home cooking practice

start (or uplevel) your home cooking practice in 2024

Do you have a home cooking practice? Because if you’re not in the habit of meal planning and cooking from scratch at home it really is a practice: something to be done mindfully in order to increase your proficiency.

It seems like every year, the New York Times cooking section publishes an article along the lines of “If you’re planning to start cooking more, learn these X recipes.”

This year’s article has some great advice. Such as “Consider a gentler approach to resolution-making: Try to become just a little bit better at something, rather than change your habits wholesale.”

Bad comma usage aside, I applaud that suggestion.

resolution or alignment?

Over the past decade, I’ve veered away from setting resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise. There are people who thrive on setting a goal and reaching it; there are others who are exhausted by the very idea.

To me, resolutions feel so … resolute? challenging? masculine energy-infused?

And reaching them requires so. much. effort. all. the. time.

When I work with clients who feel the same way, we talk a lot more about aligning our daily choices with our values than about setting goals and reaching them (or not).

Either way you view it, there are a few principles to keep in mind.

find your why

Ask yourself repeatedly why you want something until you find what really resonates. Your why should make you cry.

In my coaching, I call this discovering your deepest values. Rather than saying I want to do XYZ, try framing it as, “I am someone who is/does XYZ.”

Framing it this way brings the future into the present: you already are someone who…. So you’ve already succeeded!

If you can’t find a why that makes you cry, it’s probably not something you care enough to be successful at—and that’s not a judgment! We can’t all be successful at everything.

(And very often, if the why isn’t resonating, it’s because you’re thinking about what others say you “should” be doing rather than what really matters to you.)

aim for 50%

When I was a high school student and told my father that my friends got cash rewards for every A they brought home, he laughed and said, “I’ll pay you a dollar for every C you can get.”

Yes, he knew my overachieving little self would utterly fail at that. He was being funny … and there’s some valid advice in there.

I ask my clients to aim for 50%. That’s not even a C, that’s an F in the world of conventional grading!

And if they’re trying to make a shift in their lives, making the better decision 50% of the time is the place to start. Once 50% is happening regularly, we aim for 60%, then 70%, then 75%. Once we reach 80% of the time, that’s good enough for most food and lifestyle choices.

Granted, it’s hard for overachievers to accept that 80–90% is perfectly acceptable. The truth is, always “being good” can give rise to a resentment that tips into “being really, really bad”—whether it’s bingeing on something you’ve been denying yourself or falling away completely from an exercise routine or a home cooking practice or or or.

curiosity > judgment

When we don’t succeed in making a shift in our food or lifestyle choices, our tendency is to beat ourselves up. Our inner voices are meaner to us than we ever are to other people.

Two questions to ask ourselves when we drift (or plunge) into negativity bias:

  • Would you speak that way to your best friend if she had done the same thing you did?
  • Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

My clients know that if I find them judging themselves, I’m going to ask them to try to look at the situation with curiosity instead.

Need an example?

  • Judgment: Ugh. I’m trying to develop a home cooking practice, and I’ve failed. AGAIN. Why can’t I do this? It shouldn’t be that hard! (You just put yourself on the defensive and sent your creativity running for cover. The only way from here is down.)
  • Curiosity: Huh. What got in the way of my cooking practice this week? And how can I set myself up for success next week? (You just called off the attack and gave your creative mind an opportunity to find a way forward.)

Whether you love to set a goal and go after it or you prefer to figure out what your deepest values are and think about aligning yourself with them, these three principles apply:

  • Find your why.
  • Aim for 50%.
  • Use curiosity in place of judgment.

home cooking practice

So back to the idea of developing a home cooking practice this year!

  • Find your why: there are many reasons to cook from scratch more often. Here are just a few:
    • Improving personal/family health
    • Environmental conservation
    • Supporting your local farm economy
  • Aim for 50% (or even less!)
    • If you are starting from zero (as in, you never cook from scratch at home), start there. Meal kits are great if they’re in your budget. Put together a meal starting with prepared ingredients, like a rotisserie chicken or a store-bought hummus.
    • If you cook one night a week, try two.
    • If you cook two nights a week, try three….
  • Curiosity > judgement: what got in your way? What might help?
    • If you didn’t get to the store, can you set up grocery delivery?
    • If there tend to be crises at work, can you stock the fridge/freezer with some pre-made items that you can simply reheat?
    • If you have older kids at home, can they finish a meal that you start putting together?

about those recipes

The NYT does an okay job of choosing simple, quick recipes for their annual article. (Although if you read the comments, you’ll find your fair share of disgruntlement/proselytizing: too much meat! not enough meat! too complicated! way too easy! too much salt/fat/sugar/[pick your nemesis]!)

If I were the type to comment, I would probably add: Each recipe chosen exists in a vacuum. Every one of them requires you to start completely from scratch every night.

I would recommend learning a few formulas rather than following a recipe, and I’d focus on items that can serve more than one purpose:

  • Make a vinaigrette you can use on salad, on roasted veggies, as a marinade later in the week.
  • Make a sauce you can use for pasta and in a casserole and on your eggs in the morning.
  • Make a dip you can also use as a salad dressing and/or a sandwich spread.
  • Roast a chicken or cook some fish that you can turn into other meals later: soup, chicken/fish salad, casserole, tacos.
  • Cook vegetables that you can serve for dinner and add to soups, salads, casseroles later.

make the connection

If you want to shift some food and/or lifestyle choices this year, try applying my three principles to your attempt. And if creating a home cooking practice is one of the things you aspire to, make sure to join me for the 2024 Fl!p Your K!tchen® sessions—you can find the upcoming virtual demos on my events page and purchase tickets directly from there!