Last year, I discovered Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever, which I have since described to other people as “New Year’s Resolutions on Steroids.”* 2017 thus marked the first time I had gone into any year with a level of intent. Whether you’re a resolution type or not, I’d like to encourage you to take a few minutes to think about how you want to eat in the upcoming year. I’m not talking about adopting a diet or losing weight. I’m talking about imagining the food you’d like to eat and then figuring out how (and why) you should make those meals.
Let’s face it: most of us have never thought about what we want to eat for the forthcoming year. Our food plans fall more along the lines of, “I’m hungry; what sounds good?”; “I’m starting a diet; what can I still eat?”; and “Do we have enough milk to last until Saturday?” Some of us cut out specific food groups (meat, dairy, grains, gluten, etc.), some of us count calories, some of us are on a tight budget. But rarely does anyone’s January 1 incorporate the question: what do I want to eat this year?
It’s a worthwhile question. Most of us, even if we want to eat cookie dough ice cream now, don’t aspire to eat it over the long haul. The same could be said of Sonic mozzarella sticks or even Jimmy John’s subs. If we get idealistic about food, we’re more likely to envision the special-occasion meals from childhood or a favorite dish from a truly great restaurant. If we think of our meals in terms of a twelve-month menu rather than a seven-day menu, we can start to see things differently. We’d like to be healthy, after all, and we know that vegetables are good for us, whereas macaroni and cheese maybe isn’t. And it’s convenient to grab a bowl of cereal after a long day of work, but what percentage of our dinners do we really want to be cereal, even if it is organic?
I began cooking when I realized two things: (1) I was addicted to meals that had interesting flavors; and (2) the restaurants that served these sorts of meals, in contrast to those that relied on salt, sugar, or fat to get my attention, were expensive. I could not afford to eat $20 dinners multiple nights per week. Moreover, I did not want to subsist on Honey Bunches of Oats in the interim. I started reading about the power of foods to influence health and suddenly I was hooked on the farm-to-table movement, which manifested itself mainly in home cooking since there weren’t a lot of farm-to-table restaurants where I lived. I started a container garden and grew my own tomatoes and zucchini. All of this was great, but it did not prevent me from reverting back to old habits when I got tired or stressed. What I’ve learned along the way is that cooking takes time, energy, and advance planning, plus a willingness to learn. But when I cook for myself, I have more energy and more confidence about my health. It’s an ongoing project, but it’s a project worth tackling.
In this spirit, I’d like to suggest five sample resolutions, all of which center around cooking. You don’t have to adopt any of them, but I’m including them in the hopes that they might feel less intimidating than a full-blown diet and might encourage you to make a resolution of you own. Here are my suggestions:
- Resolve to eat one homemade salad per week. Why homemade? Because you’ll have full control over the contents, especially if you make your own dressing, and you’ll almost certainly have leftover ingredients, which means you’ll actually end up eating more than one salad. You also don’t need a lot of cooking skills to make a salad, but if you want some suggestions or want to be adventurous, here’s the link to the salads on this site.
- Resolve to cook with two new ingredients per month. Go to the grocery store, stand in the produce section, the meat section, or even the cheese section, and find something you haven’t tried to prepare. Go home, look up some recipes, and come back to buy that ingredient and whatever you need to cook with it on your next trip to the store. (If you buy an unfamiliar ingredient with no plan, it has a higher chance of going uneaten.) Check out this post if you want a starting point.
- Resolve to cook a certain number of meals from scratch every week. This could be as simple as resolving to cook for your spouse or your roommates on Mondays. This type of resolution helps you to build a habit of bringing home raw ingredients on a regular basis, rather than cooking only when you’re craving pancakes.
- Resolve to join your local library, check out one new cookbook per month, and make something from the book. This is a great way to learn about new flavor combinations and ingredients, and it can replace eating out if the writer has great recipes. For help selecting a cookbook, visit this post.
- Resolve to try out a delivery service such as BlueApron.com. I used to get Blue Apron coupons in the mail offering three free sample meals. This is a great opportunity! Find a service that sends you raw, prepackaged ingredients along with instructions, and suddenly you’re left with no grocery store, no recipe hunting, and a tasty homecooked meal. (Stay tuned for reviews of these services at a later date on this site.)
Whatever your decisions about food in 2018, I encourage you to resolve, at the very least, to eat mindfully, savoring the meal you’ve chosen and enjoying those times when you’re eating alongside someone you care about. Happy new year, and may it be filled with lots of great food.
* I’ll come right out and admit that Hyatt’s information really did make an enormous difference in my ability to set a goal and see it through, and I would highly recommend his product if it fits into your budget.