7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Cook More Meals at Home

You probably already know about the bevy of benefits that come with cooking at home. There’s the cost savings, of course—prepping your own meals is five times less expensive than paying a restaurant to do it. Homemade food is also generally more nutritious, with less sodium, additives and calories, and you have full control of which ingredients (and how much of each) are going into the recipes. Plus, there’s the family-building aspect, as you get the opportunity to prepare and share meals with loved ones.

And yet, despite knowing all the benefits, a lack of time, ingredients and interest often steer people away from the oven and toward the takeout menu. But before you pick up the phone, these easy strategies can help motivate you to find healthier, yet no less satisfying, options right in your own kitchen.

Stock up on core ingredients.

Healthy decisions start at the grocery store (or the farmers market), notes Judy Barbe, M.S.,  a registered dietitian nutritionist with LiveBest. "If it’s not in your cart, it won’t end up on your fork," she points out.

Barbe suggests stocking your kitchen with frozen vegetables and fruit, canned means, jarred pasta sauce, frozen fish and chicken, canned tuna and salmon, pasta, canned tomatoes and canned broth. When you have these foods on hand, dinner is easier to put together. 

Additional staples include whole grains (quinoa, oats, barley); protein such as nuts, eggs, beans, yogurt, beef, chicken, fish, milk and seeds; healthy fats including avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil; and fresh produce.

Take shortcuts with convenience items.

Many grocery stores are now catering to busy individuals by offering meal kits and pre-made dishes, making it easier than ever to prepare meals at home. "Convenience items can be a little more pricey than buying the items a la carte to prep, but can be a major time-saver," notes Mandy Enright, M.S., R.D.N., the FOOD + MOVEMENT dietitian. She also suggests looking for ready-made items to keep in your fridge, freezer and pantry for simple side dishes, such as pre-cooked rice and pasta or frozen veggies. 

Reduce prep work by using minimally processed whole foods.

While processed foods have gotten a bad rap, registered dietitian Summer Yule points out that some whole foods that have undergone minimal processing may help you to eat healthier. For example, she likes using packages of washed and chopped frozen mixed veggies to create a base for easy stir-fry dishes, and cans of tuna and salmon that require no cooking are great on top of salads. "Taking advantage of these convenient whole-food options can be a huge time-saver in your quest to cook more at home," she says.

Incorporate entertainment.

If you tend to get bored while cooking, use it as an opportunity to catch up on your favorite podcasts or listen to music that you enjoy. "Listening to something enjoyable while you prepare meals can help make the experience more pleasurable," she explains.

Invest in a fun kitchen gadget.

This purchase can help motivate you to be in the kitchen, notes Ken Immer, chief coaching officer with Culinary Health Solutions. Many people enjoy using an Instant Pot, rolling their own pasta, using an air fryer or creating spiralized veggies, for example. "Cooking doesn’t just have to be for meals–it can be for fun and relaxation," Immer points out.

Always cook for more than one meal.

If you don’t have much time or inclination for cooking, batch cooking lets you get away with cooking less often. "Intentional leftovers (a.k.a. 'planovers’) are a great place to start a meal without having to start completely from scratch," notes Liza Baker with Simply: Health Coaching. For example, if you're already roasting one chicken, roast two instead and use the second one during the week for soup, casserole or tacos.

Plan at least three meals per week.

Planning is essential to ensuring that you have a food safety net during busy weeks. "Most of us don’t cook seven nights a week," Barbe points out. "Survey your kitchen to see what you have on hand, plan the meals around your calendar and prep a few foods [early]." In her experience, prepping a few foods ahead of time will make the process easier when it’s time to get the meal together. For instance, you can hard cook eggs, roast vegetables or chop fresh ones, or make oatmeal long before those hunger pangs strike. 

With some smart planning—and a few clever hacks along the way—you can stick with your goal of becoming less reliant on restaurants while reaping the benefits of more nutritious, inexpensive, home-cooked meals.
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Member Comments

thanks for sharing Report
Music is a great idea. I get a mood boost when I remember to start the tunes. Report
Winter is a great time to try new "Clean Eating" recipes on the weekends and make enough for lunch leftovers! Report
Ok Report
Cooking for one makes just about any recipe batch cooking. Report
I've batch cooked for years, and one thing that can save lots of time and money is to make a weekly batch of oatmeal in a slow cooker. Buying breakfast out can get very pricey, and it's hard to resist the pastry in the coffee shop. I usually make mine or Saturday. Put the oatmeal and water in the slow cooker and come back later to divide it into portions. Warm up the oatmeal in the morning in the microwave and top it with fruit. I like to stir in some non-fat yogurt, but others may prefer milk. Report
Batch cooking works very well. I do this especially when I cook dried beans. I measure or weigh portions to freeze for future meals. That way my next meal prep won't take all day. Thanks for the input. Report
I have a few go-to meals for the quickest dinners. Shrimp tacos, zesty chicken rice and chicken w salad. Report
Definitely need to do more with cooking at home. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks for the suggestions. Report
Once every month to three months, I order a vegetarian thali (literally translates to plate or platter) that if portioned carefully is actually three meals.
Perhaps I should apply that in my own kitchen. Rather than leftovers on the same dish, why not make three or four at once (I cook for one and my portions are mostly small), with them making various combos all week?
I already make a week of rice, portioned individually and frozen, and the same with beans or lentils. But I usually cook the veggies night of or only one extra serving.
I make a salad greens blend then have small containers of “toppings” and a dressing of the week. Report
They are a lot healthier, SparkFriends Report


About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.