Cooking – It’s only a big deal if you make it
a big deal.
If you’re someone who enjoys browsing the cooking
section of your local bookshop, looking for new
inspiration, glossy pictures and recipes… put this
book down immediately! It’s not for you.
But if you can’t cook, don’t enjoy cooking, are too busy
to cook, have never prepared a meal but would like to
save money or lose weight by eating out less often, or
you just want to be more efficient in the kitchen, this
book could change your life. Learning to cook without
a recipe can take the stress out of meal planning and
While I’ve always enjoyed cooking, my career, family
life and physical limitations have meant I have never
had much time for it.
As the first woman in South Australia to complete
advanced training in urology to become a urological
surgeon, I worked long hours in the hospital during
the day and studied at night. I had no time to eat out.
2 THE NO RECIPE COOKBOOK
In my surgical training days, there were no mobile
phones or Uber Eats. For years my dinners consisted of
a bowl of cereal or a microwaved shop-bought frozen
meal. They were unhealthy and, more importantly,
there was no joy in them. Food was simply fuel.
Then, when I became a mother, I wanted mealtimes to
be about sharing good food at home. I wanted to instil
good eating habits in my son and, as a doctor, I knew
how important it was to eat healthily. As a single mum
with a hectic full-time career, I needed a repertoire of
meals that were quick, easy and stress-free.
There was also another factor influencing my need
for simple meal solutions. Due to hip dysplasia that
was not detected at birth, despite multiple surgeries I
had a significant limp, limited mobility and hip pain
that increased with age. This condition meant that the
longer I stood for, the more pain I experienced. I only
had a limited amount of time in the kitchen before I
reached the point where I just couldn’t take the pain
A trip to the supermarket could leave me in so much
pain that I was unable to unpack the shopping
afterwards, let alone cook a meal. Heading to the shops
to buy food and then coming home to prepare a meal
was not an option. It was one or the other, not both on
the same day.
Sometimes, at the end of a day’s work, I could hardly
walk more than a few metres. My condition meant that
I had to plan all my family’s meals, so everything was
there, ready to go, when I started cooking.
When I finally had a hip replacement, at the age of
48, there were still years of rehabilitation before I was
able to walk and stand long enough to manage to shop,
unpack and cook all in one day. I found the skills I had
learned stood me in good stead. The planning saved
me time and money.1 My improved mobility meant I
could take on more work, so life just got busier and I
had less time.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began unfolding, I
became even better at planning, to the point where
I only had to visit the supermarket once every two
weeks to reduce my risk of exposure, which resulted
in saving even more time and money. I was even able
to extend the shopping to once every three weeks. This
resulted in more bulk-buying, which increased my
savings. I had never realised just how much one could
save by bulk-buying. I found some items actually cost
less when bought in larger quantities. For example, a
5kg bag of potatoes could cost less than a 2kg bag.
It became a challenge to see how long I could go
between shops, maximising my time and efficiency and
reducing my spending. By carefully calculating costs
per items to compare prices and focusing on specials,
I was actually able to halve my average weekly spend
for food, groceries and general household items from
1 All references to currency are Australian dollars (A$) and all
measurements are metric. The barbecue I use is gas.
4 THE NO RECIPE COOKBOOK
A$250 per week to A$125 per week. But the savings
were even greater than that. On my previous A$250
per week I was eating out at least once a week. But with
my two- or three-week meal planning, it was quicker
and easier to eat at home.
All this has led me to develop the method I will share
with you in this book. I’m going to show you how to
plan and prepare easy, healthy meals with a minimum
of mess. I’m going to show you how I changed my life
so you can change yours.