5 Ways to Make Home Cooking Idiot-Proof

I get it. Cooking for yourself, if you’re not into it, or don’t have the time, can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, multi-pan-dirtying affair if you rethink the process a bit. In fact, you can steer things right into the no-brainer zone if you follow a few tried and true tips from my amazing health coaches.

Not only will you save money on take-out and subscription food delivery services, but the more you get into home cooking, the more likely it is that you’ll truly eat well. By putting yourself in charge of your kitchen, you set yourself up for bigger nutritional wins, and studies show that the more you cook from scratch, the more resilient your health, the better you function.

So, if you don’t cook much, or don’t feel like you’re a natural in the kitchen, think baby steps, keep it simple and begin your cook-at-home journey here:

Upgrade your breakfast.

It’s fairly easy to do breakfast better, with or without a pan. A healthy and filling smoothie with a nice balance of protein and fats will keep you full till lunch. Preload your blender cup with all the dry ingredients before bed, add liquids in the morning, hit ‘blend’ …. and breakfast is served! Prefer a hot breakfast? Toss a fistful or two of mixed greens onto a plate, add a few avocado slices and top with scrambled eggs. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Not a big breakfast eater or going the intermittent fasting route? Then fill up on a cup of ‘bulletproof’ coffee and eat on the schedule that works for you.

Supercharge your lunch.

A healthy, satisfying lunch isn’t difficult if you have good (preferably glass) storage containers or mason jars and can commit to prepping them and assembling components ahead of time. We recommend prepping five work-day lunches at a time to cover you for the week. Layer in vegetables, your preferred combo of canned wild salmon, mackerel or sardines (preferably pole-caught); slices of organic turkey or chicken; hard-boiled eggs. Add dressing just before digging in to prevent sogginess.

Don’t be scared of dinner.

Oh, no dinner! Somehow, it feels more loaded—perhaps because of received ideas from family members or foodie TV shows. Combine that with end-of-day inertia and microwaved takeout or a bowl of cereal can become the default. To turn all that around, start by getting your head in the game:

  • Lower the bar. If you barely cook, start with a goal of one or two homemade dinners a week. Begin with one basic meal you know you like—the simpler, the better— and make it a few times. Add a new, simple dish to the mix once a month (or so) and within a few months, you’ll have expanded your repertoire of easy, go-to meals considerably.

  • Isolate the obstacle. Do you forget to go shopping? Are you too tired to prep in the evening? Or does the cleanup get you down? Know where you tend to trip up and do a time-audit: where can you win back blocks of time to perform these tasks without stress? It might be a weekend afternoon or weeknight spent cooking in the kitchen with a glass of wine. Put it on your schedule.

  • Go for the bowl. One of the simplest meals to make? Broths with added protein and vegetables make satisfying soup suppers when you soup them up with roasted vegetables and cooked proteins. Like your soups on the hearty side? Add pureed veggies and/or chia seeds to boost your bowl’s bulk.

Arm yourself with time-saving tools.

To cook well and with minimal hassle, the right tools are a must. Among the essentials: a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Even with minimal experience, either device will cook large one-pot meals that can be portioned into individual servings (with extras for freezing). The ingredients can be prepped in advance, and the cooking happens without you, freeing you up to attend to other things. Other time-saving must-haves:

  • Instant Pot: a multifunction cooker that offers both pressure and slow options.

  • Immersion stick blender: purees soups right in the pot, which saves you dishwashing time

  • Spiralizer: quickly makes vegetable noodles for steaming, sautéing, or using raw in salads

  • Steamer pot: essential for quick-cooked vegetables and reheating cooked proteins

  • Knives: a chef’s knife and a paring knife are all you need

  • Chopping boards: preferably wood or bamboo, and use separate ones for meats and veggies

  • Cast-iron or stainless-steel pan: for safely sautéing and cooking proteins and vegetables

  • Veggie bullet: treat yourself to this multifunction gadget if you want automated slicing, spiralizing, shredding, and blending

Go for healthy shortcuts.

Stock the pantry with healthy, organic “convenience” foods so you can put a meal together quickly, without sacrificing nutrition. Great basics to keep on hand include: frozen organic veggies like spinach, broccoli and cauliflower; washed and bagged organic greens; heat-and-eat organic quinoa and brown rice packs; canned organic beans in BPA-free cans; pole-caught tuna; capers; olives and sauerkraut to name a few. Just add extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you can have a healthy meal on the table in less than 20 minutes. Dig in!

Mari Beth Price