Seven Strategies to Kill Your Excuses for Not Cooking at Home

It’s funny how New Year’s falls during one of the coldest and darkest parts of the year. Great time to get into exercising when it’s so cold and dark, all you really want to do is curl up under your blankets in bed, right? But one resolution that does make more sense to start when it’s cold and dark is to cook at home more often. 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.

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.

Instead, you have to shift the burdens to make it easier to achieve your goal. 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. Delete the app and delete any takeout phone numbersfrom 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 this option less enticing; you also have to:

2. Make cooking easier. 

Make your kitchen inviting. Put a beautiful rug on the floor. Bring your laptop in so you can watch TV or listen to music while cooking.

Then clean your kitchen. Run the dishwasher. You can even buy plastic flatware and plates, if dishwashing is your most ardent obstacle. 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 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. 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, even though she worked a full time job and had an hour long commute. 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, 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.

Ok, 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.

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.

Go for a quick win and just start 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.

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.

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’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 your’e discouraged.

Of course, having food in your kitchen and knowing how to cook are also important components to cooking at home but we’ll cover those in the future.

What tips help you to cook at home?

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Lisa

An attorney striving to convert money into a meaningful life.

2 thoughts on “Seven Strategies to Kill Your Excuses for Not Cooking at Home”

  1. I used to cook nearly all of my meals but I started getting lazy in the last few years. I wasn’t getting much take out, but I was buying a lot of prepared foods from the grocery store. What I’m doing to change things is:
    1) I bought a Crock Pot Express Cooker (basically an Instant Pot) which is basically changing my life
    2) I’m learning to cook my favorite restaurant foods at home. Last night I made sushi!
    3) I’m prepping more ingredients at once and wrapping them tightly instead of prepping just the amount I need each night

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