Just Do It!

My daughter is obsessed with Nike. She loves the clothes, the shoes, the socks… anything with the iconic swish. I think it’s mostly because the clothes are comfortable and she’s an athlete, but also because she has a ‘Just Do It’ mindset. Of course, this mindset is applied to mostly eating, running and video gaming—and selectively not applied to cleaning her room. Regardless, I can’t help but think we can all learn something from the iconic tagline. 

A major part of the reason my recipes are five ingredients or less is to simplify the process. In other words, simple equals easy. But, on the other hand, making a good simple meal doesn’t always add up to easy. Especially after a long day at the 11th hour, conjuring up the motivation to cook can be a pain all by itself. Sometimes the most simple things can become the most complicated to achieve. 

Often, I’ve found, that our complicated relationship to food is a major driver behind why we can’t seem to get ourselves to turn on the burner and get started. It’s literally called a food complex! But, the key is to simplify both the process and the mindset. I’ve covered the process, but it’s up to you create the mindset.

When hesitation towards the kitchen creeps in while you’re sitting in traffic, that’s where the simple mindset comes into play. Quiet the excuses, take a deep breath and whisper “Just do it”. The second you make that first move you’re already 80% there, meaning 80% of becoming a cook is getting over the hump and beginning. The rest is history. 

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Here’s the bottom line: it’s easier to make cooking complicated for yourself mentally than it is to make it simple. However, if you can relax into cooking and see it as a simple process you may come to find that not only is cooking methodical and easy, it can be a relaxing process all by itself. Peeling a potato is kind of satisfying. Chopping lettuce can be meditative, and presenting your finished meal can strike a creative spark in your soul. The trick is to allow for cooking to become a positive force in your life through simplifying your relationship to it, and just making that first move. 

Just in case giving yourself the little “Just do it!” pep talk doesn’t work, here are 5 strategies to help you get started. No excuses ;)

1) Commit to spending 10 minutes solving the “What’s for dinner?” problem.

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It’s sort of like when you are having a hard time getting motivated to work out. Commit to the first 10 minutes and if it feels bad, quit. Most of the time after 10 minutes of a workout, you start to sweat a little, the endorphins start kicking in a bit, and you keep going and get in a good workout. The same is true for cooking. If you don’t have a plan, stand in front of your fridge or pantry and see what you’ve got. A piece of meat, an onion, and some pasta make a meal. Or make an omelet for dinner using up leftover veggies. Cut up some fruit, and you’redone. Sandwiches are good too. A grilled cheese and a salad or roasted vegetables make a great dinner. Once you have a plan, the follow-through is easy. It will most likely take you less time to make it than to pick up take out somewhere, and you’ll have the added bonuses of saving money and unwanted calories.

2) Remember that what you feed your kids today becomes their comfort food later.

I’m not going to lie. I’m using a little guilt as a motivator here. Is your kids’ comfort food going to be taken out? Subway? Pizza? Boxed mac and cheese? Making a home-cooked meal is so much more than the meal itself. It helps develop a healthy relationship with food. It’s time spent together, and it’s a team-building exercise. The effort that goes into putting a home-cooked family meal on the table shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of one person these days. If everyone plays a small role, the task is very doable most days of the week. One person can shop, one can prep and cook, and those little darlings are very capable of doing the dishes. Get their hands in warm soapy water. It’s good for them.

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3) Plan ahead so you don’t have an excuse for not cooking.

One hour of meal planning and one shopping trip will arm you with all you need to tackle dinners for the work week. Think about your week and how much time you’ll have to make dinner each night. Pick recipes appropriate for each night. Buy the ingredients, and you’ll be set. Now when you walk in the door, you’ve got everything you need to execute your plan. No excuses. If the meal planning process is daunting to you, then use a meal planning service. Pick a simple, healthy meal plan, and let it do all the thinking for you. Technology is your cooking friend. Look for easy, quick cooking videos. A picture is worth a thousand word which makes it an easy way to learn.

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4) Plan your dinner while you’re eating breakfast.

Mornings are hectic for most families, but if you can spend just 5 minutes while in the shower thinking about a dinner plan, you’ll be halfway there. Remember: half the battle is just figuring out what to make. You have the energy in the morning that you might not have at the end of the day, so take advantage of it.

5) Remove the pressure of what you think goes into a home-cooked meal.

A good dinner can be scrambled eggs, toast and fruit. Don’t pressure yourself into making something new and fabulous every night. People who cook every day have a short list of go-to recipes that they can easily prepare, and then every once in a while, they try something new when they have time. Find recipes that are 5 ingredients or less. There are lots of them out there, and they are delicious. Make sure you’re buying quality ingredients so the effort you do put in returns the favor in flavor. Know your cooking limitations and respect them. After work when everyone is tired and hungry is not the time to try a challenging new technique. What’s important is you are making a family meal that will nourish the body and soul. Leave the fancy cooking for when you have a reason and time.

You’ve got the tools to make a home-cooked meal happen. Commit to the cause, get in the kitchen and Just do it.

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Thank for taking the time to read this article. If it’s been helpful, please pass it on to your friends. Here at MEAL5.com, we want to get the word out about the importance of cooking your own simple, healthy meals. We are a dedicated team of folks developing tools to make home-cooked meals as easy as possible. Take control of your food and feel better!