Cooking 101 Life Skills for Gifted Teens

Day 1 – Cooking Life Skills

If you are joining me from the iHomeschool Network 5 Day Hopscotch, welcome. I’m talking about life skills you need to teach gifted teens and for this first day of the hopscotch I’ll be discussing cooking life skills. While anyone can benefit from the information shared because these are basic skills that any teenager needs, whether boy, or girl, the reality is I’m a homeschooling mom to a gifted teen son, and as such, will share stories and ideas relevant to his needs. 

This post contains affiliate links to 3rd party sites where products purchased may result in paid compensation for this blogger. 

Cooking 101 Life Skills for Gifted Teens | Renée at Great Peace #ihsnet #homeschool #gifted


I realize that teaching kitchen skills for many kids can start much earlier than high school. The reality is that for some gifted children especially those which have sensory processing issues or struggles with some fine motor skills, cooking skills can be a difficult process to learn.  

There have been many times when I’ve marveled at the artistic details my son can create while drawing, yet struggle to cut his cooked chicken breast with a steak knife. At the same time, he is super sensitive to smells. Something that is just barely noticeable to me, is overwhelming to him. So the idea of teaching him how to chop an onion has always felt like a very difficult task. But I know I need to get over the fear and really dig in and teach him how to do these things. 

Cooking skills involves more than just cooking, and I debated titling this kitchen skills because cooking requires many executive functioning skills for working in a kitchen safely, efficiently, and nutritionally. There are a wide variety of skills that come into play for someone to gain successful knowledge of working in a kitchen. Even if they are simply learning very basic skills for providing for their own food eating necessities. 

Life Skills Learned while Learning Cooking Skills

  • Planning Skills
    • Meal Planning
    • List Making
    • Organizing & Rotating Pantry Items
  • Navigating Skills
    • Organizing a Kitchen
    • Navigating a grocery store
    • Finding items in a store
    • Waiting in line
  • Interpersonal Skills
    • Store Etiquette
    • Hosting a meal
    • Cooking for others
  • Personal Care Skills
    • Kitchen Safety
    • Food Safety
    • Nutrition & Healthy Choices
  • Money Management
    • Grocery Budgeting
    • Looking for sales and using coupons
    • Money handling

It might seem like the first place to start with kitchen skills is in grocery shopping. But, having a plan in place can make the grocery shopping skill even more successful. And, before they can begin planning for a grocery trip, they need to understand what they have in place, what meals they need to plan for, and what items they’ll need in order to make the grocery shopping successful. 

For kids who tend to chase the proverbial rabbits down holes and lose track of time for hours on end because they are hyper focused on coding a series for a new robot, forgetting to eat can be a real problem. 

Which is why they need to develop routines in order to keep themselves functioning throughout their day. I’ve discovered that using phone reminders, or timers, make it easy to prompt my son without the frustration of mom doing the prodding to get him in gear for small tasks.

This can also be done for setting reminders for meal time.

Meal Planning

Meal planning isn’t just something you want to teach your child to do on a hit or miss kind of basis. They need to understand that meal planning means knowing how to plan for at least 3 meals a day, but more likely 5 or 6 meals each day when you take into account small snacks.  

Using those routine skills I talked about, be sure to set up routines for your child to plan out meals on a regular basis. Maybe they will be responsible for the meal plan for 1 week a month, or every Tuesday. Or, perhaps you can assign them the month of, September and they’ll be responsible for planning all the meals for the entire month. Which also means learning how to manage a pantry, and grocery shop as well. 

You could also consider giving them one meal as their responsibility for meal planning for the whole family. Doing it one at a time, takes the pressure of getting it right for everyone, for an entire day. Let them learn how to meal plan just for breakfast and once they’ve got a good handle on that, let them switch to lunch, and then supper. 

  • Get a general overview of what items you have available in your pantry and fridge.
  • Think about how you can utilize those items for meals
  • Plan out at least 2 meals with items you have on hand
  • Make a list of planned meals and add additional meals
  • A meal isn’t just a main entree but includes side dishes and drinks, plan for those as well.
  • Find recipes needed for the meals you are planning
  • List ingredients you need to purchase

Grab my free meal planning printables.

General Grocery Shopping Tips to Teach Your Gifted Teen

These tips are good to know tips to help manage food safety, budget busters, time management, and other grocery shopping how to tips.

  • Plan meals in advance and list the ingredients that you’ll need to cook them
  • Check to see what you already have in the pantry before adding the item to your shopping list
  • Make a shopping list of items you need and stick to it 
  • Don’t go grocery shopping when hungry
  • Check use by dates, particularly on chilled items and bread
  • Buy chilled & frozen food at the end of the shopping trip so that they don’t get warm / defrost
  • Keep a cold storage option (cold bag, ice chest, etc.) in the car for frozen and refrigerated items
  • Shop in the evening to take advantage of reduced price meats
  • Buy chilled & frozen food at the end of the shopping trip to keep them cold as long as possible
  • Consider buying in bulk so that you will save money, and you can freeze or store many items for later and extended use
  • Compare prices of premium brands vs. store brands or no-name brands
  • Compare unit prices (e.g. $2.98 per 17 oz. box is $0.18 an oz. vs. $4.48 for a 26.6 oz box is $0.17 an oz.)
  • Look at products on all levels of shelves. Expensive items are often placed at eye level and cheaper brands on the top or bottom shelves can be a budget saver.

Cooking 101 Life Skills for Gifted Teens | Renée at Great Peace #ihsnet #homeschool #gifted


  • Check mail, newspapers, online, for coupons
  • Learn about online grocery shopping options, such as Amazon Prime, Wal-Mart Shop & Pick up, or some local grocers offer delivery, such as Hy-Vee Aisles. 
  • Let them sign up for their own membership/loyalty cards if grocery stores have them. Make sure they understand the difference between a membership card (a paid membership) and a loyalty card (usually free but offers discounts and rewards).
  • Check nutritional information on packaging
  • How to order from the meat, deli, bakery or other in-store departments
  • Don’t take advantage of promotions like “3 for the price of 2” if you only need one item
  • Be sure they understand that some deals such as 10 for $10 don’t require a purchase of 10 items, they’ll still get the single item for $1.
  • Take a calculator with you (or use one that’s on your phone)
  • Use caution at point of sale displays, these areas are created to entice last minute buys which can be budget busters.

Practice shopping skills with your teen often and as many times as possible.  Let your teen push the cart, manage the list, and choose the items. At first, offer guidance but slowly back off and let them make their own choices.  Allow them to manage the entire check-out process, staying nearby at first to ensure they understand check-out etiquette, and to answer any questions which may arise. 

Check out this post by my friend Heidi, Life Skills as High School Electives: Essentials for Stocking a Kitchen and Pantry at Starts at Eight.

As your teen becomes more and more confident in the process you can begin to stay in the car and send them inside to make small purchases without your assistance. Obviously in our cell phone society you’ll just be a phone call away and can run inside to help if the need arises.

Cooking Skills

Teaching basic skills is important. While your gifted child might enjoy cooking and develop a great affinity for it, others may struggle with the minute details and become frustrated. Repetition and routine will become the norm and while you may experience a lot of frustration when skills don’t come easily, keep at it. I say, as I am speaking these words to myself.

Cooking 101 Life Skills for Gifted Teens | Renée at Great Peace #ihsnet #homeschool #gifted


Basic Cooking Skills to Teach your Gifted Teen

  • The difference between baking, boiling, roasting, steaming, frying, grilling, etc.
  • How to do each of these cooking methods
  • How to boil an egg
  • How to pre-heat an oven
  • Gauging cooking temperature
  • How long different foods take to cook
  • Understanding the basics of kitchen utensils and what they are used for
  • Understanding small appliances and how to maximize their use for time savings 
  • Learning how to start cooking different items at different times, so that they finish cooking at the same time
  • Managing leftovers
  • Estimating amounts
  • Setting a table
  • Making drinks, such as; tea, coffee, iced tea, lemonade, punch, etc.
  • Types of food
  • Where food comes from
  • Proper Measuring Skills



Books for Teaching Cooking Life Skills

Homeschool Curriculum for Cooking Life Skills

Websites & Videos for Teaching Cooking Skills

  1. Make bread from scratch
  2. Make eggs different ways
  3. Properly cook meat
  4. Make coffee without a coffee maker
  5. Measurement conversions
  6. Prepare potatoes different ways
  7. Pasta from scratch
  8. Difference between sauté/braise/fry/etc.

4 Skills to Teach for Food Safety

Basic food preparation starts with food safety. Whether your gifted teen is simply making a sandwich or learning how to use a broiler it’s important for them to understand some basic food safety. Afterall, leaving condiments sitting on the counter all the time will not be conducive to healthy eating and lighting a pilot light, while a simple process, also comes with a modicum of risk. Therefore food and kitchen safety are important skills to teach even before the cooking process begins.  

Kitchen Cleaning

Keeping the kitchen clean is more than just a chore! It’s about food safety. Keeping dishes, counters, floors and appliances clean helps to prevent attracting rodents, and insects into your home. Those creatures can also bring disease. Additionally, keeping a kitchen in order helps to ease food storage dilemmas and provides safe, convenient food storage solutions. Here are a few places where you can get some kitchen cleaning ideas and tips to share with your teens.

Safe Food Storage

Food storage is more than out of site out of mind mentality. It is an important function in any kitchen. Not only does proper food storage allow you to stay organized in meal planning, it’s also a safety issue. Food can quickly become dangerous without proper storage techniques. Microbes, bacteria, and mold can begin to grow on food which can be harmful, even deadly to those who eat it. Additionally, without proper storage a kitchen can become home to insects and rodents which can spread disease as well. Food storage should be about preserving foods for consumption, but you want what you eat to be healthy, and safe.

Safe Knife Skills

Nothing is scarier than watching someone unskilled with a knife use it in a way it was never intended. I have nightmares of watching someone accidentally slice their hand or chop off a finger. Yikes! Knife safety begins with keeping them sharp. A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. 

  • Understanding different types of knives and their uses. 
  • Understanding cutting board safety
  • Cleaning & Storing Knives
  • Sharpening knives

I discovered this great resource for teaching knife skills with a step-by-step how to guide, and videos. 

Cooking School Day 1: Knife Skills

 Nutrition & Healthy Eating Basics

Nutrition and healthy eating can be difficult to teach because lifestyle choices for individual families, coupled with nutritional needs of different people can make healthy eating a subjective skill to learn. What is considered healthy eating by some might be considered unhealthy by others. Our family is eating on the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle plan. For us that means learning to balance good fats with low carbs with proteins serving as an anchor in all meals. 

I do think however there are some basics that all teens need to understand so that they can begin to make their own healthy lifestyle choices. 

  • Different food groups and how your body processes each type
  • Different types of vitamins and minerals and which foods they can be found in, and which you need to supplement and why
  • Reading & understanding nutritional labels
  • Recommended daily intake of calories, fat, vitamins, etc. Or an alternative to calorie count is understanding fuel type ratios
  • Compare the nutritional content of different meals, especially regarding calories and fat

Places Where Teens Can Learn More about Nutrition

10 Must Read Blog Posts for Teaching Cooking Life Skills to your Gifted Teens

Of course, as a homeschooling mama, I turn to those who’ve been there done that. So I’m sharing with you 10 of my favorite reads for helping your teens to learn cooking life skills from home.

  1. Easy Recipes for Teens – Starts at Eight
  2. How to Make Homemade Yellow Cake – Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
  3. Cross-Curricular Kitchen Lessons – Teach Beside Me
  4. Easy Recipes for Teens – Brain Power Boy
  5. 10 Simple Breakfast Recipes Teens will Want to Make – Education Possible
  6. 43 Cool Recipes For Teens To Make At Home – DIY Projects for Teens
  7. Easy Recipes for Teens -The Classy Chapter
  8. How to do Cooking Lessons with Teens – Day to Day Adventures
  9. 10 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes For Teens – Mom Junction
  10. Cooking as a Life Skill – Playful Learning

Whether you are just getting started teaching your gifted teens to cook or it’s one of their many passions, I hope you’ll find these resources to be beneficial to you and your family. Who knows maybe your child will be the next Wolfgang Puck, or invent the next great kitchen gadget.

Be sure to follow along all week for this 5 Day Hopscotch.
Practical Life Skills that Your Gifted Teen Needs to Know How To Do


► Day 1 – Cooking 101

► Day 2 – Finance Management

► Day 3 – Household Management

► Day 4 – Personal Care Skills

► Day 5 – On the Job Front

Peacefully Homeschooling,



This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s 5 Day Hopscotch.

You May Also Enjoy


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *