How to start cooking at home more and eat out less
Thinking you need to learn how to start cooking at home instead of grabbing takeout all the time? You are in good company.
There is nothing more relatable than wanting to eat but not wanting to cook for yourself. Like, who has the time? The energy? The skill? And really, nothing tastes better than food made by someone else.
However, not all of us have the budget to eat takeout all the time. And, well, most food that you order out is probably not the healthiest option. It’s easier to make sure you’re eating a healthier, balanced diet if you make the food for yourself. Learning how to start cooking at home rather than relying on premade foods and restaurant meals is also ideal if you’re trying to pursue a specific lifestyle, like a vegan, flexitarian or paleo diet – or if you have allergies or sensitivities to widely-used ingredients like gluten. Cooking your own food can help you feel secure in what you’re eating.
Additionally, if you’re trying to make a lifestyle change, like substituting some of the meat in your diet for plant-based options or becoming more adventurous in the types of cuisine you consume, cooking for yourself can be a real help. Getting used to new ingredients and foods you’re usually hesitant to eat is natural. By preparing them yourself, you can make them in ways that you’ll know you’ll like with ingredients and preparation methods that you trust. Read on to learn how to start cooking at home so you can take more control over your diet.
Making the time for cooking at home
You may want to do more home cooking but just can’t find the time to stand in the kitchen chopping vegetables. In the world we live in, that’s no wonder. Slaving away for hours to make a meal that you’ll finish in 20 minutes doesn’t sound very fair, does it? We’ve got a few methods to make that process a little quicker, just so you can fit a few more homemade meals into your week.
Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts
Whoever said you must cook with blood, sweat and tears was wrong. Who cares if you buy frozen, pre-chopped vegetables instead of the more expensive and labor-intensive fresh ones? Especially onions. Who has time for the tears?
The same goes for canned fruits and veggies. While fresh produce seems healthier, frozen and canned products can contain just as many, and sometimes even more, nutrients. “A recent study that looked at the nutritional value of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables concluded that each can contribute to a healthy diet,” according to the Produce For Better Health Foundation. So, having some canned and frozen produce on hand is convenient when you want to whip something up quickly without sacrificing nutrition.
When we talk about shortcuts, we also are talking about recipe shortcuts. You can buy some of the components premade if you’re low on time. Purchasing some minute rice or premade pizza dough isn’t going to kill your dish. There are no hard and fast rules when you’re learning how to start cooking at home – just cook however you’re comfortable and do what works for you.
Yes, you may want to meal prep
Meal prepping doesn’t have to mean eating unseasoned chicken and steamed vegetables for lunch every day. Preparing your meals in advance, whatever they are, will make it easier to eat home-cooked meals rather than eating out. Of course, you could make macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets, if you want. We’re not going to stop you.
Meal prepping seems to often come with a side of self-congratulating fitness rhetoric, which can make it seem dull and even distasteful. In reality, just think of this process as packing your lunch ahead of time. Making a large meal to split over a few days doesn’t have to mean bland food (though you may want to sneak a vegetable or two in there for good measure).
Ultimately, most people have more time on weekends that they don’t have during the week, so meal prepping just makes more sense. Just make sure to assemble meals or the components of meals that keep well in the refrigerator for at least a few days.
There’s nothing wrong with a 20-minute recipe
Googling a “20-minute _____ recipe” does not make you a bad cook or inept in the kitchen. It just means that you have a limited amount of time to get food on the table. We’ve all been there. Not everyone has the time, or desire, to perfect a roux, whisk up a hollandaise or slow simmer the perfect risotto. And, that’s perfectly OK.
You can also search for “easy” or “cheap” recipes, which usually take less time and have fewer ingredients. Even if you have allergies or dietary restrictions, there’s a recipe blogger out there who has some quick and simple meal ideas for you.
Cooking as a creative outlet
While many of us see making food as a means to an end and a way to keep ourselves alive, it’s also an art form. Not everyone is good at cooking, but we can all improve. One way to start making more meals yourself is to start making foods you enjoy making. Thinking of cooking as a mode of self-expression will help you look forward to doing it more often.
Explore other culinary cultures
When we eat out, we don’t usually look for the types of foods that we make at home. Instead, we look for restaurants that serve what we don’t or can’t make at home. So to have some fun in the kitchen and satisfy your craving for Indian, Mexican, Japanese, Ethiopian or other regional food, you can try your hand at making these kinds of foods yourself.
Make sure to explore cultures different from your own respectfully by using authentic recipes from people who belong to the culture. A good tip for making sure the recipe you’re using is genuine is to include “authentic” in the search bar. Or, you can always ask your favorite restaurant for a recipe or two of theirs if they’re willing to share.
Switch it up
Making the same old meals a million times isn’t going to make cooking any more fun. While it’s great to have a few trusty food staples in your back pocket, making one new meal that you’ve never tried every week or two can do wonders for bringing excitement back into the kitchen.
To find new recipes and learn how to start cooking at home, it helps to follow food bloggers on social media, check the paper for new recipes and watch cooking shows (on TV or YouTube). You know what you like best, so if something sounds good to you, then it’s probably worth a shot.
Making cooking a new creative hobby is extra fun because you get to consume the end product. It’s art that you can eat. And, like most artistic endeavors, as long as you like it, then it counts as good.
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