Dear Sandra

Dear Sandra,

I’m in a cooking rut. My family is sick and tired of Hamburger Helper and fish sticks, but I don’t have the time, money or the know how to do any better. Any suggestions?

Hamburgered-Out in the USA

Dear Hamburgered-Out,

You don’t have to cook like Emeril and have Oprah’s bank account to throw together awesome meals. It’s hard if you are the only person responsible for putting together meals, as most women are. Make meal times a family affair. Ask your family what they would like to eat and also ask for their help in preparing meals. Even young children can help by washing vegetables and cutting with proper instructions. This keeps them occupied and also encourages their independence and sense of self-worth. My kids have their own plastic $2 cutting boards and kid-size aprons and are ecstatic to help out in the kitchen. Remember though, it takes A LOT of patience to cook with kids.

As for cost, think of how much you are spending on hamburger helper and frozen fish sticks. Hamburger Helper is at least $2.50 a box, and it only lasts one meal. Buying pasta in bulk will cost you the same amount and last at least 4 meals for a family of four. Really when you take time to think about it, for the time it takes to prepare Hamburger Helper you could just add your own macaroni and chili seasoning.

If you are short on ideas, type the keyword “recipes” into any Internet search and you will be bombarded with websites! Many sites offer you the option of inputting ingredients on hand, choosing ethnic dishes, and choosing the amount of time and effort you want to put into your meal. It may take awhile, but you’ll soon come to find a site that becomes your bible. My favorite is This site is easy to navigate and you can also sign up for a recipe of the day to be emailed to you. If surfing the web isn’t your thing, go to the library or scrounge through rummage sale book bins to find cookbooks and spend an evening skimming through them looking for various recipes you’d like to try. Encourage your spouse and children to look through them as well to find any dishes that they may want to try.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try new things. Experiment until you get it right.
Happy Cooking!



This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of