The following post is from Rachael of KitchenCourses.com:

how-to-get-out-of-a-cooking-rut
source: KitchenCourses.com

Most of us have been there at one point or another: we come home from work, stare longingly into the fridge and go back to the same old recipes that have become our standbys when we’ve lost complete motivation to cook.

Our fridges and pantries are overflowing with processed foods that will cook quickly just so we can get meal time over with. We make every excuse in the book as to why it’s okay to order pizza tonight or why the frozen meal is good enough to call homemade.

We’re in a cooking rut and don’t know our way out.

Everyone goes through this, where cooking magically becomes a chore. It’s a phase that might come to you once a year or once a month, but know this: it’s common and it will pass! Here are seven things you can do when you’ve lost motivation to cook:

1. Listen to yourself.

Only plan for one meal at a time. Although it’s a great habit to get into, planning meals sometimes allows for little creativity. If you’re in a rut and you can’t seem to find your food groove, listen to yourself. Listen to your body, your cravings and think about what sounds good or looks good on that very day. Then go to the store to buy the ingredients, or if you’re lucky, you’ll have them on hand already.

2. Simplify.

Many times when we’ve lost motivation it’s because we’re thinking too much about what we’re eating. Return to some very simple recipes or pare down some of your favorites to help you breathe life back in to your kitchen soul again. Choose a meal that has very simple ingredients, not a lot of effort, but has a high return in flavor. If you can make a meal with very few ingredients taste delicious, you might get the extra push to make something a little more challenging.

3. Look seasonally.

There are so many meals to be made when you’re in a rut that can be inspired by just hanging out in the produce section or at the farmer’s market. Try something new. Go to your grocery store and find one thing that you’ve never tried before from the produce department. Look online or on your mobile phone for a recipe based on that ingredient. Or come up with a way to add that new ingredient into a dish that is already a favorite.

4. Brainstorm ways to update your favorites.

Can you add a new (to you) spice or herb to a dish you already love to give it a little more life? If you’re tired of the same old same old, try changing out the seasonings, toppings, or a few key ingredients and you’ll have a brand new meal by only tweaking a few things.

5. Get inspired.

Pull out a few cookbooks. Look at the pictures. Figure out what looks good to you, what colors, textures, or flavor combinations inspire you, and then try to recreate them. Thumb through a few food magazines or look at their websites online. Even just looking at a few pictures can spark some creativity when it comes to getting in the kitchen and coming up with new and exciting flavor combinations. Pull out some of your favorite recipes from magazines or print them out and put them in a folder – next time you’re in a rut, you’ll know where to go for a little inspiration.

6. Try out a new technique.

Over the Sunday roast, but never tried broiling before? Browse a few cooking sites and find a technique you have yet to master and try it out! Your meal options will get increasingly larger with every new kitchen skill that you master!

7. Think outside the casserole dish.

Have you ever been to a party and had what seemed like the most amazing food you’ve ever had? Then realized it was similar to a dish you make at home, but it was presented in a way that made you excited to eat it? Change up your presentation to make old dishes seem like new. Some fun ways to serve your standard casseroles or one pot wonders are to create individual portions by stuffing into roasted potatoes or peppers or by baking into smaller servings in muffin tins or ramekins.

Next time you find yourself eating the same meals over and over again, try out these simple tips to get a little spark back into your kitchen and meals. Being in a rut will never be the same again!

How do you climb out of a cooking rut?

Rachael is the blogger behind KitchenCourses.com and is the author of How to Cook For Yourself: A Complete Beginner’s Guide. She writes about her passion for food, eating well while saving money, and inspires people to get familiar with their kitchens and cook for themselves.