Resolved to Cook More at Home in 2020? Here Are 9 Ways to Actually Do It
And no, reheating takeout isn’t on the list.
I have a conflicted relationship with New Year’s resolutions. Every year, I decide that I won’t get to January 1 feeling like my life needs an entire overhaul. I will drink a gallon of water a day, continue my daily exercise routine through the holidays, and not give in to the temptation of sale emails flooding my inbox. And every year, I find myself making a long list of commitments after NYE to help me get back on track after a season of abundance.
After a few times through this cycle, I discovered that there was one resolution I could make that ticked multiple boxes. Want to get your health back on track? Cook more meals at home where you control the amount of oil and butter used, as well as the portion sizes. Need to conserve finances? The cost of groceries to prepare a delicious meal in your kitchen is drastically lower than eating out at restaurants or getting takeout. Resolving to trade screen time for more quality time with loved ones? Gather nightly around the dinner table with family and friends for that valuable face-time, made even more intimate with a home-cooked meal.
Now that I’ve convinced you that cooking at home is the one New Year’s resolution you need in 2020, here are nine tips I’ve picked up along the way to actually make it happen.
Plan shopping trips in advance
Over the weekend, or whenever you have the most time to organize yourself and go shopping, sit down and plan out the meals you would like to cook for the week. Dust off recipe books, browse the extensive recipe collections on sites like Real Simple, or ask your friends for their greatest hits. Then make a grocery list organized by category (e.g. produce grouped together, dry goods, dairy). This allows you to zip through the grocery store most efficiently. If a recipe calls for just a small amount of one ingredient, like a few sprigs of thyme, try to choose other recipes that call for that same ingredient to avoid waste and a novel-length grocery list.
Embrace meal prep
Once you’ve got your ingredients on hand, it’s time to start chopping, roasting and boiling to make weeknight cooking quick and easy. No matter my best intentions, when I arrive home after work on a Tuesday night, if I don’t have a clear plan to execution that can be completed within 30-45 minutes, I resort to takeout or a frozen pizza.
Sometimes the most daunting part of cooking is just finding the time and energy to deal with grocery shopping. For those moments, rely on grocery delivery services like Fresh Direct or Instacart. Once everything you need shows up on your doorstep without having to face the crowds, lines, and combing the aisles for that one last thing on your list, you might wonder why you would ever go back to traditional shopping. For veggies, I’ve been really into Misfits Market, which rescues “ugly” fruits and vegetables from being wasted and delivers them directly to your home. Convenience and sustainability? Count me in.
Enlist the right equipment
Having the right appliances, gadgets, and kitchen knives makes meal preparation and cooking much more efficient and enjoyable. I recently invested in a good chef’s knife and am amazed at how much more quickly I can chop and slice (not to mention it’s much safer to work with a sharp blade). For more must-haves, check out this list of the 7 gadgets you need to make meal prep easier than ever.
Learn one pot and sheet pan recipes
Is there anything worse than finishing dinner after a long day and being faced with a mountain of dishes, pots, and pans in the sink? Luckily, there are plenty of one pot recipes and sheet pan dinners that keep cleanup simple without sacrificing flavor. Throw together a side of leafy greens and dinner is served!
Buy pre-mixed spice blends and sauces
It can be easy to get into a rut with tried and true flavor profiles when you cook regularly. I’m a sucker for throwing rosemary and garlic powder in everything I make and calling it a day. The easiest way to punch up basic home cooking is to use spice blends and sauces. A good jarred Indian curry or enchilada sauce can make even the most basic chicken breast and broccoli meal feel exotic, and takes no time to prepare. You can find good seasoning blends to sprinkle over roasting veggies or meats in the spice aisle of your local grocery, and for authentic Chinese flavors, I've been obsessed with the sauces and seasonings from Fly By Jing.
Prep larger portions
Cook once, eat twice (or more). Double (or triple, depending on how many mouths you regularly feed) recipe quantities so that you have food to last all week long. You can also repurpose your leftovers into completely new meals so that no one gets bored. I like to make a slow-cooked pork shoulder one day, then the next day, throw the shredded pork onto a sheet pan and roast until a little crispy for carnitas tacos.
Nothing makes time in the kitchen fly by more than having the company (and extra hands) of friends and family. One of the best ways to get kids interested in healthy eating is to involve them in the cooking process, so give little ones easy tasks like mixing things together, tearing greens, or mashing potatoes. If all else fails, I can always lure my kitchen-phobic sister into at least entertaining me with stories while I prepare dinner by pouring her a glass of wine.