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June 2, 2022 Kristen Peairs

How Busy Humans Can Find Time to Cook

Finding time to cook can be hard!

“I’m so tired, let’s just go out” is a statement that has passed my lips many times over the years. During Covid, it reversed to “I’m so tired, let’s just order in.” Now, as the world has re-opened and demands on my energy have become especially abundant, I find myself tempted to let others do the cooking more and more frequently. “Why cook for myself when someone else can do it for me,” is the question that seems so practical as it trots through my brain.

Unfortunately, what makes sense to my brain and what makes sense to the whole human being that carries my brain, are two entirely different matters. Before I can assess how I can find time to cook, I have to ask myself a key question:

What is the value of cooking?

For me, cooking is an important part of caring for myself. The act of cooking gets me out of my ever-busy brain and into a sensory experience of seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, and tasting food from raw to chopped, to seasoned, to cooked, to consumed. The whole path of connection supports my sense of wellbeing and pleasure. Frequently, much of the tension in my body and frustration from my day are gone by the time the food is in my belly. And as if that reasoning isn’t enough to encourage me to cook my own food, I also particularly like being in control of the ingredients I use. It feels great to know exactly what is in the food I’m eating.

As I’ve looked more deeply into this topic, I’ve realized that the reasons I choose to cook are on target with three of the top reasons why other people choose to cook. People choose to cook for the purposes of health, connection, and pleasure.

1. Health

When we cook our own food, we have the opportunity to choose to include the foods that are most aligned with our health goals. We also have the option of choosing our portion sizes and easily storing away excess without getting caught up in guilt about it going to waste if we leave it behind, or to the waist if we overeat.

2. Connection

Chopping, mixing, seasoning, and cooking the ingredients for our meals establishes a relationship with what we are putting into our bodies. Relationship matters. When there is a relationship, there is the possibility for enhanced receptivity. All the time that we spend cooking sensitizes us to the nourishment the food is offering, and in turn, our bodies have an opportunity to relax and secrete all of the digestive juices necessary for good absorption. After all, the body digests best when it is relaxed and happy. For some people, the connection they desire is with themselves and/or others. Studies have shown that cooking can boost one’s sense of self-esteem, accomplishment, and socialization.

3. Pleasure

Positive sensory stimulation is important. Humans are generally pleasure-seeking creatures. In the realm of cooking, every ingredient that goes into a meal is an opportunity for a positive stimulus to our nervous system. The smells, the sounds, the colors, and the textures, not to mention the tastes, are all valuable and stimulating. When I’m cooking, I often find that tiredness dissipates. I’ve learned that work exhaustion is sometimes just that: exhaustion related to work. It’s always a happy discovery to learn that I have plenty of energy to do something else when work is done.

Once I have a more comprehensive understanding of why cooking is valuable to me, I can inquire, “How do I find the time to cook amidst all of the activity of my life?”

How to Find Time to Cook

The number one thing to do when you want to find time to cook is to:

Identify your why.

Identifying the reason why it’s important for you (a very busy human) to cook, is key to your follow-through with actual cooking. The stronger and more personal the reason, the more likely you will be to move beyond the barriers of limited time and energy to ensure that cooking happens. If you don’t have a strong why you’ll find that work and family and all aspects of life will continue to be more compelling than cooking.

How Busy Humans Can Find Time to Cook- mother and child mixing dough in home kitchen

The most powerful why statements are personal (about you) and contain a feeling that is yours. A few examples of powerful “Why” statements for cooking are as follows:

  • “I choose to cook because I love the feeling of teamwork as my children and I create a meal together.”
  • “I choose to cook because cooking leaves me feeling energized, focused, and attuned to my body and its needs.”
  • “I choose to cook because I feel so satisfied and happy after handling the food.”

Less compelling why statements are about others and their feelings.

  • “I cook because my doctor is worried about my health and told me cooking would be good for me.”
  • “I cook because my family gets angry if I don’t.”

Take some time to consider your personal feeling-oriented why for cooking. Once you know your why, it is time to plan.

  • Plan Ahead: Planning ahead is important for cooking success. Designate time in your calendar to plan your meals. Honor the time that you have put into your calendar as a sacred commitment.
  • Clarify Your Priorities: During your first planning session, get clear on your priorities. Cooking usually involves choosing recipes, meal planning, list writing, grocery shopping, prep-time, and clean-up time. These activities can be a lot for a very busy person. Take a moment to get clear on which activities are the most important for you to do. Note which activities that you’re willing to give up.
  • Outsource: Outsource what isn’t a priority for YOU to do. If grocery shopping isn’t on your list of priorities, then tap someone else to do it. If set-up and clean-up weigh you down, invite in a person who can manage that task. Outsourcing can be as simple as asking a family member, or as involved as hiring a home helper.
  • Commit: Commit to cooking one meal a week and when that becomes easy, add another meal to the schedule.
  • Expect Hiccups: Expect there to be hitches in your plan. Anything new will take time to integrate. Keep revisiting your why to remind yourself why cooking is important to you.

Final Thoughts For Making Cooking Easier When You’re Busy

  • Involve the family to help with tasks
  • Use a grocery store app for grocery ordering and home delivery
  • Hire a grocery shopper
  • Subscribe to a meal service such as Hello Fresh, Green Chef, or Hungry Root
  • Subscribe to a meal planning service for recipes
  • Hire a virtual assistant to plan, order groceries, and send recipes
  • Cook double the food you need and freeze for a meal another time

For some additional perspectives on finding time to cook when you’re a busy person, check out these resources!

Would you like to read more articles by Kristen Peairs? Check out the following topics.

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Kristen Peairs

Kristen Peairs is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Massage Therapist, and Professional Educator.

Throughout her 20-year career, she has worked with many people suffering from a diversity of chronic health conditions. Understanding how food affects the brain and the whole body has been a key factor in the success of her healing strategies.

At Nivati, she has researched, written, and filmed over 100 health and wellness videos for their content library.

Kristen is currently writing a cookbook for people living with food allergies and intolerances.

She is a graduate of Bastyr University and holds a Master's of Science in Nutrition.

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