Is there anything more satisfying than sitting down to a yummy, home-cooked meal prepared with fresh ingredients and with love? I’m embarrassed to admit that there are weeks when I don’t get that satisfaction for several days in a row, and I know I’m not alone.

“Many of us are strangers to our kitchens,” says Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, a nutritionist and dietician whose passion for the power of food has spanned more than 30 years. A frequent Kripalu presenter, Kathie knows that packaged foods can’t offer the nutritional punch that fresh, whole foods can. “If you’re really interested in eating well,” she says, “you need to make cooking a priority.”

I get it, but I don’t always do it. Like everyone else, I live a fast-paced life in which work, long commutes, and the call of technology consume more and more of my time. Preparing meals can feel like just one more task on a never-ending to-do list. But Kathie says that we overestimate the amount of time cooking requires and underestimate the benefits we’ll receive if we can begin trading some time spent online for time spent in our kitchens.

After our Kripalu Perspectives podcast, Kathie shared some tips to get yourself cooking with gas:

Get the right tools. Fancy gadgets aren’t necessary, but make sure you have the fundamentals: some sharp knives, a wooden cutting board, salad spinner, cast iron skillet, stainless steel pot and pan, slow cooker, pressure cooker, stainless steel steamer basket, and some storage bowls.

Stock up. “If you’re going to cook, you need to shop,” says Kathie, who advocates a stock shopping list with kitchen essentials like extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, organic beans and eggs, nuts and seeds, brown rice, and your favorite fruits and vegetables. When it comes to produce, don’t wait until the eleventh hour to chop it. Do it right when you come home from the market or first thing in the morning when you have more energy.

Beautify it. You’re more apt to spend time in the kitchen if it’s an inviting place to be. Paint it a color that inspires you. Create a windowsill herb garden. Put photographs of family and friends in view. And keep it clean. Who wants to cook in a messy kitchen?

Remember that more can be better. How about leftovers? Make enough soup, rice, or pasta for a few days. Then all you have to do on a busy weekday evening is heat it up.

Mind your thoughts. Your attitude toward cooking makes a difference. Replace those “have to cook” thoughts with “want to cook” thoughts. Remember, your kitchen is your Grand Central Station of nourishment. Chop those carrots with a smile; rinse that kale with love. Cooking can be a meditative practice that brings you into the moment.

“We need to cultivate a relationship with food,” says Kathie. “We spend more time on laundry than we do in the kitchen. That has got to change.”

Originally published by Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health