It’s funny how New Year’s falls during one of the coldest and darkest parts of the year. How can you start exercising when it’s so cold and dark all you really want to do is curl up under your blankets in bed? But one resolution that does make more sense to start when it’s cold and dark is to cook at home more often because it means you get to stay at home when it’s cold! For instance, last week, the cold was so bone-chilling that I wanted to cancel my dinner plans at this hip new restaurant so I could go straight home and eat hot soup under a blanket.
But cooking at home seems like a lot of work, right? Not so. Use these tips to make cooking at home as easy or easier than ordering out .
1. Make eating out more difficult.
More and more articles about resolutions note that relying on willpower is the quickest way to fail. We have limited amounts of willpower and we should reserve those for the big time decisions – like resisting drugs and trans fats.
One way to stop relying on willpower is to shift the burdens so that achieving your goal is actually somewhat easier than not achieving it. So first things first, delete your credit card number from Seamless. Then delete your Seamless password. You can even go an extra step and change it to something you don’t remember before deleting it, making it that much harder to log in and order your favorite meal. If you dare, just delete the app entirely and delete any takeout phone numbers from your phone. Also delete your Opentable app and password. Then, throw out all your takeout menus.
Now it’ll take a few more steps to order takeout, and I hope those extra steps will frustrate you enough that you are nudged into the kitchen.
But it’s not enough to make takeout and delivery more difficult. You also have to:
2. Make cooking easier.
First things first, you’re more likely to hang out in your kitchen if it looks like it came out of an Architectural Digest spread, right? So make your kitchen inviting. Put a beautiful rug on the floor. Hang a pretty picture somewhere it won’t get ruined with oil stains. And, here’s my favorite cheat that always encourages me to cook: bring your laptop in so you can watch TV or listen to music while cooking.
Then clean your kitchen. Put everything in its place. Run the dishwasher. You can even buy plastic flatware and plates if dishwashing is your most ardent obstacle. Put your most often used appliances (or your most beautiful) front and center.
Have multipurpose cleaner and rags so you can clean while you cook, and not leave yourself with a huge mess at the end that will discourage your cooking in the future.
I hope you also have a crock pot and some pots, pans, utensils and good knives. Also it’d be great to check that you have oil, salt and pepper.
3. Give yourself no choice.
To develop a habit, you have to force yourself to do the habit consistently. You cannot have “I’m really tired” or “I deserve this” allowed in your vocabulary. Cooking becomes easier, not when you have the perfect conditions of energy and time, but when you are so used to cooking that it doesn’t seem like a huge obstacle even when you’re tired and when you’re so efficient that it takes much less time than ordering out. Because you’ve already met that obstacle and overcome it. Each time you say yes to cooking, the obstacle of fatigue gets smaller. Soon, it becomes ridiculous to think of being too tired to cook because cooking is on autopilot. What’s really fatiguing is figuring out your Seamless password.
So commit to cooking every day for a month. Even a week is pretty good. Develop the habit.
4. Normalize it.
My mom always cooked at home for us from scratch, even though she worked a full time job and had an hour long commute. We often ate dinner around 8pm. She’s the role model I have for cooking so it never even occurred to me to order takeout.
It can be easy to slip back into takeout habits if you think everyone is doing it. But if you can find support from people who cook regularly, or an accountability partner who often cooks from home, you’ll push yourself to be average among them. Maybe you are ok not excelling above and beyond what regular people do but no one wants to fail at something seemingly everyone around them can and does do.
5. Have easy meals ready.
Just because you have resolved to cook at home every night doesn’t mean you need to have a steady flow of Instagram-ready meals. It’s totally fine if you make ramen or frozen pizza. I do it too. Ramen is delicious. I would eat it every week if I thought it wouldn’t kill me.
If you’re not used to cooking, you won’t be that adept at making improv meals and you don’t want to blow your cooking streak with takeout. So having a failsafe is a good idea. If you have ramen, you have no excuse not to eat at home because all the ingredients are in the package and it’s literally as easy as boiling water.
Additionally, easy snacks will help your hanger. I don’t usually get too tired to cook, because now that cooking is a habit, it’s almost automatic. But I do get so hungry that I can’t think straight. Having a quick meal is a lot easier than waiting for delivery. Having some nuts ready can clear your mind to tackle the process of figuring out what to eat.
6. Take the easiest first step.
So you come home and you’re tired. You reach for your phone but then realize you’ve deleted your Seamless app (Step 1). What do you do now?
Go to your kitchen and go for a quick win by just starting the process. Whether it be taking out the foods you want to cook, putting a pot of water on the stove to boil or chopping some veggies. Don’t think, just start doing it.
Breaking the problem down to bite-size steps makes it seem less overwhelming and once you take the first step, you’re already a bit engaged in the process and more likely to continue until you have a lovely steaming meal ready.
7. Have a purpose.
Ok so you’ve done all the above. But you’ve had a long day. You’re tired. You ate all your snack foods. You have run out of food in your kitchen. You’ve figured out your Seamless password and are ready to pull the trigger. Your last ditch effort to cook at home? Think of a purpose.
For me, I cook at home because it’s healthier. I know exactly what’s going in my food. My weight has remained relatively stable for the past 20 years (I lose weight but I never gain any). I have good energy and good sleep. My skin is always clear. I BM like a rock star.
Maybe you want to learn to cook to impress your significant other. Maybe you want to save money that you can use to go to a really fancy restaurant later on. Maybe you just want to prove to yourself you can make a change in your life.
Whatever it is, think of an image that represents this goal. Maybe a thinner you. Maybe a healthier, more energetic you. Maybe it’s you at this fancy-schmance restaurant living it up with some great wine. Whatever it is, think of this image, sear it in your mind and tuck it away for when you’re discouraged.
Of course, having food in your kitchen and knowing how to cook are also important components to cooking at home but sometimes you really do get too busy and things fall through the cracks. At those times, you have to ante up and think of your goal. Then pat yourself on the back as you make yet another step towards that goal by heading to the grocery store.
What tips help you to cook at home?