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How did you learn to cook?

by Marlena from Wisconsin

Growing up, my mother always made a home cooked meal for dinner. I don’t remember eating out much, but if we did, it was always a special occasion.

I do remember going to the store, and looking back on it, I always wonder why she took us. We were a wild bunch! She did involve us in the cooking process and the baking! She baked a homemade dessert at least once a week, whether it was cookies, cake, brownies, bars…we always had fresh baked goods in the house.

As a teenager, I started my first job as a dishwasher at the local diner. It was a great job and eventually I moved up to line cook and prep cook. I worked there throughout college, but the job market was difficult at the time, and I ended up taking a different line cook job that turned into a food service director position. In that role, I was responsible for menu planning and ordering. However, at home as a single and childless individual, I had terrible eating habits while working in that position. Now having kids, I’ve taken a lot of those skills and incorporated them into my own life. I meal plan every Thursday by going through the sale flyers and coming up with the following week’s menu. I also look at what we have and what we need. I usually go shopping Friday morning or afternoon, depending on my schedule. And I do sometimes take the kids, depending on what activities we have going on. While it has been difficult to take two small children to the store at times, my oldest (almost 4) likes to take the little shopper cart and help pick things out. I realize it may be exhausting, but I also think it’s important that he knows how to shop and how to cook.

One of the most important things I have learned about cooking is to keep trying and keep experimenting.

We cook a lot of easy staples, like burgers and nachos, but I also love to try new recipes (Pinterest is amazing!) and get creative with different ideas. Our local library also started a cookbook club where we pick a theme and make something based on that. Last month was comfort food and I made a baked mac n cheese from scratch that I have never tried before. A lot of my cooking is “fly by the seat of my pants” and I’ll just whip something up without a recipe. This club is keeping me accountable by following recipes but then also experimenting with others (we share recipes as well, so I may take what someone else made and modify it). You never know what you like until you try it!

Never be afraid to get in the kitchen and get creative.

Even seasoned chefs have disasters…it’s all learning and with kids, it can be fun. I love seeing my boys get excited about something we worked on and then taking it out of the oven and enjoying it.


This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Marlena.

About Marlena. . .

My name is Marlena and I am from rural Wisconsin. I am a frugal shopper and love using my WIC benefits to stretch my monthly food budget, especially in these crazy times! I love the holidays, mostly for the food, and am looking forward to participating in a cookie exchange at our local library. My kids are the best kitchen helpers, and I love making memories with them.


Want more inspiration in the kitchen? Check out our Health eKitchen at We have beginner, intermediate, and experienced recipes for all ability levels.

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