It’s Okay: Cooking Hints

We’re big Dave Ramsey fans in our home, and anyone who knows anything about Dave Ramsey knows that when you’re trying to get out of debt, “you don’t see the inside of a restaurant unless you’re working in one.”

I’m not proud to admit that we haven’t exactly done this perfectly. Okay, not even close. I set out my menu plan, I shop for the plan, and (if you’re anything like me, you know what happens here) I get burned out. And somewhere down the road, we end up taking the kids out to eat.

Why do people get burned out? We probably set our standards too high, for one thing. And if we forget to defrost meat, or don’t allow time for homemade bread to rise, or we run out of milk or garlic or butter, it deflates us and sends us into cooking abyss. And one missed meal can wreck our momentum for an entire week.

So here’s some ways to give yourself grace and keep on cooking:

  1. It’s okay to use convenience items… sometimes. Is it healthier and more cost effective to make your own __________? Absolutely! But it’s also okay to dump a bag of frozen vegetables into the soup, or throw some frozen corn dogs in the oven, because it’s still better than going out. (And easier, if you have young kids to dress, pack into the van, and keep entertained while waiting for your food.)
  2. It’s okay to make your own. No tortilla shells? No problem! I was stunned at how easy they are to make (only three ingredients), and my kids even like to help. It’s also okay (and pretty easy) to make your own white sauce (aka the base in cream of chicken, etc.), spaghetti sauce, bread (this one takes slightly more practice and tools), pie crust, etc.
  3. It’s okay to substitute or omit… sometimes. I’ve learned to see a lot of recipes as guidelines. They give me an approximate idea of how much oregano and salt to use. Even for bread recipes, while I am chicken to alter precise on the amount of flour, leavening, liquid, and egg, I sometimes play around with my herbs and spices. The biggest guideline is to keep savory, savory and keep sweet, sweet. I’ve never tried oregano in banana bread, etc. It’s also fun to mirror some of the flavors throughout the meal, such as garlic or citrus.
    It’s also okay to substitute or omit non-spice items. Cheddar for Mozzarella, sliced bratwurst for chicken, bell peppers for mushrooms, etc. Unless there’s a food allergy, no one will die. They might not like dinner very much, so if you’re not sure how it will taste I definitely don’t recommend a huge batch, but play around and have fun!
  4. It’s okay to not use a recipe. This was a HUGE step for me. I love recipes! There are so many options! Not only that, someone else has already done the trial and error for me, so I know it will should taste good. But I’ve also found some pretty good “fridge dump” dinners. The sort of dinner where I stand in front of the fridge and say, “What needs to be used up?” So I slice and sauté the vegetables, throw in an onion or garlic, move over to the pantry for some broth and noodles, and throw in some leftover meat. Or don’t throw in some leftover meat. Or leave out the broth, mix it into some beaten eggs and bake. Or throw it into some rice. Or serve it on a taco shell, or with mashed potatoes, you get the idea.
  5. It’s okay to do what works for you. This is not permission to give up on cooking. It is permission to stop comparing yourself to others. We’re not all Rachael Ray, or Martha Stewart (or Steven Raichlen, you’re welcome Honey), but we all need to eat and we all need to plan for the future. I you need to buy shredded cheese instead of grating your own, do it. If you need to serve chicken noodle soup six different ways in a row, do it. If you need to buy  bread machine, or a rice cooker, or a slow cooker, do it. Just make it work for you, your family, and your schedule, and it will work for your future, too.
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