How to Build a Habit of Cooking (A Simple Cooking Challenge)

In this post, I share a simple challenge that can help you build a habit of cooking. If you want to eat at home more often, I hope you’ll feel inspired to try this challenge.

Challenge Yourself to Eat at Home

What’s the most effective way to build a habit of cooking? In my experience, the most effective way to build a habit of cooking is to challenge yourself to eat every meal at home.

Dining out isn’t inherently bad, but it does disrupt your routine of cooking and eating at home. When you are trying to build a habit of cooking, even the slightest disruption can hinder your progress. By committing to eating every meal at home, you give yourself an uninterrupted stretch of time to establish a routine of cooking.

Your cooking at home challenge needn’t last forever. It is merely a temporary experiment that helps you to build a habit of cooking. When you remove the option of dining out, you leave yourself no choice but to prepare and eat home-cooked meals.

Preparing for the Challenge

Here is a checklist of steps to complete before you begin the challenge:

  1. Set a (short) time limit. For your first challenge, consider choosing a length of no more than one week. A short challenge tends to feel more achievable. You can extend the duration of the challenge later, if you wish to.
  2. Specify guidelines for yourself. You may find it helpful to choose guidelines that allow flexibility. For my challenges, I don’t dine out or order delivery, but I do allow myself to occasionally purchase semi-processed ingredients, like frozen breaded fish fillets or jarred pasta sauce.
  3. Create a list of backup meals. These are meals that are quick and easy to prepare. Keep a stock of the ingredients for these meals in your home. They will make it easier for you to persevere with your challenge.

Completing the Challenge

Here are some tips to help you complete the challenge.

Tip #1: Create a Meal Plan

One of the biggest challenges of eating at home is figuring out what to eat. You can solve this problem by creating a meal plan. To learn how to create a meal plan, you can read my beginner's guide to meal planning.

Tip #2: Learn to Enjoy Simple Meals

To stay motivated to cook every day, intersperse elaborate meals with simple meals. Cooking at home doesn’t need to be a complicated event. Many meals can be prepared in 20 minutes or less.

Tip #3: Prep in Advance

If cooking leaves you feeling exhausted, try preparing your ingredients a few hours in advance. You will feel more motivated to step into the kitchen to cook if you know that the ingredients are sitting there waiting for you.

Tip #4: Make Restaurant-Inspired Meals

If you find yourself craving a meal from a restaurant, learn how to replicate it at home. Your kitchen can transform at your whim into a cafe, a steakhouse, or a ramen shop. You might even end up preferring your home-cooked version to the original.

Tip #5: Cook Big Batches of Food

Cook twice as much as you need, as often as possible. This gives you one meal to eat now and another meal to enjoy later. Cooking double doesn’t require much extra effort, and it makes it easy to eat at home more often.

Tip #6: Learn How to Improvise

If you find that you’ve forgotten to buy ingredients for a meal that you wanted to cook, challenge yourself to create a meal with what you have. Embrace the art of improvisation and develop your ability to create a delicious meal without following a recipe.

Tip #7: Be Kind to Yourself

Always choose the action that demonstrates compassion towards yourself. If you need to dine out during your challenge, do so without feeling guilty. Then resume the challenge as soon as you can.

After the Challenge

Once you have completed your challenge of eating every meal at home, take a moment to observe how you feel. Use your emotions to guide you towards the path that is best for you.

If you want to, you can reintegrate dining out into your routine. Now that you have established a habit of cooking at home, an occasional meal out will no longer completely derail your cooking routine.

Alternatively, you may wish to extend your cooking challenge. If dining at home makes you feel good, consider embracing it as your way of life. Dining at home can be part of a daily practice of living a peaceful, simple life.

Cook to Nourish Your Body and Your Soul

When I embarked upon my first cooking challenge, a couple of questions swirled around my mind. Would I feel deprived if I stopped dining out? Would I become exhausted if I started to cook more often?

It didn’t take long to discover the answers. Cooking more often did not leave me feeling deprived or exhausted. Instead, it left me feeling nourished and energised.

Preparing food for yourself (and for your loved ones) is an act of self-care. There is no restaurant meal that can rival what you can make at home. Any meal prepared with patience and love, no matter how simple, is bound to nourish both your body and your soul.

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