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Self-care isn’t all bath bombs and therapy sessions. Sometimes it means turning on the stove and chopping up some veggies. Here’s how to up your me-game and start cooking at home.

We’re all guilty of picking up the takeout menu because there’s “no time” after a hard day at work… heck, sometimes just because we feel like it. You might even call that an act of self-care, since you’re sparing yourself the effort of deciding what to make, buying the ingredients, doing the prep, actually cooking it… and then cleaning up after yourself. (Phew!)

If we told you that learning how to start cooking at home might be one of the best acts of self-care you could do for yourself, you might laugh hysterically, right? And point in the direction of your mounting pile of dishes?

Sure, becoming a kitchen ninja takes up time and energy that you absolutely don’t have, some days. But that doesn’t negate the (very real) health differences between picking up something in a Styrofoam box and eating home-cooked food for most meals.

Once you're on board with the health benefits, you'll learn that cooking your meals at home doesn't have to be expensive, messy, or even a burden on your limited time. Along those lines, self-care acts don’t have to be big, luxurious gestures, or even relaxing.

Practical acts of self-care (like cooking) are just as important!

All you have to do is approach that kitchen with the right mindset, and it becomes an act of self-love and care instead of just another chore.

How to start cooking at home: adjust your attitude about the kitchen

Ask yourself: Is cooking something that you want to do or something that you have to do?

You can completely reframe your thoughts about an icky task and ultimately convince yourself that it’s worth doing because you want to do it.

It’s not very motivating to look at cooking (or any habit that you want to stick with) as something you have to do. The very idea of it being mandatory probably stirs up feelings of “Forget this!”

Instead, take a minute to consider what you get when you cook for yourself at home.

First, you get to spend time expending all the negative energy from the workday while you beat onions and potatoes into submission. You get to eat a nourishing, hot meal (or cold, if you’re into borscht). Then, you get to feel the physical and mental benefits of eating at home!

Now you should be able to say you get to cook dinner for yourself every night… and mean it!

You can even apply it to after-dinner cleanup. You get to give Future You the gift of a tidy kitchen and empty sink!

Plus, feeding yourself is a great gift of self-care. Learning how to start cooking at home is a skill that you’ll use your entire life!

The benefits of cooking for self-care

The act of cooking provides an opportunity to clear your head and focus on honing a skill. Then, the act of eating home cooking nourishes the body and helps you feel your best, long term.

The mental health benefits of cooking

Mental health benefits can accrue right away! During the act of cooking, slow down and pay attention to what you’re doing. In today’s information-overload world, the opportunity to practice mindfulness is a benefit by itself!

Cooking can also be an opportunity to:

  • Feel thankful for the food in front of you
  • Practice creative expression
  • Experience joy from the process and eating
  • Appreciate your time alone to focus on cooking
  • Connect with a loved one by cooking together
  • Be proud of creating something with your own hands

The physical benefits of eating the good stuff

Self-care does a body good, too—it’s not just for psychological wellness. Eating more meals at home can:

  • Lower exposure to processed foods
  • Tailor a diet to your needs
  • Control portion sizes
  • Reduce added salt, sugar, and saturated fats

How to start cooking at home—no experience needed!

If you’re convinced, you can get started right now! You don’t need any experience or some fancy meal planning Pinterest board to start cooking dinners and prepping lunches from scratch. All you really need is the will.

Start with the bare basics and the ability to get to a grocery store. Check. But if you want to get super-prepared, try these tips:

  • Stock your kitchen with the right tools: Cooking can become a trial-by-fire quickly if you throw down some portobellos into a toasty pan before realizing you have no tongs. You don't need much, but make sure you have some essentials!
  • Pick up a good cookbook: Think about the types of cuisine you’d like to cook most often and pick up a book that speaks to your tastes. Or grab a tablet or smartphone and hit up The Food Lab, which teaches basic cooking techniques you can apply anywhere!
  • Spice up your home-cooking palate: Stock up on elemental spices from your cuisine of choice, plus some all-around basics like bay leaves, marjoram, cilantro, parsley, and more. The more you have, the bigger the flavor possibilities!
  • Learn how to stock a pantry: Jot down the 10 or 20 recipes you think you'll want to make the most often. What are their common ingredients that are shelf-stable? Make sure you always have these on hand, and you'll never be without a meal!
  • Have a default grocery list: Know what you want to have in your fridge consistently, both for cooking and general munching. Soymilk, dried cranberries, pesto, hummus… a default list makes shopping effortless!
  • Start meal planning and prepping: It can be tough to decide what to cook and then execute it when you've already had a long day. Do the work for yourself ahead of time, and cooking at home becomes that much easier!

Need more motivation to learn how to start cooking at home?

Home cooking is beneficial in so many ways. But if you don't cook already, it's understandable to be hesitant—and maybe a little stressed. After all, you’re committing to learning an entirely new skill and making it part of your daily self-care!

First: Cooking isn’t as impossible as it looks. You can practice in just 15 minutes a day, and there's no pressure to choose recipes with complicated techniques until you want to (or ever, really!)

If you’re a cooking newbie, simply start with beginner-friendly recipes that don’t take much prep time.

Work on learning one new technique at a time—now’s not the time to practice mandolining vegetables, making vegan hollandaise, and home-frying hash browns for the world’s most impressive brunch-for-dinner. (Just start with the hash browns and go from there!)

Next: You might need a little motivation help involving some chill.

Adding CBD to your everyday cooking prep could be the extra Zen you need to get into the kitchen! Pop a couple of Vegan AF sugar bears while you’re preheating the pans and reading the prep list—and you’ll be cooking away in a state of flow before you know it!

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