The useless cook

This is written for those of us who are thoroughly useless in the kitchen yet wish to maintain a healthy diet. A healthy diet can be maintained with very limited cooking skills, and on a tight budget. This post explores how to maintain a healthy diet with minimal cooking skills and with a low expenditure of time and money.

We need to eat the five main food groups to maintain good health. These food groups are:

  1. Fruit
  2. Grains and cereals
  3. Meats. Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans
  4. Dairy. milk, cheese, yoghurts and their alternatives
  5. Vegetables, legumes and beans

Salads are easy to make and at their most basic consists of cutting up greens and tossing them on a plate. Buy items such as lettuce, carrots, beetroot, cucumber, peas, tomato and capsicum to prepare your salads. Perhaps add some cold meat. You can make meat and salad sandwiches. This embraces the food groups of legumes and meats.

Vegetables can be simmered in a saucepan of water until ready to eat. Buy items such as potatoes, cauliflower, brocolli, brussel sprouts and pumpkin. Cut the appropriate quantities into pieces and put in a saucepan of water. Simmer at a low heat and prod them with a fork every so often. When they seem soft throughout they are ready to eat. You can overcook or undercook them at first, as I did the first time I prepared such a meal. Don’t worry about that, just do it again and you will soon be simmering your vegetable so they are just right. This embraces the food groups of vegetables and meats.

Rolled oats and muesli with milk are suitable for breakfast and require no cooking. Cold boiled rice with milk is an agreeable breakfast and you can use leftover rice from an evening meal. Boiled eggs on toast are another quick and cheap breakfast idea. This embraces the food groups of grains and cereals.

Fruit, nuts, sultanas, raisins and dates are good for snacks and nibbles. A convenient way to take in fruit. Too many Australians eat far too little fruit. Furthermore snacking on these things is rather healthier, and cheaper, than snacking on biscuits, cakes and muffins. I also find carrots are a good snack and a bag of carrots can be acquired very cheaply indeed.

Cheese and crackers, with a cup of tea, are an economical form of providing hospitality for guests. And much cheaper than going out to a cafe. Scones with jam are an even cheaper form of hospitality that may go down very well with guests. Scones are quick and easy to bake and require only flour, sugar and milk. One can add sultanas too. I find simmering the sultanas in water first makes them plump with moisture. Toss them into the dough and bake them. The first time I made scones they came out overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside. The second attempt worked fine so don’t give up at the first attempt.

Later when the basic skills of boiling, frying and grilling things are mastered one can go on to learn more. Making simple stews, curries and stir fries are good for the next step in expanding ones cooking skills. They are relatively simple dishes that can be prepared quickly and easily using common ingredients. I like common ingredients because I can use them in a variety of meals and that makes it easier to find uses for them before they reach the use by date. Every time I buy any food, I ask myself “can I use all of this before it goes off”. As a result my food waste is very close to zero.

This post does not purport to give nutrition advice. Readers may find the “National Health and Medical research Council” website useful. Here is the link:

I may be one of Australia’s more useless cooks however the above tips have served me well. All that is really needed is a saucepan, a frying pan, a knife, a plate, a fork and a wooden spoon.

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