Our Journey from Boxed Meals to Healthy Cooking

Our Journey from Boxed Meals to Healthy Cooking

I first wrote about our cooking journey back in 2012, shortly after it started. Then promptly forgot about it. A lot has happened in the six years since, and our cooking routine has become so regular it never occurred to me to write an update. Until a friend drew this post to my attention again via the Monday Blogs tag on Twitter. Oh yeah, I thought, I should really let people know how that turned out.

I’m pleased to report that my husband has actually discovered a deep love of cooking. He watches cooking channels on YouTube and puts their advice into practice. He makes this amazing shallot wine sauce that absolutely explodes with flavor. And there have been fights (and subsequent treaties) made over his Mongolian Beef leftovers.

I, on the other hand, still hate cooking but still love eating. So I still swallow the necessity of cooking good meals, even if I’m never going to love the process.

It hasn’t always been easy

While we lived in Quebec, we settled into an easy routine. We even cut out the one night a week take-out tendency and started going out for nice dinners once a month instead. I picked up the extra night of cooking (though my husband will sometimes trade with me). We got used to the ingredients available. Eating was good.

Then we moved to England. I don’t want to say we ate poorly there, because we certainly didn’t. But there were challenges. First and foremost, the kitchen was tiny. Our fridge was so small it tucked under the counter, and our freezer was smaller still; it sat on the counter above the fridge. In fact we had to buy that freezer. It didn’t come with the flat (although we left it for the next person when we moved). This meant we had to grocery shop once a week, instead of every two weeks. It also meant we had to be careful about how much we bought and how many leftovers we ended up with. I got good at playing fridge tetris.

Adjusting our habits wasn’t a simple matter of discovering the difference in available ingredients either. Food culture is completely different in England than it is in Canada. To the point where pubs compete with the price of eating at home. And shops are full of pre-made meals that you throw into the oven or microwave. It’s such a common practice to buy ready-made meals over there that our regular grocery store removed half an aisle worth of raw ingredients to make room for a third pre-made section. And several popular chefs have made it their mission to get people back to the kitchen. Of course it also didn’t help that we lived in the UK for four months before we realized they call zucchinis courgettes.

The limitations of space, and cooking implements (we didn’t want to buy a lot because we were only going to be there a year) meant that we had to balance health with practicality. We had to buy a lot of pre-made mashed potatoes, but tried to put them into otherwise homemade meals. I think the biggest challenge was dodging artificial sweeteners; many British products boast that they don’t contain sugar, but they’re filled with aspartame instead.

It sometimes blows my mind how far we’ve come

Of course, living in England had its pluses. Honey was dirt cheap. And it was easy to go to the store and pick up fresh fruit from England or Europe at pretty much any time of year. Fresh fruit and cream became one of our favorite evening stacks. We missed it quite a lot when we moved back to Canada (It’s strangely hard to find cream where we live now), though there’s a lot of fresh produce in our new area.

While we lived in England we cut fast food from our lives entirely – something we were pretty proud of. Now we live five minutes from another McDonalds, so that’s gone out the window. McDonalds food has a strange way of getting into your head even when you know it’s the worst thing for you. But aside from the occasional weakness when life is hectic, we stick to our homemade schedule. We’ve moved beyond following recipes to creating our own. We’ve even started creating homemade versions of things we used to buy boxed. I make a mean beef stew. Hubby has spent years perfecting his homemade ramen recipe (it’s all about finding the right noodles, apparently), and I’ve just started fiddling with a homemade taco bake concoction.

Looking at that old post is somewhat surreal; it simply wouldn’t occur to us to eat like that anymore. I’ve even solved the problem of needing an easy night by building leftovers in to the cooking schedule. (Have I mentioned that I love my crock pot?)

We’re still learning

While we’re proud of how far we’ve come on our cooking journey, we still have a long way to go. We’ve talked about making our own broths and soup bases since we already make a lot of sauces. There are a lot of advantages to making your own stuff. The big one is controlling the amount of salt and other unhealthy additives you put in. A friend of mine made homemade teriyaki sauce while we were visiting for Christmas and I think it was the most amazing sauce I’ve ever tasted.

But the downside of homemade stuff is ever the time it takes to make and the space to store it. We could make homemade soup bases and stock, but it would take hours in the kitchen. And then we’d have to find somewhere to put it all. We only have room for the one fridge/freezer right now, and our pantry is pretty packed now that we try to keep fresh ingredients in the house.

And there remain things that are difficult to cook at home. Anything that involves breading makes me groan. I won’t do it more than once in a blue moon. We do make our own chips and fries sometimes, but we’re still looking for the perfect cooking method. On the flip side, I often order things I can’t or won’t make at home when we go out to eat, which makes the experience more meaningful.

If you’re on the fence about trying to make more meals at home, I can’t recommend it enough. We don’t even think about it anymore; it’s just a given that we prefer cooking healthy, enjoyable meals in our own kitchen.

2 Replies to “Our Journey from Boxed Meals to Healthy Cooking”

    1. Thank you! :D If you hadn’t reminded me of the old one, I might not have thought to write this one. And it made me realize how far we’ve actually come!

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