Did you know that there is an average of $8 per serving difference in the price of a home-cooked meal versus eating out? Now multiply that by the number of people in your family, and it adds up quickly. We have four people, so we save an average of $32 by staying home. Even if you consider that a kids meal is cheaper, we still save at least $20.
We try to go out to eat about once per month, but I know others who eat out much more often than that. There are many reasons to stay home for dinner such as:
- Healthier and happier children and family
- Know the ingredients in the food you feed yourself and your family
- Spend time together in the kitchen and at the table time together in the kitchen
- Reduce your carbon footprint
- Save money and time
I could go on and on about the reasons that it’s beneficial for you and your family to prepare home cooked meals, but I digress. This post is about how to start making meals at home, not why you should.
Find the Time
I know we are all busy and it’s hard to find the time to cook a meal at home. In the United States, 45% of ready-made meals are purchased because people say they don’t have time to cook. If you feel this way, then take account of how much time you spend on other frivolous activities. Do you spend 15-20 minutes browsing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.? Use that time to cook a meal. There are so many meals that can be made in 30 minutes or less.
Keep a daily journal for a week or two and record how much time you spend doing specific activities and see where you can find the time to cook. This is a great exercise to find the time to cook, but also to take stock of where you spend your time throughout the day in general.
Stock your Pantry
A well-stocked pantry makes cooking from home easy. Keep some of the basics in your pantry and refrigerator and make sure you don’t run out of them. There are a few things that are common to many recipes, so having them at your disposal makes it easy to whip something together. A few of the basics include oil, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, rice, salt and pepper, butter, eggs, etc.
Take one day per week to plan out your meals, so you know what you are going to make. Then you can get your grocery list together to make sure you have all of the ingredients. When you have a plan, you are more likely to follow through with it. You can see more about meal planning here.
Some meals lend themselves to be doubled and frozen for later. Most soups, chili, pasta, and similar meals can be frozen and saved for later. It’s easier to double a recipe while you are already cooking it rather than start from scratch again. When you have meals frozen, thaw them in the refrigerator for a day or two, then reheat on the stovetop or oven, and you have a quick meal for the crazy nights without having to eat out or order in.
Don’t go for an intensely complicated meal when you first start to cook. One, they usually take more time. Two, they often have specialty ingredients that are either costly or hard to find. Three, a complicated recipe can leave you overwhelmed and discouraged. Again, go with the meals that can be made in 30 minutes or less. Or find recipes that only use a few ingredients. No matter what is most comfortable for you, find a way to start simple.
Cook Food You Like
I feel like this should be obvious, but cook food that you like to eat. Similar to the previous point, when you try new and crazy things to start with, you may get discouraged if you don’t want what you are cooking. Try to find recipes for foods or meals you know you already enjoy. When you like the food, you are eating you will probably enjoy preparing it more. Eventually, you can branch out to new foods, but start easy.
Make Meals Social
Eating alone is usually not very satisfying. Invite family or friends over for dinner and make it a social gathering. You don’t have to do anything fancy, but call it just a gathering of friends and tell them you are trying out some new recipes or new techniques. Or, if your family and friends are interested in cooking, then you can have them over to prepare a meal together and spend time learning with others.
Focus on Taste
Your first meals probably won’t be those Instagram-worthy foods. Mine weren’t either. I look back even at some of my first posts on here and want to redo all the photos because I have learned so much more about presentation since then. But when you are starting to cook, the presentation is not necessary. You want to focus on the taste. Did the food taste how you wanted? Was it too spicy or too bland? Does it need a different seasoning or more flavor? Try to figure out if you’re going to make changes for next time and use that as a stepping stone. Once you perfect a meal, then you can work on the presentation.