This post is brought to you by Blue Apron. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.
I remember a few years after I became a mom, making dinner one night with 3 toddlers running around my feet feeling so incredibly burnt out in the kitchen and realizing suddenly that I would be cooking dinner just about every night for the next 18+ years. The idea was so daunting. The work to cook a meal, the mess to clean it up, every evening during the time of day when all my kids were the most grumpy, was like climbing a mountain at 5pm everyday, just to do it all over again the next day. How on earth was I ever going to think of enough things to cook? And don’t even get me started on meal planning and grocery shopping with three kids all under three… Ug.
When I first left home and became an adult, grocery shopping, cooking for myself and my roommates, and eventually my new husband was a novelty, it was fun! But like driving, laundry, or any other daily menial task that starts out fun at first, but ends up feeling more like a chore eventually, cooking dinner every night at four years into motherhood had become a dreaded but necessary evil.
But food is special, food is important. Food nourishes our bodies and souls; it brings so much joy and magic into life. Just look at what happens when we travel. So much of our experience revolves around what we eat in a new place, and our memories revolve around the smells and tastes and sounds of the place.
I didn’t want the process of creating meals to feed my family to be something I dreaded, I wanted it to be the cherry on top of my day. Some of our best conversations happen around the table at dinner each night and I set the tone for the meal while I’m making dinner.
I want my kids memories of home to be filled with the sounds of pots clanging happily, and delicious familiar smells pouring out of a warm kitchen. I want the many hours I spend making food for my family to be filled with joy. I want our memories in the kitchen to be as full of flavor as the food I put on the table.
But how do we enjoy a task that takes so much planning, prep and work, that we have to do everyday? How do we avoid recipe fatigue and keep things interesting. How do we bring joy back into cooking, while we’re in the middle of living busy lives?
After 16 years of motherhood, I’ve come up with a few tricks, and now cooking dinner every night is one of my favorite parts of the day. And by the time we all sit down to dinner, our home is full of flavor and joy. Here are my top 5 tips for bringing joy back into cooking.
Tidy your space.
One of the easiest thing you can do to make your time in the kitchen more joyful is to get your space tidied up. A clean and organized kitchen is so much nicer to cook in. Spend a few minutes organizing your space, get rid of kitchen tools and dishes you never use, create a system for where things go, clean out the sink, start with a clear counters and a clean space and every time you cook will feel more joyful.
Clean up as you go.
This is one of those golden pieces of advice that my mother passed down from me. She is a jedi at cleaning up as she cooks, and I have taken her example to heart. Cleaning up as you cook makes the after dinner mess so much less daunting, and makes the whole experience more joyful. After dinner, do the dishes as a family and carry on your dinner conversations as you clean up together. It will teach your kids to help and some of our favorite family memories happen doing the dishes after dinner. Expert tip: start each cooking session with an empty dishwasher so you can easily rinse and set dirty dishes right in. The longer food sits on a dish/pot the harder it is to get off, so cleaning up as you go makes the job easier all around.
Sign up for a meal delivery service.
One of the best things I did for myself as a mom was sign up for Blue Apron. Letting someone else plan the meal and do the grocery shopping has reduced so much recipe fatigue and brought a lot of fun back into the kitchen for me. I get 2-3 meal kits delivered a week, and it’s fun to try new recipes without having to come up with them myself, or do the grocery shopping! If there is one thing I loathe as a mom it’s grocery shopping. Blue Apron delivers fresh ingredients perfectly proportioned, with easy-to-make recipes that are always delicious and can usually be finished in 35-45 minutes. I’ve actually learned new skills in the kitchen cooking from their recipes, which is an unexpected bonus. I’ve tried several meal delivery services, and Blue Apron is my favorite. Their recipes are so creative, and it’s easy to find recipes that fit our lifestyle with their nutritionist-approved dietary tags. If you want to try Blue Apron you can get $60 off over the first three boxes by clicking here.
Last week Ethan and I made Ras El Hanout Steak from Blue Apron’s Meditteranean menu and it was out of this world good. Even my pickiest eaters loved it. And we had so much fun cooking together in the kitchen, which leads me to…
Get your kids involved.
Cooking dinner doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. Some of my best memories, and teaching moments with my children have come while we’re bent over the table chopping vegetables or kneading bread dough. I’ve gotten to know them on a much deeper level while they prattle away about their likes, and thoughts as we saute onions or brown meat. They learn valuable skills in the kitchen, and it creates a family culture where everyone helps and does their part. Another bonus, when kids help cook a meal they are way more invested in it and usually won’t fight you on eating it. Blue Apron recipes are easy to follow even Ava can read and understand them, and I like to have my kids help on nights when we’re cooking with Blue Apron because the new recipe adds an element of surprise which my kids find exciting. Cooking with kids is so joyful and a great way to infuse a little more fun back into your nightly routine.
Turn on some tunes.
How boring would a movie be without any music? Music makes life in general more fun, and it’s the same with cooking. I like to create playlists that I can pull up easily based on my mood and instantly breathe some life back into the kitchen. I always play music while I cook. I work faster and have way more fun. And since your kids are in there cooking with you, create a playlist together and dance your way through dinner time.
I hope these tips give you some ideas and inspiration for bringing more joy into cooking. Do you like to cook? How do you make it fun?