America has a major problem with overconsumption. We buy more clothes than we need, produce more waste than we recycle, and eat more calories than we require. Since we are constantly being bombarded with advertisements telling us we need to revamp our wardrobe, go buy fast food and toss the ever-so-convenient container in the garbage, we can’t exactly place the blame solely on the consumer for these realities. But they are realities, nonetheless.

So what is one to do in a society overrun by rampant consumerism? Well, many people have started to gravitate towards minimalism, a lifestyle that encourages you to remove distractions and focus on what is really important in life. While it may seem like this lifestyle is more for helping people get rid of the unnecessary belongings in their life, minimalism can also be applied to how to think about, prepare, and consume food. Minimalist cooking is more so the mindset with which you cook. And that mindset seeks to simplify when possible, to purchase only what is necessary, and to ideally eat foods in their natural state. What’s great about minimalistic cooking is that it’s not an all or nothing deal. Here are four minimalist cooking tips that you can benefit from incorporating into your routine.

1. Focus on Whole Single-Ingredient Foods

Nowadays, a lot of the convenient products available at the supermarket have a mile-long ingredient list. Even worse, some of the ingredients on that list are ones that you don’t recognize at all, can’t pronounce, or are more harmful than they seem. While, with research, it is possible to find out which products are safe and which are best avoided, the simplest way to make sure you’re eating wholesome foods, is by focusing on whole plant-based foods! This means, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. Pretty much the closer it is to its natural form the better.  These foods don’t have ingredient lists, preservatives, or artificial colors. These foods are the ingredients.

And there are lots of nutritional benefits to sticking with these simple plant-based foods. For one, your body is a lot smarter than you may think. It can tell fake processed food from real food, and it digests the latter much more efficiently. Plus, the sooner you take processed food out of your diet, the sooner your body will re-adjust and discontinue the massive cravings you have for it.  Lastly, by eating whole, plant-based foods, your body receives more of the vitamins and minerals available in food that can be lost to processing. You don’t have to worry about additives and preservatives that may be harmful or irritating to your body. Happy tummy = happy you!

2. Keep Your Flavorings Simple

Are you a vegan mayonnaise addict? How about Sriracha? While it’s okay to use these flavorings every once in a while, the healthiest route when it comes to cooking, is using simple seasonings. A bit of lemon, a dash of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and some plain ol’ salt and pepper are all sufficient when it comes to flavoring foods! After all, seasoning foods shouldn’t be about masking the natural taste of food, but enhancing its flavor profile so that you can enjoy it more! Plus, by eliminating heavily-processed condiments you’re also eliminating the extra sugar, additives, and unnecessary oils that come with it. Along the same lines, you should try to keep a handful of spices that you use frequently on hand. Having a spice cabinet that spills out when you open the cabinet is not only unnecessary but since spices tend to go bland after a year, it’s pretty wasteful. Instead, stick to a few staples, and chuck the rest.

3. Keep an Organized Pantry

Hoarding doesn’t always mean you have a house with piles of newspapers lining the walls and pizza boxes from months ago strewn across the floor. Sometimes, it’s as innocent as holding on to take-out Tupperware you haven’t used in two years, owning four identical ladles, and keeping all 15 of the mixing bowls you’ve accumulated over the years. Donate or sell the items you don’t use and we guarantee you won’t miss them! Plus, having less items means you’ll be less tempted to leave dirty kitchen tools in the sink.

Keeping a clutter-free pantry with only the foods and tools you use on a regular basis may not seem like a groundbreaking idea, but it can actually make your life a lost easier. Firstly, if you keep the stuff you use the most often in the front and the ones you don’t use as often in the back, you’re less likely to recreate the clutter. By keeping everything stored in clear containers that are labeled will also make it easier to find all of the ingredients you need, and make sure you use them before they spoil. Waste not, want not! Keeping an organized pantry, and kitchen, in general, will make meal decisions and your food prep routine a lot easier which is essentially the main perk of incorporating minimalism in the kitchen!

4. Think Before You Shop 

Having a game plan before hitting the supermarket is another tactic that will help you fight waste and, in turn, save money since you are not throwing out food. Deciding what you’re going to cook for dinner ahead of time makes it easier to create a little menu for yourself that uses overlapping ingredients and prevents you from buying 20 different items you only plan on using once that week. And don’t worry, even if you end up buying more than you bargained for, there are plenty of innovative ways you can use leftovers. How to Reuse Leftovers to Create New Dishes and Reduce Waste will show you how to store onions, tomatoes, broth, and veggies for future use in case you find yourself with more than you can finish. And aiming to reduce waste actually starts before your food even reaches the kitchen. Instead of acquiring unnecessary plastic through containers and bags, bring cloth bags for bread and produce and mason jars for bulk purchases like nuts, granola, and seeds. Check out this Simple Guide for Waste-Free Shopping for more ideas.

The minimalist mindset can also be applied when you are thinking of adding a new appliance to your kitchen. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Or can something I already own do the same thing?” Take an ice cream maker for instance. In the moment, buying an ice cream maker may feel like the best idea you’ve had in a long time. After all, who wouldn’t want delicious, homemade ice cream? However, the reality of the matter is that you’ll likely make ice cream a few times and then the maker will take up a permanent residence in your counter. That is unless you truly do make ice cream every single week – in that case, go for it. The trick to figuring out whether you really need to make a purchase is to sit on the idea for a week and if after seven days you still feel compelled to buy it, do so. The act of taking a moment to truly evaluate whether you are buying simply to buy will prevent you from making miscellaneous purchases you end up regretting in the future. This is not only a more conscientious way to buy that will prevent your kitchen getting bogged down by appliances you never use, but it’s a great way to make sure your money is going to items that are the most helpful to your daily life.

5. Try These Simple Meals

Sometimes simple is best. And there’s no doubt, it’s nice knowing that you can make a home-cooked meal that doesn’t require you to buy 20 different ingredients. And by “simple” we don’t mean a bowl of broccoli and tomato with some lemon squeezed on top. You’d actually be shocked at some of the amazing things you can make! For instance, these Smoky Paprika Beet Burgers With Spicy Tahini Sauce, these Sticky Peanut Orange Cauliflower Wings, and these Buffalo Sweet Potato Stuffed Mushrooms all require a mere five ingredients! (And they only cost $5 too!) You can even treat yourself to seemingly decadent treats that are actually a total breeze to make! These Chocolate Raspberry Candy Bars, these Oreo Truffles, and these Raw Chocolate Walnut Brownies all require less than five ingredients as well! These recipes prove that eating like a minimalist doesn’t mean you can’t indulge too! Don’t feel pressured to adopt all of these tips into your life from one moment to the next. Minimalism shouldn’t be about overthinking or striving for ultimate perfection, but simply extracting any unnecessary clutter or habits from your life, at your own pace. Image Source: Tofu Veggie Skewers With Spicy Coffee Chocolate Sauce