Healthy or cheap? Choose one. At least, that’s what you must do if you’re eating out.
But there is a solution that will let you have your cake and eat it too—cooking at home.
The truth is, cooking is not rocket science. No matter how much of a dunce you are in the kitchen, it’s a lot easier to become decent at preparing dinner than sit for the O levels, which you have already done.
The reason 60% of Singaporeans eat out at least 4 times a week is because most are not motivated to cook at home, which seems so much less instantly gratifying than just da baoing a meal from the nearest hawker centre.
Here are five ways to trick yourself into eating at home more.
1. Organise themed meals for your household
If eating a half-heartedly prepared meal in front of the TV does not sound like an enjoyable way to spend your evening, turn meal times into a fun event your entire household looks forward to.
One way is to organise themed meals that will get your partner, family or housemates excited to participate.
For instance, you could get a sushi rolling mat for $2 at Daiso and make your own sushi. Add rice vinegar to the rice and work with cooked fish if you don’t want to spend on sushi-grade raw meat. Get your household excited about having a Japanese-themed dinner, complete with green tea and anime tunes blasting in the background.
You can create hype around even the simplest of meals. For instance, if you’re just whipping up a simple Chinese-style stir fry, pair it with a pot of Chinese tea. If you’re making pasta, spend the evening playing Mario Kart.
2. Meal planning
For many people, the mere act of meal planning for the week and then grocery shopping according to the plan is enough to make them follow through on their intention to cook at home.
So come up with a list of recipes to attempt during the week, and then buy groceries for that entire week. Allocate one recipe to each day. That way, you won’t have to think too much before you start cooking.
You’ll also know that if you flake out and eat out too many times, you’ll be wasting the money you spent on the ingredients.
3. Have hotpot meals
Don’t feel like cooking before you get to eat? Then fire up the hotpot. Just dump in some hotpot sauce and the food practically cooks itself.
This is also great if you have several mouths to feed, as you can let each of the members of your household do their own cooking.
If you want to save even more time, avoid ingredients that need to be cut. For instance, buy thinly-sliced meat that can be popped directly into the pot. Other no-prep ingredients include shrimp, eggs, fishballs and noodles.
4. Turn meal preparation into a group activity
If you are not living alone, rope the other members of your household in when preparing meals. Turn cooking into a group activity to lighten your workload and also spend some quality time with the people in your life.
Parents with kids can also use this as an opportunity to teach their kid some basic cooking skills.
And even if your partner or housemates are completely retarded in the kitchen, they can make themselves useful by helping to chop, peel and de-shell your ingredients.
5. Invest in tools that make your life easier
While you should not fall into the trap of buying redundant kitchen tools like egg slicers and banana peelers, there are some kitchen tools that can make your life infinitely easier in the kitchen.
If you often eat rice, a rice cooker is essential. You can also treat your rice cooker as a crockpot and create entire meals just by dumping them into the machine together with your rice and water.
Another essential tool is a proper chef’s knife, which will make meal prep a lot faster and more comfortable. Don’t force yourself to rely on a tiny, spindly knife.
You might also want to consider a small toaster oven if you eat sliced bread but don’t have a toaster, and if many of your recipes demand an oven.
However, avoid blindly buying kitchen tools just because they look nice at the shop. Only buy what you know you will use regularly.
How often do you cook at home? Tell us in the comments!