8 Easy Ways to Cook More at Home If You're a Beginner

And no, reheating takeout isn't on the list.

Not everyone has an inborn talent in the kitchen, and those people tend to find themselves eating takeout or sitting in a restaurant after most long workdays. However, there are several legitimate reasons to cook more and hone your culinary skills:

  • Want to get your health back on track? Start cooking more meals at home where you control the amount of oil and butter used and 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.
  • Want to minimize your screen time and spend 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.

While the incentive is certainly there, it's not easy for beginners to start cooking more often without some initial guidance and habit-building help. So here are some kitchen tips that can help make cooking for yourself happen more than once every other week.

01 of 08

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 recipe collections, use a meal planning app, or ask your friends for their greatest hits. Then make a grocery list organized by category (e.g. produce grouped together, dry goods, dairy).

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. Eventually, you will have an assortment of go-to meals that use similar ingredients, and your grocery shopping will go a lot faster because you'll already have some pantry staples on hand.

02 of 08

Save Time With Grocery Delivery

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, look into services like Misfits Market, which rescues “ugly” fruits and vegetables from being wasted and delivers them directly to your home. The best part is that you could save up to 40% on your produce order. Convenience, sustainability, and affordability? Count us in.

03 of 08

Purchase the Right Equipment

Having the right appliances, gadgets, and kitchen knives make meal preparation and cooking much more efficient and enjoyable. For example, once you invest in a quality chef’s knife, you'll be amazed at how much more quickly you can chop and slice (not to mention it’s much safer to work with a sharp blade). Dutch ovens are not only durable but accommodate a variety of cooking techniques—from braising to deep-frying, on the stove-top or in the oven. And, a great nonstick cookware set can minimize kitchen cleanup.

04 of 08

Try 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.

05 of 08

Prep Food Ahead of Time

Once you've got your ingredients on hand, it's time to start chopping, roasting, and boiling produce to make weeknight cooking quick and easy. Keep in mind that some prep work might have to be done the night of (because no one likes soggy mushrooms).

However, no matter your best intentions, when you arrive home after work on a Tuesday night, you'll likely resort to takeout or a frozen pizza if you don't have a clear plan that you can complete within 30-45 minutes. To save time, use an instant pot to prep several types of food that you can incorporate into meals throughout the week.

06 of 08

Whip Up 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. For example, you can make a slow-cooked pork shoulder one day, then the next day, throw the shredded pork onto a sheet pan, and roast it until a little crispy for carnitas tacos.

07 of 08

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. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it's all too easy to resort to throwing rosemary and garlic powder on everything and calling it a day. However, the quickest and most beginner-friendly way to punch up basic home cooking is to use spice blends and sauces. The best part is that these shortcuts take no time to prepare.

A good jarred sauce like Indian curry or enchilada sauce can make even the most basic chicken breast and broccoli meal feel exotic. You can also find flavorful seasoning blends to sprinkle over roasting veggies or meats in the spice aisle of your local grocery. For authentic Chinese flavors, try the sauces and seasonings from Fly By Jing.

08 of 08

Cook With Friends or Family

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. Give little ones easy tasks like mixing things together, tearing greens, or mashing potatoes. If all else fails, lure in another kitchen-phobic friend so that you both can learn the art of cooking together. Prepare dinner together (and pour each other a glass of wine if needed).

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