Imagine this: it’s a Tuesday. 8 P.M. After the 3-hour-long meeting that was supposed to be 30 minutes, you’re finally home, and all you want to do is crawl into bed and wait for a sweet, sweet delivery man to knock on your door, avocado sushi in hand. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. After a long day at work, cooking a full-blown dinner sounds as fun as Black Friday morning at Walmart. Sometimes it’s easier just to pop open the ol’ Seamless, or pop a frozen pizza into the oven and wait 30 minutes. And don’t even get us started on mornings. No one should be expected to do anything mildly strenuous before at least 8 A.M. Plus, Enrique at the smoothie bar already knows exactly how you like your acaí bowl.

Unfortunately, we all know that eating out every day is not sustainable. If your breakfast comes in a package and can sit in your freezer for two years, it’s probably heavily processed and full of preservatives. And if you drop $20 every night for dinner, your wallet is going to feel it eventually. Some things are just too good to be true.

The good news is there are tons of tips and tricks you can implement in your weekly routine to help motivate you to stay in and play chef. Here are five of them:

1. Get Inspired

Polenta Pizza

Whether it’s scrolling through foodie accounts on Instagram, flipping through the cookbook section at Barnes & Noble, or posting a status on Facebook about the delicious meal you’re about to make, find a way to get yourself excited about cooking! This is arguably the most crucial step of cooking at home, because no matter how much shopping and prepping you do, if you’re not motivated to start cooking, everything you bought is just going to sit in the fridge or collect dust in the pantry.

Sometimes, getting motivated is as easy as reading about OTHER people cooking. Check out 6 Tips That Will Make You Love Tofu, 10 Tips and Tricks for Rockin’ Vegan Pizza, 5 Tips for Making Amazing Tempeh Dishes, or Tips For Cooking Greens so They Taste Real Delicious. We guarantee just hearing about the prospect of delicious food will have the inspiration flowing right through you!

2. Shop Mindfully

Cauliflower Rice Bowl 4

Once you’ve gotten inspired, it can be tempting to go to the supermarket and start buying, well, everything! You want to finally try making that Cauliflower Rice Bowl With Spring Veggies so you buy that stuff from the farmer’s market. But you also want to make Roasted Stuffed Eggplant, oh and an Asparagus Pesto Tart, and of course, you have to make that Raspberry, Lemon, and Coconut Cheesecake you’ve been eyeing for months!

As much as we applaud your enthusiasm, it’s best to go into the supermarket with a plan. Choose a few recipes you want to try out (preferably ones that have overlapping ingredient lists). With some meals to make in mind, you’ll be less likely to impulsively buy every fruit and vegetable in sight or worse, TV dinners.

If you need some guidance check out: How to Shop Your Way to a Healthy, Plant-Based Diet on a Budget, Tips to Reduce Waste While Grocery Shopping, and How to Eat a Healthy Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet on $50 Per Week.

3. Stock Your Kitchen and Keep it Clean

Lentil Fra Diavolo Over Zucchini Pasta

The tools that you use in your kitchen are just as important as the food in it. After all, what good is a zoodles recipe without a way to spiralize zucchini or a tart recipe without a baking tray? While the tools for a well-stocked kitchen may seem expensive in the moment, they are an investment. Knowing you have all of the tools and gadgets needed will motivate you to cook as opposed to ordering food, ultimately saving you money. Plus, it’s nice to have a few pots so that you can cook multiple components of your meal at the same time, more than one spatula, and of course, some containers so that you can keep all of your creations nice and fresh! Not sure what to buy? Check out Kitchen Tools That Will Make Plant-Based Eating a Breeze, 5 Essential Kitchen Tools to Keep on Hand to Inspire You to Eat Healthier, and The Guide to Knives for the Plant-Based Chef.

It’s also a good habit to keep your kitchen clean and to clean WHILE you cook. Nothing takes the fun out of a home cooked meal like being pleasantly full and having to get up from the couch to clean up a disaster of a kitchen. Instead of scrolling through Facebook while you wait for your food to cook, spend that time cleaning up the dishes you’ve dirtied. Post-dinner you will be thankful.

 4. Start Simple 

One-Pan Singapore Noodles [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

As awesome as it is to try out a dish you’ve never made before, it’s probably not the best idea to try out a new recipe every single night. While it seems like a great idea during the shopping process, having to do a difficult, 15-step recipe every night will get tiring pretty quick. Instead, master a few staple dishes, and then once you’ve got those down, learn a few more! Plus, there’s always the weekend if you really want to get ambitious in the kitchen.

Not sure where to start? Check out 5 Cheap, Easy, Vegan Meals Every College Student Should Try and 5 Easy Vegan Meals for Lazy Cooks. Or jump right into cooking with this 5-Minute Basil Pesto Raw Zucchini Pasta, these One-Pan Mushrooms With Noodles, or this Quick and Easy Fried Rice.

5. Use the Power of Your Freezer

Mashed Potato Casserole With Broccoli and a Cauliflower Gravy

Let’s be realistic, you’re not going to want to go all Rachael Ray in your kitchen every single night. But don’t worry! Skipping out on cooking for the night doesn’t necessarily mean you have to succumb to ordering in food. Having prepared food for the week is as easy as doubling the size of the batch of food you make when you do feel like cooking, and storing the leftovers in the freezer for later in the week! Chilis, soups, stews, casseroles, and curries all retain their flavor and texture for several weeks and reheat perfectly fine in a skillet, or even in the microwave. Muffins, bagels, and other baked goods stay fresh for a while as well, and are great for when you’re rushing out of the house in the morning. Just try to avoid freezing dishes that contain pasta, lettuce, or rice, since these items don’t do particularly well in the cold. Check out Our Guide to Freezer-Friendly Meals to Make Life Easier for inspiration.

With these five tips, you can kiss the take-out goodbye and set yourself up for success in the kitchen! Happy cooking!

Image Source: Nicole Abalde/Flickr