If you weren’t stuck in a food rut before the pandemic, then you probably are now. Most of us have been cooking the same handful of recipes or ordering takeout from the same restaurants for months. But just because you’ve gotten stuck in a food rut doesn’t mean that you have to stay there. Say goodbye to your food rut with these 11 tips — everything from low–FODMAP meal delivery to hosting a recipe swap:
1. Cook one new recipe a week.
No matter your good intentions about cooking a new recipe, it’s really easy to fall back on old, easy-to-cook favorites during the busy week. Set a goal to cook one new recipe a week and plan them out in advance. At the start of each month, try to find four new recipes that you can make, one for each of the following weeks. That way, you won’t have to scramble to find a new recipe every single week and you’ll still be able to meet your goal.
2. Try out a meal delivery service.
Once a novelty, there are meal delivery programs for every diet and budget out there. Some programs ship you raw ingredients that you can cook for yourself, while others send pre-made meals that you simply have to heat up. Options for every kind of diet are available — everything from gluten-free to vegan to low–FODMAP meal plans. (If you’re wondering what low FODMAP is, it’s a diet that can help control IBS symptoms.) If your dietary restrictions have kept you from exploring meal kits before this, then you should definitely check them out again!
3. Explore different cuisines.
If you tend to cook from only one cuisine, that could be part of the reason why you’re in a food rut. Make it a point to seek out recipes and restaurants from different cuisines that will liven up your palette. You might also find it helpful to do some of your grocery shopping at various food markets instead of always going to run-of-the-mill grocery stores. These markets will have more unique ingredients that your grocery store won’t carry, allowing you to expand your food repertoire.
4. Schedule themed nights.
Instituting meatless Mondays will definitely shake up your food routine if you’re a dedicated carnivore. Not only do themed nights such as Salad Sundays or Pasta Thursdays make it easier to narrow down your recipe options, they also take some of the thought out of meal planning. Try to brainstorm some theme nights that will encourage you to push your culinary boundaries without being too restrictive.
5. Grab new ingredients at the store.
If you’re less of a meal planner and prefer to wing it, then you can do your own spin on the first tip by grabbing one new ingredient that you’ve never cooked with every time you go to the store. Try to get something that’s really outside your comfort zone and that will inspire you to try something new. Then, improvise a meal at home using what other ingredients you have on hand. You might be surprised to discover some ingredients that you completely love!
6. Pay attention to your go-tos.
Most of us fall into seasoning ruts without even realizing it’s happening, which can cause the flavor profile of every dish you cook to feel similar. For instance, if you tend to use salt, pepper, cumin and lemon to flavor your dishes, then they are going to all blend together even if you’re putting these seasonings on vastly different dishes. Swap out some of these seasonings to see what impact they have on your meals. You might discover that you actually love using lime in place of lemon.
7. Subscribe to a CSA.
CSA stands for “community supported agriculture.” During the growing season, there are likely many local farms in your area that will happily bring you a box of produce grown just a few miles from you. The produce in each box changes with every delivery, giving you the perfect opportunity to explore new foods and try out new recipes.
8. Dress up a pre-packaged meal.
Some days, you just don’t have the time to cook from scratch, and that’s okay! Instead, try dressing up frozen or pre-packed meals and putting your own spin on them using garnishes, seasonings and other additions. Mac and cheese is a great example of a pre-packaged meal whose flavor can be drastically altered via the addition of various toppings. This is also a good strategy to get more comfortable improvising if you’re not confident enough in your cooking skills yet.
9. Host a recipe swap.
If your friends also love to cook, then consider hosting a recipe swap where you all share your favorite meals with each other. You’ll get a bunch of new recipes to cook, with the added bonus that they’ve already been vetted by friends whose taste you trust. This is simple enough to do via a test or email chain, or you take things up a notch by creating a Slack or Discord group so you can organize recipes by channels and easily search old posts.
10. Seek out inspiration.
If you just keep googling “fast lunch recipes,” then you’ll get the same results over and over. To expand your horizons, follow some recipe websites on social media. You’ll see their new recipes passively every time you scroll through your feed, making it easy to discover new dishes and to save new recipe links to your phone. Many of these websites also share cooking tips on social media so you’ll also be able to improve your skills as you scroll.
11. Dig out those old kitchen appliances.
Everyone has at least one small kitchen appliance languishing in the back of a closet or buffet. Dig out your underused kitchen appliances and seek out recipes that take advantage of them. For instance, if you have a waffle maker, then you can make savory waffles for dinner. Soups and meat do well in a slow cooker, while panini presses make sandwiches and can sometimes be used as an indoor grill. Your forgotten appliance might just be the key to your next favorite meal.
Say goodbye to your food rut and hello to new dishes with these 11 tips.