I get it. You want to start cooking from scratch more often (maybe even for every meal!), but you feel overwhelmed by the idea. How could you get a new meal on the table every day, and still keep your sanity?! I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to eat from-scratch food all day, every day. And the best part? You can do it with barely more effort than throwing in a frozen pizza.
Tips for Cooking From Scratch (explained below)
- Don’t use a recipe.
- Forget the meal plan.
- Prep a little in advance.
- Clear off your kitchen counters.
- Save new techniques for later.
- Wash all dishes after each meal.
- Precook the basics.
- Utilize leftovers.
- Buy staples in bulk.
- Keep freezer meals on hand.
- Stop researching how to do this.
1. Don’t Use a Recipe
I know, I know. This one seems hard at first, because people tend to jump on Pinterest and find from-scratch recipes if they want to cook at home more. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I post recipes on Pinterest all of the time! The downfall here is mental energy. It takes so much more energy to follow a detailed recipe than it does to throw a whole chicken and some diced veggies in the oven.
I know it’s not as glamorous, but the important thing is to keep it simple. This way, cooking from scratch happens more often, and you’re not tempted to constantly push it off. You’ll get into a groove of things, and it will get easier to branch out over time!
2. Forget the Meal Plan
Meal plans can offer structure when needed, but for many people it ends up being an unattainable goal. Maybe you planned a fancier dinner for Friday night, but you forgot that you have a church event and now you’re scrambling to get something else in your belly before rushing out the door. Having a meal plan can feel ridged and limiting for many people, and it can make you feel like a failure if you don’t stick to it. It also typically requires special shopping lists, which takes more mental energy to create.
Keep it simple by stocking your basics, and then use those ingredients as inspiration for what to make each day.
3. Prep a Little In Advance
It may benefit you to think ahead by a day or two so you can prep some things in advance, to make your life easier later. I’m not talking about a full meal plan here, I’m talking about just a little forethought. Thinking of cooking a whole chicken in the next few days? Pull it out of the freezer now and put it in the fridge so it’s thawed when you’re ready. Thinking you may have a salad later this week? Make a jar of salad dressing now so you can pull everything together in a pinch.
A little prep can go a long way in making you feel prepared, and it makes you far less likely to order food out when life gets busy.
4. Clear Off Your Kitchen Counters
It’s amazing how even the smallest bit of friction can keep us from doing something. You may find that you feel overwhelmed when cooking in your kitchen, because you don’t have enough room. This makes you more likely to choose processed food options that require less prep work. However, your issue might not be the size of your kitchen. It may be that you have too much on your counters. If your decor (or even small kitchen appliances) prevent you from working efficiently, it may be time to let some of them go or relocate them.
Keeping your counters clear and your cookware easily accessible is the best way to make your environment optimal for cooking from scratch on a regular basis.
5. Save New Techniques for Later
One of the biggest downfalls when just starting to cook from scratch is that people try to learn new techniques all at once. Or, they’ll decide to make pasta noodles from scratch for the first time ever…but on the same night as other events. When they ultimately fail to make that meal because they were in too big of a rush, they convince themselves that cooking from scratch just takes too long.
The truth is, the more you learn how to do something, the easier and faster it becomes. So save the new techniques for longer evenings so you have time to properly learn how to do it, and keep the meals simple until you’re more comfortable in the kitchen.
6. Wash All Dishes After Each Meal
There’s nothing worse than trying to cook in a messy kitchen. Every time you go to grab a spatula, you realize it’s in the dirty dishes pile. Cooking from scratch takes much longer than it should (and requires much more effort than necessary) if you’re having to wash random dishes a bunch of times in the middle of cooking. Clean up the kitchen completely after each meal, so you have a blank slate when you cook again later.
7. Precook the Basics
I’ve heard the tip many times to thaw your meats in advance so that you have it ready to cook when dinner rolls around. This is a great idea that I follow often. However, I’ve also found that precooking some ingredients and freezing them saves tons of time on busier days. This will allow you to assemble a meal in a rush, rather than having to cook it from raw ingredients.
8. Utilize Leftovers
Having leftovers is a superpower, and you’ll feel good when you haven’t wasted a drop of anything. Eating scratch-made food doesn’t mean eating fresh-cooked food every single time. Your leftover chicken and vegetables from two days ago counts as a scratch meal for tonight. Give yourself a break and use those leftovers to your advantage.
If you’re wanting to spice things up a bit, consider altering the meal slightly to give it a different feel (such as throw the ingredients in a soup, or slice the meat and put it on a sandwich, etc).
9. Buy Staples in Bulk
There are many benefits to buying staple foods in bulk, one of which is always having the ingredients on hand to make just about anything. The typical excuse of “we don’t have any food at home” will never be true in this case! If you keep the basics on hand, then you’re never far from a home-cooked meal.
10. Keep Freezer Meals on Hand
Just like utilizing leftovers, another tip for cooking from scratch is to freeze some of your meal for later. Soups, chicken, vegetables, pastas, and other foods all freeze well. This beats a frozen pizza by far, but takes the same amount of time and effort to prepare.
11. Stop Researching How To Do This
This may seem obvious to some, but it’s a good reminder for others. At some point, you’re just going to have to go cook. You can spend hours researching the “best way to cook from scratch every day”, but the reality is that it takes effort and determination to make it happen.
Your next step may be to go ahead and remove the processed foods from your home, so that it forces you to cook from scratch.
Or, your next step may be to go pull a whole chicken out of the freezer now, and pop it in the fridge to cook in the next few days.
Whatever it is, get out there and make it happen. You are awesome, and you can do this!