Toni: Turning Cooking From a Chore to a Hobby

“Figure out a system that allows you to take your time and enjoy the process of cooking.”

Toni: Cook Smarts Hero in the Kitchen  via @cooksmarts

Toni has found a system that has allowed her to turn cooking from a chore to a hobby. Along the way she’s improved her knife skills and is also teaching her husband how to cook too! Read her Heroes in the Kitchen story below:

Name: Toni
Age: 26
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
We cook for: myself and my husband, Brad.
Outside of the kitchen: am a policy analyst at the American Medical Association and public health enthusiast.
Being able to cook allows me to: save money! Chicago is sort of a food paradise, so it is really easy to talk myself into just going out for dinner if I don’t have a solid meal plan.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: I am obsessed with the pureed soups – I’m used to soups being really time intensive to make and these are so easy.

How did you learn to cook?

I learned the basics of how to follow a recipe from my mom while I was growing up, but I never really learned any cooking techniques. When a recipe that I am using calls for an unfamiliar technique (parboiling?!), I would spend a lot of time on Google and YouTube to try to figure things out.

What’s been your biggest kitchen challenge?

Historically, I have really struggled with creativity and planning. I knew how to make a handful of meals, so I would just repeat them every week so that I could buy the same groceries from week to week. Every once in awhile I would buy a new crazy vegetable only to get it home and realize that I had no idea what to do with it, resulting in a lot of wasted food and money.

How has your cooking routine changed recently?

My mealtime routine has morphed from a frantic scramble to throw together something edible into a source of relaxation. Having a meal plan for the week has removed a huge source of stress from my life. I now go to the grocery store with a list in hand and I spend my Sunday afternoons prepping all of my ingredients for the week.

“Each day I look forward to mealtimes because cooking doesn’t feel like a chore, but rather a hobby that allows me to learn new techniques and try new foods.”

Each day I look forward to mealtimes because cooking doesn’t feel like a chore, but rather a hobby that allows me to learn new techniques and try new foods. I’ve started teaching my husband some of the skills that I have learned on Cook Smarts so that he can start feeling more comfortable in the kitchen. As an added bonus, always having yummy leftovers to pack in my lunch means that I don’t go out for lunch nearly as often, which is a huge savings

What new skill or dish have you cooked that you’re most proud of?

I think I am most proud of my growing knife skills. We received a really nice set of knives as a wedding gift over the summer, and I was a little afraid of them, so I just avoided making meals that required a lot of chopping. Now, I use my knives every single day and I get more comfortable with them every time that I use them.

What advice would you give to other home cooks on reaching their cooking goals?

I feel that you can never really improve your skills if your goal for cooking is just to get the meal done in the fastest way possible. Figure out a system that allows you to take your time and enjoy the process of cooking. For some people, this could mean simply giving your family members more active roles in meal preparation (kids chop vegetables, husband starts dishes, etc). For me, that system was Cook Smarts’ meal plans: it turned cooking from a chore into a hobby.


Thanks Toni! We’re so happy that Cook Smarts has helped both you and your husband get more confident in the kitchen. High five to teamwork. We know that there are so many delicious food options in Chicago, so thanks for choosing us and a home cooked meal.

Toni's favorite @cooksmarts meal: Pureed soups!
To join Toni and cook meals like her favorite pureed soups, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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