100 years ago meals were ate at home, cooked from local, organic, fresh ingredients. Our great grandmothers and grandfathers knew how to cook meat and vegetables and had no idea what fast food, junk food or frozen supermarket food was. There were definitely no microwaves and ready meals.
Today, we live in a crazy fast paced world. We all work long hours and have busier schedules. We also tend to spend more time watching TV and mindlessly browsing social media than we do on cooking our own dinners. In the name of convenience, we eat takeaway and tell ourselves that healthy eating is too hard, expensive or not tasty. While many of us love cooking and appreciate the health benefits it delivers, there's still room for improvement. It would be a real shame if we lose the ability to cook, celebrate food and enjoy home cooking's unique ability to bring people and families together.
Research shows that kids who regularly eat home cooked meals do better at school, are better adjusted, have less mental issues and are less likely to suffer from childhood obesity. It is well known that obesity is one of the biggest problems of our time and that nutrition is closely linked to (if not the main cause of) the most common chronic illnesses and other 21st century ailments.
By aiming to eat more real, fresh, local, organic, chemicals free, preservative free, wholesome, clean foods we can dramatically improve our health, life expectancy, happiness and the wellbeing of our loved ones.
So what can you do to fire up that passion for home cooking? Here are 10 easy ways to reimagine, reboot, reinvigorate, revitalise your home cooking TODAY:
1. Stock the pantry
We cannot emphasise this enough - if your pantry is well stocked with the basics, you're more likely to cook. Plus, there's so much satisfaction in using good, fresh ingredients. Always have quality olive oil on hand as well as good sea salt (Maldon is great) and premium spices.
It's not just a matter of convenience, it's also about flavour. Your food can and will taste a whole lot better if you use extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, fine sea salt (not the processed kind), organic fresh spices and salt-free condiments.
And we'll let you in on another little secret - garlic, herbs and lemon are three pantry (or fridge!) essentials that will always be handy, whatever the season. Everything tastes better with a simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, some salt and pepper and a bit of spices and herbs.
We're biased but spice blends are such an easy way to cook healthy, flavourful food. We've all been there - you see a recipe, look at the ingredients list which contains 7 different exotic spices and 8 ingredients, and give up. And we've all bought that giant bag of turmeric, paprika and oregano that we've used once and found a year later at the back of the pantry. Quality spice blends give you the best of both worlds - you can cook great, flavourful food without the hassle.
There's no shame in convenience - keep canned chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, lentils, beans, dry pasta, pesto, pine nuts and whole ancient grains (like farro, brown rice, quinoa or couscous) so you can easily improvise a quick healthy side, soup or stew with whatever you have lying in your pantry.
2. Invest in your kitchen
A messy kitchen and ageing pots and pans aren't the biggest cooking motivator. Keep your kitchen nice and tidy, add some plants or a scented candle, invest in some practical, hard working cookware and quality tableware. Buy a new set of good knives, a decent chopping board or snazzy cotton apron. These will all pay off in the long term as they'll not only last for years but you'll have that pro feel while you're making your creations.
3. Try simple recipes
Don't put too much pressure on yourself to come up with a Gordon Ramsay dinner this weekend or turn into Nigella overnight. Take things slow and keep it simple. Try one or two new recipes a week. Go for recipes that have 5 easy to find ingredients and won't take more than an hour to make. One pot wonders (like soups, stews or braised chicken) or one pan bakes (like easy lamb chops or a vegetable bake) are so dead easy and so satisfying when you get them right. Build up your confidence gradually, then try more complex things if you like. For inspiration, check out the Recipes page on our store - it's packed with easy, healthy recipes that the whole family will love.
4. Make it fun!
Cooking shouldn't feel like a chore. It can be so much fun. Involve the kids, head to your local farmers' market on the weekend to stock up on fresh ingredients, cook with your partner, throw a small dinner party for your crew. Have a glass of wine and put some music on while you're cooking. Awaken the senses with new smells, tastes and textures. Improvise! Don't be a slave to recipes. If you fancy switching some of the veg in a recipe or adding a different spice, go for it! It's all about experimentation and you'll quickly find your favourite way of doing things. Ultimately, you really can't go wrong as long as you cook with love and abandon.
5. Get inspired
Whatever your inspiration, go for it. Whether you buy a new cookbook, subscribe to a magazine, discover a new food blog or foodie website, attend a cooking class, watch your favourite TV cooking show or follow an Instagram account you love - these are all great sources for ideas, food trends and learning about different cuisines and new techniques. There are so many good websites, magazines and videos out there, it's hard to keep track but - again - start small and go from there. In case you're wondering, our favourite places to find inspiration are: Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Ottolenghi, Food52 and, our very own Australian magazine, Nourish.
6. Cook large batches
Make more soup, stew, salad or pasta that will have you covered for packed lunches or weeknight dinners for the following few days. This won't just save you valuable time when you're too tired to cook after a long day but it's also cheaper than ordering a takeaway and means you still look after yourself with healthy, home made food even when you're ready to flop on the couch and watch Netflix with a glass of red wine. Remember, when you cook you're in control of your portions, freshness, salt and sugar intake and ingredients. Ready meals or junk food contain excessive amounts of sodium, sugar, preservatives, additives and other nasties. And besides, some things genuinely taste better the next day. Stews and soups for example!
7. Upgrade your favourites
There's no point forcing yourself to cook kale, quinoa or scallops no matter how trendy or seasonal they are, if that's not your thing. Cook what you and your family love to eat. Try favourite recipes with new twists - you can add a new ingredient you haven't tried before, spice up a soup or a stew that's on your dinner rotation or swap sweet potato for the kind you normally cook with.
There are easy ways to enliven tried and tested dishes and take them to the next level - sprinkle a spice blend onto your traditional Sunday roast to add an exotic vibe, throw in a grain (like couscous or farro) instead of white rice or mash (it's just as easy to make), try a mix of colourful carrots or different types of tomatoes in your vegetable roast instead of the boring one-kind dish or swap your standard tomato paste for harrisa (available at middle eastern stores or at some supermarkets).
8. Grow your own
Growing your own herbs and veggies isn't just aesthetically pleasing but so rewarding (and cost effective and environmentally friendly!). Most good nurseries would have a great selection of herbs - rosemary, basil, chilli, take your pick! There's nothing like making a fresh salad from your own organic tomatoes or seasoning your cooking with your own thyme.
9. Plan ahead
With a bit of planning and organisation you can master weeknight cooking with minimal effort. All big supermarkets and plenty of small organic fruit & veg suppliers as well as good butchers offer online shopping and convenient deliveries. Carve out some time to place the orders then forget about weekly shopping until they turn up at your door. There are also plenty of food websites and blogs that have weekly meal plan suggestions to help with a healthy menu. If you can squeeze in at least 3 home cooked meals a week you're already ahead!
10. Treat yourself
There's nothing wrong with a bit of weekend indulgence. In fact, cheat days are a good way to balance your hard work during the week. Treat yourself to a nice brunch, lazy dinner or your favourite takeaway once a week as a reward for your commitment and discipline throughout the week. Trust us, a cheeky meal on the weekend won't feel as unhealthy as a lazy takeaway on a Monday night.
We hope these tips inspire you to reimagine and reinvent your cooking routine. After all, by cooking more at home you're engaging in important self-care and doing your bit for your loved ones' wellbeing and happiness. Happy cooking!