technically you’d need 21 days to succeed with that, so I do still have a way to go.
I’m starting easy and, most importantly, cheap. First of all, I did something that I have considered doing for a while, but every time I tried, anxiety kicked in. I plugged in my freezer!
I haven’t used it in a long time due to 1) the annoying hum it makes sometimes during the night, and 2) I only ever keep maximum 1 thing in there, such as a piece of garlic bread, that I tend to forget in there for 2 years. That actually happened. Then the frozen bread got all mouldy when I unplugged the freezer before, and I found it half submerged in some kind of smelly mush… well, I won’t go into too much detail there, but, ultimately, my previous relationship with that freezer has been pretty grim.
So, I turned the freezer on (after cleaning it) 💪 , ordered a lot of different types of frozen vegetables, and even some fish fingers as those are the first to come to mind when I think of ‘cheap freezer food’. I also bought some basics that apparently everyone except me normally have in their kitchen cupboards – salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil, etc.
You can see a couple of photos below of my first attempts at cooking vegetables, fish fingers and even frozen french fries (those went into the oven). It’s probably not much for someone who’s more experienced with cooking, but I was SO proud of myself.
What helpful things have I learned so far?
I’ve learned that the process of cooking, as well as the meal itself, doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or fancy to be delicious. Those basic spices I bought helped a lot with the taste – in addition, I’ve since bought frozen pieces of red chillies that I’ve been using more and more with the veggies. 🌶️
One thing that previously caused anxiety was the fact that if I start cooking, it will take AGES. So I often just couldn’t start because I couldn’t see past this obstacle that it would take a long time, with multiple processes running at the same time. That was incorrect! I’ve done a ‘frozen food meal’ several times now and it can be very quick! I just put everything on a pan to fry, or in the oven to cook, turning them around sometimes, adding some oil etc.
Storing ingredients in the freezer is definitely the way to go, at least for me, to start with. It is easy because 1) I live alone and buying a pack of fresh things gets sad because it will just expire too soon, and 2) no chopping is required as frozen veggies often come ready-chopped!
I realised that it’s ok to have a sandwich occasionally, or a pack of noodles, instead of cooking. I can even have a guilt-free microwaveable lasagna or whatever ready-made dinner occasionally, and that is totally ok! It’s not take-away or restaurant food, and it’s still quite cheap, even if not super healthy, so it’s actually pointless to feel like I somehow failed.
I’ve learned that calculating savings from this on a regular basis is important. I try to keep a list of all the food ingredients I buy and go through them afterwards analysing if there’s anything on the list that I could have bought cheaper somehow, either from another store, from a sale, or just by substituting a ready-made sandwich with one that I’ve made myself. This helps me think ahead.
In order to prevent unnecessary frustrations, annoyance and even stress, I’ve learned that it’s best to do the dishes straight after eating – especially the pots and pans used for cooking the meal. I’m super bad at this usually, and I have dirty dishes piling up in the sink, sometimes next to the sink too when the sink is too full. I’m often too tired when I come home to deal with any of that. But how can you even try to enjoy cooking when the surroundings are a mess?
After I got used to having something in my freezer again, I realised it’s also possible to have desserts in there! I haven’t had desserts at home in a long time, so it felt amazing, like luxury, to have a tub of Oreo ice cream as well as a few basic chocolate covered vanilla ice creams at home. I often forgot they were there, and suddenly realised at random moments that I can enjoy something like that by just going to get one from the kitchen!
Now I will just have to control myself so I won’t have ice cream for dinner…
It would be awesome to hear if you’ve also struggled with learning to cook, or just getting started with it. How did you develop your cooking skills further without going too fast?