I was reading the Independent the other day and stumbled upon an article about the BBC Good Food study. I was drawn to the stats that said that 1 in 10 can’t cook. That equates to 5 million adults!! This seems quite incredible given the success of TV chefs, The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef and the like! It seems that we are a nation of armchair chefs! For more top lines from this survey go to http://www.immediate.co.uk/news/brand/a-nation-of-skilled-cooks-but-one-in-ten-left-behind-finds-bbc-good-food-study/
52% say they can confidently cook 10 dishes or more from scratch. But that means that 48% can’t cook 10 dishes from scratch. To me this implies that a large chunk of that 48% will be relying on ready meals, prepared sauces, processed meat and oven ready products.
Consistently using manufactured or processed foods removes a lot of the control of the nutrient content of foods. They can be deceptively low in vegetables, despite the label giving the impression that there must be a couple of portions of veg. They can be surprisingly high in sugar, fat and salt compared to the same sauce or food product made at home – these ingredients in manufactured food contribute to consistent taste and longer shelf life which is what food manufacturers need to keep the price down for us and maximise profit for them. Some manufacturers are doing more than others to improve the nutritional profile of their products but until the market rewards improved nutritional quality across all products or until there is regulatory or voluntary standards set independently this is not going to happen across the board.
Eating well and improving dietary health requires confidence in the kitchen and an understanding of putting ingredients together. That cooking is back onto the National Curriculum is a start but there are so many adults out there who, according to this survey, missed out. So how do we get people more confident in the kitchen and cooking from scratch?
There are so many barriers. It is deemed to be more expensive to cook from scratch. We are well served with cheap convenience foods and prepared ingredients. These ingredients have added value and therefore generally cost more than the raw ingredients. We may choose higher quality ingredients or greater proportions of more expensive ingredients – so resulting in tastier and healthier final product but provided we do not waste the surplus ingredients it can still be better value than the cheap ready meal. If your repertoire is less than 10 meals then it can be hard to work out how to use those surplus ingredients and stuff goes to waste. It then seems that cooking from scratch is more expensive.
The other barrier to cooking from scratch is the time factor. Many of us are juggling children, jobs and commuting, when time is squeezed then often cooking from scratch is sacrificed and if there is a lack of confidence in cooking that is far more likely to happen. If you can only cook following a recipe to the letter that will limit how often you cook from scratch when time is lacking.
Does all this ring true for you? Would you like to cook more from scratch but feel that it is impossible? How do you start? Here are a few tips:
1 Menu planning can make you feel in control – knowing what you are going to make is half the battle won already. It makes shopping less random and often helps you to spend less. Half an hour spent thinking about the week ahead’s meals can save time, making cooking more enjoyable and result in much tastier food.
2 Where you have time to cook, prepare more than you need and use the leftovers in another meal on an evening when things are going to be crazy.
3 Have a good store cupboard and plenty in the freezer. There are so many store cupboard amazing meals that can be created quickly with a minimum of fresh ingredients. With some pasta, cans of tomatoes and canned beans or chick peas and some spices you can have a tasty meal within 20-30 minutes from pulling things out the cupboard to tucking in. Flag recipes like this so you can find them in a rush.
4 Don’t be afraid of changing an ingredient in a recipe – swapping vegetables or reducing the amount of one thing and adding something else is often how new, better recipes are discovered! OK – you may have a couple of weird meals that you won’t be repeating but the more you play the more confident you get.
There are some recipes on my blog that fit the bill – fairly quick, taste great the next day as leftovers, are easy to make but also have suggestions to adapt. I will add more I promise.
If you are local to South Buckinghamshire, I could do some cooking workshops and menu planning sessions. Have a look at the Food School section on my website….http://entirelynutrition.moonfruit.com/ or contact me.