I’m not exactly what anyone would call a good cook. I mean, I can follow recipes, and I’ve never poisoned anyone (that I know of), but cooking just doesn’t come naturally. I have been involved in five small kitchen fires – three due to grease fires on a stovetop, and two instances of accidentally setting my own microwave on fire. I am incapable of cooking multiple food items so that they all get done around the same time. I cannot bake. I don’t own fancy kitchen appliances or even most of the basic ones. All this and it’s no wonder that most of the things I “cook” come from a box. Preferably one with all the ingredients included.
This lack of domestic skill has been on my mind lately because I would REALLY like to find a way to save money at the grocery store. I’d also like to eat healthier, since my doctor recently pointed out the 50 pounds I’ve gained since my son was born in 1998. (I cried.) While I know in my head that buying a lot of convenience foods is both fattening and expensive, I really don’t know how to begin when it comes to cooking real meals.
How I Talk Myself Out of Cooking
My son is autistic and extremely picky. Jayden eats about 14 things, and all but a few are total crap. This isn’t a matter of, “If he’s hungry enough, he’ll eat what you give him” – I have literally watched him throw up even when he wanted to try a certain food. His sensory issues result in a lot of problems with textures, flavors, food temperature, and even color. So I tell myself it’s pointless to cook a big meal if I’m the only one who will be eating it.
Ingredients for cooking from scratch cost too much. A few weeks ago, I found a recipe online that I wanted to try. When I started looking at the things I’d need, though, I was going to spend over $30 for a single meal! Okay, maybe 2 or 3 meals since I’d have leftovers. But still. When I think about buying enough ingredients to cook for a week, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of money I’d have to spend to do it.
Produce and meat don’t last long enough. I hate grocery shopping. If I had it my way, I’d go once a month at the most. But when you buy fruits, vegetables, and meat that don’t come in overprocessed forms, you usually only have a few days to use them. I hate freezing meat because (1) I hate the way it tastes once it thaws and (2) my decisions to cook usually come at the last minute. So I feel like my only choices are to go to the grocery store every few days or avoid using items with a short shelf life.
Cooking takes forever. Do people really make three meals a day from scratch? I promise, I’m not purposely being an asshole here. I just can’t fathom a world in which I stand at the stove multiple times each day. When it’s time for lunch, for example, I usually remember to eat at about 2 PM. I can either go get out a bunch of stuff, mess up pots and pans, and wait until 3 PM to eat (plus doing dishes), or I can pop a frozen dinner in the microwave and be finished by 2:30 or sooner, then just throw the container in the garbage.
Despite the excuses I make to keep myself from cooking more, I know it can be done. I know there are ways to plan ahead and make healthier meals without spending a ton of money. I just don’t know how to get from knowing this to actually doing it.
With that in mind, I’m asking you guys for help. What is your system for buying food, cooking, and meal-planning? How do you decide what to make? What ways have you found to save money? How do you use fresh produce without making multiple trips to the grocery store each week? Please treat me like a toddler because that’s pretty much my skill level when it comes to this stuff. Help me learn to stop sucking at cooking!