Learning to prepare and cook your own meals is one of the surest ways
you can start eating healthily, and minimise the amount of processed foods
in your diet. As you become more confident in cooking your own meals, you
will begin to develop a sense of self-sufficiency from being able to
prepare nutritious meals for yourself.
Many people want to learn to cook, but they put it off because they
simply never find the time. However in reality, if you turn cooking into a
habit and start by mastering a few go-to recipes, it can be a quick, easy
and super fun task!
Here are some of the benefits of preparing your own meals, and some easy
tips to help you create this habit for life.
Tips for preparing your own meals
Integrating meal preparation into your everyday life has wide-ranging
consequences – all of them beneficial for you. Some tips to make the
most out of your food prepping include:
- Better health – Knowing exactly what you are
using as ingredients and what you are flavouring your meals with allows
you to control and minimise processed foods, salt, oil, and other
ingredients that should be eaten in moderation. It also allows you and
your family to eat more healthfully, reduces the risk of common health
conditions and diseases, and gives you more energy every day.
- Self-sufficiency – Learning to cook gives
you a strong sense of self-sufficiency that comes from being able to
prepare your own meals the way you like them.
- Time savings – By using meal planners and
planning ahead, you can actually save time by cooking at home, rather
than ordering take away or delivered meals.
- Save money – Eating out can be expensive.
Preparing your own meals saves you money and allows you to budget
effectively while eating well.
- Weight control – By avoiding processing
foods and eating plenty of freshly prepared meals, you are more likely
to maintain a healthy weight.
Start with one night a
If you find
the whole prospect of making your own meals overwhelming, why not start
small with just one or two home-cooked dinners a week? After the first
week, you can start working your way up to at least five or six dinners,
and start preparing your own lunches. Setting small and achievable goals
helps you take the first step without pressure, and it gives you time to
adjust to a new habit.
Prepare ahead on Sundays
Do what you can to
prepare ahead one or two days a week. This could be Saturdays, Sundays and
Wednesdays, or any other day(s) that are convenient for you. Use this day
to wash and chop up your vegetables, prepare a few frozen meals, make a big
batch of beans for refrying, and cook and freeze some rice or quinoa for
use in the week ahead. This simple step will significantly reduce your
cooking and meal preparation time during the rest of the
Work from weekly meal
Working from weekly meal plans lets you do your grocery shopping more
effectively, and is a great way to make sure you use up all your
ingredients. Compared to when working on a day-by-day basis, you have more
flexibility to change what you decide to serve and substitute ingredients
if necessary. You’ll also know what to do ahead of time, and avoid
dinner procrastination or be tempted to eat takeout or delivered
Master a few basic
Learn a dozen easy recipes that incorporate ingredients that are easy to
deal with and allow you to prepare your meal in under 15 or 20 minutes.
These manageable recipes can include stir-fries, salad meals, gourmet
sandwiches (for lunches), rice bowls, and one-pot meals. As your cooking
skills improve you can add more complex and time-consuming recipes to your
repertoire, for when you have more time to prepare meals.
As you start out, focus on using ingredients that are easy to prepare.
For example, if the idea of dissecting an artichoke seems too complicated,
it’s probably best to start out with eggplant, zucchini, broccoli,
and other easy ingredients.
Serve raw and roasted
Explore different chopping techniques to prepare raw vegetables, and
keep a ready supply of roasted vegetables in the fridge for serving. Not
only are prepped raw and roasted vegetables healthy, they make wonderful
side dishes, save you time, and are easy to prepare. Keeping a bag or two
of frozen vegetables in the freezer is also as good idea for
Make your own frozen
Sometimes you will simply be too busy or tired to prepare a meal from
scratch. Have your own frozen meals on hand, so you can easily resist
buying takeout or pre-packaged meals from the supermarket. Great homemade
frozen meal ideas include vegetable lasagne, ready-made pasta sauces, pot
pies, fried rice, soups and stews.
Explore the world of one-pot meals
One-pot meals and slow cookers are wonderful for those just learning to
cook. There countless easy one-pot-meal ideas including pasta, braised
meat, soup, and curry recipes. One-pot meals are easy to prepare and easy
to clean up, and are less intimidating for those learning to
Collect recipes and cultivate curiosity
Start a collection of recipe cards and store these in your kitchen to
look through at mealtimes. Another way to cultivate your curiosity about
cooking is to look for recipes online and buy cookbooks that captivate your
interest. You could even look on YouTube for video tutorials on making your
Identify possible triggers for eating out
If you find you are still tempted to eat out frequently, check the
triggers that set you on the way to grabbing those take-away meals. Often
it is a lack of confidence that you can prepare a tasty meal, lack of
ingredients, poor planning, or maybe not having the right equipment. Or
perhaps you just lack a little self-discipline each time you pass your
favourite Thai or Italian restaurant. Make sure you identify these
triggers, so you know how to deal with them when they arise.
Reflect on and track your food prepping habits
Each week as you set out your meal plans, take five or ten minutes to
review what is working and what is not working with your efforts. Take note
if you are still struggling to make and enjoy your own meals. If so, find
out what is causing the issue and work out what you can do to fix it.
Remember, developing a new habit takes time and effort, but this is one
that is well worth the extra attention you devote to it.
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