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Foodist Kitchen | Learn to Cook Without Recipes in 30 Days Sign Up Login Learn to cook without recipes in 30 days “I wish I cooked at home more, but it just takes so much time. I don’t know where to start.” You want to cook more, so what’s stopping you? “I love the idea of cooking but putting it into practice is a nightmare, and when no one wants to eat it I feel like I have wasted time of my life that I will never get back.” “Cooking takes me forever and it never turns out right, and it doesn’t feel very rewarding anyway.” “I have stopped believing that I am capable of cooking a good meal. And how can I ever develop a good relationship with food and not worry about it if I’m at the mercy of processed foods and restaurants?” “I want badly to be the mom that cooks at home, I just don’t know where to start…. It feels so overwhelming.” “I live by myself and am just too tired to cook. It seems a huge effort to do for myself only.” “Eating out all the time is really expensive, but I hate cooking so much that most the time I either give in or just skip the meal altogether.” “When I look at ANY recipe I want to cry. When I do try to make something and it doesn’t work out I get even more frustrated and say to myself, this is why I hate cooking.” Hi, I’m Darya Rose. I’m a neuroscience Ph.D, author of Foodist and creator of Summer Tomato, one of TIME’s 50 Best Websites. Before I developed a regular cooking habit there were few things that intimidated me more than the kitchen. I had no idea how to hold a knife or work a stove. When I did try to cook something it usually ended up terrible. With no flavor and burnt on the outside, while raw in the middle. Sounds yummy, I know. As a result most of the meals I ate came from a box or a bag or a restaurant. And forget about entertaining. The idea of cooking for anyone else was laughable. Why would I do that to anybody I care about? (Let alone myself). Thanks, but no thanks. If you had asked me at the time why I didn’t cook more I would have said that I just didn’t know how. And I don’t have the time or energy anyway. Cooking felt like a huge effort with low reward. And it was. At the time I had no idea how much power cooking had to change my life for the better. That it would have ended my struggle with weight and revolutionized my relationship with food and my body. I also didn’t understand that the struggles I had with cooking could be eliminated with just a few simple adjustments in my strategy. Cooking can be easy and less stressful if you turn it into a HABIT. When cooking isn’t a habit it feels hard and seems to take forever. Every step from planning, shopping and prepping, to cooking and cleanup takes more time and energy. Even if you do manage to throw something together there’s a good chance it doesn’t taste that good. But when cooking is a habit it isn’t stressful or frustrating. You become so efficient in the kitchen that it actually takes less time to cook than to go out to a restaurant. Even after a long day’s work you can walk in the door, open the fridge and know exactly what to do to get a tasty, healthy meal on the table in half an hour. When you have a habit you can do something easier and faster, because your brain doesn’t have to work as hard. In fact, if you have a strong habit it is easier to do it than not do it. That is what makes habits so powerful. Habits don’t develop when things are hard I’ve spent years trying to understand what prevents people from forming a cooking habit. I’ve done surveys, conducted interviews and analyzed thousands of answers. People give different reasons for why they don’t cook, but I discovered the common thread underlying all the issues: Relying on recipes is the main reason people struggle with cooking. Think about it. When you don’t cook regularly and you decide to try a new recipe you take a long list of ingredients to the store. You wander around the aisles looking for everything you need, which is stressful and can easily take 45 minutes. What do you do if you can’t find something you need? Ugh. You have to make an extra stop. When you get everything home, there is a decent chance you already had an open box of cornstarch or some ground cumin at the back of your pantry. But you aren’t exactly sure how old those were anyway, so you throw them away. Now you’re wasting food. You struggle through the recipe, which takes a lot of time because you’re constantly having to read and make sure you’re doing everything correctly. When you’re done the recipe may or may not have turned out well. Shockingly few recipes are adequately tested. If it doesn’t turn out well, can you fix it? Or are you just left eating a mediocre meal? What if everyone in your family doesn’t like it? Do you have to make two different recipes or more? Cooking from a recipe also means you probably made too much food and will be stuck with leftovers that no one wants. More food waste. And don’t forget the rest of those carrots and the other half of the onion you didn’t use. If you cook from recipes, you probably don’t have a plan to use up everything you purchased for the original recipe. Waste galore. Every single one of these things adds stress and frustration to the cooking process, not to mention a ton of time, effort and money. No wonder you don’t do this very often. Learn to cook without recipes The secret to building a cooking habit is learning to cook without recipes. This may sound like a magic trick, but it isn’t as hard as you think. Imagine having the freedom to make your weekly shopping trip at your own convenience, walking through the produce and butcher sections and deciding what to cook for the week based on what looks good. You choose three main courses, then imagine what flavors and side dishes sound like they would go well with them. This comes pretty naturally to you, since you cook so often and have experience with many ingredients. You know how to cook pretty much everything in the produce aisle, so you just have to decide what ingredients you need to create the dishes you’re imagining. You also know exactly where to find everything. Buying the correct amount of food is intuitive, since you know the eating habits of your household. That reminds you, your kids really loved that squash dish last week so you need to buy extra today. You already have all the basics at home, so you’ve picked up everything and are out of the store in under 20 minutes. Each evening you decide what you are “in the mood for” based on what you’ve purchased, and you have the knife and cooking skills you need to assemble it without much stress. When the food is getting close to finished, you have a taste and decide it’s a bit flat. You adjust the seasonings and add a few herbs until it sings. You make a mental note of this for next time. You already know you made something delicious, but your friends and family praise your skills. They ask what your secret is and if they can have the recipe. “Oh it’s just something I threw ...