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How to Start Preparing More Home-Cooked Meals

Use these eight tips to start preparing more home-cooked meals to save yourself money and time instead of eating out every meal.

Ever since I was young, we ate at home often. We would have pizza night every Friday but otherwise, it was my dad and me in the kitchen. When I went to college, I had to learn to cook on my own. At that time, I started with boxed meals. But as I practiced my home-cooked meals became more from scratch and less from a box. Now, I love making home-cooked meals! It took some time and practice. Not to mention a lot of failures. But that’s all part of the process!

Originally Published On: February 27, 2018

Last Updated On: September 2, 2020

Why You Should Prepare More Home-Cooked Meals

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:

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.

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.

How to Start Preparing More Home-Cooked Meals

Finding Time to Prepare More Home-Cooked Meals

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.

Meal Plan

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.

Two cookbooks, a cell phone, a piece of paper with a grocery list, and an LED tablet all on a wooden surface

How to Prepare More Home-Cooked Meals

Cook Extra

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.

Start Simple

Don’t go for an intensely complicated meal when you first start to cook. One, they usually take more time. Two, they often have special 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.

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.

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16 thoughts on “How to Start Preparing More Home-Cooked Meals”

  1. Honestly, the only home cooked meal I like is salmon! Ha! My husband is trying to break us out of our shell – he bought us a cook book which is super cute, but when he was like LETS MAKE A RECIPE FROM THE BOOK all I could think about was how I want SUSHI or SALMON – LOL!

  2. I admit, this is not a challenge for us because both my hubby and I love to cook (and honestly, we have neither the time nor the $ to go out!). But my favorite tip here is make extra and freeze it – I run to the freezer at least 1-2x/week when it’s my turn to prep dinner!

  3. This is something we do especially after grocery shopping. Before putting away vegetables and fruit they are cleaned and prepped. I like to cook once and eat twice. All in the planning.

  4. I eat out far too much. It’s very dependent on my mood and I need to start keeping a stocked pantry so that I can counter my eating out because I’ll have better variety! Never thought about the carbon foot print.

  5. These are all really great ideas! I fell into a rut with cooking for myself but have since remedied it by meal prepping with a friend every 2 weeks or so! Less time/work involved to prepare everything and we get to make a lot more different foods! :]!

  6. I love to cook and eat and frankly could make every meal social. I think eating together brings joy. The pantry has to be definitely stocked and some days, I end up making a nice meal with whatever is left in the pantry.

  7. These are all great tips! We prepare home cooked meals 90% of the time… the only time we don’t is when we’re all flat out busy or not at home.

  8. So many great tips here. I always save our leftovers for dinner the next night. It is so simple to add a salad or something extra to a meal to plump it up to last the extra night. With young kids who do activities after school, I find that I really need to be onto it and plan dinners out otherwise it is easy to fall in the takeaways trap.

  9. I’ll be honest with the whole pandemic and being stuck at home,I’mnow struggling to stay motivated about home-cooked meals. I feel abit bored. I know its healthy,but I do need some breaks going out to eat. The lockdown took somefun out, but hey! Not complaining,happy to have food to cook!.

  10. I was just reviewing my August budget and my takeout bill was out of control! I need to refocus on cooking more meals at home. This is so helpful!

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