Barriers to Home Cooking

imageIf you ask people why they resort to convenience foods and restaurants, they’ll tell you they don’t have time to cook from scratch. Cooking does take time, especially if you want to include vegetables and whole grains or legumes.

We all have the same 24 hours, but we have many commitments. Often, finding more time is a matter of setting priorities. And there are ways to make home cooking simpler.

Here are some ideas for setting up your kitchen, and your life, so you can avoid the temptation to order a pizza when dinner time is close.

  1. Remember your goal. Cooking at home is cheaper and healthier. It’s an effort that pays off in the long run.
  2. Have foods you need available. It’s hard to start cooking when you have limited options. This means a reasonably stocked pantry, freezer and refrigerator with raw or already cooked elements like beans, rice, soups, eggs, or meat. Preparing vegetables in bulk also helps.
  3. Keep a clear workspace. A sink full of dishes and a cluttered counter is a sure way to thwart cooking inspiration.
  4. Use familiar ingredients, recipes and techniques. Stick to simple whenever you are pressured for time.
  5. Stay flexible. Flexibility comes hand in hand with experience. With practice you’ll learn to make up a recipe or adjust one to use ingredients you have on hand.
  6. But be determined. A simple meal at home is cheaper and probably healthier than eating out. It may even be faster. No one will starve if you serve tuna sandwiches once in a while.
  7. Store ideas. Keep a list of dishes or recipe ideas that your family enjoys, to consult when you get stuck.
  8. Plan in advance. This can involve a formal or informal menu. Think ahead about your busy days, defrost foods in the refrigerator the night before, and keep track of leftovers. Cooking on weekends may be the answer.
  9. Break bad habits. If you are used to eating out regularly or relying on frozen dinners, it can take a few weeks to get out of the mindset. You may need to work out these changes with your family, but once you have decided to cut back stick with your plan.
  10. Plan cleanup. If you don’t cook because you fear a kitchen full of dirty dishes the next morning, see my tips for Easy Kitchen Cleanup.

What inspires you to cook at home when you’re not in the mood?

You may also enjoy:

The Secret to Great Home Cooking

Pre-Leftovers and Rotating Food

Twelve Tips for Getting Kids Used to Healthy Food

Photo credit: frankh


  1. Awesome. We cook *almost* everything from scratch and I use many of the tips you outlined!!

    I would add: don’t be afraid of repetition. If everyone loves homemade pizza, do it (or whatever else they love and is easy) every week. I sometimes get caught in the variety trap. The kids have never said to me “aww, scrambled eggs AGAIN?” but I still feel a subconscious pressure to serve something different for breakfast every day of the week. Slowly trying to break that habit…

  2. We’re pretty good about home-made meals, but I’m not great at cleaning up (in fact, there is a nice collection of dirty dishes in the kitchen as I type). Your post on tips for easy cleanup is FANTASTIC. I printed it off and plan on posting it in my kitchen. Thank you.

  3. The realization that I can make better tasting and healthier food for less money motivates me. As for making it less stressful/time consuming I’d add:

    -start with the item that takes the longest to cook, by the time it’s finished, so will most other things.

    -think ahead before dirtying every pot you own. If you are making soup noodles, matzha balls and rice, take out one pot, make the noodles and matzha balls first (no need to rinse the pot between) and then make the rice in the same pot. Make the sauce for a weeknight pasta in the same pot the noodles were cooked in, while they are draining in the colander. Make salads in the bowls they will be served in.

    -make weeknight meals that combine veggies/carbs/proteins: vegetable lo-mein, mac and cheese wtih cauliflower mixed in, veggie chili etc

  4. Elisheva, I agree with you. Luckily my hubby is in charge of cooking most nights, but the majority of food is served up week after week. And the children are perfectly happy with that.

  5. To me the key word is “planning”.

  6. When I saw your headline I thought you might be referring to this article from yesterday’s NY Times magazine. Kind of funny that this guy sold them a column about cooking with and for his kids and then never wrote that many columns and it turns out never really cooked that much.

    • Miriam, good thing it’s his last. I think his mistake was thinking he’d have time to write a column while working in a high-pressured full-time job, with a small child to boot. But you don’t have to cook meals meant for a food column, you can put food in the crockpot the night before or cook extra on weekends.

  7. Just yesterday I was thinking how much I have benefited from some of the tips and recipes on the site. There is a dish I make often that is so easy and quick. Scramble some eggs together with milk, salt and pepper in a microwavable bowl. Add rice and lots of chopped onion and microwave until it’s cooked through. Since I usually have plenty of leftover rice around, this dish takes me five minutes to make.

    Another idea is to make a lot of something (like soup or rice) and use it over several days.

  8. Thanks, Ilana, for the recipe and ideas. I’m so glad the site has been useful for you.

  9. I agree with this post so much! I always try to clean up my kitchen before I start cooking. I put away the clean dishes, load the dishwasher clear the countertops and of course, wash any dishes that I will need for this round of cooking. I plan ahead with weekly meal plans so that I have a solid idea of what I will be cooking for the week. I am flexible with the days so I can decide when to cook which meals. I make simple meals during the week and prepare complicated dishes on Sunday when I have larger blocks of time for cooking. In addition, making the same meals from week to week is easy on the brain because I am not experimenting with new techniques and recipes.


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