How Can You Like to Cook?

My buddy, Connie, left this comment:

I’ve always wanted to like to cook, but I struggle with it, does that make sense?  I blame a lot of things….a house with some picky eaters and a husband that likes a totally different style of food than I do, a way too tiny kitchen, living for so many years on a majorly tight budget…. and I could go on and on.  So, what can I do to try to enjoy it more?

What do you think I am?  A wizard!  🙂

Don’t give me that tiny kitchen story. 🙂   When we lived in KY, we had our home out in the country but ended up buying a small house in town and had plans that I would stay at the house in town all day and quilt, then go home at night.  As it turned out, we stayed in town almost all the time and hardly ever went to the house in the country.  Here’s the kitchen at the little house in town.

The wall you can’t see has a refrigerator and a closet where the washer/dryer are located.  I know there are smaller kitchens but just so you know — I haven’t always cooked in a great kitchen.  If I managed to cook in this little kitchen, anyone can!  All the canned food, pots, pans, crock pot, etc. were kept out in the garage.  The coffee pot and mixer were on top of the dryer!  4-1/2 years I cooked in this kitchen!

As far as picky eaters, Chad was such a picky eater until just a few years ago.  I kept things he could eat.  They weren’t always the best but here are some picky eater tips that worked for us:

  1. Chicken!  The chicken paillard I made tonight, or chicken parmesan – anything like that, you can fry up some of the chicken strips for picky eaters and fix the good stuff for the rest of you.
  2. Ground beef!  Brown up some ground beef and freeze it in ziplock bags.  Picky eaters can get canned (storebought) spaghetti sauce poured over browned ground beef; they can have sloppy joes with canned sauce over browned ground beef; they can have cubed potatoes browned with ground beef.

Chad was always welcome to eat what we ate but there were the not so exciting, run of the mill dishes he could eat if he didn’t want what we had.  As he got older, I told him his options and if he didn’t want what we had, he was responsible for fixing his own meal and cleaning up his own mess.  He learned to eat what we ate just so he didn’t have to clean up his mess.

I always tried to have something Chad would eat.  I’m a big believer in “when they’re hungry, they’ll eat”.  He may have had to pick out the things he didn’t want . . there was a time when we had to strain his gumbo so he wouldn’t get onions and peppers but we did it and he ate.  As long as there’s food on the table, they’re not going to starve to death and maybe they’ll even learn to like something new.

As far as the budget, it’s amazing how many interesting recipes there are for chicken and ground beef.  You may have to spend more time looking for budget friendly recipes but theyr’e out there.  Watch for sales.  Sometimes I’m amazed at the prices I can get on sale.  Right after Christmas, I got lamb chops marked down to $3.99/pound.

In the summer, plant a little herb garden.  Grown things that are expensive to buy and you can chop and freeze for times like now.

The real drawback to liking to cook is time.  For those who work outside the home, sometimes it’s a real accomplishment just to have something on the table.  I worked and I remember those days.  You may be able to do some planning and cooking on weekends but if you just don’t have the time, don’t fret — there will be a day when the kids are gone from home, or when the budget isn’t so tight and you’ll have more freedom to cook more creatively.

We can’t do all things so enjoy the things you are able to do; cook elaborate meals when/if the time is right and don’t feel bad if this isn’t the time in your life for you to cook real creatively.


  1. 1


    Don’t forget about coupons and getting to know the sales prices at the local stores. There are plenty of websites that talk about how to get the most of coupons, especially if you tie them in with sales.

  2. 2


    My kitchen is small as well but I make room for food preparation. I use my small kitchen table for rolling out dough or making pies and mixing cakes.
    Store my small appliances wherever I find a shelf or an emptry drawer. Even the bottom drawer in my bedroom.
    I’m not a great cook but I try to enjoy it while I’m preparing a meal and I try adding a bit of this or that to improve the meal.
    I find that like anything else, it takes a bit of effort well spent.
    Its all in the taste of the beholder.

    • 2.1

      Evelyn says

      I learned to like to cook – because I like to eat good food! Truthfully homemade food instead of pre-made food it cheaper. I love fresh veggies (but frozen will do) and make my own sauces. I look at the weekly sales flyers to come up with some dishes on my weekly meal plan. I rely on knownig ahead what we are going to eat! I buy in bulk when it makes sense. I figure each meal takes me 1 hour start to finish and just schedule that into my day. My 6 year old only likes very plain food. I cook everything at the same time and then set his aside before any extra seasonings are added – in a pinch he can have frozen veggie/lentil patties that I make ahead of time and freeze. And he loves soup! I always try to make at least 1 side that I know he really likes! My last apartment only had a 2 burner stove, a tiny fridge and the biggest counter surface was the top of the washing machine! I am the youngest of 7 and we didn’t always have alot of money for food -but Mom sure could stretch any piece of meat by cutting it into small pieces and making a gravy with it – served over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta. I am thankful for all the great, easy cooking magazines out there – Taste of Home has de-mystified cooking for so many people! And the food is good! Cheers! Evelyn

      • says

        I think that’s the way many of us grew up. Even with just 2 kids, money was tight for us growing up and I never remember thinking mom was fixing cheap food. We always had gardens with veggies in the freezer; lots of meat and gravy. Mom worked so endless hours weren’t spent on meals. We never ever went out to eat (were there even restaurants back then?) and I always remember us sitting down at the same time for dinner and that’s what I try to do still.

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    My name is not Connie but it could easily be, as I have the same problem she does. three times I have tried to make soup in my crock pot and thrown it away [ what a waste] everyone seems to say just throw in this and that but it dosen’t work for me.
    I could live on ready meals, but know I shouldn’t.
    Part of my problem is every recipe has onion or garlic in it and I am alergic to both, so it puts me off trying.
    However last week I tried making a fruit cake to a recipe I had not used for about 10+ yrs and it worked a treat so maybe 2010 will be my year for learning to cook again.
    Thank you Judy for all the wise words.

    Happy Room Diana
    ps the Happy Room is my sewing room, not my kitchen!

    • 3.1


      My MIL Is allergic to onion – it is hard for me to cook for her – I like to add it to everything. But you have to watch prepared foods – they “ALL” have onion in them – trust me I had to read a lot of labels to fix some food for her.

    • 3.2


      I can’t imagine being allergic to onion and garlic. I realize how easy it is for me to cook when my family will eat pretty much anything and we have no allergy considerations.

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    We are lucky that we have several large grocery chains near us….and they are faithful about marking meats down to half-off on the last day of sale. I look for that and buy them up and freeze them for use later (or use one that same day or the next day). I have saved a LOT that way and gotten meats I’d not otherwise have been able to afford…..nice roasts, etc.

  5. 6


    There is a blog called $5 dinners – she has a lot of recipes (& a new cookbook) where she prepared meals on the cheap. (Although where she uses $.05 worth of olive oil, you may need to pony up the the full bottle purchase if you do not have it on hand & she uses a garden…)

  6. 7


    Don’t forget the fish! Florentined, fried, baked, grilled (our favorite) and flaked for salad. We like catfish, talapia, haddock, cod, salmon and shark! Pork prices have been the most economical of the meats in our area. I buy value packs when I can.

    I use ground turkey mixed 50/50 with hamburger for anything that calls for ground beef. I like a mixture of ground hamburger and hot sausage for pizza toppings and casseroles. We use venison when we’re gifted with a portion.

    I cook as soon as I bring fresh meats home. It goes in the freezer cooked and ready to serve. The exceptions are steaks, bacon, fish and chicken.

    Why? Because I like making * 1 * mess and only having to do major cleaning once!

    I do most of the cooking on weekends. I make spaghetti sauce, red beans, soup or stew, ribs, pork chops or a pork roast, sometimes there’s swiss steak or a beef roast in the oven. Everything gets parceled out into meal size packets and vacuum sealed (love my FOOD SAVER!!) for the freezer. With the meats pre-cooked, it’s easy to pull out a package of something, add a sauce, sauted mushrooms, or a vegetable and you have an easy meal.

    Working fulltime, I’m all for easy when I get home.

    Sometimes, the DH will make fresh bread or we’ll have yummy cornbread and nearly always some type of salad.

  7. 8

    Bobbie says

    My problem is not the cooking-I like to cook (I said like not love) but I cannot for the life of me cook for 2 people-I’m still cooking for 5-things just don’t turn our right if I try to make it for 2. So, we have leftovers for a day or so,or in the freezer it goes, and then I cook another 5 people meal. Hugs, Bobbie

  8. 9


    I cook normal. or BIG.. but it then gets divided into tuperwares.. vac sealed bags,, or even smaller caserole dishes I found on QVC. I think cooking for 2 is no big deal.. its actully a time saver!

  9. 10


    I guess some people just love to cook and are good at it. I don’t paricularly like cooking, I’d rather sew. But back to cooking, I have the most difficult group to cook for, both my boys have allergies and one is a vegetarian. It’s almost impossible to cook a one dish dinner in this house. I love chicken and could eat it every single meal. My youngest son hates chicken. One year, for Lent he thought he would give up chicken. I said, “No, you have to give up something you like”. At Easter dinner he was wolfing back a giant slice of ham and then the next week he said he was going to be a vegetarian. That was 9 years ago and he’s now 16 and has managed to not eat meat. As I’m writing this, he is looking over my shoulder and saying how much he hates chicken.

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    I hope Connie gives it a try. Judy’s explanations and recipes are so doable to me. The pics really help the challenged like me. She has helped me realize if you don’t use one of the spices or seasonings or change things a bit, that’s ok.

    I am so happy to be able to make dishes I thought were way too difficult.

    I have every once in awhile bought frozen meatballs and they tasted gross and I throw out the half filled freezer burned things every time; but, what me make a meatball, don’t you have to be from Italy to that?

    Today I followed Judy’s recipe (homemade breadcrumbs and all) and the meatballs turned out great. No freezing since my three sons still live out of the house, and they went quick. Wow, did the spaghetti taste so much better with those meatballs.

    I am not ashamed that I am learning things for the first time in my 40’s (49!) it is so satisfying.

    The cuisinart my sister gave me at least 20 years ago is the best, I have to say. Minced up the onions and garlic like a dream and also those breadcrumbs. (froze the extra breadcrumbs)

    Sorry so long!

  11. 12

    Connie says

    Thanks, Judy, and everyone! Maybe my belated New Year resolution will be to try harder. My husband winds up doing a good deal of the cooking because he’s home before 4 and I’m pretty much always after 5. Judy: I’m honored to be considered “your buddy”. 🙂

  12. 13


    I own two crockpots. A big family size to make soup and chili in and a small one that has only one temperature–high. Tonight after work I put in some pork chops leftover homemade spaghetti sauce and onions. That will be lunch tomorrow at work. It sure smells good.

  13. 14

    Dana (Katy's mom) says

    Awwww, Judy, you made this working mom feel so much better about her efforts to feed her family. You also gave me some practical tips. I believe it is like anything – do it enough and it will become second nature.

    I’ve been trying to pack a lunch every day for the girls this year (you would not believe the junk the school cafeteria offers). It was SO hard at first, and then it became easier.

    I am inspired to tackle dinner time next. Thank you!

  14. 15


    I’m a little behind on my reading and so probably late to comment, but this post really struck home this week. It’s my first week of working days after 6 months of working swing shifts and it felt so good to put dinner on the table instead of hoping my boys were eating well. Even the night dinner was canned soup and grilled cheese was fantastic.