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I won't lie, I totally resisted cooking at home for a while when I moved out of my parents' home way back when. Even though I got married at 18, I really did not want to be Suzy Homemaker in the kitchen. Eventually, I grew to absolutely love cooking. I even started a food blog. My rebellious 19-year-old self would scoff.
Along the way, through much trial and error, I became a pretty good home cook and even made my blog into a business creating my own recipes. Crazy, right?
Cooking at home is therapy to me. I pop in my headphones, listen to podcasts or music, and truly love the process. (Well...most days!) Plus, we save so much money when we cook our meals at home.
I'm sharing my best at-home cooking tips with you so you can enjoy cooking delicious meals, too!
1. Meal Plan
Creating a meal plan is a surefire way to having everything you need for at-home cooking. This is my meal planning process:
- Create a list of meals (don’t forget snacks!)
- Go through each meal and write down every ingredient needed
- Look in pantry/fridge and cross off any ingredients you already have
- Make sure you have all seasoning needed (it’s not a great day when you don’t have chili powder to make chili!)
- Once grocery list is narrowed down, sort the list based on grocery store layout. I put produce first, then canned goods, pantry staples, refrigerated foods, then frozen foods as that’s how I walk through the grocery store.
2. Stock Up
Having an abundance of frequently used ingredients (like garlic powder, frozen vegetables, canned beans, etc) will ensure that you aren’t left standing bewildered in the middle of cooking a meal.
3. Start with Easy Recipes
f you are relatively new to cooking from scratch, I recommend starting out simple and choosing easy food to cook. Save the fancy appliances and cooking techniques for when you get to know your way around the kitchen a little better.
One-pot meals are a great way to start out!
4. Texture, texture, texture!
When creating a meal, don’t forget to add a little texture variation. Serve tortilla chips with your chili, add some croutons on top of your split pea soup, and add juicy tomatoes or crunchy lettuce into your tacos. Simply adding texture can take your meal to a whole new level.
5. Don't forget the sides
Sitting down to a big bowl of spaghetti with marinara sauce is yummy, but lackluster. Delicious meals need tasty sides, plus including a side dish is a great way to get in some vegetables. A salad is a go-to choice, but there are many other options!
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Drop biscuits
- Mashed potatoes
- Crispy Asparagus Fries
- Pasta Salad
6. Clean as you go
I learned this tip from my stepdad – as my mom was cooking, he was always right behind her cleaning up.
Empty the dishwasher before you start cooking so you can put dirty spoons and bowls in there as you go and clean off the counters so you start with a clean slate.
Take the few seconds to put the flour back in the cupboard when you’re finished with it, wipe down the counters when necessary. All of this reduces so much stress and clutter!
7. Lay out your ingredients
Before I start cooking, I get out all of the ingredients I need and set them on the counter. This is helpful for a couple reasons.
- It’s a great way to make sure you have everything you need before you begin cooking.
- You won’t be searching for ingredients while also trying to keep track of all the things you have on the stove.
8. Season your food!
Salt your pasta water, get your garlic on, and don’t be afraid of adding a little heat to your meal. Dried spices, fresh herbs, lemon juice, salt, and pepper will make your dishes POP with flavor!
A little salt can go a long way. If your dish is tasting bland, sometimes sprinkling a little salt after it’s cooked will bring all those flavors to life.
Check out these seasoning tips.
Trader Joe's has really fun seasonings like Chili Lime that I enjoy using. You can also make your own spice mixes:
9. Don't overcook those veggies
Mushy, dull vegetables can ruin a meal. Most veggies should still be a little crisp when they’re finished cooking. Pay extra attention to them.
I prefer to roast and steam vegetables. I have found they lose their brightness when boiled. Check out this guide for more advice on cooking vegetables.
10. Keep trying new recipes
It can be so easy to fall into rut cooking the recipes you already know how to make. Consider this a challenge to always keep trying new things.
Whether it’s trying to recreate a favorite childhood dish your grandpa used to make, or trying a new-to-you cuisine, playing around in the kitchen will keep your inspiration flowing!
Browse those cookbooks you’ve had sitting on the bookshelf for years, explore Pinterest, or ask friends for their favorite recipes!