My Journey From Supper in a Box to Home Cooked Meals

I have to admit that I am sometimes jealous when I see other moms who are homemakers. It seems as if homemaking skills come easy to other moms. It seems as if everyone I know can make homemade bread or soup from scratch. They can bake. They know how to can their own vegetables. They make nutritious meals for their families every night.

Cooking hasn’t come easy to me. I've talked before on the blog about my great lack of cooking skill. It’s been a long road to travel from a mom who drove through McDonalds every day to one who is attempting to plan and cook meals every night, and I still have a long way to go.

Learning to cook home-cooked meals

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Although I've shared some of my struggles with cooking, I wanted to do something a little different in this post. I wanted to share a little of my journey in trying to go from Hamburger Helper suppers to something that is at least partially homemade. 

My hope is that I can encourage another mom who struggles. Please don't think you stand alone, unable to follow that recipe on Pinterest while all the other homeschool moms around you are baking their own bread and making their own yogurt. Maybe knowing some of the things I've done to learn at least a little will help you in your own journey.

When I was first married, I had little to no knowledge of cooking. A processed meal in a box was “cooking” to me. When I began to learn more and more about nutrition from friends and from reading various blogs, I realized that things had to change. I needed to learn how to cook, and I needed to learn fast.

There have been several key things that helped me to learn about cooking and how to make healthy foods. These things are still helping me on my journey as I learn more and try more and- hopefully- become a better cook. (And I keep holding out hope that one of the kids will have a passion for cooking and just take over the job for me.)

Read, Read, Read. 

I began by reading everything I could get my hands on. I read blog posts. I googled “nutrition” and “how to meal plan” and “cooking.” I bought cookbooks that had more than just recipes; they also had tips and instructions. As I read, I began to have a better understanding of what to cook and how. I found recipes from bloggers who would post their monthly and weekly menu plans. These gave me ideas for my own cooking.

One of my favorite books on the subject has been The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers: Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time! This book is written by actual moms with actual kids, and it talks about taking some traditional kid favorites and making a healthy variation.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. 

Jason, my husband, has always been very supportive. He’s always told me he would eat anything I made. And there have been nights when he really did eat even something I wouldn’t. I’ve had times that a recipe I was just sure would turn out good turned out practically inedible. But I’ve learned to give it a try. There have been times we really did like a meal I was unsure about. Being willing to try cooking different things has helped me to learn.

If you aren't sure how to even begin to experiment, think about signing up for a meal planning membership site. Build-A-Menu is one I've used. You can pick and choose from different types of meals like family-friendly or even gluten free. You get recipes and shopping lists and cooking instructions. It's a good way to jump in and get your feet wet trying new things.

Learning to cook

Know when to follow the recipe exactly. 

I’ve learned that there are people who know way more about cooking than me. They have tested and tried the ingredients and instructions. Sometimes I think, “What difference does it matter what order I add the ingredients?” It matters. 

I never understood why my pancake batter would be lumpy and Jason’s would be smooth. He finally asked me if I sifted the dry ingredients before I added the wet ingredients like the recipe said. Well, that just seemed liked an unnecessary waste of time to me. Apparently it actually was important.

Know when it is okay to change the recipe. 

Just as there are times that changing the recipe doesn’t work, there are also times that I can tweak the recipe to make it better for our family. The trick is in learning just what things can or should be changed.

For instance, some of my family members aren’t wild about bland food. There have been a few recipes that I tried and found pretty successful- except that they were bland. When Jason told me that I could add some seasonings, my response was, “It isn’t in the recipe!”. Obviously there are times that changing the recipe just a little can work out just fine. I just have to learn when those times are.

Keep the big picture in mind. 

There are times that I get really discouraged. The recipes that don’t work sometimes seem to outnumber the recipes that do. I try something I think will be really great, and it fails. And I wonder if the struggle to learn more, to do cook better, to plan good meals is really worth the trouble.

But then I look at the big picture. I know that my family’s health and well-being is important. And I know that I’ve made a good bit of progress through the years. And knowing that makes me willing to keep trying and trying and trying.

Learning to cook healthy meals for my family on a regular basis is still an ongoing process. I admit that I still use food out of a box occasionally. You'll still find convenience food in my freezer and pizza boxes in my trash sometimes. And I’m still pretty unsure what to do with some fresh vegetables. But, I’m learning. And I know it’s important. So I’ll keep experimenting and keep studying and keep growing in this process. (And, maybe, just maybe, one of these kids will learn to love to cook!)

Are you a successful cook? I'd love any tips you'd like to pass on.

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