More Than Resolutions: Cook More Often

31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Cook More Often

Join us all month for 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010!

Whether your reason behind wanting to cook more often is to save money or eat healthier, it’s a great goal for the New Year. Some of you may love to cook — like Shaina from Food for My Family, who is sharing her tips for cooking more often today as well — but resort to eating out when life gets busy. Others of you might be complete kitchen dunces who look for reasons to be too busy to cook…like me.

Although I sometimes still struggle with this — when we overbook ourselves or have sick kids, for example — here are a few tips that have helped me get much better about cooking dinner most nights of the week:

1. Plan your meals and grocery lists.

Although there are exceptions, most people find that simply planning ahead is the key to cooking more often. Create a list of the meals you’d like to make during the week and base your grocery list on what ingredients you need to make them. This list doesn’t have to be rigid if you prefer more spontaneity to your meals, and you can always carry a meal over into the next week if you want to switch things up. I have several meal planner and grocery list printables available here at Organizing Your Way to make your planning even easier:

2. Create an idea file and a favorites list.

Another common reason that families eat out is because they get tired of the same meals week after week. To battle this tendency, create a list of all of your favorite meals as well as an idea file for recipes you’d like to try. I actually have two idea files — one for links to recipes on the internet and one for physical recipes I tear out of magazines. Being able to quickly see all of our favorite meals as well as get ideas for new ones to try is a huge help when I’m planning our menu and realize I’ve got 5 Italian dishes on the list.

3. Throw in some easy options.

I realize they’re not the healthiest option, but we keep frozen pizza on hand for those nights when dinner is just not coming together. Other easy options include grilled cheese and tomato soup, eggs and sausage or grilled hotdogs and french fries. We try to serve an easy fruit or veggie to go along with these easy meals, but these nights are usually about survival and not running out to get fast food, and having easy options available means we’re less likely to do that.

The funny part is I used to refuse to plan for these types of meals and then we’d have nothing easy in the pantry and end up at a fast food restaurant anyway. For me, if the choice is between fast food or something easy at home, at home is still the obvious choice because it’s healthier and costs less!

4. Keep extra meals in your freezer.

Whether you double a recipe and freeze the extra or set aside a once-a-month cooking day, having meals in your freezer is a great way to have home-cooked meals more often. We just finished the meals that we stocked our freezer with before the baby was born, and I am so thankful for all of the yummy meals we were able to make right at home even with a colicky baby.

The thought of OAMC may be overwhelming to you, but doubling a recipe and freezing half doesn’t involve much more work than simply making a single meal, and the payoffs are more than worth it. Next time you make your family’s favorite meal, try it!

5. Put it on your daily schedule.

For me, it’s important that I look at whatever meal I have planned for the day and actually write down what time I need to start preparing it. I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve looked up at the clock and realized we should be eating in 15 minutes and I haven’t even started dinner yet. However, if I take the time to think through the meals and what time I need to start making dinner, I’m much more likely to actually get it done!

6. Take note of the obstacles.

Think about what other obstacles keep you from cooking at home and brainstorm solutions for each of them. Are your afternoons and evenings so busy that you frequently run out of time to cook? Could you start your meal preparations in the morning by throwing everything in the crockpot or by putting a casserole together? Maybe you have really picky eaters in your family and it’s hard to find many things they like, so you’re stuck with the same meals every week, which leaves you uninspired to really cook. Instead, could you try new meals and serve side dishes you know they’ll eat? Whatever your particular obstacles are, brainstorm different ways to address them rather than just giving up!

Do you cook at home a lot? Is your goal to cook more? What obstacle keeps you from cooking now?

The 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010 series is sponsored by Get Organized Wizard. Find ready-made action plans, organizers and checklists for more than 200 projects in the Life & Goal Organizer.