The old me used to eat out every couple of days and think nothing of it. “Oh piddle dee dee, I thought, I spend a lot of money on dining out. But it’s just a fact of life, I suppose!” In my head, I’m apparently an old British woman. But then I moved to a tiny town and the dining options were few and far between. We ate out less because there were less choices. I unintentionally saved money on food, I unintentionally learned how to cook more meals, and I unintentionally got into the habit of eating at home. It was an unintentional blessing.
Here’s how I’ve learned how to eat more meals at home.
1. Cut back on your eating out gradually
If you are eating out every day, you won’t go from being besties with the cashier at Chipotle to becoming Julia Child. You have to work your way up to it. Set a realistic goal for the week and work towards it. Your goal could be to learn one new dish or only eat out every other day. Set a reachable goal and give yourself a small treat when you reach your goal. Giving yourself small rewards creates habits.
2. If you are a beginner, learn the basics
One of the hardest parts of just starting out in the kitchen is starting out. Learn how to do simple things like sautéing vegetables, scrambling an egg and boiling rice. Once you learn those things, you’ll have the base for all kinds of meals!
3. If you are an intermediate cook, expand your repertoire
Cooking can get tiresome. Cooking is a project with no end because we need to eat every day. The way I fight the cooking drudgery is expanding my repertoire. I love perusing Pinterest recipes that make me excited to cook again. Just check out my recipe board for proof!
4. Make meals in advance
We are all stupid-busy. We don’t always have time to cook up a four course meal. Let’s be honest, I never have time to cook up a four course meal. I make most of my meals in advance. I’ll cook up a big batch of crustless quiche on Sunday night and crank up my slow cooker.
5. Automate your meals
I’d love all my food to be interesting and beautiful, but that’s just not a priority. Getting something warm and filling in my belly is a priority. My weekday meals are on auto-pilot. For breakfast I have eggs, my lunch is leftovers and dinner is usually something from the crock pot. Not always super exciting, but I can live up my culinary fantasies on the weekend when I have more time.
6. Put your slow cooker to work!
I love my slow cooker. I don’t know how I ever cooked without her. Her name is Sue, btw. Slow cooking is so easy. You can crank it on low, throw just about any meat and veggie in there with a little salt and pepper and you have a meal when you get home from work or when you wake up in the morning!
7. Leftovers are your friend
If you are going go through all the effort to cook, you might as well make enough for yourself and a small army. There’s so many ways to use up leftovers. For tips on reusing leftovers click here!
8. Cook with a buddy
Cooking all alone can be a lonely job. Enlist your husband or wife and kids to help out in the kitchen. Or at least sit with you and keep you company in the kitchen. You could also invite friends over for a freezer meal cooking spree. Sounds like a good time to me.
9. Make it enjoyable
Cooking can be stressful. Turn on some tunes, pour yourself a glass of wine and slow down. Dinner isn’t a life or death experience. It’s just dinner. Enjoy it.
10. Use paper plates
One of the worst parts of cooking is the clean up. Sometimes I’d go out to eat just so I wouldn’t have to do the dishes. To curtail this thinking, I mostly use paper plates and minimize my clean up. Worried about the environmental impact? Me too. That’s why I use compostable plates.
11. Host a dinner party
Hate cooking for one? Need to spice things up a bit? Dying for the company of a restaurant? Host a dinner party! Dinner parties don’t have to be a one woman (or man) show. Ask your friends to bring a dish and serve it up family style!
12. Keep frozen foods on hand
And if all else fails, keep food in the freezer for those times when you are too tired or hungry or just plain don’t want to cook. Frozen leftovers are culinary gold. But a couple of chicken breasts, a bag of frozen veggies and some soy sauce will do just fine in a pinch. Instant stir fry. Instant dinner.
What tricks do you have for eating more meals at home? Let me know in the comments!