Cooking without Recipes: 5 Tips for Better Intuitive Cooking

Starting a blog is hard. There are so many topics out there that you want to cover and it gets overwhelming. Then, after weeks of mulling over this and over that. 
You realize. Start with what you know.
What do I know? What is it that I know so well that I don’t even have to think about it?

Cooking.  Namely, intuitive cooking.

Something that has been as natural to me as breathing. It’s strange too. All the women in my family are like this. 
I know you probably know someone in your family that just seems to know what to put in where and how to make it taste just right every time.

Where does that gift come from?
Unfortunately, cooking without recipes is not a gift from the heavens. Intuitive cooking is typically born from necessity. I know for my family, every generation was as poor as the last and we all had to learn quickly how to make the weekly grocery haul LAST! 

Luckily, I could learn from my mother who learned from her mother who learned from her mother…and on, and on, and on.

So here’s where we are. I will place here, on my little slice of the web, guides and tips on how to be better at intuitive cooking and how to really get your money’s worth with groceries and meals.

This post will serve as a starting point, and a place to reference the VERY basics of intuitive cooking. 
As I move forward with my blog and post more recipes or meal guides, I will include mostly estimations – for analysis’ sake my recipes will be laid out with exact measurements BUT I urge you to experiment and never take me at my measured word.

So let’s get into it.

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#1 Get to know your preferences.

What could you eat every single day and not get tired of it? Make a list. An honest list.
Don’t think about what you should be eating or what you wish you would eat more of. Right now all we are concerned with is what you REALLY enjoy eating.

For me, I love eggs. I could eat eggs every day, and when money is tight…I do! 
Next, it’s beans. A good pot of well seasoned beans is HEAVEN. Throw some cornbread on the side and I will literally dance-eat. You know what I’m talking about.
Lastly, as far as basics go. Root vegetables. Especially roasted veggies with onion and garlic. I’ll take carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, beets, whatever. Any day. YUM!
If we are talking about fully prepared meals, I love any kind of pasta – the creamier, the better, or SHEPHERD’s PIE! Hands down. One of my favorite meals. 

Okay, so I could obviously go on and on. But this isn’t so much about me right now. 

Back on track. Write out a list. Then, think about what you would like to learn how to cook. I mean LEARN. Like, never have to think about again. You could make it from scratch with barely anything in the pantry and with your eyes closed to boot (That’s why it’s called intuitive cooking!).
Got it? Good!

#2 Buy the basics.

Now, I know you want to go wild and get all kinds of different pastas for the glorious mac and cheese you want to make. But for now we are going to get really familiar with the BASICS of the dish you chose.

So, what do you have in your spice collection? Do you have a spice collection? Does it consist only of salt and pepper? That’s 100% okay!

Seasoning and spices are your money makers. You can literally make anything taste good if you know how to season it well. For now, we are going ultra basic so salt and pepper will do us just fine.

Next, what are the very basic ingredients you need?

Take my earlier rant about food, I know I will get a carton of eggs, a can of beans, and at least two vegetables (plus onions and garlic). I know I can make a meal I will enjoy just out of those things.

If you chose, for example, mac and cheese. The very basics of what you’ll need is elbow macaroni and some sort of cheesy sauce. That’s right! How do we make a cheesy sauce? Well, I know that we will need a basic roux. That is just equal parts fat and flour, it is your MOST BASIC thickener for all kinds of dishes. We will also need cheese and milk.

That’s it. So to recap.

You want to make a very basic mac and cheese – buy macaroni noodles, a small bag of flour, some butter or oil, a small quart of milk, some cheese, and salt and pepper if you don’t already have it.

#3 Don’t splurge yet.

While I know it’s exciting to potentially make the world’s most decadent mac and cheese, we are exploring the VERY basics of cooking. Our goal right now is to go basic and know it like we know the inside of our eyelids. 

So get the cheap stuff and only get what you think you’ll actually use.
Get the cheapest pasta, the cheapest cheese. Buy a small container of milk and only one stick of butter. Don’t get too wild until you are ready.

For those wanting to explore, be thrifty with your adventures.
You can score on seasonings by going to the baking aisle of your local grocery store and finding the row of very cheap spices. At my local Kroger, there is a row of $1 bottles of really basic stuff. Choose only a couple. 
Don’t go wild, just grab one or two. 
Get stuff that you know you’ll like.
That goes for all shopping. Just get what you like and what you’ll use.

TIP #1 → NEVER GO TO THE STORE HUNGRY. 

TIP #2 → When in doubt, buy the store brand.

TIP #3 → Look for the discounted produce. (I swear it’s still good.)

I’m sure you get the picture. Set a small budget for this experiment and STICK TO IT.

#4 Make room for errors.

Remember that this is a learning experience. 
Give yourself patience. 
Give yourself enough time and space to work at a pace that suits you.
This is not life or death.

Just TRUST YOURSELF.

Start with a recipe or a video. Read or watch it all the way through and then do it. 
Don’t be afraid to reread or rewatch, this isn’t a test. 

RELAX & HAVE FUN!

#5 TASTE EVERYTHING.

Every step of the way, you should be tasting. 
Check how cooked the noodles are at different times. 
Taste the roux before you add anything to it. It will be disgusting but now you’ll know what an unseasoned roux tastes like. 

Feel free to spit it out. No one is watching. Go on, make that yuck face.

Once you get to a point where you want to ADD FLAVOR! Explore!
Bay Leaf, Parsley, Cumin, Paprika, Chili Powder, Black Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper.
You will ALWAYS find these in my cabinet. They are my GO-TOs.

What are your favorite spices? Not sure? If you are totally shooting blind, research spice descriptions beforehand – check out this quick guide to every herb and spice in the cupboard. Just try not to overthink it. 

Just remember you have two amazing senses that are VITAL for good cooking TASTE AND SMELL! Use them. 

Thanks for reading! Got something you’d like to see on the blog?
Contact me and let me know!

Interested in seeing more of my content?
Browse the rest of the blog!

Cooking without Recipes: 5 Tips for Better Intuitive Cooking

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