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  • Writer's pictureTracy Bottiglieri

How To Encourage A Lifelong Love of Cooking: Part 2 of 2

Last week, I talked about ways to help encourage yourself to love cooking (or at least to like it a little more). I suggested making cooking more of a pleasure than a chore, through learning the basics, as is taught in this Bon Appétit article, trying new recipes, and cooking with others. I talked about having the right equipment and pantry items available to make creating recipes easier, in addition to simply purchasing certain items ready-to-use, meaning someone else has done the prep work for you. Now that YOU have developed more of a love for cooking, let's pass along that feeling and encourage our children to feel the same.


When our children are young, it is possibly the one time in their lives when they actually love being with us at all times! Plus they think we know everything! What a great opportunity to show them new foods and new cooking skills. Young children are limited due to attention span, safety concerns, and dexterity, but in those few special moments, you can engage them and start them on their cooking journey!

As per Norton Children's which is supported by Children's Hospital Foundation, here are some good cooking skills by age group:

Teenagers often live busy lives. Between school, friends, and extracurricular activities, it is usually hard to pin them down to "learning how to cook." Obviously this isn't true of all teens! One of my dear friend's son is a true gourmet chef! He is very particular about the ingredients he uses, recipes he chooses, and the method he employs to prepare his masterpieces. Lucky her to enjoy his food! Maybe your teen might be interested in cooking alongside you, especially to learn a family favorite! Or maybe they would prefer to be in full charge and create their own meal masterpiece once in a while. Just ask and see where the question takes you.

I remember when I was a teen, I used to like to cook dinner sometimes. For my parents' anniversary one year, my brother Scott and I decided to make them a special dinner. I remember looking up recipes in one of my mom's cookbooks, probably one of the many she had from the Better Homes & Gardens series. (Yes, for you younger readers, this was before computers 😊) I remember when I called my dad at work, trying to explain to him why I needed him to please buy me a bottle of brandy without asking any questions! (Cherries Jubilee!) I'm guessing I was about 13 years old.

When our children leave the nest for the first time, either to continue their education or to start their life in their own homes, they will need to feed themselves. For some, this will be the first time! Yes, sometimes it will be takeout and simply fast food. But they will also need to go grocery shopping and cook! Here are a few ideas to make it more special for them (and you):

Weekly Meal Planning

  • You see it in women's magazine headlines and cooking show features everywhere: Prepare and Plan For Your Weekly Meals! It seems like so much extra work, doesn't it? However, what I have found is that the week's where I HAVE planned for my meals, the dinner hour has generally gone by much smoother and delivered healthier and more well-prepared foods than when I have just simply "winged it"! Hmmm...maybe there is something to it when "they" say its better to have a weekly meal plan.

  • A friend asked me a few years ago for meal planning ideas. She felt in a rut with her meal choices and needed some inspiration. It is always more fun to do certain things for others than for yourself! Do you know what I mean? So I came up with the following Weekly Meal Planner which included some nights where she had to cook and others where she would simply pick up some prepared foods.

  • Likewise, one of my sons was feeling overwhelmed about having to prepare meals for himself at school. No more college cafeteria meal plan! And a fixed weekly budget. I suggested that he come up with a basic plan with categories each day that could work for every week. Then he would simply decide on what to make for each category.

  • Let me illustrate: (click on the image below to go to printable pdf file)

I also included an electronic link to all of the recipes I cited in his meal plan. Why is this easier? The most obvious answer is because it is clearly spelled out. All my son has to do is choose a dinner idea under the current day's heading, and prepare it or buy it! The less obvious benefit is that rather than be overwhelmed by an unlimited number of meal choices every day, he immediately narrows his choices down by category. "If its Monday, I am going to prepare a vegetarian meal." Or "If its Thursday, am I in the mood for chicken or fish? Uhhh - fish! Let me make the salmon this week."

  • Thank you to everyone who contributed a favorite recipe! I added them to a sharable Google document (link in heading above). Feel free to print the recipes and add one of the customizable cookbook covers from below. to create a personal cookbook for yourself, your child, or anyone! Or simply access the Google doc from one of your digital devices any time you want to make what you know will be a good meal!

Customizable Cookbook Covers: click on one of the five covers that you like best; you will be taken to a printable pdf file of that cover.

Gordon Ramsay has a bit of a reputation for being tough, but, man, can he cook! 👨🏼‍🍳

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