Six steps to more home-cooked meals (Part 1)

Resolutions are easy to make, but hard to keep, whether you make them at New Year’s or some other time of year! We Cozy Foodies want everyone to make a resolution to do more home cooking. Making more home-cooked meals is a great resolution to make because it affects so many other important parts of our lives. Home-cooked meals help us get healthier and lose weight, save money, and bring us closer to our families, friends, and loved ones. You’ll have a whiter, brighter smile! Be funnier, smarter, and make a million dollars! Sing like Aretha Franklin! …Er, you get the idea.

Here are six steps to help you keep a resolution to make more home-cooked meals. In this post, I’ll go into detail about the first two, setting a realistic goal and identifying specific behaviors that you have to change or things you have to do in order to meet those goals. In later posts, I’ll talk more about the other points. These six steps can be applied to any resolution you set, but I’ll talk about it from a Cozy Foodie point of view:

  1. Set a realistic goal
  2. Target specific behaviors to change
  3. Enlist a buddy
  4. Track your progress
  5. Recognize that a stumble is not a failure
  6. Give yourself rewards along the way

1. Set a realistic goal

I make almost every meal that my family eats. I’m really lucky that I get to do this, and, of course, I love cooking. I should say: I usually love cooking, that is, except when… Oh. I’m not talking about that right now, am I? Anyway, there are extenuating circumstances that make this work for me, but everyone can resolve to at least increase the number of home-cooked meals they eat in a week.

So, how to keep it real? It is unrealistic to make a resolution to go from making very few or no home-cooked meals to cooking every single one of your own meals! Also, you are more likely to succeed at keeping a resolution if you make one at a time. A realistic goal might be to make your own lunch twice a week, if right now, you always buy lunch. Or make three home-cooked dinners per week, if right now, you find yourself defaulting to take-out or frozen prepared meals more than you like. Keep reading to learn strategies to help you succeed.

My menu plan and shopping list for this week.

My menu plan and shopping list for this week.

2. Target specific behaviors to change

Now that you’ve set a realistic goal, the second step is to identify specific behaviors that you have to change or things you have to do in order to meet those goals. When it comes to getting home-cooked meals on the table more frequently, here are some of the things that work for me:

  • Make a meal plan for the week, or for the length of time in between your shopping trips. Also schedule a regular day and time to go grocery shopping.
  • Decide what will be in each meal you plan to have on every day that you will cook.
  • Try only one or two new dishes a week. Rely on your file of tried-and-true recipes for the other meals.
  • Check your calendar for potential “traffic jams.” On busy days, make something quick and easy or that you can prep ahead. For me, at least once a month, both kids participate in swim meets. Meets typically are two-day affairs. Swimmers are expected to show up at 7:30AM and finish at around 3:00PM. Meets that are held in venues 30 minutes away are considered close by; they can be 45 minutes to more than an hour away. And swimmers eat a lot! I have learned to plan and prep ahead so that I can pack healthy breakfasts, lunches, snacks, still have a home-cooked dinner, and stay sane.
  • Make a list of ingredients that you will need, including the amount of each ingredient. My friends roll their eyes, but my shopping list is organized according to the aisle where each ingredient is so that I go to each aisle only once.
  • Make only one meal a day that requires more preparation. I keep breakfasts and lunches, especially on the weekdays, pretty straight forward. For breakfast: toast or bagels, yogurt, fruit, tea or milk. For lunch: left overs from the night before, sandwiches, macaroni and cheese (from a box!), pasta with sauce.
  • Prep ahead! The night before or even a couple of days ahead of time, in the morning before going to work, or in any odd pockets of time that you have.
  • Review your recipes the night before. How many times have I had to change my plans because I didn’t marinate the meat overnight, or didn’t start the recipe early enough in the day? Let’s just say that if I had a dollar for every time….
  • Keep it fun! Pour yourself a glass of something nice and put on some good music while you cook.

I’m basically a lazy person. I need habits and routines to help me make 3 meals a day, for 4 people, 7 days a week. The fewer decisions I have to make when it actually comes time to cook, the more likely I am to do it, and the easier it is to overcome inertia and that seductive little voice in my head that still murmurs, “Hmmm… pizza delivery!”

Ultimately, being able to share home-cooked meals with my family and friends makes me feel great about myself: it grounds me in my life in a mindful and meaningful way, and more than pays me back for the time and energy that I invest in doing it! I hope that you will join me.

In my next posts, I will talk about strategies to keep you on track and motivated to make home-cooking a priority in your life.

What strategies help you get dinner ready with less stress and on time?

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