How to Cook More at Home

 

You know cooking at home is cheaper and healthier than eating out or ordering takeout. So how can you start a new habit of cooking from scratch?

 
If you really want to learn how to cook, you have to cook in your own kitchen.
— Jack Bishop, America's Test Kitchen
 

Step 1. Identify Why You Eat Out

Do you know why you aren’t cooking more at home? Once you identify the reason, then you can work to resolve the issue.

Overwhelmed?

If you are overwhelmed with the entire start-to-finish process of planning-shopping-cooking-cleaning, then consider signing up for a meal kit service like HelloFresh. Let them do the hard work of planning and shopping, and all you have to do is cook and clean. Even if you only do this for a few weeks, it can serve as a reset to get you in the habit of cooking.

Too busy?

If you are short on time at the end of the day because of soccer practice and piano lessons, then pull out your slow cooker or pressure cooker and put those appliances to work! Not sure which appliance is best for your family? Learn more about slow cookers, instant pots, and rice cookers.

Out of ideas?

If you are in a rut or don’t know what to make, you will have to find inspiration somewhere.

  • Subscribe to a high-quality recipe site like NYT Cooking or America’s Test Kitchen.

  • Visit a bookstore and treat yourself to a couple new cookbooks. Even better, your local library is a good resources for cookbooks and checking out a book allows you to “try before you buy”.

  • Or look for niche categories online like slow cooker dinner recipes for ideas.

Step 2. Stock Your Kitchen

You really only need a few basic cooking tools and ingredients.

If you are a beginner cook, there is no need to buy every kitchen tool or spice all at once. Purchase items on an as-needed basis. And buy quality because high-quality kitchen items can last a lifetime.

Step 3. Meal Plan

If you want to cook at home, then you have to find the time to do some basic meal planning. This is often where cooking plans get derailed. Do you set aside a regular time to exercise? Do the same for choosing the week’s menu.

Use a Recipe app

Most recipe apps include functions that allow you to quickly add your chosen dinners to a calendar and needed ingredients to a grocery list. As you collect recipes, this process only gets easier. Check out Recipe Keeper or Paprika.

Be realistic

Be realistic in your planning. You probably almost never need to meal plan for 7 nights a week. You will eat out! We find that meal planning for 3 dinners at home allows room in the schedule for plans to change, eating out, leftovers, etc.

Share the job

Do you have a partner? Share the task of cooking. If you want to cook 4 dinners each week at home, and you share the task evenly, then suddenly you are only responsible for planning 2 meals.

Let go of the rules

Do you believe a meal must include a salad, protein, starch, and a vegetable? Let this kind of thinking go! Not all your efforts in the kitchen must involve pots and pans or appliances. Dinner can be as simple as an avocado and blue cheese salad — even if a meal only takes a few minutes to prepare, it is still dinner.

Did your parents ever make breakfast for dinner? You may think you’re making pancakes because you are out of ideas or tired, but your kids will think it is a huge treat to eat pancakes for supper. Break the rules.

Step 4. Get the Groceries

Someone has to shop for the groceries.

If you are comfortable with outsourcing, try grocery delivery services like Instacart or Amazon Prime Now. These services can make the shopping process a whole lot easier.

Concerned that grocery delivery will eat up your monthly food budget? Think again. Sure, there may be a delivery fee involved with your order, but when you shop online, you can more easily stick to your grocery list and eliminate impulse purchases. It can actually help you save money on groceries.

Step 5. Keep track

When you find a recipe that your family enjoys, WRITE IT DOWN. Use a recipe app or a 3-ring binder. If you don’t keep track of the recipes you like, then you won’t remember them in a year. After you begin your own collection of recipes, you will find the whole cooking process continues to become easier and easier.

More tips for how to cook at home

Use the grill

Throwing meat and veggies on the grill helps to change things up and somehow always seems like an easier plan.

Start small

Start with a smaller commitment if you feel overwhelmed. Choose one meal per week and move up from there — this small goal is attainable for anyone.

Cook in bulk

Some people find it easier to prepare a week’s worth of food all on one day. They might dedicate Sunday afternoons to prepping for the week ahead.

Shop more often

Unpredictable schedule? If you live close to grocery stores, you might find it works better to plan and shop for meals as needed. Shopping more frequently can mean less food waste.

Shop the Sales

No time to plan or make a list? Then just head straight to the grocery store and use this week’s sale items as your inspiration. If you eat meat and fish, choose the proteins that are on sale to pull together dinner ideas and menus quickly. This can also lead you to try new things.

Remember your why

Remember why you want to eat in more. Keeping your goals at the forefront can help prevent moments of weakness. Whether your goals are health or budget related, constantly remind yourself of what you are working towards and why.

Keep treats in the freezer

Even the best laid plans go awry. Stocking up on quality frozen treats like pizza and ice cream can help prevent moments of desperation.

My family has never been big fans of leftovers, so if we have enough dinner leftover to make another meal, I freeze and defrost weeks later on busy nights.

Embrace convenience

That bag of precut broccoli may actually end up being cheaper if it means you use it to cook dinner. Don’t be afraid to allow yourself some conveniences. Not everything has to be made from scratch — I will never make homemade lemon curd.

Cook what’s easy or what motivates you

Plan to cook whatever makes the process more enjoyable for you — whether that is something super quick and easy, or a new involved recipe with special ingredients.


Need more inspiration? Sign up for a cooking class or invite a chef into your home to cook with your friends. And check out the collection of 6-8+hour slow cooker dinner recipes that help you get dinner on the table when life gets hectic.

 
how toChristine Darby