The ultimate goal is to not eat out for a month.
What I've found after completing a few Cookuary challenges with my friends is that there is definitely a range in the type of ingredients that can be used when cooking or preparing a meal.
If all you do is not eat out for 30-days, you are essentially completing challenge. Sort of. But I do want everyone to push themselves to cook and prepare meals from scratch since that will help you hone your cooking skills and push you to try more challenging dishes.
To illustrate this, here is an example of the different types of beef you could use in a dish:
- Pre-cooked grain-fed beef
- Pre-cooked organic grain-fed beef
- Pre-cooked organic grass-fed beef
- Raw grain-fed beef
- Raw organic grain-fed beef
- Raw organic grass-fed beef
- Raw local grass-fed beef
- Raw local organic grass-fed beef
Or for a tomato sauce:
- Canned tomato sauce
- Canned organic tomato sauce
- Canned peeled tomatoes
- Canned peeled organic tomatoes
- Fresh tomatoes
- Fresh organic tomatoes
- Fresh local tomatoes
- Fresh local organic tomatoes
You could even get into more detail than I have here.
I'm not looking to have everyone try and make every single piece of a meal from scratch for the entire 30-day period. Some meals will naturally lean towards being made from scratch and others will be a lot tougher. But that also may tell you something about how processed the meals are that you are eating on a regular basis and how many truly whole foods you are putting in your body.
Now if you buy a frozen pizza that has all of the ingredients on it and all you have to do is heat it up, I don't think that quite counts for Cookuary.
But if you buy a pizza crust, a sauce, mozzarella, toppings, and prep and cook the pizza at home, I do think that counts. At least in this version you can start to make healthier decisions about the ingredients you are using, even though some of them may already be prepared. Plus, in this case, you are more likely to put less overall ingredients in your body than you would with a prepackaged pizza. And if you've never cooked a pizza before, you are now starting to stretch yourself and will have some basic pizza knowledge for the next time you try to make one. And on this next attempt, you can make the sauce from scratch and maybe even the dough!
On the other hand, if you consistently decide to use precooked or already prepared ingredients for all your meals, that kind of defeats the purpose of a cooking challenge.
If you completed the challenge with me and didn't eat out for 30-days, but you ate sandwiches with pre-made bread and precooked meat for every meal, while that's not quite the essence of Cookuary, I would still say you successfully completed the challenge in that you didn't eat out for 30-days and still most likely minimized the ingredients you put in your body. Hopefully next time you participate in the challenge you can add some cooked meals to the list.
I will also say that if you are looking for the easy way to get through this challenge, maybe this challenge isn't for you. It should be difficult to plan and prepare your meals for a 30-day period and you should have to really stretch yourself to make it through. But completing the challenge is well worth it in the end!