Think You Can’t Cook? Think Again! 7 Tips From A Non-Chef

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If you’re reading this, it’s probably because we have one thing in common: neither of us consider ourselves “chefs” by any means. Because of that, the word “cook” triggers our insecurities!

We all know gifted-in-the-kitchen people who can go rogue and whip up the most delicious dishes sans recipes, but those people ain’t us!

Then, there are the ones who truly love to cook and aim to turn their kitchens into episodes of “Chopped.” Those people ain’t us, either!

For the majority of my life, I identified with the statement “I CAN’T COOK!” and ordered waaaay more takeout than I’d like to admit.

Then I began my journey to optimal health and confronted this truth:

The healthiest food is that which you cook for yourself.

Think about it.

All takeout and restaurant food is certainly not evil, but the food we eat outside of our homes usually contains a number of cheap and/or poor-quality ingredients, namely highly processed vegetable oils and hidden sugars.

Unfortunately, not even veggie side dishes and salads from most restaurants are healthy.

Often, restaurant chefs sauté vegetables in cheap oils (like canola) and add extra sugar to just about everything—even the most unsuspecting dishes like ribs!—to make their food more palatable.

And, as we all know by now, sugar is addictive, so added sugar in any recipe is good for business. It keeps us patrons coming back for more!

Further, most restaurants don’t use high-quality proteins like 100% grass-fed beef, pasture-raised eggs, wild-caught fish, etc.

For the reasons above, optimal health = cooking for ourselves as much as possible. But that brings us back to square one: What about those of us who can’t cook and have zero desire to learn?

The fact that the healthiest foods come from our own kitchens is a real slap in the face to us non-chefs out there! What to do now??

Stay with me.

Before you wash your hands of this post about cooking—your arch nemesis—consider a shift in terminology:

Instead of “cook,” use the word “prepare.”

I used to (and still do!) deem myself a “bad cook,” but once I made this slight shift in vocab it was easier to dive into the world of home-prepped meals.

Preparing feels so much less daunting than cooking food.

Salads, green smoothies, eggs, oatmeal, simple soups/stews, rice, roasted vegetables, and other easy dishes are in the wheelhouse of food preparers—like me!

Beef bourguignon, pâté, dumplings, glazed duck, etc., are the specialties of chefs—not me!

Let’s decide right here and now to leave cooking to professionally trained chefs, people who love recipes, and my talented-with-spices-and-knives husband; we food preppers are all about ease!

Ever since I made the switch in terminology and simplified my expectations, I’ve had the confidence and desire to prepare meals for myself most nights of the week! Win!

I’m now 100% on board to ditch the “I can’t cook!” mentality and get behind this statement:

The healthiest food is that which you prepare for yourself.

See what I did there??

When you prepare meals using raw, whole ingredients, you know exactly what you’re consuming.

Once you make food prep a habit, you’ll be able to say SEE YA to the unnecessary sugar and poor-quality ingredients in takeout and restaurant food.

Annnnnd guess what?? Through this one little habit, you can achieve monumental results.

The moment I decided to prepare most of my meals is the same moment I started to lose weight almost effortlessly. Trust me on this one. Takeout is not your friend; it’s keeping you from optimal health!

And again, the amazing news is this: You don’t have to be the world’s greatest chef—or even a slightly-better-than-average chef—to assemble a healthy meal!

Some of us (like me) have bizarre palettes and can eat two hard boiled eggs, salmon salad, and raw veggie spears for dinner. If you live alone, knock yourself out! Throw all preconceived notions of what “dinner” should look like out the window; just combine wholesome ingredients into crazy combos you love!

If you live with someone else (like I do), those nights of bizarre combos are over. You may have to up your meal prep game a teeny tiny bit, but fear not! It’s still not that difficult!

Here are 7 simple meal prep tips from yours truly!

1. Start with a base of vegetables.

Possibly, create the now famous “zoodles” using a spiralizer like this one. However, even this is too involved for me on a Monday night after a long day of work.

That’s when a cheap steamer basket (like this one) can come in handy! Use it to quickly (and ohhhh so easily!) tenderize nearly all types of veggies.

Do you own a basic sheet pan? I’m assuming you do! In the colder months, I like to chop up sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc., douse them in avocado oil + salt + pepper, and roast them for 40ish min. at 425 degrees. (See my recipe for roasted veggies here.) When they’re ready, I sprinkle ‘em with extra virgin olive oil + Old Bay seasoning. Soooo yummy and simple!

In the summer, my MO is to chop up an assortment of raw veggies including—but not limited to!—lettuce. Then, I throw ‘em all into a bowl to create a quasi chopped salad. If you guessed that I dress ‘em with EVOO (my fave fat!), salt, and pepper…you guessed right!

When it comes to vegetables, get crazy! Ideally, we should all eat a diet centered on plants. Just be sure not to negate your vegetables’ health benefits by cooking them in canola oil (or some other crappy oil). To read why, click here.

Also, make sure to absorb the nutrients in the vegetables you eat by consuming them with fat (like EVOO). Read more about that here.

2. To your vegetables, (possibly!) add some high-quality protein.

A meal of vegetables alone can be easy and delish, but it’s often nice to add a high-quality protein.

I keep repeating “high-quality” for a reason. It’s important to be sure your chicken, beef, eggs, pork, fish, etc., are from pastured, 100% grass-fed, and/or wild animals. To read why, click here.

Think you can’t afford the highest-quality proteins? They’re definitely not cheap, but here’s something to consider: Now that you’ll be preparing meals for yourself, you’ll eat out less.

Takeout and restaurant food is pricey, so you’ll likely have some extra cash lying around to purchase the best proteins. Woohoo!

If you live near a farmer’s market, it’s ideal to buy your animal and fish protein there because A) you’ll support a local farmer (woot woot!) and B) you’ll be able to chat with said farmer about the animal’s prior life. Did that steak come from a 100% grass-fed cow? You can just ask!

If you don’t live near a farmer’s market, try to find the best quality proteins at a local butcher, fish market, and/or chain like Whole Foods. Or, subscribe to a delivery service like Butcher Box, Vital Choice, or Crowd Cow that’ll deliver meat right to your door. Thrive Market (see more about Thrive below) also sells grass-fed beef, pastured pork, etc.

Fortunately, high-quality protein vendors are becoming ubiquitous!

3. Keep wild rice on hand.

Wild rice has more protein and fiber than regular rice, so I like to make a large batch each week that I can eat with veggies, animal protein, or just by itself.

The great news: A toddler could make wild rice! (Okay maybe not a toddler, but you get the point.)

Click here to view a simple, flavorful recipe.

4. Save money on ingredients by shopping smart.

Since you’ll be preparing your own food, you’ll need to stock up on ingredients. Groceries can really add up, especially if your closest option is a high-end store like Whole Foods.

If you have a Costco membership, lucky you! Costco sells organic produce, 100% grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, etc., at amazing prices.

If you live near a Trader Joe’s, you’re also lucky! Just like Costco, Trader Joe’s sells many high-quality options.

As mentioned above, delivery services like Butcher Box, Vital Choice, and Crowd Cow sell the best animal proteins…and their prices are right!

Another favorite subscription service of mine is Misfits Market (click here to get 25% off!), which delivers imperfect organic veggies that are “unsuitable” for store produce displays. (In reality, most of the fruits ‘n veggies I get from Misfits Market are in perfect shape, so the fact that stores won’t sell them is still a mystery to me… How rude!)

Finally, I’ve saved the best for last: Thrive Market! If you follow me, you know I’m obsessed (like…actually obsessed. I love it more than Amazon!) with this online grocery platform. Their prices are outstanding; by shopping on Thrive, I’m able to save over $1,000 each year on staples like nut butter, natural wine (yes, I consider wine a staple), grain-free crackers/chips, etc. To read my entire post about Thrive (and to see my shopping list!), click here.

5. Become BFFs with kitchen tools and spices that’ll make meal prep a breeze.

Every food preparer should equip him/herself with the following:

  • A slow cooker

Secret: Anyone can be a “chef” with a slow cooker.

I may not have mastered the art of cooking, but I have mastered the art of Googling and Pinterest-ing slow-cooker recipes. There are thousands on the world wide web!

If you don’t already own a slow cooker, consider investing in one. I’ve owned an older version of this brand for years, and it still works like a charm!

  • High-quality fruit oils

Remember: vegetable oils = bad, fruit oils = good! Read why here.

Use avocado and coconut oil for cooking and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.

  • Simple spices

Jazz up any basic meal with flavor-inducers like Redmond’s Real Salt (for finishing and cooking), fresh-ground pepper, garlic powder, Old Bay, onion powder, red chili pepper flakes, dried organic oregano, dried organic thyme, and dried herbes de provence.

No need to get shmancy! Those simple spices will go a long way.

  • A cast-iron skillet

If you don’t already own one, run (don’t walk!) to Bed Bath & Beyond ASAP! (Or, if you’re lazy like me, head to Amazon!)

I love cooking in cast iron because A) I avoid the harmful toxins that leech from many nonstick skillet surfaces and B) it only gets better with age! The more you prep food on cast iron, the more “seasoned” it becomes. Translation: If you buy a cast-iron skillet today, you’ll be able to leave the most amaaaaazing gift for your grandchildren!

  • A cheap steamer basket

As mentioned above, one of the quickest/easiest ways to prep veggies is to steam them. I own this one, but any version will do!

To steam veggies, just boil about an inch of water in a medium saucepan. Once the water is boiling, add the steamer basket + chopped veggies. Cover the saucepan and steam for 5ish minutes, or until you can easily puncture each piece with a fork. Voila! Done!

6. Embrace leftovers.

Think you need to whip up a new meal every night? Think again!

I’m a big fan of eating leftovers for lunch the next day and/or dinner the next night.

Also, get creative with your original dish. For example, if you prepare “The Easiest Roast Chicken You’ll Ever Make” (according to Bon Appetit), you can use the leftovers to make a simple chicken salad.

Hate eating the same thing two days/nights in a row? Freeze leftovers so that you have dinner prepped for a night next week/month!

7. Don’t stereotype foods.

Eat eggs for dinner! Eggs are not only delicious, but they’re also nutritious and super easy to make. Don’t lump them into the “breakfast” category; expand your horizons!

You know what else can be great for dinner? Oatmeal! Seriously, “breakfast” foods make some of the most scrumptious dinners!

There you have it!

Bottom line: When you follow these 7 tips to ditch the “I can’t cook” myth once and for all, you’ll decrease your reliance on takeout/restaurant food, save some moola, level up your health, and likely lose weight in the process! By my count, that’s a win-win-win-WIN!

And, when you do eat out, adopt some simple hacks to make your restaurant meals as healthy as possible! Learn 7 tips for healthier dining out here.

Thoughts? Questions? Please share ‘em below! I love hearing from you 🙂


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