14 Tips to Help You Cook More at Home

We challenge you to eat all homemade meals for 14 days!

Whether you’re looking to jumpstart healthy eating, get back in the kitchen, or save some money on your food budget – the #homemade14 challenge will help! Just stick with it for 14 days, and at the end you’ll have a whole new approach to cooking and eating – we promise. Hopefully these 14 daily tips will help:

Tip 1: Embrace the quesadilla

Not only is this simple dish quick to make, but its flexibility will make it your new best friend! When you’re short on time and inspiration, grab whatever ingredients that you have on hand (ahem, leftovers), warm up a skillet and make a quesadilla.

We also love that you can easily customize each quesadilla for the members of your household, making sure everyone is satisfied.

Bonus tip: Keep tortillas and shredded cheese in the freezer for months and just grab what you need, no defrosting necessary.

Chicken And Spinach Quesadilla

Chicken And Spinach Quesadilla
This basic recipe is a good place to start. Mix up the type of cheese and fillings – you can’t go wrong. (Get this recipe)

Tip 2: Make a plan, but let it be flexible

Once you make a plan and do your shopping for the week, you can relax and go on auto-pilot. But when life gets in the way and you just aren’t able to follow your plan, remember that it’s OK! Use your weekly plan as a guideline, but let yourself have the wiggle room to swap meals as needed.

Each week, you should realistically plan to cook only 3-5 full dinners at home. The other nights should be leftovers or “quick assembly” dinners like salad, pasta or quesadillas. If something comes up that prevents you from making your lasagna on Sunday, don’t stress – just make it on Monday.

Bonus tip: We suggest printing out your weekly menu and hanging it on the fridge. Then as plans shift, just pull out a pen and mark it up!

Quick Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Quick Tomato Soup And Grilled Cheese Sandwich
On a busy day, a quick meal can save your sanity. This recipe includes making your soup from scratch (delish!) but we won’t judge if you use canned soup to save a few minutes. (Get this recipe)

Tip 3: Shop once for the whole week

Spend as little time as possible on the not so fun parts of homemade cooking – planning and shopping. Then you’ll have more time for the fun stuff – cooking and eating. And our latest updates let you plan and shop for exactly the days you want to.

Make a plan for the week (or at least most of it), review your grocery list, and go shopping once. No more last-minute plans, last-minute stops at the grocery store, or last-minute dollars spent on extra snacks and ingredients you don’t need.

Bonus tip: Be sure to review what pantry items you need each week and check your shelves to confirm you have them before you head to the store.

Taco Night with Chicken

Taco Night with Chicken

We love taco night! Not only is it crowd-pleasing, but with only a few ingredients, you can make a complete meal that also happens to be affordable. (Get this recipe)

Tip 4: Make breakfast that can double as dessert

When you’re making all of your meals at home, it helps to find recipes that can work double-duty. One of our favorite “versatile” dishes is a sweet muffin.

Make a batch of muffins (or mini-muffins) and enjoy them all week – as breakfast, dessert (maybe topped with fresh whipped cream), or as a snack. And muffins are the perfect addition to kids’ lunches.

Bonus tip: Coat your ENTIRE muffin tin with cooking spray! Not only will the muffins pop right out, but it makes clean up a snap.

Oatmeal Flax Blueberry Muffins

Oatmeal Flax Blueberry Muffins

A nice mix of sweet and nutritious, these muffins are delicious and filling – perfect for a make-ahead breakfast. (Get this recipe)

Tip 5: Don’t cook a big meal on same day you shop

You know the feeling… Bags of just-bought groceries sitting on the counter waiting to be put away, all while dinnertime approaches and a hungry family starts to circle.

Do yourself a favor and don’t plan to cook a big meal for the same day when you go grocery shopping. Instead, opt for a “quick assembly” meal and use the extra time to properly put away your groceries – wash & cut fruit for easy snacking, wash & dry fresh herbs, chop veggies, marinate meat, etc.

Bonus tip: Before you fill the fridge (or even before you go shopping) spend a few minutes organizing what’s already in there. Move perishable leftovers to the top/front of the fridge, trash anything that’s past its prime, and organize all that stuff in the doors and drawers!

Simple Arugula Salad with Avocado

Simple Arugula Salad With Avocado

A filling salad like this one can make it to the table in 5 minutes. Pair with some crusty bread for a complete meal. (Get this recipe)

Tip 6: Make leftovers part of your plan

7 Days in a week = 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners, and countless snacks. Even a superhero cannot make all of that food everyday… Leftovers to the rescue!

We suggest planning to eat leftovers for 1-2 dinners per week. And with our latest update, you can add a “post-it” note right to your menu so you know which days you’ll plan to eat leftovers.

Bonus tip: Just because you’re eating leftovers, it doesn’t have to feel like it! Repurpose leftovers into salads, soups, sandwiches or quesadillas. See our “Cook Once, Eat Twice” recipe collections: Chicken, Pork, Meatballs, Cauliflower, and Rice. And check out these 5 Ways to Turn Leftovers into a Whole New Meal.

Everyday Roast Chicken

Everyday Roast Chicken

If you’ve never roasted a full chicken, try this recipe! Not only is it easy, but you’ll have versatile leftovers for later in the week. (Get this recipe)

Tip 7: Make your pizza at home

Everyone loves pizza. Everyone. And if you haven’t made it at home, you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is. Honestly, once you get the hang of it, homemade pizza is cheaper, healthier and faster (really!) than delivery. Learn more: Homemade Pizza 101.

And when you make your pizza at home, it’s easy to customize it for your whole family – make some with more/less cheese, add veggies to half, etc.

Bonus tip: Homemade pizza dough is great, but you can also skip a step by buying raw dough at your grocery store or from a local pizza parlor. It costs about $1 for a ball of dough, and it will stay fresh in the fridge all week. Just put it on the counter in the morning and you’ll have perfect pre-made dough by dinnertime.

Caramelized Onion, Pepper and Sausage Pizza

Caramelized Onion And Pepper Sausage Pizza

Feel free to add/remove toppings to make this pizza perfect for you. And a tip: you can always just use jarred marinara in place of pizza sauce. (Get this recipe)

Tip 8: Prep slow cooker meals the night before

The slow cooker is one of our favorite kitchen heroes, helping you get a hot and flavorful meal on the table with little hands-on effort!

If you have a busy day ahead, consider prepping your slow cooker meal the night before as you cook dinner. Since you’re already in the kitchen and have the cutting board out, make two meals at once! Then pop the lid on & put the inner bowl in the fridge overnight. In the morning, just pull it out and turn it on. Easy peasy.

Bonus tip: If your slow cooker recipe calls for fresh veggies to be added at the end, also wash & prep them the night before and keep them in a container in the fridge.

Slow Cooker Asian Pork with Veggies and Soba Noodles

Slow-Cooker Asian Pork With Veggies And Soba Noodles

The slow cooker really adds an amazing depth of flavor to this pork dish. (Get this recipe)

Tip 9: Simple side dishes can save the day

When it comes to planning a balanced meal, it can sometimes be overwhelming to not only make a main dish but also multiple side dishes.

Don’t stress out! Something as simple as a loaf of bread, sliced cucumbers or your favorite fruit can make a quick, delicious and nutritious side dish.

Bonus tip: As you start dinner, put together a quick “appetizer” plate that includes fresh fruits and veggies. Everyone can snack on this nutritious fare (and you’ll feel fine about filling up on it), and you still can bring it to the table as a side dish.

No Knead Artisan Bread

No Knead Artisan Bread

Who knew that homemade bread could be so easy? No mixer, no bread maker, just a couple hours to rise. (Get this recipe)

Tip 10: Plan a big cooking day

When you cook more than one meal at once, you save time in the long run.

Block off 2-3 hours once a week to cook and prep-ahead as much as possible. You’ll use one cutting board, one knife, and let your oven do double-duty. Then, later in the week you can open your fridge and just pull out food to be warmed and enjoyed.

Bonus tip: Any time the oven is on, toss in an extra baking sheet of vegetables. Roasted veggies are hard to mess up, and will keep well in the fridge all week.

Lasagna With Turkey Sausage

Lasagna With Turkey Sausage

Once a week, make a “big dish” like a stew or this lasagna. Not only will you have leftovers, but you can prep other meals while it bakes. (Get this recipe)

Tip 11: Read your recipes, look for shortcuts

The next time you have a few minutes to kill (waiting in line, riding the train, waiting for a meeting to start), pull up your recipes for the week and read the instructions all the way through.

You may find some shortcuts: chopping that can be done the day before, recipes that can all go in the oven together, or one shared ingredient (pasta, rice, chicken) that you can double one day and reheat later in the week.

Bonus tip: If you’re boiling pasta and also making basic veggies like carrots or broccoli, use a pot that has a little extra room and just throw the veggies in with the pasta for the last minute or so.

One Pot Spaghetti “Puttanesca”

One Pot Spaghetti "Puttanesca"

This recipe calls for putting everything in one pot, then boil, and done. That’s right, it’s that easy! (Get this recipe)

Tip 12: Keep a well-stocked pantry

With a well-stocked pantry, dinner is always 30 minutes away. Once you build a library of favorite pantry recipes (like pastas, soups, quesadillas, and stir-frys), you can whip up a meal in a pinch without a last-minute trip to the grocery store.

And remember that your pantry is not just in the cupboard. In addition to some canned goods, baking supplies and spices, keep your freezer stocked, too! (Read: Surprising things you can freeze)

Bonus tip: Keep a written inventory of your “pantry” to prevent over-buying at the store. As you review your weekly menu and grocery list, try to use up pantry items and double-check what needs to be replenished.

Black Bean Tostadas

Black Bean Tostadas

This recipe is as basic as it gets. Make it from pantry basics, then add fresh toppings like avocado, scallions and sour cream. (Get this recipe)

Tip 13: Recruit help in the kitchen

Eating a meal with those you love is a great way to connect. But how about bringing others into your cooking process as well? Whether it’s washing, chopping or just setting the table, spending time together does not need to be limited to sitting around the table.

Share the work of grocery shopping, too! You can all go together (divide and conquer!) or alternate weeks. The more you get your family involved in the food “process,” the more they’ll appreciate the delicious meals you enjoy together.

Bonus tip: Share your weekly menu with your entire household as a way to get everyone on board. Print it out and hang it on the fridge – It works, trust us!

Muffin Tin Meatloaf

Muffin Tin Meatloaf

One of our most popular recipes, this fun dish will inspire even the smallest of hands to help you in the kitchen. (Get this recipe)

Tip 14: Use your weekend to set yourself up for success

In order to be successful at cooking more homemade meals, you need to give yourself time to make a plan and prepare for the week ahead. Block off time every weekend to get your plan in order, inventory your fridge and pantry, and go shopping.

So when Tuesday night comes around, you’ll already have a recipe in hand and groceries in the house. All you’ll need to do is cook and enjoy!

Bonus tip: Shuffle your weekly plan to move “leftover-friendly” meals to earlier in the week. That way, if you’re too busy to cook one night, you’ll already have food ready to go in the fridge.

Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Couscous Salad With Roasted Vegetables

This dish is a nice combination of roasted vegetables, canned chickpeas, couscous and greens. Each of these components can be enjoyed in other meals throughout the week, then mixed together for a perfect salad at the end of the week. (Get this recipe)

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