Cooking Tips for Reluctant Cooks

Posted by on Sep 20, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone, Recipes | 53 comments


What the heck do I make tonight?

There are people who like cooking and others who don’t. I belong to the latter group. It’s not that I really hate cooking; it’s just that it interferes with more interesting activities. But since cooking is a prerequisite to eating it needs to be done.

Cooking itself wouldn’t be so bad if that was all it took. But it comes with making a mess which then needs to be cleaned up. I often felt that I spent an hour cooking and a further hour cleaning up for a meal that took less than half an hour to consume. As my blogging friend Jacquie would say “Where’s the Justice?”

I think everyone who does any cooking or baking has certain dishes they really don’t like to make and some that they don’t mind too much.

My Top Three “Dislike” Cooking Dishes:

  • Making pie crust – easy remedy, buy the frozen ones;
  • Making biscuits – replace with bread rolls made with bread machine;
  • Making muffins – another easy one – make quick breads instead.

My Top Three “I Don’t Mind” Cooking Dishes:

  • Soup – easy to make, nutritious, can make enough at one time to give us no-fuss lunch for a week;
  • Bread – using the bread machine turns this into an easy job. Bonus, it makes the house smell wonderful and if timed right can even form the base for supper;
  • One-Pot (or slow-cooker) meals. Most of these can be made in the morning and forgotten until it’s time to eat.

It took a little longer to figure out how to cook less – and make a mess less often – but it turned out it can actually be done quite easily. Bonus, cooking less really cuts back on energy costs.

Favourite Time and Money-Saving Cooking Tips:


cookingCooking Tip # 1 – Schedule Cooking Time.

Schedule the cooking. Choose a time when you’re least busy and set that time aside to do the cooking. Just  knowing that cooking is the job of the moment makes it easier to stay focused. Cook two or three different dishes in big batches, each batch enough for 2 or 3 meals and freeze. If some are ‘make now – serve later’ foods that require final touches make a note of it on the freezer bag.

Cooking Tip # 2 – Use Master Mixes.

One of my biggest time savers is making up and using master mixes. I love them. Master mixes cut prep mess way down and you’re always prepared to quickly put a meal together. The following mixes are courtesy North Dakota State University and Utah State University. The Snackin Cake Master Mix is from one of my recent posts. All of them are quick and easy using products normally found in the home pantry or fridge.

Buy the ingredients on sale – twice a year one of the local stores features flour on sale at half price. Since flour is the main ingredient in pantry mixes buying at that time saves me a bundle.

Ground Beef Master Mix Used to quickly make dishes such as Stroganoff, Spaghetti, Enchilada Casserole, etc.

Ready Quick MixA pantry mix similar to Bisquick at half the price.

Do It Yourself With MixesThis one lists a variety of different mixes: Seasoning Mixes, Meat Coating Mix, Chicken Flavoured Rice Mix, etc.

Snackin Cake Master Mix – With this mix you can quickly throw a cake together with minimal cleanup.

Cooking Tip # 3 –  Make Now – Serve Later.

On the surface this seems to be similar to the big batch cooking – but it’s not. Mind you, you can make several of them at the same time just as easy as making only one. The difference is that you partially prepare these dishes ahead of time and  freeze. When you want to serve them you remove them from the freezer and finish the minimal prep work, then cook or bake. To get you started, here is a link with some great recipes.

7  Make Now, Serve Later Recipes

Quick Tip. To freeze casseroles, line the casserole dish with foil before filling, then bake as usual. When done, remove from the oven, let cool, and wrap the foil around the baked casserole and freeze. Once frozen place the foil wrapped casserole in a freezer bag, label and date. Now you have the casserole dish to use again.

Cooking Tip # 4 – Cook in Big Batches.

A big way to cut back on cooking and clean-up time is to cook in big batches. This works as well for singles as it does for large families. One of the most common complaints from singles is that they really don’t feel like cooking just for themselves so quite often they don’t. Taking a day to make large batches of food and freezing them in serving size packages means always having meals available without any real effort. It becomes just as easy to reheat something from the freezer as it does to make a sandwich.

Like I mentioned earlier I make huge pots of soup which is frozen – serving size – in freezer bag lined containers. Once frozen, the containers are removed and the soup-filled bags labeled and dated. This makes it easy to grab a bag of soup in the morning to have for lunch later.

Spaghetti, stew, macaroni and cheese, and many slow-cooker meals are easily doubled or tripled and frozen. Spices are the only adjustment you may need to make at serving time.

Even those that like cooking may find it useful to have some of the Master Mixes or ‘Make-now – Serve later’ foods for those days when there is more to do than time to do it in. For me, I love how cooking less gives me more time to do the things I really enjoy.

Talk to you again next week,


If you liked this post, others will too. Please share.

‘What do I make tonight’ Image courtesy of stockimages at

‘Schedule’ Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at



  1. A 10-oz burrito, a toasted onion bagel, a banana, and 3 chocolate-chip cookies – cheap, tasty, no prep or cleanup to speak of – my kind of meal. 🙂

    “Like I mentioned earlier, I make huge pots of soup for our lunch.”

    I am reminded of a classic scene from the 1960s comedy Green Acres in which Lisa Douglas makes “hot water soup” – soup consisting of hot water and nothing else – Eva Gabor is great in this clip, check it out:

    • Andy – that clip was hilarious – I followed it up by watching ‘the Clampetts’. I may go back there and watch Petticoat Junction too. What a walk down nostalgia lane. I clearly remember watching the originals – also others like ‘Leave it to Daddy’ with Danny Thomas and more. I don’t care what people say, those shows were a lot more fun to watch than all the nonsense on TV today.

      Back to your diet – you’ve touched on all the food groups and I like the no prep, no mess way you have of ‘cooking’.

      Have a great week.

  2. I forgot to mention that I have been using the slow cooker liners also, so it makes clean up a breeze!

    • Where do you buy those liners? I’ve never heard of them before.

      • I think they are available in most grocery stores. The brand on the ones I have right now are Reynolds and they are called SlowCooker liners. You could probably use the oven roasting bags you can get as they are almost identical, just shaped a bit differently. I have used those roasting bags also as I have a slow cooker recipe for a dijon honey ham that you put the ham (like a black forest) in the roasting bag with a sauce made up of dijon mustard, honey and orange juice poured on top. Seal the bag with a twist tie (not a plastic one), then use a toothpick to put some holes in the top of the bag to vent. Cook on low for 5 hours. It is delicious!! And no clean up of the cooker except a wipe out…that’s the best part! When you use the liners, the lid is the only thing that needs more than just a wipe down. Love my slow cooker!! I would probably starve without it!

        • Nancy, thanks. I am going to check out both of those bags – never used them before. They would certainly help with the mess, my biggest problem with cooking. Your ham recipes sounds delicious – I love ham and with the holiday season coming up, there will be some good sales on them. Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. While I so enjoy cooking for a big family get together on special events like Thanksgiving and Christmas or a family member’s birthday, I really don’t like cooking for one person…and quite frankly don’t have the time to cook every day. My solution is my “cooking weekends”. I do 99% of my cooking in my slow cookers (I have 3 of them) and I will spend a good portion of a weekend letting them do the cooking for me. My meals are all made from scratch (very little over processed food in my house!) I will do up a variety of meals in the slow cookers and make a bunch of frozen dinners to heat up each day. I will cook for a weekend and eat for a month or more! No waste of food, so my grocery dollar goes farther. Some people my look in my fridge and say “You don’t have much in there!” (milk, cheese, condiments etc) and I tell them “Just don’t open the freezer, it may all fall out on you!” My garden in the summer keeps me supplied in fresh produce, so in the summer it is just things like bread and milk I buy on a regular basis. I need to buy more fresh items in the winter. As I have a large variety of containers I can colour code my meals, ie chicken is in the green lidded containers, beef in the red, pork in the blue, etc. that way I am not eating the same thing on a daily basis. A great time saver for me!

    • Nancy, I should have had you write this post. I love everything you do, from the weekend cooking blitz, to the summer garden, and the colour coded freezer containers. If you’ve read any of the comments you’ll have noticed that the slow cooker seems to be everyone’s favourite time-saver.

      I’ve been cooking (grumbling the whole time) for Eric – he has been losing weight and I thought it was because he was working to hard, which he does do over the summer but it turns out he hasn’t been eating. I am seriously thinking about adopting your method and at least cook his suppers for him so he can concentrate on breakfast, lunch and snacksw.

      Thanks for a wonderful helpful comment – I hope many others read it and benefit from it.

  4. My ex could use this. She rarely cooked lol.

    • Never mind your ex – I did this one for you – lol right back

  5. Lenie — I used to enjoy cooking and when my husband was still alive he did a lot of cooking. He loved it and usually got home from work before me and had dinner waiting. Wasn’t I lucky? Now I end up making a salad and throwing in some sliced chicken or turkey and that’s dinner. I no longer make spaghetti sauce and meatballs. The chicken meatballs at Costco’s are great and I buy ready-made sauce. Amazing how you can get used to prepared foods. Also have a gourmet grocery down the road and they also get my business. Love all your tips but I’ve gotten so lazy I’m not sure I’ll use them! But thanks anyway!

    • Good morning Jeannette, sounds like you have your cooking down just right – the no stress way. Unfortunately our nearest Costco is 2 hours away so I can’t take advantage of their great deals.
      When my husband was undergoing radiation therapy we stayed in London for three months and during that time I took full advantage of their Costco, loved it.
      Isn’t is amazing how the older we get our priorities change?

  6. In my newly single life, I’m finding I’m not as bad a cook as I thought I was. It’s just that the ex was infinitely so much better at it, so I was more than happy to do the dishes and clean-up. That being said, I’m finding I am big on soups. I made two gallons of French onion soup from my garden onions that are now bagged into single-servings in my freezer.

    • Wow Jeri, I’m impressed. I love French onion soup. Are you ever going to enjoy this winter when it’s horrible outside and you can just go grab a serving of the soup. Isn’t this the first year you’ve really had a garden?

      • This is the first year I’ve had to take care of the garden all on my own, but have been tinkering away at it for a good number of years now. I’m hoping to add a a third 6×3 raised bed next spring if I end up staying in my current house.

        • Jeri, I didn’t grown onions this year but it seemed conditions were perfect for tomatoes. I only had 2 large beefsteak plants and 2 cherry tomato plants and I had them by the bushel full. It was wonderful. Hope you can add that raised bed – the only way to garden.

  7. I still love cooking, after all these years! But it’s a different kind of cooking: we have a grocery store that makes wonderfully tasty prepared foods that I buy and heat up in the oven. Does THAT count? Really it should because I don’t microwave them. Microwaving is not cooking is it?

    Actually, I do like cooking and fortunately my husband has 2 or 3 big batch recipes that he makes all of which I can freeze! This is a true blessing.

    Loved this post Lenie!

    • Patricia, I so admire your cooking method – which I could do the same. Unfortunately that is one of the drawbacks of living in the boondocks. I can’t even get pizza or chinese delivered so had to become creative on my own.

      I’m so pleased you liked this post. Your opinion means a lot.

  8. What fun and had to share this on Facebook. For the 20+ years I was single, I ate…well, can a woman live on cheese & crackers? The occasional carrot or potato? Yes, yes she can. The only dish I always like to cook and eat is scrambled eggs–in the microwave. Other than that, yeech to the whole process.

    Although as some other readers wrote: my mind can be changed with good wine in hand. Sometimes even added to the food!

    I’m super lucky now that I married a man who loves to cook. The engineer in him thinks it’s like alchemy. Weirdo!

    • Rose, thanks for the early morning chuckle – you do have a way. Love that healthy diet plan you had set out for yourself when you were single, NOT.

      Like you, I’m inclined to think that a glass of wine may help (or maybe it’s that second glass that does the job) but even so………….I’ve got things to do.

      My husband didn’t mind cooking until he had to do it for years for the nine of us – trying to figure out what to serve everyday became a bit of a nightmare. Now he only cooks when I can’t. Lucky you – keep that man happy.

      • Nine of you? Oh wow! There must be stories to be told there, Lenie.

        Yes, since I am now unemployed, my greatest fear is that Husband will request me to start cooking again. Oh no!

        • Rose, we had 7 boys, aged 8 years apart. Once 4 of them became teenagers I did the only smart thing to do – I went out to work, leaving my husband at home as househusband, cook, farmer/gardener, disciplinarian and general handy-man. During that time I came home to have my supper served to me – what a treat.

          As to you having to cook, I think you’ll like Patricia’s method. Is being unemployed a good or bad thing? I’m retired and not working out anymore is definitely a good thing.

          • I knew you were a very smart woman!

            It’s a good thing–I am determined to get published!

          • And you will get published – your writing is a joy

  9. Haha, I can tell you that the glamorous single life involves a lot of your “Cooking Tip #2.” It’s much healthier and economical to make my own food, so I make recipes that freeze well. Even so, I often will eat the same entree three days in a row, just mixing up the side dishes! Probably should get a bread maker, from the sounds of it, I hear they’re quite affordable and pay for themselves quickly.

    • Krystyna, go for the bread maker – once you’ve got one you’ll use it all the time. I’ve made french bread, hot cross buns and cinnamon rolls using mine. My favourite – as soon as the loaf is ready, cut off the end piece, slather that with peanut butter and enjoy. You’ll have melted peanut butter dripping down your chin but who cares – it’s sooooooo good.

  10. For a single bachelor like me, these are wonderful tips. I either eat way too much fast food, or my meals consist of protein powders in shake form. Thanks for sharing these tips with us; maybe I can start cooking more for myself.

    • William, get yourself a large slow cooker and a bread maker and you’ll never want to eat out again. Those are two of the most time saving appliances available. The slow cooker you start before going to work and supper is ready when you get home. You can program the bread maker to do the same.
      Even bachelors like you can learn this in no time. (When using the slow cooker – always make the big batch and you’ll have enough for 3 or 4 meals or you can eat one and freeze the others. Happy Cooking.

  11. These are great tips! And I am definitely a reluctant cook. I do love using my crock pot. It makes my life so much easier!

    • Meredith, I kney you would be one of the reluctant cooks. You always have so many interesting projects on the go that who has the time, right? or better, who wants to take the time. The crockpot really had to be the best of last century’s inventions.

  12. I like to cook Lenie and will once in a while spend a whole afternoon just cooking, which I usually find relaxing. I can’t think of anything that I just completely don’t like to make although sometimes I get bored making vegetables and end up just unimaaginatively just steaming something like broccoli for what seems like the 500th time. What really peaks my interest is making things I’ve never made before.

  13. I absolutely love cooking, Lenie. But what contributes to my pleasure and success as a cook are 2 factors: 1) I generally don’t have to rush, as I work at home and can easily meal plan. 2) my husband is very easy to please and pretty much likes everything I serve. A tip for anyone who doesn’t enjoy cooking: have a glass of wine while you’re preparing the meal. It makes everything taste better!

    • Doreen, now I know what I’ve been doing wrong – forgot that glass of wine. Actually, that isn’t such a bad idea because it would make the cooking seem like more fun. Will have to try it.

  14. Not a huge fan of cooking either Lenie but if I must then big batches is definitely the way to go. Get the those meals organized days in advance. A good slow cooked stem or curry and the rest of the week is a breeze.

    • I’m with you Tim – get the cooking out of the way and then carry on to enjoy the week.

  15. Wonderful tips Lenie. I actually love to cook … like making homemade spaghetti sauce is one of my favorite dishes to me. The whole process of using fresh ingredients – while drinking great wine – it’s therapeutic. Sadly, these days I’m so busy that cooking has taken a back seat so your tips are certainly welcomed. I do tend to cook in batches and my slow cooker has become my best friend.

    • The invention of the slow cooker really has made things easier for a lot of people, hasn’t it? I don’t have a slow cooker but do have a bean pot – a cast iron pot with little legs that I set on my woodstove and it works the same way.
      I do like your method of cooking though – having that glass of wine handy does make things better. It sounds like you need to slow down, my friend – time to smell the roses.

  16. Gosh I have a love hate relationship with cooking. I love cooking for a big gathering of friends, who pretty much always chip in to help with the clearup.
    I did a stint a while back cooking for big numbers of people daily (30-40 sometimes up to 100) but we had a semi-professional kitchen and a cool room with every possible pot, pan, gadget, ingredient you could want not to mention 2 enormous refrigerators for left overs. AND time, makes the thing so much simpler.
    I have a tiny kitchen now and I struggle to make time to cook every day. So I do a good deal of batch cooking – delicious ragu sauce was the last one.
    A family member is moving house and has given me her old slow cooker so I am also planning to get that going, I love this idea. If you have some good recipes for this method to share Lenie I would be most grateful!

    • Hi Rosalind – Here is a site I go to all the time – they have loads of easy, no-fuss recipes of all kinds Slow Cooker Recipes
      I am the worst for cooking for groups or special occasions – that is when the roast I’ve made is dried up, the potatoes are scorched, etc. you get the idea. The idea of cooking for a hundred would make me leave the country.
      Enjoy your slow-cooker. Now that you’ve got it, you’ll never want to be without it.

  17. I enjoy cooking but would like more time to spend in the kitchen. I believe that if you cook with love and enthusiasm, your food will be tasty.

    I tidy up as I go along.

    • Phoenicia, to me cooking is a ‘must do’ activity rather than an ‘want to’ activity but I find scheduling the time for it does make it a lot easier. Then I can give my full attention to it instead of letting it be disruptive. Thanks for sharing.

  18. I live your thoughts on the subject, especially the big batch suggestion. I already do allot of stuff ahead of time. In my case that is especially helpful when I have company on the way. ?

    • Susan, with the summer you’ve had you can probably give me a number of time saving cooking tips. I do most of my cooking on Saturdays and love having meals in my freezer the rest of the time. Taking a few minutes to complete a dish is a whole lot better than starting from scratch each day.

  19. When I was in my late teens I was a good cook for about ten years. Then I started working on a global scale and lived in 5 star hotels. So I either eat at restaurants or room service. Then I moved to London and lived next door to Harrods. So it was too easy to get ready made food there or at some other place such as Fortnum & Mason or Harvey Nicols. Unfortunately I never started cooking again.

    Baking I like thouh and actuallly bake bisquits about every other day.

    • Catarina, what a life you’ve led – interesting. Funny how you enjoy baking biscuits which is one of the items on my ‘dislike’ list. Different strokes, eh? Thank goodness we’re all unique.

  20. Lenie, this is too funny. I’m going to be on vacation this week, so I already wrote my blog for next week. I’m doing the same exact topic! Of course, you have some great cooking ideas that I didn’t include in mind.

    I have to admit, I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that you said you didn’t like cooking. I didn’t mention this in my own article, but I really could do without the whole cooking thing myself. I do it because I know I will save money and get better quality food that way. I feel better being a resistant cooker being in such great company.

    • Hi Erica – it will be interesting to read your take on cooking next week. We’re certainly not alone when it comes to not liking to cook – you’re the fourth commenter and the fourth person who would rather be doing something else. Maybe we should start the BHB Reluctant Cooks Club:) Makes you wonder about those earlier housewives who had no say in the matter. Or maybe since that was their “job” it made it easier. Although leaving quilting to stoke up the stove to get supper going couldn’t have beem much fun.
      Have a great vacation and thanks for the compliment. I love a good pat on the back.

  21. I don’t care much for baking – too measuring. Plus, I am trying not to eat desserts and bread in general – too disruptive to my digestive system. I don’t mind cooking. I do try to make large amounts of soup. When I had 2 big boys home, the soup sometimes lasted for two meals. Now that it is just my husband, my daughter and me, I find myself freezing soup in small batches.

    My own cooking tip is this: cook when someone you like is in the kitchen with you. I like to cook while my daughter does her homework. Sort of like side-by-side play of two-year-olds (but we are much older than that).

    • Hi Leora – I like your cooking tip. Everything is easier when you’re having a good time and it sounds like the two of you share some interesting moments. Good for you. I always said if I was rich I would hire a cook and a housekeeper. I still would if I won the lottery – hard to do when you don’t buy a ticket but I dream about it anyway 🙂

  22. Man o man, you are singing my tune Lenie. I used to to massive amounts of cooking in my old life. Imagine 4-5 days stretches where I had houseguests of 26-28 people and I shopped for and prepared all the meals! Three meals a day! After many years of this, I was completely burned out. Your master mixes have been an eye-opener for me. Wish I had found them years ago! Batch cooking was a staple of mine and I still do to a much lesser degree for myself. Mostly soups, spaghetti sauce, chili. These are all fantastic tips for the cooks like me, who really don’t like to cook that much! LOL And thanks for the mention!!!

    • Hi Jacquie – you are a better woman than I ever could be. Cooking for that many people for 4-5 days and living to tell about it takes super=strength. One day would have finished me off. I can well imagine you were burned out. I used to have a gathering of my husband’s family here once a year and the only way I could manage that was by having everyone bring something.
      As for the mention, no thanks necessary. I love your posts and your trademark ‘Where’s the justice’ fit the spot. Hope others click through to enjoy.

  23. I’m not fond of cooking either. Fortunately, my husband loves to create meals and that works out really well! We do love to make large meals and then feast on them for several days. Such a time saver! I like all of your other suggestions too.

    • Hi Beth – Lucky you having a husband that doesn’t mind cooking. Mine never used to until he had to cook for nine of us for years – that was enough to finish him off – now he’ll only cook when I can’t. Hence learning the time saving tricks. I really do dislike being interrupted from what I’m doing to make a meal – rather just grab something from the freezer.

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