Help with Cooking

Updated on March 09, 2013
C.Z. asks from Manning, IA
21 answers

So today, remember the word today because this might change, I want to start eating a whole lot healthier. I want no processed foods in our diet or as little as possible. The thing is when I go grocery shopping Trav comes with and processed things just happen to "appear" in the cart. We are a omnivourus family so just getting fresh veggies doesn't quite cut it. Also I like flavor so finding flavoring for me is hard.

Meat we usually have two deer in our freezer and a home grown beef so that is usually as healthy as it gets!

Can someone please help me find a) a good cook book for just healthy foods with a grocery list for those foods? b) an app for nook so that I can just carry that with me? c) any suggestions that can help me be a more disaplined shopper/ cooker?!

Also on a side note I have little gardening space, what would you grow for foods? ( 2 tomatoe plants, a green pepper plant are already on the list) It will more than likely be a 4 foot by 5 foot plot if I am lucky.

What can I do next?

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answers from Washington DC on

I don't mean to be rude, but isn't this basically asking "tell me what to do to change?"

I think you're the only one that can answer that. You just change. Try it a different way the next time you're at the store. Go google "healthy eating".

But everyone is a "flavor" person, that's not unique. So "today", which is the word you wanted me to remember from the beginning - i assume b/c you're not really fully committted to change - today remember that you can eat healthy for just one day.

Don't worry about tomorrow, you can decide tomorrow if you want to snack. But today - just eat healthy.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Columbia on

Don't bring Trav.

Make a weekly menu and only buy what is needed to complete that menu.

For instance:

Sunday: Crockpot rotisserie chicken. 1 chicken, bag of potatoes, veggies, wheat rolls.

Monday: Chicken salad on bed of spring greens.

Tuesday: Deer roast in crockpot. Season lightly so it can be used for other things. Corn and crescent rolls.

Weds: Veggie soup or chili with leftover deer meat.

Thursday: Tacos or spaghetti.

Friday: Pizza night. Try a more Italian style home made pizza to keep it light. Pizza dough is easy to make yourself.

Saturday: leftovers

Write your list based on the above, plus breakfast foods and lunch foods. Stick to the list, stick to the list, stick to the list.

And don't shop hungry unless you want to end up with stuff that isn't on the list.


ETA: I don't agree with staying out of the frozen aisle. Frozen fruits and veggies are often an excellent way to get tasty veggies on the cheap. And unlike canned, they are frozen at the peak of freshness, not cooked, and have no salt or preservatives.

It's a nice idea to only buy fruits and veggies from the produce section, but it's not always feasible for those of us on a budget.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

With that space for gardening, I would check out Square Foot Gardening. There are websites dedicated to it, and I have a great book Square Foot Gardening Answer Book, by Mel Bartholomew.

It's fabulous! It allows you to grow a ton of food organically in a small amount of space. I live on a farm, but still choose this method because it's easy and effective. Check it out. :)

ETA: Here's what I'm growing this year in 3 4x4 gardens and one larger garden: corn, onion, thyme, lavender, green beans, lemongrass (lots to keep away mosquitoes), green and red peppers, jalapenos, petunias (keep away bugs), sunflowers (2 types), marigolds (keep away bugs), garlic (keep away bugs), rosemary, basil, sage, oregano, pumpkins, potatoes, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Even though we aren't vegetarian, I like two veggie books the most:
The Moosewood Cookbook and laurel's Kitchen Recipes. Both have lots of yummy recipes and ideas on how to cook a more healthy diet. They don't have "grocery lists" they have "ingredient lists".

With the garden, the closer you put the plants, the fewer weeds you will deal with. However, you need to pay close attention to what you are planting near each other, so look into "companion planting" to help you there.

One thing I try to remind myself of is how much cheaper it is for me to make so much of that processed food from scratch at home. My mother had a famous saying, "A bag of oranges cost about the same as a bag of Doritos, which is going to feed you longer and better?" Don't forget how much processed food COSTS, it may seem cheaper but it's not when you consider how bad it is for you. Just looking at the salt content alone is usually enough to steer me clear of it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

Grow green beans and/or peas on a trellis/fence! Grow on the North side of the garden space so they don't block the sun from other plants.
Try to stick with meat and veggies. I strongly suggest getting a steamer basket insert thing - the little metal collapseable kind, maybe $10. Steamed fresh veggies are tasty and super healthy - do not overcook! Also look up Roasted Veggie recipes! many times you can take an assortment of veggies, coat with EVOO and favorite seasoning, toss in the over to roast! super easy and super tasty.
Try experimenting with different types of seasonings on your veggies (both steamed and roasted). Nothing with TOO much salt, but experiment - do you like spicey, savory?
I don't really do many recipes - I just try to stick with healthy meat, good fresh veggies raw or NOT overcooked and limit processed carbs. We do whole wheat bread, tortillas, pasta etc. And we LOVE frozen peas!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Eating well is actually fairly easy.
Buy real, whole food.
Never eat a portion of food (except veges/fruits) larger than your fist.
Drink lots of water. Don't drink soda.
Stay out of the frozen aisle and away from the boxes and cans.
Experiment and practice, cooking is a process that takes time to learn.
Fresh garlic, ginger and peppers give lots of flavor to meat and veges.
BAKE or make your own desserts, in small batches. Go OUT for treats instead of keeping them around the house (a donut, an ice cream cone, etc.) and you'll consume a lot less.
It's not hard, if you love to cook and you love to eat it just comes naturally!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Think about what you already like to eat. What processed foods or mixes are showing up in your grocery cart? Are they things like cream of 'whatever' soups in cans, jarred sauces, seasoning packets, etc? Make a list of the stuff you buy (or that sneaks into your cart) regularly, and the foods that your family likes (tacos, spaghetti, chicken nuggets, etc).

Then examine those products. Look at the labels.

Start simply and slowly. For example, if you always buy taco seasoning in those little packets, stop buying those and make your own taco seasoning. Do you rely on canned cream soups? Learn to make a simple white sauce and how to flavor it.

Just learn to replace your most frequently used processed foods with simple homemade ones and you can still enjoy your meals, but with fresh foods. For example, instead of taco seasoning and a jar of "cheese" sauce and a jar of pasta for taco night, you can flavor lean ground beef or ground turkey with homemade taco seasoning (just a few spices, no sugar, no chemicals, and with a salt level you can control), and real cheese that you grated yourself, and a homemade quick salsa.

PM me if you need any recipes for things like taco seasoning, ranch dressing mix, or any other basics.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

There are so many ways to go about doing this and you are going to get a wide range of opinions. In the end you are going to have to do what works best for you and your family. With that being said, you can start by eliminating foods that have certain ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup (or just regular corn syrup) is a big one and will greatly reduce your processed food intake because it is in most processed foods. After that you can try eliminating things like MSG (Monosodium glutamate) and caramel coloring (I'm sure there are more but these are my top 3 "Say-Away" ingredients. Like I said, this will eliminate *most* of the processed foods. After that anything else in the store is, almost, fair game. When you get to dairy it really depends on your family. We drink almond milk (but have regular milk for our coffee) but we can't seem to stay away from yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, or regular cheese. I read somewhere that cows milk, and other dairy products, is actually highly acidic (when it is ingested) and causes acid build up in your body and actually depletes calcium reserves because your body has to use that to calm the acidity that the milk causes. Like I said to each their own but we are all here rooting for you!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

I used to keep a small compact garden - no pesticides. I used marigolds for insect prevention and planted huge pots of lettuce for the grasshoppers to eat instead of "my food". Anyhoo, I grew corn, bell peppers of several colors, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, some root veggies - beets, carrots. You will be able to fit a lot into a 4x5 garden. Also, consider height - things that will grow up a trellis will maximize your space.

As for eating healthy - I try and limit processed foods. We eat a lot of chicken, veggies - either fresh or frozen, fruit - berries and bananas mostly. Flavorings are easy - I use a lot of indian and thai flavors - just peruse the seasoning aisles at the grocery and don't be afraid to try different combinations of things.

I don't have cook book suggestions - sorry. Just cook fresh food - whole wheat pastas, brown or multi grain rices, lean meats, fruits and veggies. Basically, if comes out of a box - don't eat it :) Sooo much easier said then done.

Unless you want to go organic - that is a whole different thing - you will want to find local markets that sell home grown foods or plant your own.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Have you tried Pinterest? Also, is helpful. Once you find a recipe on All Recipes, then you can pin it on your Pinterest board. This way, all your recipes remain on line for easy access and you get feedback from others on what's good, what worked, what should be tweeked to make it taste better. I found a great recipe for cooking brussel sprouts. My mom never made them and my kids love them!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Use for recipes. If you pay for the subscription, you can get menu plans and shopping lists. Also I get Cooking light and they have a scanning thing now where the whole mag shows up on line. Recipes and shopping lists. Only problem with cooking light is some of the stuff is too much work. However, everything I have made from there makes my family very happy!

Sit and make a menu plan and shopping list when you have a couple of hours.

Then go shopping by yourself at night when kids are asleep and hubs is home. If you want him to help you shop, let him put away groceries, that can be his part.

Prepare things ahead of time. Such as cut peppers into strips and put in plastic bags and keep in fridge or freezer so you have em for fajitas or stir fry. Chop scallions and keep in a baggie so you have em for a healthy taco salad.

These are my suggestions. Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

I subscribe to 2 magazines that I love the recipes. Made from scratch, tons of flavor, lots of vegies and meat combos that I would never think of. COOKING LIGHT and REAL SIMPLE. The Real Simple also has tons of other articles that I don't pay much attention to but their simple meals are yummy. Check out their websites to start. Real Simple (I think it is that one) has a section where they have 5 nights of dinners and it comes with a shopping list.



answers from Boston on

Start with one meal at a time. For us, the easiest to keep healthy is dinner - lean protein like chicken, turkey, fish and beans should be your go-to entrees, and lean red meat once or twice a week in a 3-5 oz portion is fine. Round that out with either two servings of veggies, or a veggie and a whole-grain, real-food starch such as brown rice, corn, or real potatoes and you have a good, healthy dinner. There are a million ways to flavor up your protein - spice rubs, homemade marinades, cooking with liquids like broth, or wine, using herbs, garlic, onion etc. We try to have at least one meat-free meal a week, usually something like ravioli or stuffed shells that use ricotta cheese, which is a relatively healthy cheese, or maybe omelets with lots of veggies. Dinner salads are also a great option and so simple - a nice big salad topped with grilled steak, chicken or shrimp is delicious and filling. I also try to do one Paleo meal per week (no dairy or grain).

Then you can move on to lunches and breakfasts, then snacks.

If you google this there are literally thousands of blogs and recipes out there. I like - lots of menu plans for specific dietary needs and lots of good, up-to-date advice. Start surfing the web and pinning or saving recipes that look appealing, then work them into your menu plan. I like Cozi for this - if I see a recipe that I like, I can load it into my Cozi recipe box using my bookmark tool and then add it to my meal plan when I do my calendar for the week. I can send the grocery list to my phone or print it out.


answers from Rochester on

You don't necessarily need a cook book or an app to tell you what kinds of foods are healthy...stick to the outside of the grocery store, where you'll find fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, eggs, dairy, etc. It's okay to go into the middle for the things you need...whole grain brown rice, good pasta, LOTS of different seasonings (that's where you get your flavor!), etc.

There's nothing wrong with red meat...what people forget is that a portion size is really anywhere from 3-5 ounces. That's about the size of the palm of your hand. We tend to overindulge. Chicken, fish, turkey, etc...all great...and tofu is a tasty substitute for meat, if done correctly. We use it in stir-frys, and it's delicious.

I'm sorry I can't recommend a good cook book...I like Betty Crocker, but I usually just go by taste and experiment. If you are looking for something specific, like veggie recipes, pasta recipes, homemade sauces, etc, please pm me and I'd love to share!



answers from New York on

I basically learned to cook from the Moosewood cookbooks. So that's what I recommend.

For flavor, what you need to do is fall in love with your spice rack. Or even better, buy or grow fresh herbs or spices. That's the one garden I always manage to keep up, personally -- a little herb garden.

The most flavorful, aromatic cuisines in the world are either vegetarian (Indian) or just fish-based (Southeast Asian) -- it's all thanks to traditions of blending herbs.

Oh, and be careful not to overcook veggies! That makes all the difference in the world.



answers from Chicago on

Great idea on growing the tomatoes and peppers. I'd use the rest of the space for fresh herbs. There's most of your flavor in food with pure organic ingredients. Rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, sage, and thyme are what I grow. And lavender because it's pretty, keeps away mosquitoes, and smells great.

Moving away from processed foods is actually not that hard. Avoid any product that is already prepared, be it sauces, soups, pizza, lasagna, everything. Make as much as you can from scratch, even things like tomato sauce (from your garden!) pizza dough, and your foods will be whole, not processed and full of salt and chemical additives.



answers from Seattle on

Check out the website 100 Days of Real Food. You will get lots of food ideas. She's a bit overwrought and fanatic much of the time, but she has some really good ideas.

I ascribe to a much more moderate view of life. I would suggest a goal of reducing processed foods as a start instead of elimination.



answers from New York on

Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times has some excellent recipies. They are wonderfuly adaptable too. for instance, he might write a recipe for clam chowder, then at the end, he gives you small adaptations you can make for new england clam chowder, manhattan clam choder, rhode island clam chowder. I like his 101 salads too, which you can find online. His recipe style is so forgiving as he suggests substitute protiens, veg, starches, seasonings etc to take it in different directions.

I recommend the Moosewood Cookbook too which was suggested earlier. (its got some good recipes for sauces/ seasonings/ condiments/ dips spreads).

Start small, and perhaps in that arena that would be most rewarding to you/ your family. Then expand. Keep a tally of the number of processed foods in your cart and work towards whittling it down at every go.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.



answers from Chicago on

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.. That is where all the fresh and frozen is going to be.
Flavorings.. mix differnt foods toghether.
IE cook, apples, squash etc together with some cinnamin. \
Go to the library, get a cook book that looks good to you. Use Fresh ingrediants vs canned when possible.
Get rid of the boxes.. You can do this slowly. A few boxed meals at a time.

Mac-n-chees - Make noodes, Spaghetti , macroni etc what ever you want.. cook noodles. Get american chees (not kraft processed cheese slices, but real cheese) add milk, butter and melt the cheese. ( you can add a little parmesan or cheedar.. if you like) There you go one box out of your life.. and slowly find recpies to replace the rest of the boxed things.

Good luck.



answers from Appleton on

Fresh green beans from the garden are wonderful. Add cucumbers, squash and pumpkins and spinach or swiss chard, kale, carrots. A lot of these plants need a lot of room because they are vines and grow all over the place. You may need to prune the vines to get a better yield and keep them under control. You can home can a lot of these veggies some can be frozen. Once you get going it's not all that hard to home can tomatoes and green beans, spinach or chard or carrots can be frozen. Tomatoes tend to get mushy when frozen.
You can also grow your own seasonings and herbs. They will grow nicely outside during the spring and summer, if you plant them in pots you should be able to bring them in for the fall and winter and keep them going all year.

If you know someone who lived through the Great Depression or WWII they can help you learn how to do all of this. They had to grow their own food and can or freeze to survive.

You can also contact your state agriculture department and ask if they have gardening groups to join. Also look on Meet-up and check your local library. Also see if there is a community garden near you.



answers from Minneapolis on

Eat Like a Dinosaur is a great cookbook! My family and I love it! Good luck with your changes.

Also, for gardening, I have no food suggestions other than grow what you know you'll use. I wanted to recommend checking out Square Foot Gardening. Our library has a few books on it, and I think we'll be doing that this year. It looks like you can get a lot more food in the same space.

Good luck!

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