You might be a meal prep master. You might cook dinner for your friends and family every weekend. You might even pride yourself on only ordering in food for special occasions. But imagine cooking every single breakfast, lunch, and dinner – 90 meals – for a full month. Could you do it?
That’s exactly what Epicurious editor David Tamarkin did when he embarked on the Cook 90 challenge. For the month of January, he committed to cooking every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and refrained from eating out at restaurants, ordering take-out, or eating pre-prepared or even partially pre-prepared food.
Tamarkin gave himself the challenge because he’s passionate about cooking and wanted to challenge his skills in the kitchen and expand his culinary expertise. There are numerous health benefits that come along with cooking at home. Studies have shown that people who frequently cook at home consume fewer carbohydrates, fewer calories, less sugar, and less fat than those who don’t.
Here are five tips and tricks to help you succeed at the Cook 90 challenge:
1. Keep it simple.
If Tamarkin prepared, sliced, or assembled a meal, he considered it cooking. Breakfast could be avocado smeared on a slice of toast, or a four-ingredient salad for lunch. If it’s food, and you made it, it counts.
2. Know a few go-to meals.
Even if you love cooking, there are going to be days when you’re too drained — emotionally and physically — to feel like thinking of a meal and executing the preparation. On those days, Tamarkin found that having a few go-to meal options helped make the Cook 90 challenge less exhausting. His staples were eggs, frozen seafood, dill, almonds, and alcohol (which he used make sauces).
3. Meal plan for the win.
You know that meal prep can make or break a commitment to healthy eating. While Tamarkin didn’t prep multiple meals at once, he did find that planning what he was going to cook and when he was going to cook it made his week much less stressful. Having a plan for the week allows you to do all your grocery shopping at once, and it eliminates the question, “What the heck am I going to eat after work tonight?”
4. Save time and money by choosing recipes with a short list of ingredients.
Try these recipes with 5 ingredients or less or plan your week using recipes that use some of the same ingredients. Save even more time buy buying pre-cut fruits and veggies and by stocking your kitchen with canned or frozen foods..
5. Be creative if you’re short on kitchen supplies.
If you have a well-stocked kitchen it’s easier to prepare a lot of meals. But even if you don’t, there are ways around this. Consider purchasing pre-cooked chicken breast you can heat up on a hot plate or induction cooker and pre-cut bags of broccoli you can steam in the microwave.
Photos by David Tamarkin