Are you currently stuck in a cooking rut? We’ve all been there. Whether you’re a newbie in the kitchen or a seasoned chef, anyone can get panicked by the mere question of what’s for dinner tonight? Between work and school schedules, errands, and chores, weeknights are predictably busy. Even when weekends allow for more leisurely cooking, placing a delicious homemade meal on the table can feel like just another thing at the top of your endless to-do list.
Undoubtedly, it’s easy to fall into a familiar routine and lose your adventurous cooking motivation during your daily grind. Eating the same things all the time is not a sign of weakness or laziness in the kitchen. We all have our favorite comfort foods—and you know how the saying goes—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Still, it’s good to mix things up whenever you’re feeling stuck in a rut.
Like the remarkable Julia Child once said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-heck attitude.” There’s a slew of handy ways to break up the rut and bring some thrill and excitement back into your meals. All you need is the right passion and attitude for the venture ahead. Without further ado, here’s how to get out of your cooking rut.
Spice It Up: Use Flavors or Herbs
Are you a plain jane? Don’t add much spice or flavor to your everyday meals? Many dishes can appear one-dimensional on their own, but adding in spices, fresh herbs, or garnishes can fully bring a dish’s dimension to life. Spices and garnishes are trusty revival methods to use as rut-breaking strategies during cooking.
Pulling out the spice rack is a sure way to get your internal creative juices flowing. Even sniffing some fresh basil or cilantro may trigger a recipe idea or craving. Don't be afraid to spice it up a little or go out of your comfort cooking zone.
Meal Prep: Plan Meals for the Week
Few people have the gumption and gall to quickly transform out of their cooking rut and become meal-prepping experts. Never fear—meal prepping is a process to ease into and learn with time. You can go slowly, but don’t give up before trying it for yourself. The best way to start is with a few recipes. There’s no need to go overboard and make a large variety.
Setting out time for meal prep is the key to successful weekday mealtimes. Sift through food blogs, Pinterest, cookbooks, or recipe collections for mealtime ideas during the weekend. Write down a few ideas for the week ahead. Stick to around three recipes and purchase enough groceries to use for your weekly meal strategy.
Switch It Up: Try Out Something New
If your repertoire of recipes is seemingly limited, it’s surely time to try out something you never have before. In our digital-heavy age, millions of recipes are right at your fingertips. Do you any follow tasty chefs or food bloggers on social media? Enjoy watching the culinary skills of the TV greats? Set aside time to seek out a hot-off-the-press recipe.
Choose a specific recipe you’ve been eyeing that’s not too complicated or ingredient-heavy, one that you can snatch over a friend, partner, child, or roommate for so you’re not alone in the kitchen. By involving another person, you might break out your cooking rut and learn to love the process again.
Alternatively, try to challenge yourself with more diverse recipes, such as ethnic foods you’ve not familiar with and might enjoy. Check out local grocers or market locations that you’re not familiar with to force you to look at the diversity of food more in-depth. You may find something you like that you would have otherwise dismissed beforehand.
Discover Possibilities: Clean Out the Pantry, Fridge, or Freezer
Cooking inspiration can be found anywhere, especially in your home. If you’re looking for inspiration, why now clean out your pantry? This is surely one way how to get out of your cooking rut. You may discover something hiding in the back you’ve forgotten that you have. Maybe cans of beans, boxes of pasta, or a specific sauce or oil?
Cleaning out your fridge or freezer is another simple way to spark creativity in the kitchen. You’re forced to come directly face-to-face with items you’ve bought but haven’t yet used. The possibilities of these foods have been lying dormant in your kitchen the whole time you’ve been ordering in takeout, making popcorn, or chomping on a bowl of milky cereal.
Don’t waste the potential of what you already have on hand. Perhaps a specific ingredient can inspire you to look up a recipe or revive an old favorite. Even old leftovers can be “upcycled” into a different dish. You can even pretend to be a contestant on Chopped and make a meal out of the ingredients you have in front of you. You may not have brilliant cooking success every day, but you can learn how to think outside the box about food.
Eat Seasonally or Uniquely: Prioritize Being Present
To prioritize being present during meals, why not test out your taste buds? Take a close look at the current meals in your regular dinner rotation and determine if there is a way you can switch out a side dish for something distinctively fresh. A prime example would be changing out a traditional vegetable for a seasonal veggie.
Comparably, you can switch out your main protein for something more unique or special. By eating differently, you can learn how your tastes and preferences change and gain insight into how certain foods make you feel.
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