I woke up one day recently and realized that Ben was starting high school. High School. I’m not sure when exactly it was that he grew up, but choosing curriculum for his freshmen year (all the while considering what he will do the other 3 years) was a sober reminder that I don’t have much longer to teach and train my baby man.
There’s so much more to teach him besides math (shudder), writing, and history. You know, like life skills — how to cook, sew on a button, balance a check book, change the oil (drive!), clean and do laundry, and be responsible with credit.
Some of these things he already does quite well, and others, I’ll leave up to Dad, but unfortunately, the cooking part is up to me.
Here’s a confession for you: I’m not a very good cook.
Here’s another one: I don’t even like to cook.
And one more: I do love cooking shows, especially some of the ones on Food Network, like Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, and in the past, Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals. And so does Ben.
It’s not that I haven’t cooked with Ben. He can scramble eggs as well as I can, bake a cake according to package directions, and throw together a pretty decent grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. Honestly, he’s ahead of my husband in that respect. But there are a few areas where I have not prepared him well:
Grocery Shopping for a week of meals
Cooking a full dinner meal
He’s more of a breakfast or lunch kind of preparer.
I know for some of you, having a formal “cooking class” in your homeschool high school seems kind of out there. You’ve been teaching your kids to cook since they could drag a stool over to the counter. But honestly, cooking just is not that enjoyable to me. And spending a lot of time in the kitchen trying to pass on a skill that I don’t feel that confident in to Ben has truly been at the bottom of my list of “life skills” to pass on to him.
But since I figure it’s not likely he will leave home and immediately get married to someone who’s going to do this stuff for him, it’s probably a good idea to lay a decent foundation for his years of bachelorhood. Plus, he actually has a desire to learn how to cook more. You never know where that might lead, right? He might even want to cook after he gets married (and what girl won’t love that?).
Since I am admittedly not the greatest cook in the world, I need a little help with this task. I actually looked around locally for a decent cooking class we could attend together, but I could not find what I wanted for a price I was willing to pay. So that leaves the teaching up to me. Well . . .me and Rachael Ray and a handful of You Tube videos.
Have you seen Rachael’s cookbook, Look + Cook: 100 Can’t Miss Main Courses in Pictures? I love, love, love it! Here’s why:
1. It’s crazy beautiful; the images are stunning. There are pictures of how the steps of the recipe look along the way. You literally look, then cook the recipe. Here’s an example from the recipe for cure-a-cold spring chicken soup:
2. Rachael (like how I just call her “Rachael” like we’re old friends? We kind of are.) has a way of conversationally explaining how to cook a dish, so that it really is super easy — just like she did on her TV show from Food Network. Here’s an example from the same recipe named above:
Meanwhile, in a soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the EVOO over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes.
She just makes it all look and sound so simple, not at all intimidating.
After I purchased the book, I began making a plan. I sat down with Ben and explained that for the next 6 weeks, he’s going to be in charge of making dinner 3 nights a week, using recipes from this book. But before he can start cooking, he has to start meal planning and then grocery shopping. At some point down the road, we will discuss budgeting, but for now, I’m allowing him to just choose any 3 recipes for the week.
These are the steps he’s taking:
Choose 3 dinner recipes for the week that he believes HE will want to eat
I figure if he makes the choices, he’s more likely to enjoy cooking and eating it. And, if he’ll eat it, then the rest of us probably will, too. Not that he’s super picky or anything, he’s not. But you know how kids are. If you give them ownership, they’re more likely to cooperate. Thinking about that, I suppose we’re all a bit like that.
From the recipes chosen, create a grocery list
This includes combining the same ingredients from different recipes. For example, if 2 of the recipes each require one onion, then his grocery list should read, “2 onions,” not “1 onion” at the top of the list and then “1 onion” later on down.
Look for what we have on hand
I’m asking him to mark the ingredients on the list he created that we already have in the fridge, freezer, or pantry. It seems like common sense that we wouldn’t buy salt, pepper, EVOO or other staples. But on the other hand, we also run out of these things. I want him to get used to knowing what’s already available in our kitchen and what is not.
Take the list to the grocery store and begin shopping while Mom sips on her coffee at the Starbucks lounge
Okay . . .not really. I am shopping beside him, because I do want him to learn about price comparisons at the same time. I’ve never been a major brand snob and so there are not particular brands he’s likely to navigate to. We will buy what’s on sale or what is the lowest price. He’ll be poor those first few years out of school; he may as well learn now how to stretch his dollars.
Get started cooking
Of course, he’ll need to put away the groceries (and there are lessons to be learned about food storage for sure) but first he’ll need to let Dad know what he should not be just taking out of the fridge for a snack (this is always a danger if cheese is involved especially).
Lessons along the way
All along the way there will be some basic skills that need to be covered. I had high hopes that would be taken care of with the promised videos that are advertised with Look + Cook. I know from watching old episodes of 30-Minute Meals that Rachael is a pro at weaving in teaching simple skills while she demonstrates recipes. But for some reason I am getting a 404 error on all of the videos. While I work out what’s up with that, we’re using You Tube for some of these skills. You can always find great videos that teach different methods in the kitchen, by searching for a particular skill, but we love Jamie Oliver’s channel, especially his quick 1 Minute Tips.
There will also be lessons that we will touch on as Ben becomes more familiar with the processes of meal planning and budgeting. For example:
1. I will teach him how to cook larger volumes of ingredients to make meal prep quicker and to go easier on the budget. For example, cooking 3 meals in the same week with chicken saves money because you can buy a greater volume of chicken at a cheaper price, and perhaps cook all or most of it up front for the week. This saves both time and money. I may start with my 3 meals, 1 pot roast method.
2. Cooking on a tight budget. Once Ben has some experience with grocery shopping and price comparisons, he will learn that ground beef is cheaper than boneless chicken breasts, and fruits and veggies are cheaper when they are in season. This will hopefully lead to choosing meals based on a budget. Some weeks I’ll purposefully decrease his budget and let him work at choosing meals based on that lower amount. We’ll also be discussing what foods are in season at certain times. I found this handy dandy seasonal food guide to use.
3. How to substitute ingredients that are not available or are not on hand.
4. How to double recipes or cut them in half.
5. Freezer meals. I definitely want to touch on the benefits of cooking for the week in one day and freezing the rest of the week’s (or month’s) meals.
We’ll spend an intense 6 weeks covering these skills, and then just weave using his new-found skills into every day life for the next 4 or 5 years, learning new skills along the way as they naturally come up. Hopefully, that will prepare Ben well for taking care of his cooking needs once he leaves home.
And who knows, it may make a decent cook out of me, too!
Are you teaching teen boys how to cook? What tips do you have for me?
Homeschooling Out of the Box
I’m joining some of my best blogging friends from the Homeschool Blogging Connection in writing about ways we homeschool out of the box. Click on the image below to check out their fun and inspiring homeschool methods, too!