Imagine yourself being mindful in the kitchen.
What would this look like to you?
Would you be sitting cross-legged on the kitchen counter, eyes closed, meditating?
How about counting out blueberries like mala beads…
Or maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself paying a little more attention when you’re in this sacred food space.
There are lots of ways to invite mindfulness into the kitchen.
Mindful eating practices for example, encourage you to become more aware of all things relating to your food. This includes paying attention to what you buy, where you buy, as well as when, how, and why you eat.
Similarly, mindful shopping practices help you make educated purchases that support sustainable food industries and lead to no waste production in your home.
Each little thing you do to improve your level of awareness in the kitchen helps to increase the pleasure you get from your meals. It also helps you to decrease the volume of edible waste you toss out, reduces your tendency for mindless eating, and helps you make better food choices.
Furthermore, being mindful in the kitchen cultivates a sense of gratitude for your access to abundant fresh and nutritious food.
Global Food Crisis
Fortunately, most of us will never truly know the real meaning of hunger or what it feels like to be starving.
To experience such a dire lack of food that you’re chronically exhausted from insufficient calories.
Or to have an immune system that is weakened without caloric fuel that it can’t fight off the most minor cold or infection.
According to the Food Aid Foundation, 795 million people in the world don’t have enough food to live a healthy active life, and 1 in 7 people are hungry.
To put things into perspective, consider the following facts:
- Close to 50% of all produce in the United States is tossed away
- 60 million tonnes or $1.6 billion worth of fresh food that is wasted in a single year in the USA alone
- Upwards of 3.1 million children die each year due to lack of food according to the World Hunger Organization
- 281 million people living in Asia are undernourished
- Women are generally first to sacrifice their food to feed their family
- Global hunger is on the rise again, largely due to conflict and climate change
Wasting food is a not only a mindless waste of money, but is incredibly inconsiderate. To the people who grew your food, to the land it was produced on, and most importantly- to the millions of people who struggle with a dire lack of nutrition.
Becoming more aware of your food, including what you use and what you discard helps you become more grateful and compassionate.
Being mindful in the kitchen also helps you get greater enjoyment out of your meals, monitor your eating habits, and save money.
How to become mindful in the kitchen
As our schedules get busier, finding time to make healthy, delicious, and affordable meals can be a challenge.
Here are 7 ways to help you become a little more mindful in the kitchen that can help save you time, money, and effort:
1. Reduce plastic and non-reusable products
When you’re aware of the impact your food and kitchen products have on the environment, it becomes a lot harder to use wasteful products.
Between 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used throughout the world over the case of a single year. Over 380 billion bags and wrappers are used in the United States alone.
By reducing your plastic bag consumption and use of non-reusable products, you take active responsibility for the environment. Furthermore, you’re saving yourself money and keeping unnecessary clutter and waste out of your home.
Here are a few simple ideas to try:
- Use glass storage containers instead of plastic
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper
- Try woven dish scrubbies instead of plastic sponges
- If hosting a party or event, use biodegradable cutlery and dishes instead plastic
- Bring reusable grocery and produce bags when shopping
- Subscribe to a farmer’s basket delivery service for fresh local produce
- Switch from plastic to reusable food wraps
2. Slow down and be present while eating
The purpose of meal time is to eat, enjoy, socialize, and share a pleasant experience.
It isn’t the time to check messages, chat on the phone, or multi-task with other items on your to-do list.
When you’re present at meal time, you eat less. You’re aware of the “I’m full” signals that your body is sending you. You’re tuned in to how much you’re consuming and the kinds of things that you’re eating.
With practice, you’ll become more aware in the kitchen and will eat less, waste less, and ultimately buy less.
This saves you time, money, and stops you from creating unnecessary waste. It also increases your enjoyment and ability to take pleasure in the art of dining.
3. Distance yourself from electronic devices
Do you remember the days when no one in the house had a cell phone?
When a call at dinner time was considered disruptive and was often taken outside of the room?
The evidence is quite clear, you can’t be mindful in the kitchen if you’re on your phone, computer, or watching TV. But were you aware that these devices at meal time aren’t just distracting, but also reduce your happiness and enjoyment as well?
Research from the University of British Columbia in Canada found that using phones at meal times reduces your enjoyment and can make you unhappy.
Interestingly, the same researchers found that individuals who used their phones while engaging face-to-face with others found less enjoyment out of this experience than those who weren’t using their phones.
4. Invite rituals to meal time
Food time rituals are a great way to create a mindful space in the kitchen.
Meal time rituals don’t have to be religious or spiritual either. Simply thanking the individual or individuals responsible for putting the meal together and expressing gratitude for your food are always appropriate.
Similarly, waiting for everyone to come to the table, turning off phones, even lighting a candle can be all be great practices.
If you’re in a setting where you don’t feel comfortable speaking out loud, try saying a silent thank you in your head before you start eating. This will encourage you to stop what you’re doing and find a moment of quiet and stillness in the present moment.
5. Develop a healthy relationship with your food
It takes time to cook and it takes time to eat.
To really eat, in such a way that you notice, appreciate, and savor your food.
If you want to shovel your food down as fast as you can to get going with the next task on your to-do list, then you might be setting yourself up for some unpleasant health risks.
Studies have found that people who chow down at lightning speed (meals in under 5 minutes) are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome or become obese. Both of these factors increases your likelihood for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIDDK sector):
- 1 in 3 American adults are overweight
- 2 in 3 American adults are either overweight or obese
- 1 in 3 American adults are obese
The American Heart Association has found similar results, that 1 in 3 children and teens are either overweight or obese.
Make time to savor your food. Not only will you enjoy your meal more, but you’ll also prevent yourself from overeating and eating too quickly.
6. Reduce clutter
Keep your kitchen free of clutter as best as you can to maintain a calm environment.
If you walk into the kitchen when there’s stuff piled in every corner as well as food and dishes splayed across every counter, you’re not going to feel motivated to cook.
Similarly, if the fridge is covered in so much paper you can barely locate the handle, you’re not going to feel overly inspired either.
Food preparation is work. It takes time, effort, and lots of love to put together something delicious and satisfying. Having to organize mess and clutter wastes valuable time and energy.
Take pleasure and find joy in the experience of creating your meal. Savor the smells of your herbs, the rich colors of your vegetables, the delectable scents filling the air.
Reduce stress and anxiety in the kitchen by getting rid of any junk, mess, or unnecessary items that crowd out this space.
7. Get rid of toxic cleaning chemicals
Do you want to know something gross?
Kitchens are actually dirtier than bathrooms, even the toilet!
Studies have found that kitchen sponges have 200,000 times more bacteria than your average toilet seat. Think about that for a second!
Kitchens are the perfect breeding grounds for many strains of potentially dangerous bacteria such as:
- E.Coli (Escherichia coli)
- Salmonella (Salmonella enterica and Salmonella bongori)
- Staph (Staphylococcus aureus)
- Listeria (Listeria monocytogenes)
Conventional products that use antibacterial products are believed to lead to antibiotic resistance, endocrine disruption, increased severity of allergies (especially for children), and are often damaging to the environment. They can also cause headaches and nausea because of their overwhelming synthetic fragrance.
Essential oils are in many cases more effective at killing viruses, bacteria, and mold than traditional and toxic cleaners. Not only are they more effective, but if used properly, they can be much safer for your health. Not to mention the fact that they smell great and provide aromatherapy benefits.
Essential oils such as cinnamon, tea tree, and lavender are incredibly powerful at getting rid of common kitchen bacteria as well as other germs found throughout your home.
Because of their potency, a small bottle diluted with some water goes a long way and can be much more cost effective and effective than traditional cleaners.
Being mindful in the kitchen is a great way to connect with your food.
It encourages you to pay attention to the environment, your dining and food preparation space, the kinds of items you buy and use, as well as your eating habits.
This helps you develop a greater appreciation for your meals as well as a more relaxing and pleasurable dining experience.