20 Delicious Cooking Tips For Being Stuck At Home

Shannon Quinn - March 31, 2020

For the first time in recent history, millions of people around the world are at home making their own meals. If you have never cooked before, the process might seem intimidating. Plenty of people have resorted to eating soups, sandwiches, cereal and mac & cheese for nearly every meal. This is going to get old really quickly. It’s also crucial for you to eat a well-balanced meal with plenty of nutrition. We are living in a time when your health is most important, and good food is essential for building a strong immune system. Learning how to cook is more important now than ever before. The good news is that once you learn how to cook, you’ll probably love it. Whether you are a seasoned home chef, or your total beginner at home-made, resourceful cooking, we’re bringing together some of the best tips that we have for cooking at home.

Credit: Shutterstock

20. Make a Meal Plan

At the beginning of the outbreak, so many people rushed to the grocery store to buy canned and dry food. The vast majority dove head-first into the panic without actually having a meal plan. The problem with this is that after spending several hundred dollars, they probably looked down at their grocery haul, and wondered, “What am I going to do with this?!” At the time this article was written, we are two weeks into lockdown mode, but grocery stores are still restocking their shelves. Even if you can’t always buy the exact item you’re looking for, it’s better to have a plan of what you actually want to eat, instead of buying things you saw in an episode of Doomsday Preppers.

When you meal prep, you can divvy up meals and snacks ahead of time. Credit: Shutterstock

Before you go to the supermarket, jot down some ideas on a meal plan. This can be done for free in a notebook you have lying around the house, or through your notepad on your phone. Or, if you prefer, there are special meal plan journals available online. Plan out meals for every day of the week. If you’re cooking for your entire family, keep them in mind, too, since you’ll need to increase the portions. Decide which days are designated for leftovers. It’s also a good idea to order takeout from your local restaurant at least once a week, and have them deliver to your door. After making a meal plan, it helps you to feel in control of the food situation, and it becomes far less stressful to think about cooking throughout the week. Some people like to purchase meal prep containers so that they can cook ahead of time, which can reduce stress even more.

It’s more important than ever to eat all of your leftovers. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Reuse Your Leftovers

When you make a meal, it’s important that you eat the leftovers the next day. We’re in this for the long haul, so you need to make your food last as long as possible. Some people dislike leftovers, because they never taste as good as they did when they were freshly cooked. Thankfully, there are great ways to use your leftovers to incorporate them into brand new meals, without the need for eating an identical meal two days in a row. For example, you can make a traditional meal on Sunday, with steak and mashed potatoes. Usually, there are a lot of leftover mashed potatoes, but all of the meat is gone. So, on Tuesday, you can take the leftover mashed potatoes and create a shepherd’s pie. The same logic can be used with ground beef for tacos being reused to make empanadas. The possibilities are endless.

Make sure you have food containers in your house. Credit: Shutterstock

If you only have cheap plastic dollar store food containers, it’s probably time for you to invest in a set of glass containers with lids. These are microwave and dishwasher safe, and they will last for years, rather than weeks. This is your chance to get creative with creating meals out of leftovers. Once you get in the habit of doing this, it’s actually a lot of fun. If you truly can’t think of a meal on your own, you can also go to Google and search for things like, “How to cook using lentils”.

Produce goes bad quickly, so make sure to freeze extras in ziplock bags. Credit: Shutterstock

18. Freeze Your Extra Produce and Meat

Most grocery stores are limiting how much meat you’re allowed to purchase, in order to combat panic buying. If you get a large portion of ground beef, you might only use half of it for a family meal. When you first come home from the grocery store, divide the meat into plastic bags that slide shut. Remove the air from the bag, to prevent freezer burn. This way, when you’re ready to cook, it’s already portioned out for you in the freezer. These smaller bags are also easier to defrost compared to a large clump of meat. The same idea applies for large amounts of fruits and vegetables. Make sure to chop them up and freeze any extra produce so that nothing goes to waste.

Divide up your meat into smaller bags before freezing. Credit: Shutterstock

If you’re the type of person who loves to buy new kitchen gadgets, you could get a vacuum sealer that will help your food last longer in the freezer. Some people have a lot of fun with gadgets, because it’s like buying a new toy. However, speaking from personal experience, this isn’t actually necessary, and it will use up a lot of storage space. I have a vacuum sealer, but I choose not to use it, because it takes too long, and doesn’t give me any better results. Using good old-fashioned plastic bags are good enough to keep your food frozen.

During the Great Depression, people had to cook with little to no money. Credit: Shutterstock

17. Check Out “Depression Cooking” Recipes

The Covid-19 financial crisis is already shaping up to be just as bad, if not worse than The Great Depression. Lucky for us, our ancestors already have the knowledge to help us get through this. Back in the 1930’s, families had to make meals out of very little food. There are recipes out there called “Depression Cooking”, which are meals that were common in households during the Great Depression. Check out the YouTube channel called Great Depression Cooking where a sweet woman named Clara shares her experiences cooking through tough times. There are also several cookbooks online sharing recipes and ideas on how to make meals through tough economic times.

Food stamps were widely used during the Great Depression. Credit: Shutterstock

Even if it’s not necessarily labeled “Depression Cooking”, there are still tons of options out there that you can make for less than $1. Try to think about what are some of your favorite meals you could make on a budget. For example, one of my favorites is the vegetable dumpling soup, which is a recipe made by Lauren Toyota from the Hot For Food YouTube channel. You only need one of each vegetable, as well as some flour to make the dumplings. This means that you can feed the entire family for around $1. If you have recently been laid off, every penny counts.

Spices will help add flavor to your meals. Credit: Shutterstock

16. Spice it Up

The key to good cooking is in the spices. Some people shrink back from the idea of adding spices to a meal, because they associate it with being “spicy”. However, there are spices that simply add flavor without any heat. Salt, oregano, rosemary, basil, and thyme are just a few examples of basic spices that you see in recipes again and again. The great thing about spices is that once you buy a bottle, it will last for several months, or even years. Not sure where to start? There are premade starter kits and spice racks available online that will give you a little bit of everything. However, it’s a lot cheaper to buy spices that are required for a recipe. Over time, you’ll build up a collection in your pantry.

Over time, you can amass a large collection of spices. Credit: Shutterstock

Spices can completely transform your ingredients from bland to a beautiful tasting meal. For example, if you want to make home fries with a potato, it can taste greasy and bland if you simply put cut potatoes and fry them in hot oil. You’ll probably be tempted to drench it with ketchup, just to give it some flavor. But if you heat up olive oil in a pan with chopped potato, minced garlic, onion, and salt, it becomes a savory, delicious dish that tastes like it came from a restaurant. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice eating meals with flavor.

Smoothies are a great way to get a lot of nutrients in beverage form. Credit: Shutterstock

15. Make Smoothies

Eating produce is crucial for getting vital nutrients that will help boost your immune system. If you have leftover fruit and vegetables, don’t let them go to waste. Maybe you and your kids are sick of eating so much produce, so making smoothies is a great way to blend everything together in a drink that’s quick and easy to consume. Depending on your mood, you could use water, almond milk, or orange juice as a liquid base. Some people also add chia seeds or chocolate protein powders, if they’re trying to bulk up after a good workout. The great thing about smoothies is that you can make a variety of amazing flavors, depending on your mood. It’s also a good meal replacement option. Whenever I’m trying to get healthy, I always prep veggie smoothies in mason jars and drink them for breakfast.

Chia seeds added to a smoothie help give you some protein. Credit: Shutterstock

One of the best blenders for making smoothies is The Nutribullet. This blender has become so crucial in my personal life, that everyone in my family now owns their own. For years, I used a Jack Lelane juicer that spat out the fruit and vegetable pulp. This gives juice a smooth texture, but the issue with this is that you’re losing the fiber that comes from the plants. Using a Nutribullet also requires a lot less cleanup. Once you get in the habit of making smoothies, you might find yourself reaching for the blender to make a quick and easy meal instead of a box of mac & cheese. Your immune system will thank you later.

Cookware makes a huge difference in how smooth your cooking process is. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Invest in High Quality Cookware

When you are cooking every single day, having high quality cookware makes a huge difference. Most people have those cheap non-stick coated frying pans that you picked up for $15 from somewhere like Walmart or Home Goods. Those might be fine for occasionally making something at home, but they’re terrible for daily use. Non-stick coatings get scratched and warped over time, and food paradoxically sticks to their surfaces more than other materials. Now that you’re stuck at home cooking every single day, it’s time to upgrade your cookware to something that’s a bit more long-lasting. Here at Home Addict, we already created a list of the 30 Must-Have Kitchen Items For Aspiring Chefs. When you’re done reading this list, go ahead and check that one out to get some ideas on what you may need.

Up your cooking game by purchasing new tools for your kitchen. Credit: Shutterstock

Remember that getting high quality cookware doesn’t always have to cost a fortune. Personally, I’m a huge fan of cast iron, or ceramic-coated cast iron. One of the best brands on the market is Le Creuset. However, there are plenty of cheaper “dupes” out there. For example, the famous Le Creuset Dutch ovens are the best on the market, but they retail for around $300. AmazonBasics has their own version of a cast iron Dutch oven for only $50.

Rice can be used to make several different types of meals. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Buy Versatile Ingredients

Stores are restocking every day, and companies like Walmart are even dedicating night time hours to filling the shelves and cleaning the store. So you should be able to find stable ingredients the next time you go grocery shopping. Try to choose food that can be used in more than one meal, because it will cover your bases for whatever you’re in the mood to eat. For example, pasta can be made with a number of different sauces as well as meat and vegetable mixes. Potatoes can be boiled, baked and fried. You get the picture.

Potatoes can be cooked in a number of different ways. Credit: Shutterstock

During the massive panic-buying sessions, far too many people made the mistake of grabbing random frozen meals. In some cases, people were buying whatever was left on the shelves, even if it was a food they don’t normally enjoy. This came out of fear that supply chains might suffer during the crisis, but the reality is that they’re doing just fine. Now, people are stuck with meals that they aren’t necessarily in the mood to eat, and this can lead to a tremendous amount of wasted money and resources. Instead of buying super-specific items that can only taste like one thing, try to go for ingredients that are more versatile and can be transformed into new dishes.

There are a lot of different types of knives on the market to choose from. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Sharpen Your Knives (Or Buy New Ones)

When you cook on a regular basis, there’s nothing worse than using a dull knife. This adds a lot of wasted time and frustration to your cooking process. If you have been using the same cheap knives for years, you should consider purchasing a knife sharpener to try to revitalize the blades. If you’re on an incredibly tight budget, you can actually use the bottom of a ceramic bowl as a knife sharpener. Just make sure it’s clean, and check out some videos on YouTube to make sure you’re doing it properly.

Sharp knives help you chop vegetables quickly and easily. Credit: Shutterstock

Another option is to buy a brand new set of knives. There are loads of options out there to choose from, but there are good and bad sides to nearly everything. Ceramic knives are sharp and amazing to use, but they tend to chip over time. Stainless steel knives can be great, but will eventually go dull. Japanese knives are the greatest, top-of-the-line tools, but they are over $100 each. At a time where most people are tight on money, this might not be appropriate to buy right now. However, this is the sort of item you should get yourself if you’re truly committed to becoming an amateur chef. If you are cooking at home every day, you might find that these expensive knives help your overall experience.

Always try to use up what you already have before going shopping. Credit: Shutterstock

11. Use What You Already Have

Now more than ever before, it’s vital for you to stay at home. This means that you should do your best to use all of the ingredients that you already have in your pantry. All of that canned food that you thought you might need “some day” should be eaten, starting today. For most people (especially if you stocked up before the lockdown) you should have enough in your house to last a couple weeks, or even months. There is no real need to leave the house and expose yourself, unless it’s for necessities.

Emptying your pantry can be a satisfying process. Credit: Shutterstock

This virus is going to take a long time to go away. The longer people can manage to stay at home, the faster we can get back to normal. So, even if it means eating food you don’t particularly like, it’s worth it for you to keep you and your family safe.

Keep a list of the groceries you need to buy on your next trip to the store. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Keep a Grocery List

In the last entry, we talked about the importance of staying at home and eating what you already have in your pantry. However, at some point, you’ll need to go back to the grocery store to restock on essentials like milk, eggs, and bread. A few months ago, it was totally acceptable to go to a store without a grocery list, because if you forgot something, it was as easy as just going out again the next day. Now, going to the grocery store is a huge event. You should be wearing gloves and a protective mask, keeping 6 feet away from strangers, and carefully avoiding touching your face.

You might need to keep your grocery list on your phone. Credit: Shutterstock

By keeping a grocery list, you can keep track of everything you need to purchase for your home. This can be done either on a piece of paper, or on your phone’s note app. Go to each member of your household, and ask what they need from the store. Only one or two designated shoppers should go to the store at the same time, to encourage social distancing. With services like Walmart Grocery Pickup, they will even save your items on the list for you, so that you can add items throughout the week. Just be sure to schedule far ahead of time, because they are filling up quickly.

Don’t be wasteful with your food. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Don’t Waste Anything

It wasn’t so long ago that people would get tired of eating something, or they felt too full to finish their meal. They would slide the excess food off of their plate and into the garbage can. Now, that extra food that was once thrown away is precious. The more you can save, the better. However, there is also a real danger of cross-contaminating the food with someone’s germs. So, if someone has leftovers from their meal, put it in a container that is designated for that person.

Try to keep leftover food for tomorrow. Credit: Shutterstock

In the past, some parents encouraged their children to finish their plate, because there are starving children in other parts of the world. Consider changing your method of encouraging your kids to something like this; “If you don’t finish it today, you need to finish this tomorrow. And it doesn’t taste too great being reheated in the microwave.”

Always check the expiration date. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Check Expiration Dates

This might sound like obvious advice to some people, but it’s crucial to check the expiration dates on your products. A lot of people gathered non-perishable items at the grocery store like cans of soup, beans, and vegetables. However, you don’t know how far back those items were on the shelves before you got to the store. You might accidentally use all of your new products, only to realize that some of your other cans recently expired. Check the expiration dates of every can, and organize them by bringing the oldest cans to the front, with the newest in the back. If you want to be truly organized, you might want to consider getting a can rack organizer. This way, once the cans are organized by expiration date, you just need to pick up the front can and let the next one in line roll to the front.

Check to see if food has gone bad before you cook with it. Credit: Shutterstock

Also keep in mind that there are some food items out there that will still be good to eat beyond their expiration dates. Bags of tea, honey, white rice, dry pasta, instant coffee, and Spam can last in your pantry for years. Even some of the legendary snacks, like Twinkies, can last for a few months. If there is a food item that expired very recently, don’t be afraid to eat it. Just don’t eat something has has expired several months or years ago. This is the worst time to get food poisoning, so it’s not worth the risk!

Passing down family recipes is an important tradition to follow. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Make Old Family Recipes

At times like these, family is more important than ever. Time is precious, so there is no better time than the present to learn how to cook your old family recipes. When I was young, my mom took the time to write down all of our family recipes on cards, and she keeps them in a recipe box. I also bought my own copy of the cookbook she used to make our meals for us growing up, which is the Betty Crocker Cookbook. This puts me in a unique position to get all of my family food history at my fingertips. You can do the same, and preserve that history in your own recipe box, or digital archive.

This would be a great time to Skype your grandma and ask her how to cook your favorite dishes. Credit: Shutterstock

If you can’t visit your grandparents right now, a great way to connect with them might be learning an old family recipe. Ask them how they make their famous chocolate chip cookies, or anything else that you loved when you were a kid. You can call them on the phone, or even set up a video chat on your computer so that they can help guide you through the cooking process. If your grandparents are no longer with you, call some of your siblings and cousins to ask if they have old family recipes. This will bring you all closer, and it can give you some warm, comforting nostalgia when you need it the most.

Now is not the time to indulge picky eaters. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Banish Picky Eating

There are a lot of kids out there who are picky eaters. Some parents give in to their kids, and cave with chicken nuggets and macaroni for almost every meal. By enabling this behavior at a young age, you’re only going to raise your children to be picky adults. This can also convince them that it’s okay to demand a different meal, even if the rest of your family is eating something else. However, in times of crisis, your kids might not have a choice but to eat the food you have available in your pantry. It’s important to banish this behavior from your household, because there is no time for temper tantrums.

Your kids might not look certain foods, but they can learn to enjoy them. Credit: Shutterstock

According to a pediatrician named Dr. Tanya Altmann during an interview with Today, the best thing to do with your picky kids is to lead by example. Every member of the family should be eating the same thing. If your kids normally don’t enjoy vegetables, eat yours without complaint. Explain to your children that fruit and vegetables help your immune system, which will help keep your body strong and protected from the virus. Ignore their tantrums, and just continue to serve the meals to your family every night. Eventually, they will realize that they have no choice but to join the rest of the family during dinner time. The plus-side to food shortages is that if your kids ask for certain unhealthy foods, you could fib and say that it was all gone.

Don’t be afraid to try gourmet recipes that are more challenging. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Go For Gourmet

In most advice articles about cooking during this isolation period, a lot of people encourage others to stick to simple meals that are easy to make. This is true if you’re a total beginner, because everyone has to start somewhere. However, there are plenty of us out there who want a challenge. Most people have a lot more time on their hands staying at home, so this could be a perfect time to learn how to cook gourmet meals. The term sounds intimidating, but the real definition of gourmet is that it’s a meal that takes several steps to make. One dish might take you over an hour, but it is well worth it in the end.

Gourmet cooking takes longer, but you have time to kill anyway, right? Credit: Shutterstock

If you’re looking for inspiration to learn gourmet cooking, check out the book or movie called Julie and Julia. This is based on the true story of a woman named Julie Powell who decided to take Julia Child’s cookbook called Mastering the Art of French Cooking and learned a new recipe every single day. You could attempt to do your own version of this challenge with your own favorite chef. One of the newest best-selling cookbooks on the market right now is Magnolia Table Volume 2, written by Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame.

There are lots of YouTubers out there teaching you how to cook. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Check Out Cooking Videos on YouTube

One of the best ways to learn how to cook is to watch a video on YouTube. In a lot of ways, this is even better than taking a class, because you can pause and rewind as many times as you need in order to get it right. With a laptop or an iPad on a tablet stand, you can easily take the video into your kitchen with you. Whenever you choose to make the same recipe again, it’s as easy as going back to the same video and watching it again.

You can use your laptop or iPad to watch cooking tutorials in your kitchen. Credit: Shutterstock

My favorite cooking channel on YouTube is Bon Appetit. Their chefs run a test kitchen, which means that they have gone over certain recipes dozens of times before they get the best results. Joanna Gaines has also recently started her own show on her YouTube channel, where she makes recipes from her new book Magnolia Table Volume 2. Just do a quick search for your favorite chefs, and you’re bound to find content online.

Remember that eating healthy is important for boosting your immune system. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Try Out Some Vegan Recipes

Don’t worry, I’m not here to try to convince you to go vegan, or preach how documentaries like The Game Changers and Forks Over Knives will change your life. (They really might, though.) However, the reality is that meat is flying off the shelves as panic-buyers fill their freezers. Most stores now have a mandatory limit of only two meat items per person. When you’re cooking for a whole family, and you’re trying to minimize the number of times you go shopping, this probably means that you’ll end up cooking more vegetarian meals than ever before. For some people, this might put you at a loss as to what you can make that your family will enjoy.

Vegan jackfruit tacos are a delicious alternative to eating meat. Credit: Shutterstock

The good news is that vegan food is actually delicious. Personally, I have gone on and off vegan diets for the past few years. At the moment, I stopped being vegan, since I am staying with my family, and it’s important to not be a picky eater during this time. However, this habit of incorporating more plants into my diet has boosted my immune system over the years, and I rarely get sick. One of my favorite YouTube channels that helped me learn how to cook amazing vegan meals was Hot For Food, by Lauren Toyota. She also has an amazing cookbook called Vegan Comfort Classics.

It’s nice to say Grace during dinnertime. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Practice Dinnertime Gratitude

Now more than ever, it’s important to practice gratitude for the things we have in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the bad news and feel sorry for ourselves. Many people had to cancel their weddings, large events, vacations, and graduations because of this outbreak. However, if you and your family members are healthy, it means that you should be incredibly grateful. And if you have food to eat in your house, you’re luckier than those who weren’t fortunate enough to go shopping early.

Practice gratitude with your family for good food and health. Credit: Shutterstock

In some religions, people practice “Grace” before they eat their meals. This is a moment to thank God for the food on your plate. Even if your family doesn’t subscribe to any particular religion, you can still sit down together to have a moment of dinnertime gratitude. Take turns going over the things you are thankful for. Remember to say “thank you” to the person who cooked the meal, and don’t complain if it’s not quite perfect. If you have children, this will set an amazing example for them, and it can help them grow up to have a positive mindset.

Crock pots make it easy to throw ingredients into one pot and let it slow cook. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Embrace Crock Pot Meals and Casseroles

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling your children, the idea of cooking a meal every night might seem daunting. Thankfully, you can make it easy on yourself by learning how to use a slow cooker, as well as make easy casseroles. Most slow cooker meals take 6 to 8 hours to complete. So this should be easy for you to wake up before the kids, throw your ingredients in the pot, and let it simmer until dinner time.

Casseroles are great for feeding your entire family. Credit: Shutterstock

Casseroles take a little bit more time to make, but they’re still very easy. It’s even possible to prep the casserole the night before while your kids are watching TV or playing video games, so that it’s easy to pop into the oven the next day. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to buy a casserole dish to bake in the oven. To learn more, check out the book Made Simple: One Dish, Slow Cooker, Casseroles – 3 Cookbooks in 1.