How to Start a Daily Cooking Habit
If you are striving for a healthier lifestyle or want to add a little wiggle room to your budget, one of the best simple steps that you can take is to start cooking for yourself. When you are eating out too often or letting a less health-conscious partner cook the majority of your meals, you’re giving up control of what you put in your body.
The only way to truly regain this control is by forming a daily cooking habit of your own. So put away the takeout menu, fire up the stove top, and follow these simple steps to become the master of your own kitchen.
Where Do I Start?
Luckily, cooking really isn’t that different from any other habit that you need to form. You can train yourself to cook that same way that you have trained yourself to brush your teeth, make coffee every morning, or put your seatbelt on when you get into the car. With a little time and effort, cooking can become a habit that you perform every day without a second thought.
The first step to any habit is repetition. You should expect any dish to come out perfectly on the first try. It’s likely that you will spend a lot of time reading recipes, measuring ingredients, and forgetting list items at the grocery store before you really get a handle on this thing called cooking. But don’t lose heart, this is totally normal!
Over time you will establish a list of pantry essentials, hone your skills, and improve at an alarming rate. Just don’t give up after the first few tries.
Set Clear Goals
The first step in establishing your cooking goal is to determine just how advanced you want your daily cooking habit to become. Are you trying to become a gourmet chef, or to impress your significant other?
Many who struggle with forming a cooking habit have not cooked very often before, and would just be happy with learning to feed themselves a bit better on a daily basis. If that sounds like you, here are a few methods that can help you get on the right track.
The next step is to determine exactly why you haven’t started cooking daily before now. Identifying your past obstacles will help you to recognize them so that they don’t stop you this time around. Are you not a fan of the doing the dishes after your cook? Do you feel like you don’t have enough time? Make sure you find ways to eliminate these obstacles before you start trying your hand at cooking yet again.
One issue that many face is a lack of patience. When you start cooking, don’t expect to become a fabulous chef in the next hour. It simply doesn’t work like that. Jumping in head first can leave you with a huge headache in the kitchen. You need to approach cooking the same way you approach any habit that you need to form, whether it is locking the door when you leave the house or leaving your laundry in the right place.
The idea is to condition yourself so that it’s a standard practice and you don’t even have to think about it. That takes time.
Take Baby Steps
On the whole, cooking is a pretty massive habit to conquer, so it’s best to break it down into smaller steps and then string them all together. Just like training to run a marathon, you can’t expect to make record time your first time out on the track. Once you have developed a collection of small cooking skills, you will be able to combine them to complete a dish without doing anything new or unfamiliar.
The first time this happens, you may not even notice it. That’s because it is becoming ingrained as a habit in your subconscious. These smaller skills can be simple things like putting a pan onto the stove and adding oil, bringing a pot of water to boil, or washing some of the dishes while you are waiting for cook times to be finished. Once you have collected all of these smaller skill sets, it won’t be long before you find yourself starting to improvise.
Forming a Habit
It takes an average of 66 days for most people to form a new habit. That’s a little over 2 months, assuming that you are repeating the behavior every single day. Keep in mind that this time can also vary by person, the task at hand, and how important it is to you to form that particular habit.
It may take you longer to develop your daily cooking habit and truly ingrain it into your lifestyle or it may happen sooner than the average person. Be patient and don’t rush yourself.
Goals & Quotas Will Set You on the Right Path
Break your larger goal of cooking daily down into smaller quotas that you will perform each day in order to make your cooking habit a reality. Try making your own dinner every other night, or pack your lunch every day before you go to bed.
Once you master the mini quotas, you can add more goals each day until you reach your final objective.
Little behaviors like closing a door behind you or turning a light on can be used as a trigger to condition yourself to perform a task. Using good old-fashioned behavioral science, you can train yourself to do little things that will make your overall cooking experience easier. This can be something like putting a pan on the stove when you turn the kitchen light on or washing a few dishes when to put something in the oven.
Establishing triggers helps to cement patterns into your mind, which is a vital key to forming any new habit.
Beware of Backsliding
When you are learning a new task or forming a new habit, it is not uncommon to fall victim to backsliding. It can only take one day to interrupt your pattern and cause you to break out of your new routine.
It’s important to be hyper vigilant of opportunities for this to occur, such as an acceptingly busy day during which you genuinely do not have time to cook the recipe that you were planning on making. When this happens, you will need to work harder to next day to ensure that you get back into your routine before the desire to continue fades.
If you find that you have experienced some backsliding, try to remember why you decided that you want to cook for yourself every day. Imagine something about cooking that you genuinely enjoy, such as the look on your partner or child’s face when they take that first bite of something new and delicious.