My Recipe for Getting Motivated to Cook!

If you’ve ever read this blog, you probably have a good idea how I feel about keeping track of my finances. If not, you can read my bitter complaints about it here, here, and here. What you may not know is that I feel the same way about cooking most of the time.

To want to cook, the situation has to be pretty ideal. Preferably it would be in my parents’ beautiful kitchen, with fresh ingredients, while feel like I have all the time in the world. It’s just not practical for day to day life!

And this is my kitchen:


Not horrible, but not great.

You may be thinking, “I thought you has this down”. After all, I previously wrote a list of tips on how to eat healthier. But, I realized I left out one glaringly important topic that is killing me right now: actually getting the motivation to step foot in the kitchen in the first place! So, I’m gonna roll things back a few steps and give you 5 ideas to give you (and me) the motivation to cook.

Let’s get into it!

1. Clear Out Your Fridge!

This is probably my biggest issue. I will never admit it to my fiancé, but I’m totally guilty of hoarding food. I like to have a ton of healthy ingredients ready to go. The problem being, the fridge gets stuffed, I can’t see anything, so I forget what’s in there.

And the idea of going through all that stuff just to find what I need for one recipe is enough to make me decide that eating popcorn for dinner is a viable option.

This habit has led to several really gross discoveries. Just this week, I found a cob of corn shoved to the back of the fridge…I honestly can’t remember the last time we bought corn – it must have been months ago!

Instead, I’m resolving to buy ingredients for only a few recipes at a time. We’re lucky to live close to two grocery stores, so getting new ingredients midweek is totally doable. I know that once I can see the fresh food sitting there without clutter surrounding it, I’ll feel a lot more motivated to make it into something.

For you, if it’s too inconvenient to make multiple trips to the grocery store, try cooking everything or almost everything as soon as you get it. You don’t necessarily have to make full-meals, but having the food prepped will help organize your fridge and make cooking through the week so much faster.

2. Set the Mood

Nothing is worse than just standing in the kitchen, waiting for things to cook. You might as well be watching paint dry!

Don’t let boredom stop you!

Play around with a few forms of entertainment and figure out what takes the sting out of having to spend time in the kitchen.

I used to listen to music all the time, but I realized it just isn’t doing it for me anymore. For a while I would bring my laptop into the kitchen and have a tv show playing in the background. Unfortunately, it was WAY too distracting, and more than a few things burned!

I thought about what gets me into flow mode when I’m working. I figured the same thing could help me focus in the kitchen.

First, I need to wear headphones for my entertainment when I’m completing a task. For some reason, anything playing through speakers turns into irritating background noise. Second, when I’m doing work that doesn’t require high concentration, nothing is better than catching up on my favourite podcasts.

If you haven’t discovered Gimlet Media yet, I highly recommend it! They do a bunch of high-production, story-based podcasts in the vein of This American Life (the founder used to work on that show). My Favourite right now is Heavyweight (score one for the Canadians!).

All of this gushing about Gimlet to say that if I reframe the time I have to be in the kitchen to be time that I get to catch up on the stories I love, it becomes a lot less daunting.

3. Think of the Results

If you don’t know me, hi, my name is Jenn, I have an Honors Degree in Psychology. And there’s this concept in Psychology called delay discounting, where future rewards are seen as a lot less valuable than rewards you can get right now. When you have to expend energy to get that award, the value goes down yet again.

So, when it comes to eating well, there are a couple things working against you.

In the big picture, the future benefits of eating a healthy diet over your life are outweighed by the instant gratification of picking up your phone and having something deep-fried delivered right to your door.

In the day to day, the future benefits of having made a delicious, healthy, homemade meal are outweighed by the ease of grabbing something quick on the go.

When you’re about to go for the easy option, STOP. Think about those long-term benefits. Think about your health, saving money, the feeling of accomplishing a goal, etc. The more you can bring those benefits into the front of your mind, the easier it will be to find the motivation to make it happen!

4. Entice With Photos…of Your Favourite Meals

If you’re having a hard time keeping the benefits of making your own healthy meals in the front of your mind, try keeping photos of the meals you intend to make somewhere you’ll be faced with them every day.

Eventually, two things will happen:

  1. You’ll really want to eat that tempting food when you’re seeing it all the time. Make sure to pick recipes you REALLY want to eat. Bonus points if it’s a meal you’ve made before that you know you absolutely love. That way, you’ll practically be able to taste it when you see the image.
  2. The guilt of knowing the ingredients for those gorgeous meals are rotting in your fridge will start to get to you. You’ll have to make a decision to either get your butt in the kitchen, or waste all the money you spent on those groceries.

This tip in itself may seem a little daunting, but you don’t need to print pictures of your meals each week to make this work. Hell, ink is ridiculously expensive! Just make a digital collage or even save one picture of a meal you really want to make, and use it for the background or screensaver on the device of your choice.

Boom, done!

5. Make it Social!

There are a lot of times that I have my mum (yes, m-u-m, she’s British) on speaker phone when I’m cooking. A lot of the time, she’s cooking too. Even though she lives two hours away – and is cooking a completely different meal – we’re able to make it feel like cooking is a joint effort, making time go so much faster.

There are a lot of ways to make this feeling happen! Instead of being on the phone, ask your roommates or other friends to cook with you in person. Split the grocery bill, have fun in the kitchen, then split the food into leftover containers for both of you.

If you don’t have room for joint cooking, or you’re just not into the idea of sharing your kitchen, turn your cooking into a competition. Swap pictures of healthy meals with your friends, and see who can make great food more consistently.

Or, why not split the groceries with a friend who cooks a couple of meals at their place, while you cook a couple of meals at yours. Then, meet up and swap a few containers of meals. That way, you’re doing half the work, you’re getting more variety in your diet, and you’ve got someone relying on your actions.

That’s all I’ve got today. Let me know if you try any of these tricks and how they work for you. And as always, let me know if you’ve got any ideas you think I should try!

– Jenn

Title photo credit: Jeff Sheldon

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