14 September 2011

Stress Free Cooking

I'm sure it's not just me, that everyone longs for stress free cooking, whether it's cooking for the family, yourself or large crowds. For me getting lunches and dinners are the hardest part of my job as a homemaker. We often have extra mouths around the table, so choosing meals that stretch is often my first priority, even before making it look reasonably appetizing or slightly nutritious.

Just those two things can make cooking extremely stressful, and that's when the takeaway temptation is strongest. We all know the damage takeaway can do to a family Spending Plan so here are 10 simple tips to keep your cooking stress free and the takeaway temptation at bay.

1.    Plan ahead

It is important to have a plan ahead of time, whether you are cooking for your family or a large group. Planning ahead keeps you from having to make split-second decisions when you are supposed to be cooking. A simple meal plan on the fridge keeps you focused on the meals you need to prepare and is amazingly de-stressing.

2.    Prep ahead 

Once you have your plan, it is important to begin to prep as soon as possible. Do this as you bring the groceries home. Wash and dry salad greens and bag them up, they’ll be good for at least a week. Grate cheese and flash freeze before bagging and freezing. Chop broccoli and cauliflower into meal sized portions and bag. Wash and dry celery and wrap in newspaper to keep it crisp. Then take all the trimmings and make a veggie stock with them.  Pack meat and poultry in meal sized portions. It may seem like a lot of work but you have to put the groceries away so doing as much as possible now really does save time and energy later on.  When you have busy days and an even busier lifestyle, prior prep work makes for a smooth cooking session.

3.    Don't be overly ambitious 

Just because you think you can pull off a full five course professional meal with one oven and a dog that eats crumbs off the floor, doesn't mean you need to show off your skills every night. Keep your meals simple but tasty and not only will your stress levels be down, but so will the stomach growling of your family.

4.    Time plan 

One of the hardest things to accomplish is getting everything ready on time so it comes out hot, all at once. This is a simple thing to figure out, but many people don’t take the time to think about this ahead of time. Take a look at what you need to cook, how you are going to cook it, (i.e. stove, oven, crock pot) and how long it takes to cook. Once you have those figures, just walk back from the time you are supposed to have dinner on the table in order to figure out when you need to put stuff on or take it off.

5.    Use simple recipes 

Using one pot, or simple recipes that do not call for a mess, can keep your life simple as apple sponge (which also uses one pan). The fewer pans you use, the better off you will be. There will be less to clean up and less you need to worry about finishing at the same time.

6.    Clean as you go 

Not every recipe calls for single pan usage, so if you have to dirty more than one pan, cleaning as you go will reduce stress big time. Keeping your area clean is a major stress reducer, especially once the food is cooked and ready.

7.    Music 

Listening to music is another great way to take the stress out of the kitchen. Studies have shown that music actually helps to calm the system and remove stress. I crank the stereo up when I’m cooking (I apologize to my neighbours) and get stuck into the chopping and mixing and yes, cleaning and the time just flies.

8.    Reduce movements 

While music might take the mental stress out of the picture, reducing your movements will help to take the physical stress off. Grab two bowls, one for rubbish and one for compost, to put on your sink and throw everything in there so you are not walking back and forth to the rubbish or compost bins. Organize your kitchen to help you find things quickly and lower the stress level every time you don’t move.

9.    Delegate 

Stress usually happens because you have too much stuff to do and not enough time to do it. If you have any children, now would be a good time to delegate and distress. Having some people to help you out can reduce stress quickly and efficiently. Even pre-schoolers can grate carrots and stir cake mixes.

10.    Clean out your fridge ahead of time 

Nothing is more stressful than ending a fantastic meal, only to find out there is no room in your fridge for the leftovers. Having a clean fridge will help reduce the after meal stress. A clean fridge means less work for you and less chaos trying to keep the food from spoiling.

By following some, or all, of these simple tricks, you can de-stress your cooking. Grab your knife and cutting board; flip on some tunes and start whipping up a storm of grocery budget friendly culinary treats for your family.


  1. Hi Cath
    This is exactly what I have been planning to do lately. I have already started doing the cheese (much cheaper than buying grated) but wasnt sure about how long the lettuce wwould last. Curious - do you know if it will last if i slice it. We tend to eat our lettuce sliced up in most things but I know it can go brown quickly...

    1. Slice your lettuce with a clean plastic knife rather than a metal knife and it should last a lot longer before going brown.

  2. Your lettuce should last quite well sliced IF you use a plastic knife to cut it, or tear it up by hand. Store it in a Tupperware container or a gel bag and check often for condensation - the enemy of food storage! Then it's ready to just grab'n'go - ideal for sandwiches or salads in a hurry.

    I find that by the time teatime rolls around I'm tired - and that's dangerous because it's easy to give in to temptation. Having the veggies prepped, ready to go solves the problem. It only takes a few minutes extra on shopping day to prep before putting them away, well worth the effort.


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