Five tips to make you a 'cooking from scratch' pro

Summer is drawing to a close and for many that means getting back into school and work routines. This time of year is a little like January as many of make new resolutions and introduce new habits to our daily routines. If you are currently trying to get yourself more organised in the kitchen and cook more of your meals from scratch this is the blog post for you. You may want to start bringing your own homemade lunch to work each day or perhaps you want to introduce green smoothies or juices to your morning or maybe you simply want to make preparing dinner in the evening more time efficient. Whatever is motivating you to start preparing food from scratch more, here are the Honest Project top five tips to help you on your way.

1. Meal Plan

This sounds so obvious, but having a weekly meal plan in place makes things so much easier. A meal plan makes grocery shopping easier, it saves money as we tend not to buy things we don’t need, it cuts down on food waste, it saves time in the kitchen and it helps us stick to our intended plan. Sit down at the weekend and make a meal plan for the week ahead. You don’t have to do it for every single meal, maybe start with dinners and plan five dinners out. You don’t have to be a slave to the meal plan either; if you want to break out every so often and go off plan that’s no big deal. Let the meal plan be your friend and work for you as opposed to it being a pain in your ‘you know what’.

2. Meal Prep

Following on from meal planning, comes meal prepping. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend all day Sunday slaving away in the kitchen filling your freezer with tuberware containers full of prepped food. Instead, look at your meal plan for the week ahead and chose a number of elements that can be easily prepped in advance and that will take the pressure off later in the week. For example, at the weekend I prepped four jars of oat and chia puddings for quick breakfasts for the week ahead. I cooked a large pot of lentils to add to salads and stews, I steamed green beans and I made a batch of energy balls for bite sized treats in the evening. Other weekends, I may make a large pot of vegetable curry or soup; it just depends on the week that's in it. If you want to start adding green juice or smoothies to your routine, prep two or three days worth of vegetables at a time to save valuable time in the morning.

3. Tool up

I am a big believer in buying a few key kitchen appliances and utensils in order to make life in the kitchen easier. A good vegetable peeler, a salad spinner for washing leafy greens, measuring spoons and cups, a handheld juicer, a small blender, a microplane for garlic, ginger and zesting, a few chopping boards, a good chef's knife and either a blender or food processor. Having a decent selection of tuber ware or glass storage containers is essential. You can buy some, but also wash and reuse things like jam jars and pasta sauce jars. The former work great for things like chia seed puddings or mini desserts and the latter are great for bringing salads to work with you.

4. Organise your ingredients

When you are trying to cook from scratch, running out of or not being able to find ingredients is the number one thing that will tip you from cooking your own food into ordering take away. Spend a few hours cleaning out your cupboards and organising your ingredients. Group all spices together, keep oils and condiments together, get yourself a large fruit bowl and a large vegetable basket, clean out the fridge and allocate fridge shelves to different food stuff. Keep nuts and seeds in glass jars so you can see exactly what you have. I know personally, if I don't do this, I accumulate a selection of lots of half full open bags of nuts at the back of the cupboard that spill everywhere. Again, you can reuse old glass jars for this type of storage.

5. Start with baby steps

If you are new to cooking from scratch or seriously out of practice, start with baby steps. Focus on incorporating a small number of new dishes into your routine and once they become second nature, add more to your repertoire. Keep it simple at the start and avoid recipes that use too much ingredients or that are too technical. Master the simple and it will help keep you positive and on the right track.