Presenting the Amazing Housewife
March 25, 2013 8:24 AM   Subscribe

I have a great desire to be an outstanding "housewife". The problem is that I am terrible at cooking and I stress out over silly domestic things. How can I make it all seem effortless?

I am recently (7 mos.) married to one heck of a guy. He is loving and supportive and all manner of positive things. I want to be the best partner I can possibly be. Fortunately, we are matched on every level and get along well. Unfortunately, I want to be a good domestic partner but I feel like I am flailing most of the time.

I hate grocery shopping and cooking. I never know what to cook, I either buy too little or too much of things, I am bad at cooking, I never feel like we are eating "meals" (instead it always feels like we are eating a bunch of snacks), and the worst part is that I am vocal about these things. I am trying to work on that but I complain about grocery shopping and cooking and I also worry aloud about my shortcomings. My partner is understanding and he does a lot of cooking, but I'd like to be able to whip together some meals and not have to worry or think about it too much.

As for housework, I tend to do more of it (since my partner does the cooking) but I always feel like I could be doing more. Don't get me wrong. Our house is clean and it is usually very tidy. But because there's always something to be done (cleaning a particular room, putting laundry away, starting another load of laundry, cleaning out the fridge, and on and on and on) I feel like I am not on top of things.

I realize this question might make it sound like I want to be a picture-perfect 1950s housewife who has dinner on the table when her husband comes home. That's not what I want and I realize that that is a pretty unrealistic goal given that we both work long hours and I am definitely not Suzy Homemaker.

What I would like are some tips and tricks for being a good domestic partner. What things do you do that make cleaning up easier and faster? What kinds of things do you do for your partner that make you seem like a housework ninja? Assuming I have the other stuff down, how can I be a good wife when it comes to the house and home thing?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
If you're both working long hours and can afford it, consider outsourcing at least some of the housework. A visit from a housekeeper once or twice a month can be a huge game changer.
posted by justjess at 8:30 AM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]

Do you plan your meals in advance? Plan a week ahead or so and then you'll know what to get at the grocery store and you can do some advance prep for quick work at mealtime.
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:35 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty terrible at housework in general, so I can't address that part other than to say pay someone else to do as much of it as you can.

But for cooking, I can maybe help. One thing that always makes me feel successful is having a meal with multiple elements (rather than just pasta or something). The easiest way I've found to make that happen is the Glorious One-Pot Meals book. It's pretty simple stuff that would be totally doable by a novice chef, and even includes suggestions on what to keep in your pantry, and how to shop. I found the recipes a little under-spiced, so I'd recommend doubling the seasonings, but other than that it's great. Once you get the hang of it, you can improvise you own meals as well, with whatever you favorite flavors and ingredients are. The basic idea is that you layer grains, proteins, and vegetables in a dutch oven and stick it in the oven. When it comes out, the grains are fluffy, the meat is tender, and the veggies are cooked but not over-cooked. It's like magic. And having such a variety of stuff on the plate really makes it feel like a grown-up meal. Another bonus: all the recipes are sized for two adults.
posted by duien at 8:35 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

In terms of getting a feel for meal planning, it might be worth it to pay for a service that gives you weekly meal plans and grocery lists. Fresh20 comes to mind, but I know there are a lot of others. Just following them for a couple of months could help you get a feel for quantities and different combinations of meals.
posted by itsamermaid at 8:37 AM on March 25, 2013

But the thing is, there is always something to be done. Laundry is an ongoing project. Unless you strip down naked, you can't have all the laundry done at once. The fridge is always going to need to be cleaned out, unless you don't keep anything in it. Don't think of housework as a list of things to be checked off, think of it as an ongoing, continuous job because that's what it is.

As for cooking, menu planning might be your answer. Maybe sit down with your husband and talk about the things you like to eat and start coming up with a weekly menu. It might be fun to go through your cookbooks/magazines to see if there's a new recipe you want to try. Once you have the menu decided, write down all the ingredients you'll need for each one and which day of the week you'll need them. Then go through your pantry/fridge and cross off the stuff you already have. What you're left with is your grocery list, to which you'll also add things you anticipate you'll need (like bread and milk). Depending on the day of the week you'll need something and the day of the week you're going to shop, make your final list. For example, if you're going to need fresh spinach on Friday but your first grocery trip is scheduled for Monday, you don't want to pick that up just yet.

You may need to do to two smaller grocery trips in a week, instead of one big one. I find it's necessary to do it that way, since I almost always buy everything fresh (we don't do much processed food).
posted by cooker girl at 8:37 AM on March 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

The way to make cleaning up easier and faster is to do little things all the time. There IS always something to be done - do them as you go about your day, and they'll be less overwhelming/noticable than if you do everything on one day.

When I get home from work I'm usually good for one chore, and making dinner as long as it isn't too labor intensive, so I set up my week to make that possible.

Food chores: I take our calendar, see what's going on, and figure out what I'm going to make for the week - and I include "leftovers" and "take-out" as options. I make a list of everything I'll need from the store, then I take the list and buy those things.

Figure out un-intimidating easy meals and make those. I have about 8 meals in rotation that I make constantly.

Honestly it sounds like you're doing fine! Maybe be less vocal about what you're eating, especially if he's cooking. There isn't anything wrong with eating small meals! They're my favorite thing.
posted by lyssabee at 8:37 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Okay - breathe, first.

Then, consider:

Our house is clean and it is usually very tidy. But because there's always something to be done (cleaning a particular room, putting laundry away, starting another load of laundry, cleaning out the fridge, and on and on and on) I feel like I am not on top of things.

The fact that there is always something to be done is not a sign that you are not on top of things. The fact that there is always something to be done is the nature of the job. No one is ever "done" with housecleaning, in the sense that you clean something and it stays clean for the rest of your life or even the rest of the year; it is never done. You do always have something to be done. You're fighting entropy here. So realize that the fact that your house is clean and tidy on average is a sign of total damn victory, and something you don't have to worry about after all.

However, it sounds like you may benefit from some kind of plan - not because I think you need one, but because I think it could calm you down. If you make some kind of Housework Plan, then you can turn all of your anxiety over to the schedule - rather than flailing on a given day because "omigod there's stuff to do and I'm not done where do I begin", you have the plan there to tell you "today is Monday, therefore it is laundry day. Tuesday is declutter day. Wednesday is window-washing day." And that can take off some of the "where do I start" pressure, you know? It can also give you a way to feel like you can stop -- "well, the windows need washing, but it's only Tuesday, and I need a break and they'll get done tomorrow, so fuck it."

As for cooking: there are actually some really good books that cater to new cooks that also offer advice in meal planning and shopping. If you're concerned about buying too much food, check out cookbooks pitched to "dining for one person" (I know you're buying for two, but you can just double everything). An especially good one is The Pleasures of Cooking for One. There's a whole section in there that walks you through how to make three days' worth of dinners out of one shopping trip (You buy this particular cut of meat on day one and make [foo] with it, then you save some of the leftovers from [foo] and use them on day two to make [baz], and then you take whatever's left over from that and make [schmeh]). She also has a section of recipes for "a quiche that uses x number of eggs, y number of milk, and z amount of whatever odds and ends and weird stuff you've got lurking in your fridge that you don't know what to do with otherwise and it's too small for just being one thing by itself".

You're doing better than you think. Breathe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 AM on March 25, 2013 [16 favorites]

Seconding outsourcing some of the cleaning. There's nothing wrong with not enjoying cleaning out the fridge. Nobody loves that, not even Suzy Homemaker.

As for cooking, I find that cookbooks can be really helpful and inspirational. I'm not a very good improvisational cook--I need a recipe with the exact ingredients and instructions. Cookbooks provide that and pretty pictures to motivate me.

If you're having trouble figuring out where to start with cooking, maybe try to recreate some of your favorite restaurant or takeout meals at home. You can find recipes for pretty much anything online these days.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 8:38 AM on March 25, 2013

As for housework, I tend to do more of it (since my partner does the cooking) but I always feel like I could be doing more. Don't get me wrong. Our house is clean and it is usually very tidy. But because there's always something to be done (cleaning a particular room, putting laundry away, starting another load of laundry, cleaning out the fridge, and on and on and on) I feel like I am not on top of things.

Don't split it up by large task, split the housework into daily duties that are the same each week. Sundays, I do laundry and iron. Mondays, I dust, Tuesdays, I mop floors, etc. That way, you get the "big stuff" done in small chunks and it's the same every week. Usually, I take about 20 minutes each night after work before I sit down for dinner to do each one of these daily tasks, and it's really easy to keep up.
posted by xingcat at 8:40 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would advise starting small with cooking - try one new recipe per week, and make sure it's something big (a big pot of soup or chili, lasagna, etc.) that you can eat as leftovers at least one other night. Slowly you will build a repertoire of reliable recipes. And don't stress about being "a terrible cook" - nobody is born a good cook, and if you can read and follow directions you can learn to be as good as anyone else.

I get the feeling from the way your post is written that your house is probably cleaner and tidier than most people's, and that you may be measuring yourself against a vague idea of a perfect, well-run household that doesn't exist in many people's realities (at least, not since women started working outside the home). It's normal to always have one or two things that need to be done. Nobody is ever completely caught up, and that's okay. When you're 80, you aren't going to care that you didn't get the laundry folded immediately, right? Try to relax your ideals a bit, and if you find that you can't let it go and are still stressing about it, by all means hire a housekeeper. But honestly, it sounds like you're doing a good job to me.
posted by something something at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2013

As far as being bad at cooking goes: maybe check out Smitten Kitchen, for three reasons: 1) I don't know why, but her recipes turn out better more often than other recipes, 2) her photos give me something lovely to aspire to, 3) she adjusts recipes to use as few dishes as possible. Also, her tips section is great for trouble-shooting problems like "Why are my baked goods turning blue?" and "How to retrieve broken eggshells."

But keep in mind that a lot of learning to cook is just practice! It takes time, and it takes willingness to have to throw it all away and order pizza sometimes. It's not like, oh you have the instructions right there, how could you possibly fuck it up? There are lots of things about cooking that the recipe won't say, that you just have to figure out over time. I recommend starting simple with soups. There are a million awesome delicious soup recipes, and the great thing about soups is that they are very forgiving and flexible. Nothing moves too quickly or becomes irrevocably screwed up in an instant. Pair a homemade soup with a good quality bakery-bought bread and a simple salad (my go-to is spinach with feta and strawberries, drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar), and maybe a glass of wine.

I started learning to cook almost five years ago, and at that point I was terrified of pretty much everything in my kitchen. Now cooking is one of my most satisfying and fun hobbies...but it took time and practice, and I still screw things up sometimes!
posted by ootandaboot at 8:42 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Google [your city + cooking class]. You may have to cobble together a couple different ones that will teach you about meal planning, shopping, and basic skills like knife skills, the difference between sauteeing and frying, simmer and low boil, how to cooks stuff so it all comes out ready more or less at the same time, etc. Classes will be the shortest route - it's not that you can't teach yourself via books and blogs, but lord, why reinvent a wheel that's been reinvented about a million times already.

As for housecleaning: the only people I have ever known whose houses were so clean you could eat off the sparkling chandeliers or the spotless floor under the fridge have used cleaning services. If that's the level of things you want, have a service come in once or twice a month for that amount of spotless.
posted by rtha at 8:50 AM on March 25, 2013

The thing that makes me feel most in-control and "housewifey" is marinating something in the morning to throw in the oven/on the grill later that night. It's weird, but I just love seeing some chicken breasts or a skirt steak chillin' in the fridge throughout the day, reminding me how on-top-of it I was in the morning. It's also incredibly easy, and the resulting dish so much better than if you threw it all together in the evening.

Here's my favorite diy chicken marinade; I also like this commercially bottled one.
Here's a fantastic carne asada marinade.

Crockpots also give you this feeling, with the bonus that your house will smell like home cooking all day long.
posted by apparently at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

(a) Outsource it if your budget can at all handle it. Even if it's only once every other month cleaning or something.

(b) I do not have anything remotely approaching a clean apartment, but I did enjoy "Home Comforts" even if I only use a few pieces I picked up from it: Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

(c) In terms of cooking- I'm forever wishing I was better at the cook-meals-over-the-weekend-store-in-freezer thing. I already bake sourdough bread (time intensive but something I enjoy doing), make a dozen hard boiled eggs (snacks, breakfast on the run, takes only a few minutes) and make some yogurt (also only takes a few minutes) most Sunday mornings. I am trying to work on how to make frozen dinners in there as well- I figure I'm spending the time in the kitchen, I should get more out of it. So I'm working on trying out recipes in The Best Make-Ahead Recipe by Cooks Illustrated. They have very clear and complete directions, so I would recommend it as a decent book to learn how to cook meals from.
posted by lyra4 at 9:00 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

The 100% best thing you can do to keep your house clean and organized, even better than outside help, is not having so much stuff to clean and organize. Regular runs to the thrift store are awesome. I find my apartment is much, much, much more comfortable when I'm not trying to pack every drawer and shelf to 100% capacity. Prioritize being able to get to the stuff you have over having a lot of stuff.

If everything has a place to go, you'll be able to put everything in that place much faster. Don't put yourself in a situation where putting something away also includes figuring out where to put it away.

Keep cleaning stuff where you actually clean -- if you have a sponge and cleanser and gloves under the bathroom sink, you'll have an easier time doing a quick mid-week wipedown than if you have to go to another room or closet to get a sponge.

Use good cleaning equipment. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (or the store-brand thereof, they are basically the same), actual dusting rags treated for dusting rather than old T-shirts. If you have wood floors, a dust mop (not a broom, brooms are fine for debris but miss dust) may be faster than a vaccum. If you have carpets, get a good vaccum, not a crappy one.

If you have kitchen and bathroom vent fans, get in the habit of using them. Using the bathroom one will cut down on mold growth, and using the kitchen one will cut down on that weird slimy dusty grease than can build up on anything placed out in the kitchen. (Also for that kitchen grease: I personally do not understand open pantries, for this reason. Although if you do get that build-up, Magic Eraser will take care of it.)

The secret to being a more comfortable cook is to cook more often. Also, cook the same thing three times in a row -- not three days in a row, but say three weekends in a row. This is how I got to the point where pie crust and scones and biscuits and focaccia are second-nature -- I've cooked each of those often enough that I know most of the failure modes, and I can put them together by feel. Ditto for certain soups I like, or salads, or anything really. Make it three times, and the recipe is yours.

For meal planning and shopping, I like Everyday Food; sadly the magzine is no longer around, but their website (and presumably ap) still have a ton of great resources for 30-minute meals and week-long menus.

For general household management, I really love Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts, the very best modern book on keeping house. She gets into the nitty-gritty of ALL of this -- it's the modern Home Ec textbook you never had -- and since she worked as a lawyer while running a household, she's also realistic about doing both. (And on preview, I see someone else has suggested this while I was writing this comment!)

And finally, be kind to yourself. Everyone has trouble with this, even people who are Suzy Q. Homemaker; housework is never done. People who have dusted under the bed worry that they haven't cleaned their windows yet, while people who clean their windows worry about something else (although I'm not sure what; I don't clean windows). There will always be Something Else to Clean. If you can, give yourself the gift of not worrying about it.
posted by pie ninja at 9:06 AM on March 25, 2013 [10 favorites]

Every Sunday is 'Crock Pot Sunday' for us. We both are busy during the week, but Sundays is the one meal where we're guaranteed to both be able to kick back and enjoy each other's company after doing things around the house all day.

Dinner on Sunday is also the time where the tv, phones, and internet are all either off or ignored.

We bought several crock pot cookbooks and experiment with a new meal each week. They're easy and a sure-fire way to give that 'homey' feel to the household.
posted by matty at 9:10 AM on March 25, 2013

In terms of keeping house, I recommend the How Clean Is Your House? book (don't watch the TV show).

This book contains daily, weekly, and monthly routines for keeping on top of things. This was the first set of routines I'd ever read that didn't make me feel like I was picking up one small scrap of rubble, looking around for somewhere to put it, and then adding it to another small scrap of rubble. I started making real progress almost immediately once I got strict about following the routines.

And you know what else: I haven't even implemented all the things. I haven't gotten as far as necessarily doing laundry every day (it's a bit hard to figure out how that will work with my schedule) but all the same it has made a big difference.

Here's what you do: you take the first item on the list, and resolve to do that thing for one calendar month. Then the next month, you add the next task.

The first task is airing the beds. How easy is that? It takes practically no effort, all you do is turn back the blankets and open a window. Just by doing that, you are on your way to Mastery of All The Things!

Every day, usually in the morning before work, I air the beds, sweep the kitchen floor, put out clean tea towels, add dirty dishes to the dishwasher or unload it as appropriate (this is a variation on the "wash dishes after every meal" item - the kitchen is the tel3mum's domain and she is quite the agent of entropy; I try to be militant about keeping the dishwasher loaded, at least, but in her worldview this is too complex, so I have to accept the things I can change), keep the sink clean and the hand towels fresh, clean the bathroom sink and the loo, and change the bath towels on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Sundays I change the beds, thoroughly clean the loo, and test the fire alarms.

Shockingly, it is easier to do these things than not to do them, because it's a habit. The every-morning stuff hardly even takes 20 minutes on a really *bad* day. Routine is The Way. It is hard to believe but good habits are as hard to break as bad ones.

I also recommend the Tumblr "Unfuck Your Habitat" for easy maintenance tips and encouragement.

As for cooking, you might like the book "Jamie's 15 Minute Meals". It starts with a chapter on organizing the kitchen so that you can easily grab the utensils you need. Nthing what others have said about planning a week's meals in advance, too.

The thing that really takes the time, for me, is chopping. 15 minutes of cooking, 17 hours of chopping. I've actually signed up for a knife skills class at a cooking school (4 hours) and hopefully I'll come out of it with real chopping fu.
posted by tel3path at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

Also, don't forget this isn't the 50s. For meal planning and shopping lists, there are lots of apps out there to help you out. It's very easy to plan your week, it generates a list and you just need to bring your phone shopping. Easy.

Housework is never done. You live there, but a solid routine will make you feel better about where you are. And I agree with everyone to hire out some help for the big jobs if you can. Even scrubbing the bathrooms once a month is time back for you and makes a big difference.
posted by GilvearSt at 9:48 AM on March 25, 2013

The thing that really takes the time, for me, is chopping. 15 minutes of cooking, 17 hours of chopping. I've actually signed up for a knife skills class at a cooking school (4 hours) and hopefully I'll come out of it with real chopping fu.

This is a time-for-money thing for me. I buy pre-cut fruit, veggies, mirepoix and so forth at Whole Foods or Trader Joes. Yes, it is more expensive in terms of what you spend on the veggies or fruit. But if I get home at 7:30 and I have to face chopping in order to make dinner, vs ordering takeout or making an unhealthy frozen pizza or something, the frozen pizza/takeout often wins. I see it as trading some money for prechopped vegetables that I will cook up and eat against higher health care costs later if we eat too many frozen burritos or kraft mac and cheese.

And pie ninja, glad to see other fans of Home Comforts!
posted by lyra4 at 9:49 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

A little history lesson here: our standards of housekeeping date from the Victorian Era. Wealthy housewives wrote guidebooks for housekeeping that established high standards of cleanliness. what these writers failed to mention is that they had adopted or created these standards with the help of numerous household helpers, i.e. servants who kept the silver polished the knicknacks dusted, the laundry ironed, etc. If you know anyone who has a "perfect" house, chances are they don't have a full-time job, or they have household help, or they have obsessive-compulsive disorder. If they have children they may have two or three of the above. So consider relaxing your standards, lest they make you too stressed out to enjoy everything else in your life.

Does your husband love cooking? If so, let him. My sister's been happily married for 40 years to a man who does all of the cooking and loves it.
posted by mareli at 9:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I never felt so domestic than the day I learned that roasting a whole chicken was easy. And then the day after that when I made chicken stock from the carcass and that was also super easy and haha, the day after that I made chicken soup completely from scratch, with my leftover roasted chicken and the stock I made in my crock pot. I don't even do anything special to my chicken, I rub it down with olive or coconut oil, salt and pepper it, cook it in the oven on 400 for an hour-ish (depending on how big it is, but until it's done, which is when you stick the thermometer in and it says 165). I save the innards and bones and whatever bits in a bowl in the fridge until we're done eating chicken, then dump a mirepoix from Trader Joe's (I'm so lazy, it's chopped onion-celery-carrot), all the chicken gunk, a splash of vinegar and some salt into my crock pot, cook it for 24 hours on low (you can do this on the stove top, I imagine it's almost as easy). I either freeze the stock in jars or just immediately make it into soup. I feel very homemakery when I do this. I'm not a superb cook, but learning simple meals has helped me feel more confident and less bothered.

Also, planning meals a week at a time is the only way I manage to feed my family actual meals. I figure out how many dinners we need (based on our schedule), go through my recipes and cookbooks, ask my husband and daughter if they have requests, make a menu and an ingredient list for things I'll need. My husband does a lot of cooking because he enjoys it. I support this buy doing prep work for him and by doing all the cleaning up.

Can't speak to housework because I'm terrible at it...
posted by upatree at 10:02 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

As many others have said, planning meals for the week is the way to go. I use Evernote to do this. Once I find a recipe I want to make, I send it to my Evernote (there are extensions for all web browsers that will do this for you), then I copy and paste the ingredients into a new Evernote document called "Groceries week of XX/XX/XXXX." Before I go to the grocery store on Sunday I do a quick sweep of the house/kitchen to add anything else I need and take off anything that we already have for the recipes I want to make. I have the Evernote app on my phone, so I can use my list while I'm at the store and delete/add things as appropriate while shopping. Then I have all of my recipes saved in Evernote from when I first downloaded them and I use my iPad as a cookbook. It sounds involved, but I'm adding things throughout the week and it's a huge time-saver. Plus, my Evernote has all of my recipes saved so I can go back and pick an older recipe to revisit when I need to.

My favorite websites for recipes are the aforementioned Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks, and Eating Well (bonus: mostly healthy recipes).

As others have mentioned, don't be afraid to use shortcuts while cooking. Trader Joe's has tons of pre-chopped veggies and mixes that are great for an easy quick meal. I love using their shaved brussels sprouts for a simple pre-dinner salad. I always try to keep simple sides on hand - pre-packaged risotto or rice, asparagus to roast (olive oil + salt + pepper and roast in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees), pasta. And having dessert always makes it feel like a "real" meal to me, even if it's just a nice piece of fruit.
posted by anotheraccount at 10:37 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You probably have certain ideas doing things the right way, the best way, the most efficient way. One of mine: load up the washing machine or dishwasher as much as is practical, to save water/power and also to just simplify by doing it fewer times. That principle really got in the way of actually getting things done, because I disliked the part about putting clean things away. I'd get stuck when it came time to sort and fold a big load of socks, underwear, t-shirts, and other whites. Putting plates away was fine, but I hated something about putting away the utensils. Logically, it made little sense because the part I hated really didn't take much time. I kept thinking of them as "silly domestic things," but the irritation and self criticism are definitely not little or silly. Now I do smaller loads... and with the laundry, I limit how many types of garment I do at once, like all the t-shirts and white socks. We did have to buy more t-shirts and socks to make this work.

Ask yourself which of your shopping/cooking principles you might change. If you're trying to do one major shopping for the week but having trouble with planning meals, you could instead make a shopping list for two or three dinners. If you write down all the ingredients you need, you might end up trecking across the store more times then you like, which could lead you to listing your ingredients in columns according to where they are in the market. You'd get pretty good at pulling together two dinners from one trip, and gradually adjust your method as you get more accustomed to doing it.

A lot of side dishes taste good at room temp, so don't knock yourself out trying to time everything to be "finished" at the same moment.

When you cook something that's a keeper, do something to ensure you won't forget about it. You can develop a good number of easy but tasty entrees and not have to reinvent the wheel several times a week.

There's nothing wrong with a snack dinner. Some nice bread, some cheese and olives, etc... it's fun and not a lot of effort.

Get common cooking techniques squared away. Each of these is pretty standard: roasting vegetables, steaming vegetables, braising meat, roasting meat, cooking meat fairly dry in a skillet on top of the stove. Pretty soon you won't have to look up how to cook things.

Consider what you gain by doing the household stuff: the place looks good and it's comfortable; cooking is reasonably enjoyable, the food is good, and the mealtime is pleasant for both of you. Let those be your standards, instead of someone else's idea of how things should be.
posted by wryly at 10:38 AM on March 25, 2013

you really have to get out of the mindset that everything has to be perfect. it took me a long time to realize that housework was an everyday thing. like i would never be DONE with it, i would just be done for the day. this depressed more than i would care to admit.

as far as cooking goes, make a meal plan every week with your husband. buy those ingredients. cook them. doesn't matter if it sucks the first couple of times, you'll get better at it as you keep doing it. you'll also start to develop some go-to dishes that you can whip together without even thinking about it.

for meal planning, i use foodgawker and tastespotting for inspiration. just browse through the photos, find a recipe that looks delicious, and add it to the list.

i'm not one for housework, but i will say that if i clean little bits every day, it's a lot less annoying than waiting to clean things at the end of the week. doing dishes every day is a huge pain, yes, but it's better than waiting 3 days and then taking 10 minutes to scrub off crusty egg yolk off a plate. i also respond well to rewards and point systems, so i use this iphone app called chorma that gives me points when i do something. and then when i accumulate enough points, i can trade it in for something for me, like a new dress or scarf of earrings. i can buy myself a new dress any time i want, but it feels like more of an accomplishment if i buy it because i have enough chore points accumulated. like i EARNED that dress.

look, nobody is perfect. i have cat hair all over the couch and last night i ate a chocotaco for dinner.
posted by kerning at 10:58 AM on March 25, 2013

Your partner cooks a lot, and it sounds like you enjoy his cooking, so why don't you ask him for pointers? Spend time cooking with him, helping him out. It'll make the work go faster for both of you. As you get more comfortable, you can take over some meals, and he can provide support.

Regarding chopping, do you have any kind of chopping tools, either a food processor or a hand-powered chop-and-twist type thing? Clean up the veggies, toss them in, and chop away. Then your produce stays fresher than if you bought pre-chopped veggies, and it's easier than cutting it all by hand.

Why do you dislike shopping? Is it the choices you have to make? Is it the crowds? If it's choices, make a list, and have a good idea of what you generally have at home, so you feel comfortable buying something that isn't on the list. If the crowds bother you, go shopping early on the weekend mornings, before 9 am if possible, or go really late if you're a night owl.

And how does your partner feel about the cleanliness of your house? If he's happy, try to relax, and sync your levels for household care to his levels, or find a happy medium if his levels are that far from yours. But if undone chores still bother you, work on a schedule with your partner, so you know when it is you'll be doing something, and how he could be helping out.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:08 AM on March 25, 2013

I agree about Home Comforts but I also think that changing your vocabulary and thinking about housework and cooking will go a long way. Rather than referring to 50s housewives and Susie Homemaker and all that pejorative stuff, try to relabel these actions in your head. You're showing your love and care by shopping and preparing healthy, good-tasting meals that you can both enjoy. Same with laundry and picking up. You don't have to turn into a gourmet chef overnight but taking some cooking classes (or watching YouTube tutorials), and buying the right equipment (good knives, for example), and setting milestones for yourself can go a long way into increasing your skill level, and thus, your self regard. Mastering new skills is empowering, I think, and laundry, cleaning, and cooking are life skills, just like budgeting, driving, and all the other stuff we do all day long.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:58 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you live anywhere that does grocery delivery? It's been life-changing for me, I hate the hassle of shopping but sitting down with the online shop and some nice food blogs (great ones mentioned above) for inspiration has saved enormous amounts of time and money. Even a weekly vegetable box can give some structure to your meal planning.

I think 'bunch of snack' meals are the nicest meals though! If you put them on pretty plates and call it 'mezze'..

Speaking of nice plates, I think in terms of making your partner's day nice, getting the occasional flowers for the table, using the good plates, and doing candlelight sometimes, probably will go farther than always chasing after Laundry Zero and being stressed about things not being perfect. A big salad, bread, cheese, humus and veggies with a relaxed heart is better than fancy sauces and strife within..

That said, if our place was 'clean and usually very tidy" I'd have tshirts made up with "Presenting the Perfect Housewife"! It sounds like your stress is actually more of a problem than actual mess? Is perfection what your partner wants from you, or what Pinterest or what-have-you wants? Put a little "Behind Every Successful Woman Is A Messy House" postcard in a frame and cut yourself some slack!
posted by Erasmouse at 12:35 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

On the cooking end, I will say that just making yourself cook more often will increase your skill and confidence level - you will get there! In college, I was famous in my group of friends for being a terrible cook but then I moved into a house with friends and we made a pact that each person would take care of dinner one night a week for the group so we could avoid the dining hall. I got a bunch of recipes from my mom and also relied heavily on Indian Vegetarian Cooking and the Moosewood Cookbook. I recommend doing something similar - ask your husband/mom/friends for their favorite simple recipes, and get a couple of cookbooks that appeal to you, and just go for it! You will get better with practice, I promise!

I actually don't recommend some of the sites listed above - Smitten Kitchen is really delicious, and I personally love her recipes, but by and large they are NOT quick - I can count on at least an hour in the kitchen to make most of the things on her blog. Similarly, sites like food gawker aren't focused on quick recipes. At least when you're starting out, that's where I'd focus until you are more confident with your skill level and actually enjoy being in the kitchen. I recommend Jamie Oliver's cookbooks (especially Jamie's Food Revolution and Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes). I am also a HUGE fan of the "create your own meals" feature on Fine Cooking's have to read through because some of the recipes are more complicated than you will want, but overall I love this for letting you pull together meals based on whatever is in your fridge/in season. My favorites are the Thai Curry, Muffins, and Meatloaf.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:06 PM on March 25, 2013

Here's a great list of links for specific areas.
posted by wallaby at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2013

Google 'meal assembly service' + 'your city'. Very popular here.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 2:01 PM on March 25, 2013

I feel your pain - I don't like cooking or grocery shopping (and I'm bad at both).

Here's one thing that really helped me: MEAL PLANNING. Nothing fancy or difficult. Near the end of the month, I go here and print the next month's calendar. Then using a pencil, I write down a dinner idea for every day of the month. When it's all filled in, the paper gets stuck on the fridge with a magnet.

There's just something about just getting an idea onto paper that has really helped me - I don't have to think OMG WHAT SHOULD WE EAT at 5:30pm when my husband and I are already tired and hungry. I just look at the calendar and we can zombie our way through food prep.

We don't mind repeating things, so every Thursday is "stir-fry night." Sometimes a day just says "scrambled eggs." If something sounds dreadful on its scheduled day, we have something else. My only goal is to have an idea on paper for any given day.

After doing this for several months, I know what meals will reliably give us leftovers so I can just draw an arrow to the next day. My husband likes to make homemade pizza, but only on his days off, so I schedule pizza days when he has time to prepare it. You start to get a feel for what works with your schedules/lifestyle. I can't promise miracles, but it's made my life a lot less stressful.

Also, I have never tried this, but you might consider doing your grocery shopping online and having it delivered. Safeway looks like they'll do same-day delivery if you order before 8:30am. You could do your meal plan, look up what you'll need to buy for the week based on your plan, and then do your grocery shopping all in one fell swoop without having to leave your house.
posted by meggan at 10:42 AM on March 28, 2013

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