Mindful shopping, cooking and eating series – Part 2
Words: Sujata Din
At some point, most of us have found cooking to be a chore, something we must do, to feed ourselves and our families. Given our fast-paced lives, we are rushing to put a meal together, on auto pilot, not even realising what we are doing, as we get distracted by our active minds and thoughts. And then we get frustrated when it takes longer, or things don’t go to plan.
It doesn’t need to be this way. In this article I’m going to share how you can make cooking fun and relaxing, by doing it mindfully, which basically means being present as you prepare your meals.
When meditating, we use our breath as the anchor to keep us present in the here and now.
So, when cooking mindfully, I will share how you can use what you are doing and your senses of hearing, taste, sight, smell, and touch to keep you in the present moment.
It helps to first start with shopping mindfully, which was what I wrote about in my previous article. And if you haven’t read that, please do read it.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO BEGIN COOKING MINDFULLY
Set your intentions
If your intention is just to cook quickly and get it over and done with, you are rushing from one task to another, doing it mechanically.
Instead, just by changing your intention to “enjoy cooking”, you give yourself the time and space needed to slow down. You can become creative in the kitchen, experimenting wit different ingredients and are aware of what you are doing, when you are doing it. Even the mundane tasks whether it’s chopping, stirring, or cleaning don’t seem tedious when you approach these with the right intentions.
Think of the origin of the food, where it has come from and was grown, and all the people involved during the different processes it’s gone through to get from farm to supermarket to your kitchen. Give gratitude to everyone who helped in bringing this to you so you can prepare it.
When cooking mindfully, don’t rush the recipe. So, bring in patience at each step of what you do, even if it is something you in the past you didn’t enjoy. With a different perspective you become positive.
Some recipes require longer time, and just won’t taste the same when rushed, for instance, when you cook a stew on high heat rather than allowing it to simmer on low, it doesn’t allow the flavours to blend.
Accept that things won’t always go to as planned in the kitchen. And it doesn’t need to be done perfectly.
For example, there may be a food that has gone bad and can’t be used, (happens to me with avocados), so then adapt the recipe, and use something else as a substitute.
Or there may be times, when it doesn’t look good, yet tastes fine. It could be a cake that sunk in the middle when being baked. Don’t judge yourself for being a bad cook, that’s just the way it was on the day. And some fruit may be a little bruised but can still be used; pop into a smoothie or a dessert like a pie or banana bread.
Become aware of what you are doing and stay with what you are doing.
And if your mind wanders and you get lost in thought, come back to what you are doing and use your senses to stay present.
Here are some easy suggestions to improve awareness.
When chopping, just chop. When stirring, just stir. When washing, just wash.
Use your senses
- Smells: Notice how the food smells. How does it change as it cooks or when combined with other ingredients. An apple for instance has a fresh fruity fragrance. However, an apple crumble made with cinnamon has a sweet spicy scent.
- Sight: What does the food look like; it’s shape or colour. For example, is the orange round and a bright orange colour and are there any marks on it. Look at the individual ingredients and then see how these begin to change, when you combine with other ingredients when you cook.
- Texture: As you cook, touch, and feel the ingredients. For instance, a cucumber is firm before being cut, then soft and cooling when you slice it.\
- Sounds: Notice the sounds and how loud or soft these are; like when you cut vegetables on the chopping board, or the sound of water boiling for the pasta or the sound of the food processor.
- Taste: Enjoy the taste of the food and see if you need to add in more seasoning. Try using herbs and spices like basil, thyme, rosemary, coriander, etc. as these enhance the flavours.
Cooking is enjoyable when you know what you have in your fridge, freezer, or pantry and where it exactly it is. So, make some time to clean these regularly to help you organise your groceries better and you will have a better idea of what you have in it.
Make it easier
Cooking mindfully doesn’t mean spending hours in the kitchen. You can use the following ideas to make it easier for yourself.
- Cooking mindfully doesn’t mean spending hours in the kitchen. You can use the following ideas to make it easier for yourself.
- Batch cook – Make some meals in larger quantities like soups, stews, and curries as you can cook it once and freeze or refrigerate. This simple tip means you will have three or four meals made at one time.
- You can use kitchen appliances like a rice cooker, slow cooker, or an air fryer, etc to make it easier to cook.
Whilst cooking mindfully you can still eat healthily and well for less and use these ideas below to do that:
- Keep fresh produce where you can easily see it and eat before spoiling, e.g., have fresh fruit and pre-cut vegetables on the middle shelves of the fridge. Keep packaged foods that have a nearer ‘use by’ date towards the front of drawers/shelves so they are more easily visible.
- Reduce energy costs by bulk cooking. Use your oven to make more than one thing, for example, when baking a cake or cookies, bake some vegetables at the same time.
- If you have prepared and pre-cut veggies for the week, and you have some left over, they will be great to throw in a soup. Also, wilted vegetables can still be used in soups, curries, stews, etc
You don’t have to give up your favourite treats but make swaps to cook healthier foods. E.g., can still have a brownie, but use less sugar and instead of white processed sugar use natural brown sugar. Be mindful of the quality and quantity of the ingredients you use.
Start mindfully preparing your meals, and with this practice you will look forward to cooking, enjoy what you are doing and have a sense of satisfaction.
Sujata Din is a Certified Health Coach who specialises in helping busy women live healthier and happier lives by making small yet sustainable changes to their diet, lifestyle, and mindset.