I’m cooking! It’s something you really can’t skip when you try to avoid sugar (Diary – Day 11)

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Lessons I learned while travelling (which helped me fix my prejudices against cooking)

  • At first I got jealous of other people always eating amazing looking self-cooked meals. Anything was amazing, really. People told me: it’s so much cheaper! And it’s true. So slowly I got my head around this idea.

  • As I was limited to the amount I could buy, I learned to buy only what I can carry. Seriously, I was the weirdo carrying a whole lot of stuff in her arms around the grocery store. I, on purpose, never got a pulley and rarely ever used a basket. Even now. Since I ride my bike to the store, I only buy what I can carry. Though I have started to bring a spare bag, to carry the items I intend to buy around, to ensure I don’t drop anything. This strategy has proven well for me – as a single person.

    • Now if you have a family and kids and a full time job where you might be working overhours, this is probably not the solution. But if you live in Europe chances are you can use a platform called Marktschwärmer/ La Ruche qui dit Oui!/ The Food Assembly (UK) which might suit you and/or a busy schedule better. Being a start-up business, they are still growing, but when I first learned about it – mid January 2018 – I was surprised how many towns already had such a place/’shop’ at which the customers can order fresh local produce. Especially in France where the whole thing originiated. (I wrote about this platform earlier if you want to learn more.)

  • The downside of this grocery shopping technique might be that you have to go more often. Yet the advantage is obvious. You get to grab fresh produce. That is, as fresh as it can be, when it might have come from the other end of the world. But if you add another week of it lying around at home under not ideal conditions…  then it is still considerably more fresh when you buy it in store.

  • Besides you might also benefit from discounts… Especially if you like to avoid crowds and go grocery shopping after 8pm, when most families and elderly persons will be at home. That’s usually also the time when perishable food, like bread, fruit and vegetables, especially greens like salads, get good discounts. Figure out the day of the week this usually happens: for me they best days are Wednesday (mid-week) and Saturday (since shops are closed on Sundays in Germany). And you can eat healthier even on a low budget!

  • As I was backpacking my way around, I did not want to carry a lot of stuff with me. So before I moved on to the next destination, I learned to use up the things I had as much as possible. Meaning, I had less food waste, from things going bad as I was less likely to keep anything for later.

  • Precook meals, meaning cook enough food at once so that you can get two or three meals out of it, to save time the next time. For that purpose I carried a plastic container (or two) around with me. Even cold pasta on a bus ride tasted better than having to buy overpriced sandwiches or unhealthy snacks on bus stop destinations. When not in use, I would just put other stuff (like clean socks 😉 ) into them, so the containers hardly wasted space in my backpack.

  • Another great thing I learned was to use and mix whatever was available. Often you find free-food shelves in hostels. Most of the time they might only have oil or salt in it, but sometimes you find treasures that you can throw in with the rest of the food. The important part is: Be creative!

    • Even my grandma spoke very admiringly of her mother: for being able to make something delicous out of nothing, every time. The secret? I’m sure it was that she had learned to creatively use whatever was available, mix and spice it up with whatever was available and that’s all. Experiment! If something works, remember it and vary ingredients here and there.

    • This way I need no ‘recipes’ with exact numbers & ingredients lists. I really don’t like following recipes. Worse, if there are more than six ingredients I usually choose not to cook that dish. (Though baking is a different story.) I guess I just despise sticking to recipes with exact amounts in general. So if you too, feel that recipies are too strict or too detailed – use recipies as inspirational sources but be creative and use whatever is available!

  • Keep it simple. To make a pasta or a (fried) rice dish, you hardly need many ingredients anyways! What I like even more about them: They are fairly quick to make and can be very healthy meals. Which is all that matters.
  • In a hostel or while camping you usually have very limited cooking utensils, so out of necessity I started to throw everything into one pot. I like to call those dishes one-pot meals. Others might say hot wok dishes. 

    • For example:
      I chop up vegetables (whatever I have) throw them in hot water. Then I add rice, spices that I like or think that they will taste good, or simply whatever spices I have available. I now leave the food to itself on a low flame, only checking and stirring it occasionally. In the mean time I clean dishes or do something completely different. (Meaning I can be productive.)
      Just be careful to come back in time before it burns! (Set an alarm or stay in the kitchen).
      The resulting meals will either be soup-like. Or if you use less water, turn into veggie-rice. That is, once all the water has been soaked up or evaporated.

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