Hey lovely, do you feel a throb of anxiety every time you step into the kitchen? Or even before that – when you think of being in the kitchen? Does the mere mention of cooking from scratch or preserving food at home make you cringe? Then you’re not alone. Lots of beginners experience kitchen anxiety & even kitchen enthusiasts like me feel a little flaky sometimes. Being comfortable in your kitchen is key to success. But anxiety surrounding it is one of the biggest vices that will hinder your journey to becoming more self-reliant, especially when it comes to food security.
So let’s beat it, yeah?
- Top 3 Reasons Why You Might Not be Comfortable in the Kitchen
- Here are 25 ways to be more comfortable in the kitchen.
- Use preparation & organization to start off on the right foot.
- Mindful Cooking & the Kitchen Environment contribute to your kitchen anxiety
- Attitude & Efficiency will help you be comfortable in your kitchen
- Efficient Cooking Techniques will help you be comfortable in the kitchen too
- Being comfortable in the kitchen requires Time Management & Sharp Decision-Making
- Add in Social & Celebratory Aspects to your Kitchen
- Additional Resources – Knock Kitchen Anxiety to the Curb
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Before we begin, let’s break down the three most prevalent reasons why kitchen anxiety plagues beginners. First you have to know what’s up, then you learn what to do about it, then you start leveling up & growing a stronger self-sufficient kitchen.
Top 3 Reasons Why You Might Not be Comfortable in the Kitchen
Fear of Failure
Probably the #1 reason anyone is uncomfortable about doing anything is fear. The same goes for being in the kitchen. Fear of failure bites those early on in their journey especially hard though. Making mistakes in the kitchen is a lot of pressure! And I totally get this one because I tend to be a perfectionist.
When you start from zero & have a goal of cooking from scratch or preserving food at home this anxiety is magnified because those sound like really lofty, complex skills!
But the fear of failing can grow a million times larger through comparison. IG stars and immaculate kitchens on Pinterest set a false standard. Nonetheless, the pressure to create perfect meals or successfully preserve food can be overwhelming then domino into anxiety about not meeting our own expectations.
Lack of Kitchen or Cooking Knowledge
Maybe you think you aren’t smart enough to build a food security blanket for your family by preserving food at home. Maybe not knowing how to handle certain equipment or ingredients has you feeling beat down before you even turn the oven on. It sounds lofty, important or fancy to talk about “cooking techniques”, “ingredient pairing”, or easy “food preservation methods”. And this might create a barrier to your kitchen confidence too.
But as bad as this feels right now, it’s not all it seems!
You can learn & grow from ANY STARTING POINT.
Forward is Forward.
Time Constraints & Overwhelm
We have a lot of responsibilities I as women – balancing work, family, other responsibilities & “me” time. (Wait, we were supposed to get that?)
But seriously, all this can leave little time for kitchen organization or food preservation if not for thoughtful planning. And I mean, time is already tight, yeah? So once again, topics like from scratch cooking as a beginner begin to feel incredibly daunting compared to microwave dinners. Then sets in the overwhelm & out goes time management. It’s a bad, vicious cycle.
If any of these reasons resonated with you, good. Because it’s my greatest hope with this whole Becoming Traditional & The Self-Sufficient Kitchen mentality that you are empowered. Empowered to embrace your kitchen as one small part of learning; a space of creativity, study, & most importantly, a pathway to greater self-reliance. Dismantling your kitchen anxiety triggers will pave the way for a more confident & successful YOU!
Here are 25 ways to be more comfortable in the kitchen.
I’ve categorized these (mostly) by theme so that they generally fall in the same vein as the others in that group.
Use preparation & organization to start off on the right foot.
- Declutter & Simplify:
- Get rid of what’s broken, duplicated, outdated & unloved. Keep countertops & cabinets organized for a visually calming kitchen. There’s so much behind this. What we see most definitely impacts how we feel. And clean spaces are the birth place of deep creativity & efficiency. Here’s my take on how to master organization in your kitchen.
- Meal Planning:
- Even the simplest meal plan will reduce daily decision-making stress. And this is big because the more brain space you clear up, the better you can conquer other things in the kitchen. Try different strategies to find what works for you. Themed nights? Meatless Mondays? Or you can do what I do which is play mix & match using the inventory I wrote down. I pair a protein with a veg, a side usually too & pick a condiment or topping that’s hanging around & needs using. Done.
- Prep in Advance:
- What ingredients can you prep when you have the time so cooking sessions later in the week or month go smoother? If you diced all your onions and froze them, that’s what…5-10 min saved? Especially if you’re still honing your basic knife skills. Add a few of these together & you might have enough to shave off an hour or more!
- Designate a Cooking Day:
- This is a popular tip for a reason. Set aside a specific day (each week or month, it’s up to you) for more involved cooking or longer cooking periods. Doing this allows you to make simpler meals on other days or just sit back and enjoy leftovers like using the freebie spot on a game board.
Mindful Cooking & the Kitchen Environment contribute to your kitchen anxiety
- One-Pot & Sheet Pan Meals:
- Lifesavers. Forreal, forreal. Highlight recipes that simplify cooking because not only will you get the win for having something delicious AND cooked from scratch, but it won’t take you as long. Not in the making or cleaning. Time is money right? And it’s more valuable if you don’t want to be (or can’t be) in the kitchen that long anyway. So less cleanup from food scraps or packaging waste is good. Or maybe, this means less water for cleaning dishes. Either way, this adds a significant measure of sustainability to your kitchen!
- Ambiance and Atmosphere:
- Don’t overlook the impact of music, lighting or scents to create a soothing kitchen atmosphere! I LOVE playing music in my kitchen & over on IG stories, you’re liable to hear it all. From Motown to Lofi beats, Sarah Vaughn to 2000’s R&B/Hip-Hop, Contemporary Christian & even some Gracie’s Corner if you’re lucky. Use natural light whenever possible (it’s glorious!) but opt for bright light to stay alert & energized if you do need synthetic. I prefer to bask in the scent of whatever I’m cooking, but if you’re organizing your kitchen pantry spaces for instance, you could employ a simmer pot. Simmer some citrus, spices and aromatics or essential oils for a pleasant blend.
- Prioritize Self-Care:
- Whether you’re in & out, or running a marathon – plan to include some attention to yourself. Take breaks & stay hydrated. Keep your favorite drink in your favorite cute lil cup right on the counter where you’re working. These little pauses will break up the tasks & reduce overall stress levels. That helps you be comfortable in your kitchen while giving you steam to keep pushing through to the finish line!
- Comfortable Kitchen Environment:
- You need to invest in practical kitchen comfort. Something as simple as kitchen floor mats and supportive footwear will go far. Especially if you’re planning to stand in one spot for any period of time. You might also find comfort in posting some positive kitchen affirmations around your workspace or on your counter & fridge. Seeing them & saying them repeatedly will bring calm to your space.
- Practice Mindfulness:
- The goal here is to use sensory connections to reduce your kitchen anxiety. And by this I mean, things like deep breathing before you begin. That increases your awareness, which speaking of, you should be attentive to the foods you work with. Really feel their textures, smell their fragrances, listen to the sizzle or the chop. This & other things like it are to keep you present. Engage with your tasks, equipment, senses, the people around you & the food you cook on a deeper level than just shaking a little salt & pepper over something.
Attitude & Efficiency will help you be comfortable in your kitchen
- Establish a Routine:
- Consistency leads to progress and that familiarity can bring order & predictability to kitchen activities. A routine is like your North Star. You’ll always know what direction you’re headed in. And the beautiful thing is, your routines can change as you grow & need them to. They are not goals. Rather, routines are how the goals become reality.
- Experiment with Mindful Eating:
- Similar to what I mentioned above, mindful eating is the practice of being aware of your food. Learn to truly savor flavors and appreciate the effort put into your meals. At the very least, learn what combinations you love & those you can do without.
- Set Realistic Expectations:
- This isn’t buried in here on purpose, but it’s probably the #1 thing you can do to increase how comfortable in the kitchen you feel. Do not expect perfection. Accept that every meal may not be a culinary masterpiece. Especially if that’s not your interest, passion or training. Does it eat? THAT’s the question. And if the answer is “Yes!” then that’s all that matters. Give yourself G.R.A.C.E.
Everything won’t be perfect, but growth happens only in the doing so you have to get out there!
- Focus on Nutrition, Not Perfection:
- Shift the focus from presentation to nutritious, satisfying meals. This kinda takes you off the hook for how something looks too if you think about it. But ultimately, food is to nurture and fuel us. The joy of eating good food knows no bounds. If you’re new to rich, nurturing foods I recommend Sally Fallon’s The Complete Book of Nourishing Traditions. I also highly recommend her complementing children’s book The Nourishing Traditions: the Book of Baby & Child Care.
Efficient Cooking Techniques will help you be comfortable in the kitchen too
- Time-Saving Appliances:
- I’m all about manual tools in case power outages or fuel shortages leave you exposed. And there are downsides there too like i the solar option can’t capture rays adequately enough it’s kaput. You get the point. But sometimes, having something electric or solar-powered can streamline cooking tasks. Using a food processor could save you time on the end of a long day if you have a lot to do. If you don’t though, using it will actually cost more time once you factor in cleaning it vs cleaning your pretty chef’s knife.
- Quick and Easy Recipes:
- Your self-sufficient kitchen logbook needs a section for your ever-growing collection of quick and straightforward recipes for busy days. But really, any recipe you include should be easy to follow because anything complicated might have you skipping over it. And doing so means skipping out on practicing the valuable techniques you gain from that recipe too. As for “quick” recipes, I’m not a total advocate of that because there’s something very rich about being in the kitchen. Think of it as building a heritage for those around you when you are slow, measured & intentional about how you move around in the kitchen.
- Explore Batch Cooking:
- I like this because in the same 35 minutes I was in the kitchen, I might have made 4-5 bags of marinated chicken which is 5 separate days of meals I don’t have to think about. Other than to take it out the fridge to defrost! This tactic works best when you prepare enough for 1-2 days of leftovers. Cooking in batches and freezing (or preserving) those portions for busy days helps cut down on kitchen overwhelm.
- Incorporating Pre-Made Ingredients:
- Pre-made ingredients will expedite the cooking process. If you go this route, opt to pre-clean, chop or freeze your ingredients yourself. 1) Because food chains pack preservatives & other junk into foods 2) you’ll save money compared to pre-made store versions. And just maybe that money could be used to buy something in bulk, or 1-2 other items for your extended pantry.
Being comfortable in the kitchen requires Time Management & Sharp Decision-Making
- Recipe Rotation:
- Don’t get too caught up in the millions of Pinterest pins here – I’ve done it too. So, when it comes to recipes, keep it simple. Stick to a few trustworthy dishes that are (or can soon become!) your family’s favorite. As you build up, you’ll be able to rotate through longer stretches. And once you have 10-20 of these, you might only be eating that meal once a month instead of every week. By keeping the recipes fresh, seasonal & just outright comforting, you’ll always have a fallback. And this is how you can reduce decision fatigue.
- Time Management Skills:
- There’s no way to be comfortable in the kitchen if you’re always falling over cabinet doors, searching for spices or constantly rearranging the counter for more space. To stay ahead of the flurry, make a plan before you even step foot in the kitchen. Know what you need, visualize it in your mind then execute on it. Stage your ingredients & tools and set a timer if you need to!
- Utilizing Cooking Apps and Tutorials:
- You don’t need to reinvent the wheel although it might be fun to do so sometimes. Cooking via apps or online tutorials provide inspiration and guidance so take advantage of the benefits of hands-free cookbooks. I love traditional, paperback cookbooks and would suggest getting a book stand if you do too. I’ve also used something like MealLime online in the past & loved the way it remained lit and turned to the next step for me.
- Learn to Delegate:
- This one might be big for you if you don’t particularly enjoy having company in the kitchen. But share your cooking responsibilities with family members to lighten the workload. Any way that reduces the stress of being in the kitchen for you is going to help make it more enjoyable in the long run. If you can handle it, maybe everyone has a responsibility in the kitchen each meal. Or, you can lean on just one or two others to take care of lighter tasks like dicing, mixing or plating.
Add in Social & Celebratory Aspects to your Kitchen
- Cooking with Loved Ones:
- Even if you are uneasy about cooking with others in the kitchen while you’re doing your thing, consider the positive impact of involving family and friends in the cooking process. Their presence can help you feel more comfortable in the kitchen like a favorite blanket or a cup of warm tea. Embrace making every meal a moment you can cherish by melting into the space you have.
- Acknowledging Progress:
- I preach so much about starting small but here goes again. Being comfortable in the kitchen is often overlooked but it creates a positive relationship with cooking. It’s more than conquering a new recipe or mastering a cooking technique although that matters too! But begin to appreciate the little achievements like successfully chopping veggies today, a perfectly-timed pancake flip tomorrow. Your small steps make up your growth & you can create a habit of acknowledging your progress by writing some of these down in your kitchen logbook! keeping a journal or simply taking a mental note of your achievements.
- Cooking Classes:
- Some level of formal education might help you break the ice. Even if this is talking to a seasoned home cook & getting tips from them. It might seem intimidating to ask at first, but it’s a valuable investment in your confidence, capabilities & ultimately, your self-reliance. A class can cover anything no matter your skill level. Plus, there’s also hands-on experience, exposure to diverse cuisines, community & accountability & structured learning. Whether you choose virtual or in-person through your local community center, this may just be the thing that helps you most.
- Use Cooking Apps:
- The app store will have hundreds of cooking apps for you to explore. Whether you’re looking for specific dietary friendly recipes or need step-by-step guidance, there’s likely an app for it. But don’t let this stop you from getting in the kitchen & doing the thing though!
Additional Resources – Knock Kitchen Anxiety to the Curb
I want this to feel incredibly attainable for you so here’s some more resources to help you crush it every single time.
- The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify by Francine Jay
- This book provides practical tips on decluttering and simplifying your living spaces, including the kitchen, to create a more calming environment. What you see will impact how you feel!
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
- This book is the real deal. I first got it at our library but it teaches the essentials of good cooking & emphasizes the joy and simplicity of the process. The perfect resource for reducing kitchen anxiety!
- The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters
- I haven’t gotten to this one yet, but Alice Waters is a dream food writer & I’ve read other works of hers. She focuses on the beauty of simple, fresh ingredients and uncomplicated cooking techniques that promotes a mindful and joyful approach to cooking.
Podcasts & YouTube:
- The Minimalists Podcast
- Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists) discuss minimalism and intentional living, offering insights on simplifying various aspects of life, including the kitchen.
- The Kitchen Counter – Home Cooking Tips and Inspiration
- Hosted by Roger Anderson, this podcast provides practical cooking tips, inspiration, and interviews with chefs, encouraging a relaxed and enjoyable approach to home cooking.
- YouTube Channel: Tasty
- Tasty’s videos feature quick and easy recipes with visually appealing presentations. Their focus on simplicity and creativity can inspire viewers to approach cooking with enthusiasm.
- Online Cooking Classes:
- Platforms like Skillshare and MasterClass offer cooking classes that allow individuals to learn at their own pace and that’s key to gaining confidence in the kitchen.
- Recipe Apps:
- Allrecipes & Yummly provide a vast collection of recipes catering to various skill levels & cuisines. You’ll find quick and easy recipes or you can explore more intricate dishes.
I encourage you to experiment with these tips & find out which work best for you. And share your story & progress with me over on IG