Dear Home-Ec 101,
I am new to your blog and to cooking. I have been married for only 9 months and my husband just got out of the Army and we are staying with my grandparents while he looks for work. We have some money saved but it wont last forever, and we have been eating out a lot lately and it just isnt going to be affordable anymore. I have been teaching myself to cook and so far I’ve been focusing on baking and learning to make different things from scratch so I can freeze the dough and use it later.
Well I’m emailing you for a few different reasons. First of all we try to eat healthy and dont like to use processed or chemically enhanced food. We buy grass fed meat and I am trying to make alot of things myself so we wont have to use many packaged or canned products, but my grandparents eat alot of ‘crap’. Its hard to plan my meals around theirs. My grandma and I argue over the kitchen and I feel like a burden. Second, how do I keep it exciting for just the two of us. Sometimes it seems pointless to get excited about meals when I know I’m only cooking for my husband and I and then I just have to clean it all up. Until we have kids I want to be able to stay motivated in the kitchen. If you have any tips for me it would be very appreciated! Thanks
First of all, thank you to you and your husband for his service. If you didn’t know, I’m involved with Cooking With the Troops and we work with service members and veterans. People like you and your husband hold a special place in my heart.
Then I want you to know that you’re in the midst of a very stressful life change; cut yourself some slack.
Next remember as frustrating as it is, you are a guest receiving the benefits of your grandparents’ generosity. Repeat to yourself: This is a temporary situation. You will get back on your feet and in all honesty I’m going to say that, in the long run, you’ll be healthier (emotionally and physically) by not arguing. A temporary relaxation of your dietary ideals isn’t going to kill you. Make the best choices you can and let it go. The stress of worrying about a temporary situation is going to cause more problems than an imperfect diet.
Sit down with your grandmother and see if you can work out a schedule for cooking. This is conjecture, but there seems to be a lot of effort spent feeding four people. Offer to take turns cooking. Unless you are incredibly careful with your dietary choices when eating out, almost anything made from whole ingredients at home is going to be healthier. I know I’m speaking broadly, but the amount of sodium and excess fat that goes into most middle of the road restaurant food is insane. Remember, this is coming from a woman who isn’t scared of healthy fats (butter, whole milk, etc).
Almost all of the recipes here on Home-Ec 101 are written for beginner cooks with limited access to fancy ingredients. When I’m selecting recipes to modify and share, I head up to my local grocery store, if the ingredients aren’t at my Bi-Lo or *gasp* Walmart, I assume that there is a fair amount of the population who may not have access. (I also shop at Publix, but in my immediate area, that’s the “fancy” grocery store and has some more exotic ingredients. *Charlestonians, I know we have a Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Earth Fare but those are 45 minutes from me and therefore not on the easily accessible list)
Check out the meal planning primer series.
Also helpful for variety – A guide to cooking and using chicken
When it comes to cooking for a couple or small family planned overs and freezer friendly menu items are a great way to keep variety in your diet. When you get your own place, consider even a small chest freezer. Use it as an end table if you are really short on space in your new place.
Side note: I have a chef friend who likes to tell me, “All foods are a conveyance for sauce.” Marinades, sauces, and rubs are a great way to add variety to a fairly limited menu. Just something to keep in mind.
Finally remember that cooking seasonally -planning your menu around the seasonal availability of produce is a great way to keep variety in your diet without thinking too hard. Check out: Paradox of Choice and the Weekly Menu Plan.
Okay Home-Eccers, what advice do you have for this couple in a shared kitchen?
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