The question I get most often from my real-life friends is, “How do you cook food at home every day?” I didn’t know that take-out existed until 5 years ago, so my habit is much less out of dedication than it appears on the surface.
I grew up on a farm 30 minutes from the nearest restaurant, so doing take-out just wasn’t an option. As humans, we tend to operate within the patterns that are normal for us. It is the result of training and habits, more than it is desire or determination. Now we use take-out occasionally, but usually less than once a week.
Here are a few things that are skills to help make this a habit!
Make a list of food that is EASY for you
This is the list of recipes you already know well. It should feel entirely underwhelming. These are the recipes that you have to default to on days that you have no energy and haven’t prepared ahead. Often we think about cooking from home as “trying new recipes” or “cooking from scratch”. While those are both good things to do if your goal is to eat from home that may not be the place to start!
For my husband who is a beginner cook his list looks like this:
- Egg burritos
- Brats on the grill
To make your own list, ask your family what their favorite foods are. List all of them for ideas but in a separate column list the foods that are SUPER easy for you to make. Maybe for you, that’s grilled cheese, rotisserie chicken, or nachos! Nothing is off-limits!
What you do with that list
That list of food you made is your “staples” you’ll try to make them or something like them on a majority of the days. A couple of days a week you can try a new recipe, or a couple of days a week you can do an “emergency meal” (we will talk more on those in a minute), but meals from that list are your core.
Keep a Stocked Pantry
The best plan still won’t work if you don’t have the items on hand to make those foods. If grilled cheese is a “go-to” food for your family be sure you always are stocked up on bread and cheese. If it’s tacos having beans, rice, and ground beef is vital. Having a stocked pantry ensures that you will never look in the cupboard and there isn’t something for AT LEAST one of those core dishes.
Have an Inventory
Make a list of items you need to have on hand to cook your core meals. Basics like flour, sugar, butter, noodles, etc. If you have a list and check each item before you go shopping it’s easier to remember what you need than trying to remember to write things down as you run out. If you want mine, you can find it here!
There are days when everything goes crazy and you can’t get to even a core meal. Keep a few foods on hand that is EASIER than your EASIEST recipes! Our foods like this are Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken or Chimichanga Rice. It’s pre-made and all I have to do is heat it. It’s not healthy or ideal, but it is still cheaper than bringing home takeout.
Make it a Little Healthier to Cook Food at Home
Okay, those foods are fine and dandy, but what if your goal in eating from home is more about trying to get healthy than it is saving money? Can you still do that easily?
My favorite way to add easy veggies to any meal is to keep freezer veggies on hand. My favorites are thin green beans (also trader joe’s), broccoli, and riced cauliflower.
To prep them I just toss them still frozen onto a pan, drizzle them in oil, and roast them on broil until a little crispy. This is about 7 minutes for green beans and 20 for broccoli.
Set yourself up for Success to Cook Food at Home
Something I’ve learned in the last year is to keep a deep dish in my fridge for thawing meat. It keeps the blood from running everywhere, but also makes sure I always have meat thawed and ready for cooking. If you can’t find the exact dish I use a 9×13 cake pan would work just as well!