30 Days of Home Cooking Challenge

On July 20th, 2020 I ordered cookies on DoorDash and not proud of how often I was using that app I decided to uninstall it and make meals at home. When the COVID-19 pandemic started my husband and I were ordering takeout more often than I’d like to admit for a couple reasons: we were afraid of going to the grocery store and possibly catching it and we both had busy schedules and were too tired to cook by the end of the day. The food takeout expense quickly racked up and I knew something needed to change.

I love to cook. I grew up in a home with a mom who runs her own catering business and is dang good at it. Although I knew I would personally never have a catering business of my own, I grew to appreciate the time, effort, and dedication that comes with preparing a home cooked dish.

So, on July 21st we started on day one of our 30 days of making all meals at home challenge. I’m more of the cook in our marriage and my husband is learning, but because it’s something I also enjoy I don’t mind doing the bulk of the cooking. I do appreciate that he doesn’t mind doing the dishes, if I haven’t already done them (I have a habit of cleaning up while I go because I don’t like cooking in a dirty space). Because I get bored with food easily, I knew that I would need to keep the menu interesting if we were going to do this challenge. So, Pinterest and I became reacquainted and 5 food boards later I felt a bit more prepared to make a variety of meals. A lot of them consisted of American and Nigerian foods because that is what I grew up on, and my husband loves it.

Honestly, I’m not the best at meal prep so that isn’t my strongest point, but I do a pretty decent job of scouring our kitchen and researching what I can make with the ingredients we already have on hand. I utilized MyFridgeFood—a free site that allows you to pick what items you have on hand and then it comes up with a list of recipes you can try—a few times. I also love having a variety of seasonings to use because that’s one of the ways I keep our meals interestingly tasty.

I learned to appreciate leftovers (I used to not be the biggest fan of them) mostly because it meant I didn’t have to think of things for lunch and/or dinner some days. We had some ready-made meals on hand, like corn dogs and ramen for days when I didn’t feel like cooking or didn’t feel well. We also had things like tortillas, cheese, bread, sandwich meat, etc. for easy meal ideas for lazy days.

When we went on a weekend getaway during this challenge, I made a meal that would last us for a day since we were spending one full day at our destination and then made sure that we had access to a fridge and microwave at our AirBnB. The only food item we ended buying was ice cream because we were in Logan and my husband is an alumnus of USU, so we always get Aggie Ice Cream when we visit. It was our little treat. We actually ended up saving more money on food during this trip than any others we have taken.

The purpose of this challenge was to get us eating out less and eating in more, as well as to save more money in the process. But my health has also improved, one of my sisters asked me if had lost weight during this and I told her I didn’t know because we don’t own a scale. But I do know that I lost inches around my waist, my clothes fit better, my digestive issues have decreased, and when I run or bike, I feel lighter. Since it has become a habit to cook at home now, we are continuing it and our current goal is to eat out only once a month.

Reflections of a Former Refugee

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘refugee’?

I think people often look at the word ‘refugee’ with negative connotations due to the images and discussions that typically accompany it.

Maybe it’s because I was once a refugee, but I think of that word and I think of courage, resilience, strength, hope, loss, fear, longing, and bravery. I can’t begin to fathom what it was like for my parents to not know what the next thing to do would be or what would happen to them and their children in the day-to-day. It was always about surviving until the next day and keeping us kids fed and safe, and I feel that takes a lot of courage, strength, and hope.

I didn’t back then, but I now understand a bit why my parents were so hard on me as the first-born living some of my childhood years in a refugee camp. I was still a curious kid so it’s no surprise that I wandered off and when I got in trouble for leaving my siblings behind, I would then take them with me. But I would get in trouble still because I wasn’t supposed to be wandering off in the first place, whether or not I took my sisters along. Life in a refugee camp for an independent and strong-willed six years-old was quite the adventurous one.

Although I have not yet arrived where I would like to be in life, I have come a long distance physically, mentally, and ambitiously. As I sit here writing this my loving husband is seated next to me playing Animal Crossing and every few minutes giving me some loving. In August of this year I will be celebrating one year of officially becoming a U.S. citizen (yes, I became a citizen before I married my husband). I’ve received education (there are still girls and women in the world who do not get this opportunity) and have worked and developed important skills. The list goes on, but all this to say that I am grateful for every single experience and hardship life has presented at my door from when I was born to now.

The young refugee is now a grown woman with a place to rest her head and call home, and with a person that helps her feel safe in it.