Why not take a few steps to improve your cooking and eating? Pick any of these 16 ways to improve your kitchen life and get started!
1. Plan your meals
Meal planning is the number 1 habit that will (almost) instantly improve your life. Your physical and mental health hinges on it, along with your budget, your environmental impact, and the stress-level of your household around dinner time. If you are brand-new to the art and craft of meal planning, I recommend that you try one of my seasonal templates. Intermediates and advanced planners may prefer to use the blank template provided in my Vegan meal planning 101 blog post. Even if you just scribble a few ideas on the back of a store receipt, you’ll be in a better position than if you didn’t have a plan at all.
2. Prep ahead
If you have a busy life and still want to eat whole, plant-based foods made from scratch at home every day of the week, you can eat very simple meals that are mostly the same from day to day. But if you crave a little more complexity and value a greater diversity of flavors and nutrients, then meal prep and batch cooking have to become part of your weekly routine. Get started this weekend with my post on Vegan batch cooking: the best way to enjoy home-made meals on demand (with a free batch cooking plan to get you going). Or get inspired by one of these 20 batch-friendly recipes gathered from amazing vegan bloggers.
3. Don’t burn your food in the freezer
If you get in a batch cooking groove, you may find yourself freezing the extra to save your soul later. But what’s the point of cooking all the food if… you never eat it? Most vegan dishes stand well to freezing for a month or two, and will likely be fine to eat even after a year, but their nutritional value and taste do not improve as time passes. Make sure to label every container that gets put away in the freezer. Regularly dig to the back to bring forward the meals you cooked a while ago. Consider keeping an inventory sheet posted on your fridge to keep track of what you have in there and schedule it to be eaten on busy weeknights. You can download an inventory template in this blog post: Prevent freezer burn with a super-organized kitchen (with a geeky printable template).
4. Waste a lot less food (and money)
Food waste and dining out are terrible for your budget (to say nothing of the environment and your waistline). If you’re going to buy your kale, you have to eat it too. Find some tips in my blog post about cutting back on food waste.
5. Plan more meals
Why plan meals one week at a time when you can plan for two weeks at once! It doesn’t take much more time and I find that it helps reduce the effort required to feed my family by picking more “cook once, eat thrice” recipes (like Every mom’s favorite bolo sauce). Some plan for up to a month at a time, but two week’s my sweet spot. You can download a template for that in my post: Vegan meal plan template: do it 2 weeks at a time.
6. … or let me plan your meals for you
My mom always said that the worst part about cooking dinner is deciding what to make. That’s why I created the Vegan Family Meal Plans. imagine receiving a list of your family’s next 10 dinners featuring seasonal produce, along with a shopping list, cleverly designed prep session instructions, and day-to-day foolproof steps that you (or your spouse, or an older child) can follow to put dinner on the table on busy weeknights, all packaged in a simple 10-page PDF delivered to your inbox every other week. It’s such a relief. Try it this month!
7. Set some good rules for yourself
Are you dissatisfied with your current eating regiment? Whether you want to go 100% whole foods plant-based, cut out oil, remove processed foods from your pantry, or only cook locally-grown foods, I recommend you give yourself a plan to reach your goals. Some people are successful with overnight conversions, but most of us do better when we transition over a period of time. Set some rules for yourself, taking into consideration the level of control you have over the food you eat in various circumstances. I explain the process as it pertains to going vegan in my “Vegan After 6” blog post, but it applies to anything.
8. Eat more greens and cruciferous vegetables
Eating more greens and cruciferous vegetables is one of the table habits that will bring you the most rewards, health-wise. Challenge yourself to eat dark leafy greens or cruciferous veggies at least once every single day. Once you got that down, go for two servings, then three! Read my post on How to eat more greens and cruciferous vegetables and get inspired by the 25 recipes from all-vegan bloggers!
9. Leave screens out of the kitchen
Say no to phones and tablets in the kitchen. Choose to train your attention onto the task right in front of you, cooking with your five senses engaged. Read more about why screen-free cooking will make you a better cook in my blog post Mindful screen-free cooking: The pathway to becoming a better cook.
10. Stop worrying about grains-to-water ratios
If your excuse to keep your phone in the kitchen is because you need to look up the exact ratio of brown rice to water, you can let that go right now. Whether it’s brown rice or quinoa, you can cook almost all whole grains the same way you would cook pasta: boil them in lots of water then drain through a fine-mesh sieve. Learn more in my post about The simplest, healthiest and easiest way to cook brown rice (it applies to most other grains too).
11. Boost the nutritional quality of every meal
Every meal is an opportunity to get more nutrients into our bodies! Try my 6 easy cooking hacks to boost your family’s nutrition naturally.
12. Keep the bugs out
If your pantry is a mess of cardboard boxes and plastic packages rolled up with a clothespin, you are at risk for the damnest of pest: pantry moths. Don’t let that happen to you! Improve your pantry storage right now with the strategy described in my post about preventing pantry moth infestations.
13. … and let the kids in.
Picture yourself in 5 years. Wouldn’t it be great if your kids were in charge of dinner a few times per week? Give your children the gift of plant-based cooking skills. It might just save their lives! Learn more about getting kids involved in the kitchen by reading this guest post from Janelle Leclair, a holistic nutritionist who teaches cooking to children as young as 3.
14. Switch to cast-iron skillets
Are you using scratched-up non-stick cookware? It’s time to upgrade to time-tested, bullet-proof cast-iron skillets. But don’t go rushing to the store! I tell you all about the best way to procure some rad frying pans in this blog posts: Cast-iron cooking for vegans (with great recipes for inspiration).
15. Clean up faster
Do you dread cooking because of how long you think it will take you to clean up afterward? I get you. When I was a beginning cook, it just seemed like even the simplest recipe had me pulling every single utensil and container I had in the kitchen. No more! I gathered a lot of life-changing tips to help you cook better so that clean up takes less time in my blog post Change how you cook to make dishes faster.
16. Start a batch cooking club
Right up there with exercise and snuggling with my kids, cooking up a storm with the fine members of my plant-based cooking club is always time well spent. In the following days, not only does pulling out ready-made meals from the fridge bring the relief of not having to make dinner happen from scratch, but it also brings up the pleasant memories of an afternoon of productive work in good company. Get a few friends on board and get your own cooking club started by following the simple steps in this post: How to start a batch cooking club (because you really need one).
What do YOU want to improve to your kitchen life? Share your goals in the comments so others can get inspired, too!