Food & Recipes

Get In the Habit of Cooking More With These Tips

by Jeanine Asencio 2:32 PM, February 3, 2017

Aired July 17, 2017

With our busy lives, it’s easy to wonder, why bother cooking when the convenience of a perfectly prepared meal is just a phone call or click away?

During a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, Rach said of preparing meals from scratch, “I think it improves the quality of one’s life. When you’re a little kid, it gives you great self-esteem, when you’re a young adult with little money, you know you can provide for yourself, and you can always get a date -- the way to anyone’s anything is always through their stomach!”

Another big reason to cook is so you can control the salt, fat and quality of ingredients that go into your family meals. And cooking at home will  not only keep you on track for a healthy lifestyle, but it’ll help save some money in your budget, too, since homemade food is generally cheaper than restaurant meals or takeout.

MAKE: Jeanette’s 15-Minute Mexican Grilled Chicken and Veggies

We heard from a busy family of four from Washington, New Jersey who says they eat out five nights a week, and it’s taken a toll on their wallet and health. Hear the Wormeck's story in the video above, and get the tips Rach shared with them below to help you get started!

THE CHALLENGE
All month long, we are going to encourage you to cook and eat at home with your families as much as you possibly can (ideally, six nights each week)! We understand hectic schedules can get in the way, and that sitting down together six to seven nights a week might seem like an impossibility, but that’s okay -- as long as you try to make a good effort to share quality food with each other. We’re also arming you with recipes and the tools you’ll need in order to get started, so there is absolutely no excuse to not get in the kitchen and cook!

To keep the positive vibes flowing, every time you make a meal, take a photo of it and use the hashtag #24DaysofDinner on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

HOW TO BUILD A PANTRY
First things first -- you need to gather some essentials based on the kinds of foods you like to eat. For example, let’s say you love Tex-Mex food. Whenever there’s a sale at the grocery store on canned or dried beans, canned tomatoes, rice or spices, make sure you stock up on those so they’re always handy when you need them. If you like Italian food, same idea -- stock up on canned tomatoes, boxes of pasta, olive oil, stock in a box, etc.

Never stock up on perishable items like produce, always buy those items the day of, or within a few days of when you’re planning on using them so they’re always fresh.

READ: Kayla Itsines' Healthy Kitchen Essentials for 2017

HOW TO MAKE TIME TO COOK
We totally understand -- it isn’t always feasible to cook every single night -- things come up last minute, you got home late from work, the kids have lots of activities lined up after school, etc. Here’s what you can do:

-- Cook ahead when you have some free time. Whether it's on your day off, or you have a few hours to kill, use it to your advantage and make your own “take-out” food. By cooking in bulk ahead-of-time, you can then portion out meals and freeze them until you need them. Then on those late nights, you can just grab your pre-cooked meal from the fridge or freezer, heat it up and you’re ready to go!

-- When you’re making a meal, double the recipe so you have leftovers. Again, portion out the excess and freeze it until you need it. Cook once, eat twice!

-- At the start of each week, make one huge salad that’s enough for a few meals, but keep the dressing on the side. This way, throughout the week, you don’t have to make salad -- it’s already done!

--When you get home from the grocery store, wash all of your produce and then put it away, this way it’s ready to use.

MAKE: Grant's 15-Minute Steak & Potatoes

A GREAT WAY TO GET PICKY EATERS TO TRY NEW FOODS
Rach says getting kids to cook with you in the kitchen is not only a self-esteem booster for them, but they’ll be proud of what they made and actually want to eat it. “It gives them ownership, so they’re excited about it,” says Rach.

Another great tip is to ask them to choose a color -- take them along on a grocery shopping trip and let them pick produce based a color they like, then use it in your next meal -- they’ll want to try it!

RECIPES TO TRY
Click through the links below for some dinner inspiration, and see if any spark your tastebuds. If there’s something you think you won’t like, try substituting ingredients for things you do like  and also keep in mind, you’ll never truly know if you like or don’t love something until you try it!

5-Ingredient Dinners to Make When the Last Thing You Feel Like Doing Is Cooking

10 Flavorful Meals That Can Be Made in 30 Minutes or Less

Strapped for Time on Weeknights? Make Lunch for Dinner

12 Slow Cooker Meals to Set and Forget on Busy Weekdays


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Bobby's Chicken Basics

How to Beef Up Your Grocery List Without Busting Your Budget

7 Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinners You Can Make With Store-Bought Rotisserie Chicken

Ditch the Cleanup with These 10 One-Pan Dinners

2 Delicious Dinners You Can Make Ahead and Freeze

Rach's Secrets for Saving at the Grocery Store

Yes, It’s Possible to Serve 4 People an Elegant Meal for Just $30! Chef Jacques Pepin Shows You How