At this point in the year, when your to-do list gets longer and longer by the day, you might be battling a twinge of cooking fatigue. Webster’s Dictionary would probably describe this phrase as “cooking so freaking often that you are bored, tired, and completely over it.” While I can’t speak for Martha Stewart or Ina Garten, I think we’ve all wanted to break up with our kitchens at one point or another.
But cooking does not have to be a chore. In fact, cooking should be–dare I say–fun. This might be the most unrelatable thing about me, but I rarely get tired of cooking. In fact, I purposefully don’t meal prep so I can cook an entire meal every day. Don’t mind my humble brag, but it’s the happiest part of my day. However, I didn’t just pop out of the womb with a frying pan and a spatula excited to cook (yeah, I also hated that imagery). There are a few key strategies I use so that cooking always feels exciting, fun, and stress-free. Read on for seven cooking tips that help get me excited to hit the kitchen day after day.
1. Start with in-season ingredients
Figuring out what to cook is arguably the worst part of cooking. If you find yourself stumped on what to make week after week, rely on what’s currently in season to make your decision for you. For example, the fall and winter months are prime time for produce like brussels sprouts, butternut squash, potatoes, and pumpkins. Spring and summer bring fresh ingredients like bell peppers, melons, tomatoes, and peaches. Pick an item that sounds good and try a new recipe based on that ingredient. Bonus: fruits and vegetables are often cheaper (and easier to find) when they’re in season.
2. Recreate a dish from your favorite restaurant
We all have that one takeout order that always sounds good. Instead of giving in to the temptation to order out, challenge yourself to recreate that dish at home. Maybe you constantly crave the chicken parmesan from your favorite Italian restaurant, or maybe your go-to comfort order is pad thai from a certain local place. Whatever it is, find a recipe that sounds similar (or experiment with your own take) and try to replicate the magic at home. If you don’t get it quite right on the first try, give it another go the next time you need a dinner idea!
3. Utilize meal delivery kits
Between finding the recipes, making the grocery lists, going to the grocery store, and prepping the ingredients, of course you’re going to get exhausted. One of my tricks to keep cooking interesting is using a meal delivery service. Not only do these kits give you a (much-needed) break from grocery shopping and meal prepping, but the included recipes serve as some major cooking inspo. You might just find a new favorite recipe or cuisine you wouldn’t have otherwise thought to make for yourself! Plus, the meals are typically easy enough for even beginner cooks to handle.
4. Read cookbooks
Maybe Instagram is your go-to source for meal ideas, or maybe you’re heavily influenced by TikTok trends (feta pasta, you have my heart). While I love social media for inspiration, I attribute my unwavering love of cooking to cookbooks. That’s right—those old-fashioned things your mom keeps on a shelf are not just meant to be gifted when you need a classy housewarming present. These books are also full of cooking tips that can make meal prep more exciting.
While others might read thrillers or romance novels, I devour cookbooks (yes, that does mean reading front-to-back). Immersing myself in a cuisine and diving deep into each recipe makes me so much more excited to cook them. Bottom line: Reading a cookbook turns cooking from a chore into a learning experience. Not sure where to begin? Here are my favorites.
5. Try one new food every week
Stuck in a food rut? Get out of it by trying a new star ingredient. Most of us tend to stick to the same grocery list and the same sections of the store, but getting out of your comfort zone at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods is a great way to spark creativity in the kitchen. When I grocery shop, I challenge myself to pick up one new fruit or vegetable that I’ve either never tried before (looking at you, Japanese sweet potatoes) or have never cooked before. (Example: I love a good beet salad at a restaurant but have never cooked with beets.) This sometimes requires a little bit of research (googling “how to roast beets” or “Japanese sweet potato recipes” typically does the trick), but this little hack prevents cooking from ever feeling routine. Plus, I now consume a wider variety of nutrients by exploring a wider variety of produce.
6. Experiment with new tools
Along with what I cook, changing how I cook is another way I spice things up. Whether it’s an air fryer, a spiralizer, or a poached egg maker, there are tons of affordable, easy-to-use appliances and tools that can transform your basic proteins and veggies into incredible meals. Low key, the air fryer completely changed my life, and a salad chopper somehow turns boring salads into drool-worthy creations. The truth is that healthy cooking is easy when you have a kitchen full of tools to help you do it.
7. Perfect a couple of easy recipes you love
Yes, getting excited about cooking often involves trying new things, but it’s also about knowing when to pull out your old standbys. One of the main reasons I still love cooking so much (after doing it on a nightly basis) is because even my go-to recipes don’t feel boring or repetitive. For example, I will never get tired of cooking (or eating!) pasta. I love the experience of boiling water, chopping up garlic, and letting a simple tomato sauce simmer on the stove while the spaghetti cooks.
Plus, I can make it with any pasta shape or switch up the sauce with a few easy swaps. It’s simple and easy on days when I don’t have time (or energy) to revert to my other cooking tips, but it feels comforting rather than boring. Don’t settle for mundane frozen food or a basic recipe you don’t enjoy, even on your busiest days. Instead, perfect an easy recipe that feels fun to make, and cooking will become your escape, instead of a chore.