It’s hard to believe now, but the first time I formally stood in front of a classroom was also the day I stepped off an eighteen-hour flight from Detroit to Taoyuan, Taiwan. Jet-lagged and armed with exactly two words of Mandarin in my back pocket, I eventually—after many misadventures that would take a book to describe—found my way to the school for “orientation.”
Allow me to describe “orientation.” Basically, it entailed signing some paperwork, receiving five textbooks and being told by the co-director of the school, “Just have fun with the kids and you’ll do fine—oh, and your first class is in three hours.”
Three hours later, there I was…in front of twenty eleven-year-olds, doing my best to keep it together for the next hour and forty-five minutes. I survived, but it wasn’t pretty—and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty for quite some time.
I sought advice from anyone who would give it, but the most common sound bite was, “Just stay positive and have fun with the kids.” This was neither specific, nor was it very helpful.
Looking back, I know that having a copy of Roxana Elden’s book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers wouldn’t have solved all of my first-year woes, but it certainly would have put a lot of what I was going through into perspective.
Basically, Elden describes her book as the antithesis to the beloved Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Why? According to her, “new teachers need something stronger than chicken soup.” Most of us have heard our share of commonplace teaching advice, so let’s skip the sound bites and get to part I of 10 Things You Will Wish Someone Had Told You About Teaching.
A lot of the advice you get will make you feel worse—not better
You will hear lots of advice your first year. Some will be good, but you won’t necessarily be able to put it into practice right away. Some will be bad, but you won’t realize that until you have more experience. Either way, advice is likely to come from at least three different sources:
- Professional development: When done right, training sessions can be quite useful, but often they overwhelm new teachers. You may, as Elden points out, hear in one meeting that students must use “learning logs” or all is doomed. In the next meeting, though, you may hear that reading comprehension only happens when you conduct pre-reading actives with manipulatives. “What happened to learning logs?” you’ll think.
Don’t beat yourself up for not doing every last thing that begins with the words, “Research says.”
- Other teachers: Veteran teachers are often the best sources of information, but you may find that your colleagues are not able to entirely articulate their techniques. You may also find that these teachers give advice based on what they think they should be doing instead of what they are actually doing.
- Nonteachers: It seems that everyone has an opinion about education, especially people who aren’t teachers. Since you are a teacher, be prepared to hear all about what you should be doing in the classroom. You’ll probably hear a lot of “Let them know you care” or, in my case, “Try making it fun and you’ll be fine.” These folks mean well, they may even offer good advice on occasion. Don’t let them get to you.
Your classroom is your first responsibility
When you’re the new teacher on the block, it’s tempting to sign up for any opportunity that comes your way so that you can prove yourself. Here’s Elden’s two cents: “Unless you were specifically hired to run a program or coach, don’t take on other responsibilities until you have a firm grip on teaching.”
Coaching volleyball, leading after-school programs and planning class trips can be rewarding experiences—but they can turn into a nightmare when you’re still learning the essentials of teaching. Learn to walk before you run.
You can’t change everything the first year—and you shouldn’t try to
You’re coming into the school with a new set of eyes, which means that you’ll see flaws or ways of doing things that seem inefficient or unfair. Always remember that your classroom is your first responsibility. Focus your attention on becoming a better teacher, not on fighting the system.
Ask for help and accept it
New teachers often make the mistake of thinking that they have to design all of their own lesson plans, worksheets and assignments. There’s nothing wrong with designing your own resources, but you should also be open to getting ideas from other teachers. There’s a definite value in your creativity, but there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. You’ll quickly exhaust yourself.
Your students are kids, no matter how big they are
If you are an average-sized adult and you teach junior high or high school, you’re going to be working with students who are bigger, taller, and physically stronger than you are. Here are two pieces of advice: First, don’t allow your students’ size or appearance to intimidate you; second, keep your preconceptions in check and don’t allow superficialities to keep you from caring about your students.
If you found any of this advice helpful, be sure to check back this Saturday for part II!
“I just wish my students cared more.” Most teachers—first-year and veterans alike—have said or at least felt like this at some point.
But consider for a moment how subjective “care” is. What does a student who cares even look like? Care is an ambiguous goal, one that needs to be translated to concrete behavior if we are going to help our students become more motivated.
To help your students become more invested in your classroom, we’d like to share four tips from Robyn Jackson’s book, How to Motivate Reluctant Learners.
4 Ways to Motivate Reluctant Learners
The Investment Must Be Specific
Very often what looks like resistance is actually confusion about our vague requests. Consider the difference between the following:
- “Will you try harder to pay attention in class?”
- “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”
You’ll notice how the former not only lacks specific instructions, but does not give the student a clear picture of what you expect from him or her. Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.
The Investment Must Meaningful
It’s frustrating when our students miss class or don’t do their homework. If only they knew how important attendance and homework were, we think to ourselves, they’d change. Wrong.
It’s not that students don’t think these things are important; it’s more likely that they don’t share the same value system as us. As Jackson suggests, “Unless we identify an investment we want that is meaningful to them, they will choose not to invest.”
So how do we determine whether or not the investment we want them to make will be meaningful to them? Ask yourself the following two questions:
- Does the investment provide students with a way to use the currencies they have to get something they want? The investment should involve them using something they know and can do to accomplish a goal, acquire new and useful currencies, or solve an interesting problem.
- Does the investment provide students with a way to use their currencies to satisfy a need? The investment should involve them using something they know or can do to meet a need for safety and survival, connection and belonging, power and competence, freedom and autonomy, play, enjoyment or fun.
The Investment Must Be Observable
We all want our students to care, to want to learn and to try, but stop right there and consider what these three things have in common. They are all emotions, which means that they are intangible. You can’t touch boredom, irritation or passivity and very often you can’t even see the physical manifestations of these emotions.
To keep ourselves from being frustrated, Jackson urges teachers to “couch the investment we want students to make in terms of observable behaviors” rather than emotions.
If you want your students to try harder, you must be able to articulate what “trying harder” looks like. Otherwise, you have no tangible way of knowing whether or not your students are actually trying.
Consider the difference between the following:
- “I want you to try harder.”
- “I want you to turn in all of your work according to the set requirements on the rubric, attempt to answer questions—even when you are unsure if you have the right answer—ask for help when you don’t understand, and revise your essay according to the standards we discussed last class.”
Unlike the former statement, the latter gives you a concrete way of determining whether or not the students see “try harder” in the same way you do.
The Investment Must Be Realistic
Most students respect teachers who challenge them and maintain high expectations, but pushing students beyond what they are capable of can lead to disengagement, hostility, even mutiny.
Ask students to commit to something that is achievable, but not insultingly simple. To find an achievable investment, Jackson suggests that teachers “pay attention to what the students are investing in already and then select and an investment that is similar but perhaps one step beyond—something achievable with support.”
We’ve all had reluctant students, kids who hide in the back and do their best to blend into the crowd so that we don’t call on them or ask them to participate.
Students opt out of classroom activities for a variety of reasons: some sincerely do not know the answers, some are afraid of being wrong, and others—the rare few—simply don’t want to put in the effort.
We’ve been reading Doug Lemov’s book, Teach Like a Champion and came across a strategy that eliminates the possibility of opting out and helps teachers maintain high expectations for every student—even those that don’t have high expectations for themselves.
The next time you ask a student a question and s/he says, “I don’t know” or simply shrugs and looks out the window, give the No Opt Out strategy a shot.
No Opt Out: A Simple, but Effective Teaching Strategy
Lemov describes No Opt Out as a sequence that begins with a student who is unable (or unwilling) to answer a question and ends with that same student giving the right answer as often as possible, even if it is only to repeat the correct behavior.
How No Opt Out might work with a student who refuses to try
Say that you’re reviewing multiplication facts with your fifth graders. You ask Charlie, “What is three times eight?” Charlie looks down and under his breath mutters, “Don’t know.”
Using the No Opt Out strategy, you would turn to another student and ask him or her the same question. Assuming that the other student answered correctly, you would return to Charlie and say, “Charlie, can you tell me now? What is three times eight?”
You’ll notice that there’s no lecture and no stopping. All you are doing is reinforcing that Charlie must participate.
How No Opt Out might work with a student who doesn’t know the answer
Say you want Clifton to identify the subject of the sentence, “My mother was not happy.” Clifton takes a shot at it and says, “The subject is ‘happy.’”
To redirect Clifton, you might ask the class, “When I asked about the subject, what was I looking for?”
One student replies, “You’re looking for what or who the sentence is about.”
You: “That’s right.”
Now you return to Clifton: “Does this help any, Clifton? Could you tell me what the subject is now?”
Clifton now answers correctly: “Oh, yeah. It’s ‘Mother.’”
That’s great, but what if things didn’t go so peachy? What if Clifton still doesn’t get it? Simply ask another student, return to Clifton and say, “Clifton, now you tell me: What’s the subject of the sentence?”
This makes it all but impossible for Clifton to opt out.
There is one very important rule to this strategy
Always make sure that the tone you are using is cheerful and positive. This will make students feel confident and, as Lemov puts it, “cause all students to take the first step, no matter how small.” Not only that, it will remind them that you are confident that they can do it—that they really do know the answer.
Children, especially young ones, are masters of difficult conversations. Why? Because they don’t have to abide by the same set of “rules” adults do. Many adults struggle to say “the right thing.” We also tend to waffle, euphemize and skirt confrontations because we don’t want to hurt the other person. Kids…oh no, not them. When they don’t like something or find it dull, they have no qualms about telling us all about it. Adults don’t have it so easy.
Difficult conversations and teaching are a package deal and because of that, we’d like to offer a few tips to help you take the “difficult” out of difficult conversations.
Making Difficult Conversations Less Difficult: 5 Tips for Teachers
Figure out what you want—and be willing to bend when you don’t get it
Have you ever watched that History Channel show Pawn Stars? It’s a reality show that takes place in a family-owned, Las Vegas pawn shop. After about five minutes, you’ll have a sense for how pawning works: The first thing the pawn shop clerk asks the seller is “What do you want for it?” If the seller doesn’t name a price, the negotiation ends before it even begins.
Herein lies the lesson: You can’t have a conversation or negotiate unless you not only know what you want, but are also willing to bend a little.
Be emotionally present
It’s absolutely true that we should be calm and collected before we have a difficult conversation, but that doesn’t mean that we have to leave emotions at the front door. To the contrary, difficult conversations become less difficult when we are emotionally present—or in other words, when we are just as in tune with our own feelings and experiences as we are with those of the other person. It’s a tired cliché, but if we truly want to break down barriers, we have to walk in the other person’s shoes.
No more blaming
Conversations often become difficult because we focus our energy in the wrong place: assigning blame. Blame is a lot like truth with a capital “T”: everyone has his or her own version of it and talking in absolutes produces little more than disagreement, denial and frustration.
People don’t like to be blamed, especially when they are—or feel—wrongly accused. Instead of blaming, find a way to talk about how, where and when things went wrong. Then figure out how you might correct them in the future.
Don’t presume that you understand the intentions of others
When we start talking about intentions, we immediately enter murky territory. We can’t speak for you, but most of the folks we’ve met can’t read minds, which means that the intentions of others are usually unclear. Don’t presume that you know why people do what they do or say what they say. Intentions are complex and making unfounded assumptions about them is a surefire way to sour a healthy conversation.
Do not split your attention
Most of us have had a spellbinding conversation. Maybe it was with a spouse, partner or friend. What were you doing during this conversation? You probably weren’t fidgeting in your seat or glancing at your phone. Real conversations require both parties to be fully present, both mentally and physically.
Why do you think a Google search for “Classroom Management” yields some 79,100,000 key-word related results? We have a couple of guesses.
First, because teachers know that out-of-control classrooms don’t work. Learning cannot take place in chaos.
Second, because we know that teachers who can’t control their classrooms don’t usually last.
Fear of losing control has led too many talented teachers to rule by fear. No doubt, structure and order are critical to our success in the classroom, but as Rafe Esquith suggests in his book Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, there are simple ways teachers can “ensure the class remains a place of academic excellence without resorting to fear.”
Replace Fear with Trust
On the first day of school, Esquith suggests beginning by establishing a fundamental tenet: Our classroom is built on trust.
Of course, these words sound good to students, but they are vague. To better illustrate the point, Esquith uses the following example:
Most of us have participated in the trust exercise in which one person falls back and is caught by a peer. Even if the catch is made a hundred times in a row, the trust is broken forever if the friend lets you fall the next time as a joke. Even if he swears he is sorry and will never let you fall again, you can never fall back without a seed of doubt.
What is the lesson? Broken trust is nearly irreparable. Everything else can be fixed. Students may forget their assignment; they may break something in the class; they may disrupt a lecture or activity. No problem, all of these things can be fixed, but when trust is broken, the rules change. The relationship will be okay, of course, but it will never, ever be what it was.
Most students are proud of this trust and they’ll do everything in their power to keep it.
Children depend on us, so be dependable
Too often adults make promises to children and don’t keep them. Here’s an example Esquith uses to illustrate the importance of fulfilling promises.
There was a well-respected teacher who once told her class on the first day of school, that at the end of the year she would take them on an exciting trip. Practically every day, kids who misbehaved were threatened with the punishment of not going on the special trip. Many students even did extra work to make sure they would be included. During the last week of school, the teacher announced that she was moving and would not be able to take them on the trip. This betrayal not only ruined anything good she had done with the kids that year, but soured many of them on school and adults in general.
Trust goes both ways. When you tell your students you are going to do something, do it, even if it is inconvenient and seems trivial.
Discipline must be logical
Most students want to be challenged. They don’t mind a tough teacher, but as Esquith puts it,
“they despise an unfair one.”
Be fair. Be logical. If you’re not, students will see you as unreasonable—and once they see you as unreasonable, you’ve lost them.
Knowledge is always the best reward
Too often, teachers rely on rewards to manage their students’ behavior. In a way, this reliance makes sense. We’ve read B.F. Skinner in college; we know when humans are rewarded for behavior, they are more likely to repeat it. Rewards may appear to “work,” but their effectiveness can be deceiving. Consider Esquith’s example:
I have visited middle school classrooms in which the teachers use rewards to encourage their students to finish homework. One history teacher I met pits his classes against each other in a competition to see which of them can complete the most homework. The winning class gets a prize at the end of the year. Apparently this teacher has forgotten that knowledge of history is supposed to be the prize. When I spoke to the class that did the most homework, I learned that they were terrific at completing assignments, but their understanding of history was shockingly limited.
For an even more convincing reflection on the problems with a rewards-based classroom, check out an article by Dr. Richard Curwin.
If you want to communicate with your students outside of the classroom, there are plenty of ways to go about it: there’s always Facebook, Twitter, email and podcasting, but we’ve come across another free tool called Screen Chomp.
Basically, Screen Chomp is a virtual white board app that allows you to record your voice while you write messages, work out math problems, doodle and illustrate concepts. Once you’re done, you can share your video on the Screen Chomp website or grab a shortened URL and email, tweet or add it to Facebook.
To see how Screen Chomp works, check out the video below.
Our students all live rich and interesting lives outside the classroom, but often we only see one side of them. There are lots of simple ways teachers can connect with students and learn more about them, but if you’re looking for a new approach, we’ve got one thanks to Diane Mierzwik’s book, Quick and Easy Ways to Connect With Students and Their Parents.
Creating a “You Are a Star” bulletin board is one method Mierzwik uses to learn more about her students, congratulate them, and highlight accomplishments that take place outside of the classroom. Here’s how it works.
Subscribe to the city newspaper
You may not live in the same city as your school, but you can still get your hands on a copy of the monthly city newspaper. Often these publications highlight sporting events, theatre productions and community-service projects that our students are involved in. The school newsletter and newspaper are also good sources of information.
Post the clipping on the “You Are a Star” bulletin board
When you find an article in the paper, clip it out and make a copy of it. Create a bulletin board in class with the heading, “You are a Star.” Post the clipping to the bulletin board with the student’s name highlighted. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just post it and wait for students to notice.
Write a short note of congratulations
When you hand back papers, give the student the actual clipping and attach a handwritten note congratulating the student. You’ll find that some students are shy and will simply accept the clipping, but others will want to talk about the event, activity or organization more. This is an opportunity for you—and the rest of the students—to learn more about the student.
Ask for students to volunteer clippings and pictures
After you start posting events, odds are that other students will approach you with something they have done so you can add it to the board. Post them, even if they aren’t “timely” and encourage all of your students to bring in their own artifacts for posting.
Use this information to help students make choices in class
The “Star” bulletin board is not only a great confidence builder, it’s a treasure-trove of information you can use to help guide students’ choices in class. Many times, teachers leave an assignment open-ended so that students can take it in a direction that suits their interests. Of course, we’re then faced with, “I don’t know what to do.” If you know your students’ interests, though, you can help guide their choices.
Something to keep in mind
If you have trouble finding articles that feature your students, you can still create a “You Are a Star” board; you’ll just have to take a different approach. Start with students writing a journal entry about something they have done extremely well outside of school. This can be followed by a writing activity that asks students to share their “star” moment as if it appeared in a newspaper. Use background paper that looks like a newspaper (or use this free newspaper generator app) and leave a space for the student’s entry. After they write their account, students can add a photo to go with their article. The teacher can select one to post to get the ball rolling.
When our students successfully solve a problem or answer a difficult question on the first shot, it’s tempting to offer them praise and move on. Positive reinforcement is an important part of our job, but according to Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion, correct answers still leave ample room for teachable moments. One way Lemov challenges students to move beyond the right answer is by asking them to Stretch It.
Here’s how Stretch It works. When a student answers a question correctly, the teacher offers a reward in the form of a different—or tougher—question to ensure that the student is able to get similar results again and again.
Why do this?
First, asking students to Stretch It challenges them to “push ahead, apply their knowledge in new settings and think on their feet.” Second, it sends the message that the reward for achievement is more knowledge, something far more substantive than praise. Third, it gives teachers a real sense for whether or not a student has completely mastered a concept.
Here are four ways teachers can put Lemov’s Stretch It concept into play.
Moving Beyond the Right Answer: 4 Critical Thinking Strategies
Ask how or why
One of the best ways to assess our students’ mastery of a concept is by challenging them to articulate the thinking process—that is, how they came up with the answer. Here’s how you might put this strategy in place.
Teacher: How far is it from Durango to Pueblo?
Student: 600 miles.
Teacher: How’d you get that?
Student: By measuring three inches on the map and adding 200 plus 200 plus 200.
Teacher: How’d you know to use 200 miles for each inch?
Student: I looked at the scale in the map key.
Ask for another way to answer
There are many ways to answer a question. Challenge students to approach problems and concepts from a different angle.
Teacher: How far is it from Durango to Pueblo?
Student: 600 miles.
Teacher: How’d you get that?
Student: By measuring three inches on the map and adding 200 plus 200 plus 200.
Teacher: That’s very good, but I’m curious: Is there an easier way than adding 200 three times?
Student: I could have multiplied 200 times three.
Teacher: What would the answer be then?
Teacher: Very nice. That’s probably a more efficient way.
Ask for a better word
Students often begin the mastery process by grappling with concepts in simple, and often vague, language. When appropriate, challenge students to substitute their word choices with more specific ones.
Teacher: Why did the main character gasp, Janice?
Student: Because the water was cold when she jumped in.
Teacher: Can you answer with a different word from cold, one that shows us how cold it was?
Teacher: That’s a good one—how about using one of our vocabulary words though?
Student: Sophie gasped because the water was frigid.
Teacher: Very nice!
Ask for evidence
The older our students get, the more we challenge them to interrogate their presuppositions and commonplace answers. A good way to get students to move away from oversimplifying complex issues is by asking them to describe evidence that supports their conclusion. When appropriate, stress the process of building and supporting a sound argument.
Computers are no longer luxury items. Students and educators depend on them to communicate with one another, complete assignments and stay informed. While many of our students have access to a home computer, a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce suggests that fewer students have access to this technology than we may think. According to the report:
- 23 percent of American homes did not own a computer in 2010
- 46 percent of homes with incomes under $25,000 do not own a computer or have Internet access
We believe that all students should have access to a home computer—and so do the five nonprofit organizations we’ve listed below!
5 Places Offering Free, or Nearly-Free, Computers for Students
Computers for Learning (CFL) doesn’t offer a lot of information, but we can tell you this:
If you have more specific questions, call (866) 472-9161.
While the computers offered through Computers for Students aren’t free, they are cheap: Desktop computers cost $80 and laptops are $150.
Students can apply for discounted computers by completing this application form. Once they are reviewed and approved, a voucher will be mailed to the student. If students are located in the Arlington, Virginia area, they can pick up the system in person. If not, Computers for Students will deliver or ship at an extra fee.
Computer Recycling Center offers two free systems:
Sys # 1301nw: Core 2 Duo / Duo Core desktop, 1 GB memory, 160+ gig HDD.
Sys # 1304nw: Laptop, 1.0 GB memory, 80+ GB HDD, AC adaptor.
Requests for computers must be submitted on letterhead with the following information:
- The CRC system# of the computer you want
- The software programs you intend to run on the computer
- How you will use the computer in your program
- Who will benefit from this computer
Applicants will receive a response within 30 days. If approved, the applicant pays the cost of shipping.
Computers with Causes is slim on information, but applying for a free computer is easy. Simply complete the online application form and briefly explain your computer needs.
To qualify for a free computer from The On It Foundation applicants must:
- Be in grades K-12
- Receive a free or reduced school lunch
- Attend a public school
- Reside within the United States
If computers are not available, the applicant’s name will be placed on a waiting list. The student’s parent/guardian must write to The On It Foundation requesting a free computer. Information in the letter must provide the following:
- Student’s name, age, grade, school name, school address and school phone number
- Parent/guardian name, address, phone number
- Proof from the school (on its letterhead) that the student qualifies for free or reduced school lunch
Now that the school year is in full swing, many teachers find themselves a lot less interested in spending time in the kitchen. Perhaps it’s the weather, the stacks of papers, or just general exhaustion from spending nine hours in the classroom that makes our dinners increasingly less inspired. If this sounds like your situation, read on. We’ve got a few tips to help you revive your enthusiasm for cooking, even on school nights.
8 Tips for Teachers Who Have a Passion for NOT Cooking
There’s nothing wrong with leftovers—get over it!
For some reason, many cooks are under the impression that they have to serve fresh-out-of-the-oven meals every night. That’s ridiculous, especially because so many dinners—lasagna, chili, meatloaf, for example—actually taste better the second night. Cut out one night of cooking by doubling a recipe and saving it for another night when you can’t bear to step foot into the kitchen.
Try Sunday afternoon cooking instead
Sunday afternoons are usually lazy days for us since we try to get most of our grading and prep done on Saturday. On a friend’s recommendation, we’ve started a new Sunday afternoon routine: We put on a good record, pour a glass of wine and take to the kitchen. Our recipes vary—most of them are simple—but we cook three main courses (this takes about two hours), place them in Tupperware containers and store them in the fridge. Now all we have to do when we get home from work is reheat them.
Change the way you serve your dishes
How many bowls do you use to serve your dinner? For example, do you heat vegetables or baked beans on the stove and transfer them to a fresh bowl before serving? If so, you’ve just given yourself another dish to clean. You’re not serving Oprah or Gordon Ramsey, so stop worrying about presentation. Throw a hot pad on the table, serve your food straight from the kettle, the Pyrex, or the skillet, and save yourself a lot of unnecessary cleanup time.
Fresh vs. frozen vegetables
Buy frozen vegetables. They are already cleaned and ready for use; they’ll also save you money since they won’t wilt or go bad in the fridge if you don’t eat them right away. If you’re concerned about losing nutrients with frozen vegetables, keep in mind that frozen produce—if frozen and stored properly—offers a similar nutritional profile to fresh since it is usually picked at peak ripeness and frozen immediately after harvesting.
We don’t claim to be food connoisseurs, but we do know what we like and we can’t taste the difference between most frozen and fresh vegetables. There are two exceptions: stick with fresh asparagus and broccoli.
Stop doing everything yourself
Our cooking exhaustion has more to do with doing everything than it does with cooking. If you’re cooking dinner, there’s no reason you should be setting and clearing the table and doing the dishes. Trade off with your kids or your partner/spouse. Whoever cooks gets to walk away scot-free after dinner. Whoever doesn’t cook has to clear the table and do the dishes. While you’re at it, put those kids to work. Have them make the salad, heat the side dish, clean up, prep and, if they’re old enough, cook entire meals.
Make smarter choices at the store
Fresh garlic and herbs are tasty, but they have a limited shelf life; furthermore, they tack on more prep time. Instead, buy fresh crushed garlic and ginger in jars. Herbs are also available in tubes that you can keep in the freezer. Fresh lemon and lime juice can also be bought in bottles and stored in the fridge. Are you still grating cheese? Skip it. Buy pre-grated cheese and store it in the freezer to increase the shelf life.
Cook with a friend
If you are a bachelor or bachelorette—heck, even if you aren’t!— make a cooking date with a friend. As we suggested above, put on a good record, pour some wine, talk and take your time preparing the meal. Not only will you get a fresh cooked meal, you’ll get to catch up.
Eat out once a week and split something
We like to reward ourselves at least once a week by going out to dinner. To save money, though, we stick to Thai and Indian restaurants. The portions are usually enough for two or three people, so we always split an entrée with someone. Like we said, this saves us money, but it also keeps us from overeating.
We’re always looking for new ways to maintain (and reclaim) our enthusiasm for cooking, so please feel free to share your ideas with us!