#SELFCARESUNDAYS: how home cooking can help you slow down in a fast world

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I am not, by any means, the world’s greatest chef. I enjoy cooking but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert at it. I do, however, appreciate the many benefits that come with cooking for myself, and where I can, preparing my snacks and meals in advance.

In a society that promotes hustle culture, we rely on an industry of ultra-fast fast food to support our place in it. The way we eat takes second place to the fast-paced manner in which we are expected to work. Whilst the ability to order healthy options on demand might appear to be the more convenient option, it still costs us our time and money. It encourages us to stay glued to our screens and keep being “busy”, not giving a thought to the emotional, physical and financial implications of buying food on the go.

Cooking needn’t be an interruption in your schedule. It also doesn’t need to be a skill for you to excel at. It can simply be a habit that is fun, practical and easy to incorporate into your individual routine.

Pick a dish you enjoy

There’s no point buying ingredients and spending your time cooking a dish which you feel you “should” eat. Eating well or making healthier choices needn’t be just another chore.

Find the enjoyment in recreating a childhood favourite, experiment with adding your own twist to tried and tested recipes, or challenge yourself to expand your repertoire. Food can be fun and so it’s important to pick a dish that you can genuinely look forward to making – as well as eating.

Let your ego go

I was raised in a culture and a family that is very food-centric. When it came to learning dishes myself, I would constantly compare my version of family favourites to my grandma or mum’s version and I’d get frustrated and annoyed with myself that my versions weren’t good enough.

Obviously, this attitude is unhealthy and inevitably doesn’t make cooking seem that fun. I’ve learned to accept that my version of their dishes may well be a little different and aiming to replicate their creations exactly is only setting me up to fail.

You might recognise the emotional and nostalgic significance of some dishes but don’t then put yourself under pressure to cook them perfectly. In fact, you could even see it as an opportunity to cook with your loved ones and learn from them. After all, cooking can be a sociable activity too.

Remember that when it comes to cooking, you need to work in a way that suits you. You don’t need to buy fancy kitchen gadgets in order to cook. There’s no shame buying ready chopped vegetables or wanting to whip up simple, quick dishes. Cooking and meal prep needs to suit your needs, your lifestyle.

Practice mindfulness as you prepare food

Being mindful means staying in the present. It may take some practice to keep your mind from wandering, but the joy of cooking is that there is so much to focus on. You might find it useful to take a playful approach to mindful cooking by focusing on the texture and colours of the vegetables you are chopping for instance. Or you might simply find yourself recognising how you physically carry yourself when you cook.

By being mindful you are choosing to fully embrace where you are in the moment. You may find that this attitude helps you view cooking as an enjoyable, soothing practice rather than simply a necessary chore.

Get off your phone

It might be tempting to put on some music or listen to a podcast as you cook, but consider trying to have a phone-free kitchen. Preparing food literally forces you to get off your phone – there are ingredients to chop and pots to stir! The added interruption of pinging notifications can be distracting.

See your time in the kitchen as time away from your phone, a chance to switch off from the outside world and concentrate on what’s cooking. This also means not taking snaps of your food to post on social media. It’s for you to enjoy, not to prove to the world you can cook.

Future-proof your mental health

For me, food prep isn’t just about preparing for the week ahead in order to save money or time. It’s also about looking after my future self. I know that having proper food at home helps to keep me physically well, even if I’m struggling mentally or emotionally.

Personally, preparing food in advance makes me less likely to take a tempting trip to the corner shop for sugary snacks to comfort eat or splash out on a takeaway that I can’t really afford. (Full disclosure: I am of course I’m human and often slip up with this!)

One way to care for your future self is to cook and freeze dishes in batches so that you know you have a cooked meal at home whenever you want it. You can also incorporate cooking into your routine. For example, you might allocate Sunday as your cooking day and organise your meals for the week ahead. Even simple tasks like roasting nuts in batches are a good way of ensuring you will have snacks with sustenance to hand.

Having a routine for preparing your food might make it easier to budget for the ingredients you need.

Everybody has a different relationship to food, so when it comes to cooking for yourself, remember to concentrate on yourself. You are the master chef in your kitchen and you have the freedom to cook what you want, whichever way you want. Find the joy in cooking and take the time to recognise the benefits it may bring.

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