The season of feasting is over–now it's time to turn over a new leaf in the kitchen. Whether you make just one change, or all ten, here are a few manageable ways to up your culinary game this year.

By Heath Goldman
Updated January 13, 2016
Still life of vegetables (beet, apple, nuts, honey)
Credit: Paul Sirisalee

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Still life of vegetables (beet, apple, nuts, honey)
Credit: Paul Sirisalee

1 Prep like a chef–on Sundays.

This means planning your meals for the week ahead, taking care of grocery shopping, and doing some basic prep work. Cook potatoes, grains, hard boiled eggs; wash and trim fruit broccoli, squash. Stash everything in clear containers. When weeknights come around, you’ll be counting the hours you shaved off of dinner (and school lunch) prep.

2 Sharpen your knives.

Caring for knives is pretty simple–you can do it yourself with just a few tips. Don’t have the time? Take them to a professional knife sharpener this month. Why? It’s impossible to make precise, beautiful cuts without a sharp knife. And if that doesn’t convince you, safety should: a dull knife is more likely to slip and nick you while you’re cutting.

3 Label and date your spices when you open them.

Ground spices last three to four years, according to McCormick. In other words, that allspice you’ve had for decades has lost its potency, and needs to be tossed. Fresher spices make for more flavorful food!

4 Try one new recipe every week.

Sure, you have your repertoire of roasted chicken, steak, and pork chops down to a “t.” But now, more than ever, there are hundreds of fantastic cookbooks, not to mention an entire internet chocked with recipes, to inspire you. Introducing a new recipe every week (try different cuisines!) will help you learn more about cooking, and keep the family interested.

5 Snack on more veggies.

Whether your nosh of choice is carrot sticks, bell pepper, or edamame, wash and prep it, then store and front in center in your fridge. That way, when you go for a late night snack, it’ll be easier to grab a healthy option.

6 Use the whole vegetable.

Food waste was a big topic in the news in 2015, and certainly hasn’t disappeared this year. Composting, of course, is one way to recycle food scraps. But for the busy cook, simply putting the whole ingredient to use can also make a big difference. For instance, radish greens can be sautéed with olive oil or chopped into a kale salad.

7 Just, your veggies.

They can be main courses, too! Imagine a cauliflower that can be cut and eaten like it’s a steak. Check out our Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa Yogurt.

8 Don’t forget about your steamer basket.

Blanching veggies like green beans in a pot of boiling water leaches away a bunch of their nutrients. But if you steam them with a basket that doesn’t sit in the boiling water, none of the vitamins are lost.

9 Beware of sneaky sodium.

Sure, you know sugar can hide in everything from beverages to store-bought tomato sauce. But salt can, too. Here are some sodium bombs that you might not be aware of: store-bought breads, charcuterie, sausages, deli cold cuts, cheeses, and even most shellfish.

10 Remember, cooking and eating is all about balance.

If it’s Friday, and the week has lasted for years, and you feed the whole family pizza? Don’t sweat it.