Simplicity is the essence of happiness.
As I grew older to become a mature and responsible adult (haha) and now almost a mom (7 weeks and counting, yippee), I began to realize how precious my time truly is. I want to be able to do my full-time job well (teacher), but also have time to do the things that bring me joy with the people I care about on a daily basis and not just on weekends. Before I started my simplifying journey it felt like my days were consumed with cleaning the house or cooking, instead of actually enjoying the day. Owning and maintaining a house is hard work that comes with a list of responsibilities and soon I will be adding mama responsibilities to a future baby girl on top of that. Seriously, something has to change. I don't want my house and responsibilities to control my life, I want to control my life. That's when I decided that no house or any other "thing" would take over my life and all of my free time.
The real question I had was, "How can I live in a clean, cozy and stress-free home, while still staying healthy and happy, and working a full-time job?
Finding an answer seemed so difficult and challenging to me in the beginning, but the solution was actually pretty simple, SIMPLIFY!
Other synonyms for "simplify" are: to clarify, cut down, streamline, reduce, facilitate, and unscramble. It was time to get intentional with how I organized and structured my life so I could take back control.
The more I simplify the world around me, the less time I spend on cleaning, cooking, maintaining, organizing, or just spending time doing things that are meaningless to me. In order to simplify my life, I decided to start with my home first. The first area of my house that needed desperately to be reduced was the kitchen. I wrote a short blog post on 3 Ways to Simplify Your Kitchen about a year ago, but I really wanted to dive deeper into how doing that leads to making the cooking experience easier too. The kitchen is my family's favorite and most used part of our house. Cooking and eating good food is what brings my family and friends together. Family and friends are two things that I value dearly so it only made sense to start my simplifying journey in that wonderful space. Another important thing I value (just as much as the other two things) is my health. The kitchen is where our body's main fuel (food) is made. We need REAL, good food to lead healthy, happy and energetic lives. If you also value family, friends and health then I recommend you begin your simplifying journey in the kitchen as well.
I could literally talk for hours about how I simplified other aspects of my house and life, but since the title of this blog post is SIMPLIFIED COOKING I will stick to sharing only helpful tips on how you can make cooking good food at home a little easier. Let's cut down, streamline, and reduce our time in the kitchen so you can have more time for meaningful activities!
TIPS for SIMPLIFYING COOKING AT HOME
1. Intentional Kitchen Reduction: Simple kitchen means simple cooking.
I know this may sound intimidating, but going through all of your cabinets, drawers, pantry and refrigerator will help you see everything you have been keeping and storing (for years and years maybe).
Make 3 piles:
1. Items you use everyday ---be realistic and think about your daily routine
2. Items you use for special occasions ---dishes, not decorations
3. Items you rarely touch ---"Wow I haven't seen those in years!"
Doing this will help you choose tools that are truly intentional for your everyday life. Donate what you don't use so someone else can find value in those tools or dishes. Find a safe place to store those special occasion tools, but only if you truly use them consistently every year and not just once a decade. Your kitchen is not a storage unit, so get it out of there. Lastly, find a place that is convenient for you to store those items you truly use everyday. For example, my family uses rolled oats, nuts, chia seeds, protein powder, and coffee every morning so I stored them all in clear containers on an open cabinet. I took off some cabinet doors for aesthetics and to make my life easier (see photo). Another example relating to dishes is that we have only kept the plates and bowls we consistently use over and over again during the week. We have stored our 6 large plates, 5 small plates and 10 bowls on two shelves in one open cabinet for easy access as well. No time will be wasted on preparing breakfast or getting dishes to serve our food. Keep it simple folks :)
Surprisingly when we did this kitchen reduction a couple years ago we discovered that we had two extra drawers after it was all said and done! Woo hoo! Those drawers are still bare or have maybe a few items in them to this day. And just like your pantry and cabinets should reflect your day to day life, your refrigerator should reflect your daily eats too. If you're holding on to food or condiments that you might use, then find a better home for it. There's nothing worse than finding moldy or expired food in your fridge, yuck! Plus, it takes up space that you could be using for food you actually do eat on a daily basis. You will be surprised how quick and simple it is to whip up a meal for dinner when everything you need is easily accessible, from your kitchen tools to your food.
Less options = less stress when cooking
Check out my tips to help you get started with decluttering your pantry and refrigerator!
2. Keep your counters clear: If you love your workspace, you'll love your work a little more.
My kitchen is not huge (as you can see in the photo), and has very few areas for working, a.k.a. counter space. If I wanted to feel stress-free in my kitchen I needed to have more space to prepare healthy and simple meals. This means I had to clear my counters of any useless tools or decorative pieces that had no purpose to me when cooking. I removed small pieces of cute artwork, utensils I never used, and stored my electronic tools in a convenient cabinet space for my family to access. Removing the toaster and coffee grinder off my counters really made a huge difference! Plus it made cleaning the counters that much easier. I also invested in getting a custom wood island built (Etsy is wonderful) just so I could have more counter space to prepare and serve food. This island was intentionally designed to serve as a prepping space, as well as for entertaining and storage purposes. I intentionally invested money to simplify my life in the kitchen, and it has been worth every penny. Once you start reducing the stuff in your cabinets, pantry and fridge, clearing the counters seems like a breeze. You got this!
3. Plan your meals in advance: Cooking and grocery shopping go so much quicker and smoother when you have a plan.
Decide as a family what you want to eat for the week. It can be as specific as choosing recipes or as broad as what proteins, veggies, and other major food groups you want to chow down on for that week. Check out Meal Prep vs. Food Prep to see which strategy works best for you and your family. We are primarily a meal prep kinda family, but once in a while we dive into the food prep method for a little change. Having a plan helps you prepare your shopping list for the week and to stick to it! This saves you time and money in the store and in your kitchen. No more second guessing or stressing about what you're going to eat or cook when you get home. Check out my Weekly Meal Plans if you need some ideas on where to start. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.
4. Intentionally choose meals that are both healthy and simple: Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
If you have a full-time job or just have a jam-packed day, then you probably don't want to spend hours preparing dinner. No problem! The solution is to intentionally choose meals or recipes that need less ingredients and take less time. There are tons and tons of resources out there to help you find 30 minute meals. Most of my recipes take less than 30 minutes because I am all about keeping it clean and simple. Feel free to check out my recipes if you need some inspiration. Healthy doesn't need to be gourmet or complicated, it just needs to be as close to real and whole foods as possible. My cooking motto is to always keep healthy food in my house and to cook simple meals my family enjoys, such as burgers and pizza. Meals you cook at home are usually much healthier (and taste better in my opinion) than compared to ordering them out. We eat pizza once a week in our house because we make it healthy and it only takes 15 minutes. Score! Try Designated Meal Nights to make cooking a breeze every week!
To sum it all up, the more you intentionally reduce, streamline and simplify your kitchen and meal selection, the easier cooking will be! I hope this was useful in making your cooking life a little healthier and happier.
Always craving good food,