Does the thought of cooking at home make you stressed and anxious? Maybe you’re too tired to cook at the end of a busy day. Maybe you don’t feel confident in the kitchen. Or, maybe you’ve tried cooking a healthy meal for your family before, and your kids turned their noses up at it.
Whatever your reason for dreading cooking at home, you’re not alone. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, only one in 10 Americans External Site actually loves to cook. Despite this, making home-cooked meals for you and your family is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. Cooking at home puts you in control of ingredients and portion sizes, helps you form healthy eating habits, is less expensive than eating out, and is a great way to bond with your family.
How cooking at home keeps you healthy
- It puts you in control of ingredients and portion sizes
- It’s a great way to bond with your family
- It helps you form healthy eating habits
- It’s less expensive than eating out
5 tips to help you enjoy cooking at home
Still skeptical? We don’t blame you — but we encourage you to give cooking at home another shot. Here are five tips to help you enjoy cooking at home, regardless of your skill level.
Have a few essential tools in your kitchen
You don’t need to have the latest and greatest cooking gadgets — but you do need a few basics. Having quality tools on hand will help reduce mid-recipe frustration, like food sticking to the bottom of the pan or not being able to thinly slice an onion. Here are a few essentials you’ll need:
- A chef’s knife and a knife sharpener
- Non-stick frying pan
- Cutting board (use different boards to avoid cross-contamination when preparing meat or fish)
- Measuring cups and spoons in a variety of sizes
- Two saucepans, one small (1.5-2 quarts) and one medium-sized (3-4 quarts)
- A larger stock pot (8 quarts)
- Baking sheet(s)
Once you have all the tools you’ll need to cook at home, try to keep them organized and easy-to-reach. Having a space that makes it easy for you to cook every day will help you want to cook more at home and enjoy the process.
Keep your pantry well-stocked and plan ahead
Avoid the feeling of not knowing what to cook by always having cooking staples on hand. Staples are anything you know you’ll use regularly and can incorporate into a quick, healthy meal. Here are a few examples:
- Rice and other grains like farro, quinoa, and barley
- Olive oil
- Flour and sugar
- Common spices
- Broth or stock
- Canned tuna
- Canned beans
- Canned tomatoes
- Frozen vegetables
You don’t have to go full #mealprepsunday, but knowing what you’re going to cook for the week in advance will help you stick to cooking at home — even when time is short and energy is low. If planning out the whole week feels overwhelming, scale it back. Create a shopping list for two or three meals that will make leftovers (an added bonus), and roughly plan the rest around what’s in your pantry — allowing for some flexibility if your plans change.
Clean up as you go
This may seem counter-intuitive, but you’ll likely find that cleaning up as you go reduces your anxiety around cooking at home. If you leave the mess to after the meal, you're more likely to dread cleaning up — which makes you dread cooking at home in the first place.
Now, we’re not saying you need to deep clean your kitchen after the casserole is in the oven — that’s unrealistic. Put away condiments, dump vegetable scraps in the garbage, and clear the counters of bowls and utensils you used during prep to make the job easier once you're done eating.
You can also try picking up a few of these cleaning habits to make your space a more enjoyable one to cook in:
- Don’t let mail and papers take up space in the kitchen
- Clear the sink regularly, so it doesn’t feel like a monumental task
- Run the dishwasher routinely and put dishes away as soon as you’re able
- Don’t let random objects hang out on your kitchen counters
Get the kids involved
Have a picky eater on your hands? Kids are more likely to eat food that they've had a hand in choosing and preparing.
If your kids are old enough, encourage them to help you out in the kitchen. Or, if they're up to it, encourage them to plan a meal, making sure to think through all aspects, including a good vegetable. This not only makes your job easier but can give your kids a greater appreciation of the food that’s put in front of them — and the effort and time that goes into it. Young children especially love to help and copy what their parents are doing, so give them a safe (i.e., no knives or provide child-safe tools) job to do while you cook.
Make it fun
Sure, cooking at home day in and day out may seem like a repetitive task, but that’s where you can get creative. For example, put on a playlist of your favorite tunes or catch up on the latest episode of your favorite podcast. By tying cooking to something else you enjoy, you’re more likely to enjoy cooking as well.
Get healthy recipes and meal ideas
We have a variety of healthy, easy-to-make recipes that you and your family are bound to enjoy, from main dishes and appetizers to sides, salads, desserts and more. Bookmark our recipes section now to make planning weeknight meals and cooking at home that much easier.