Let’s face it: sometimes it’s a total pain trying to think up what to cook for dinner. In the end, you might learn to cook a handful of easy home cooked meals, and then you end up eating them all. The. Freaking. Time. It’s human to try to make things as easy as possible, and feeding ourselves is no different. But it sure can get boring to eat the same things repeatedly, especially when you’re looking at the same thing for dinner tonight that you had last week, and the week before, and the week before that.
Do you eat the same five dishes over and over again? Or do you find yourself endlessly snacking on carrots or plain corn chips because you don’t know what else to eat for dinner? You don’t have to learn to cook in a completely new way to enliven your dinner tonight.
How can you spice up your dinner table without forking out $100 at some hipster grocery store or $400 for a cooking class? If you’re bored with your cooking and need a few new ideas for dinner, follow these cheap and easy tips to liven up your dinner experience.
Bored with your food? Check out these tips:
- Pick up one new thing from the produce section. Sometimes all it takes to unlock a little creativity in your cooking is forcing yourself to try something new. Never tried leeks? Or perhaps there’s a different color of potato that’s caught your eye? Grab it. Cook it. Eat it.
- Visit the spice aisle. Most of us cook with salt and pepper, but there’s a whole world of flavor out there, just begging to be tasted! Peruse the spice section and pick something you find intriguing. I personally recommend pimentón dulce or herbes de provence. Both are easy to use and tough to screw up.
- Buy fresh ingredients instead of canned. There’s no shame in buying convenience foods, but you’re missing out on a whole world of yum by eschewing living produce. Consider using fresh basil instead of dry, or fresh berries instead of canned fruit. You might just be surprised what a difference it makes. And here’s a tip: Frozen fruit and vegetables are usually picked at the peak of freshness, since they’ll be immediately frozen – so frozen produce gets the big thumbs up!
- Try the unprocessed version. Yes, rice actually comes in brown. So does sugar (think: raw sugar). The next time you’re at the store, shake it up a bit by grabbing a different colored variety of something you normally buy.
- Search the internet. Sites like Epicurious let you search by ingredient lists, so the next time you find a motley crew hiding in your crisper, do a search and try to use as many different ingredients at once as possible in one meal.
- Garnish it. Just like an old jacket with a new pair of shoes, a new garnish can spice up what’s become the same old dish. There’s a bounty of fresh herbs, artisan vinegars, and new cheeses in the world. Go. Try them.
- Buy a new pot or pan. This may seem like a bonehead recommendation, but think about it: new toys are fun! If you buy a spiffy new piece of cookware, you’ll probably enjoy using it… at least more so than the dented soup pot your mom gave you when you left for college fifteen years ago. Or do the inverse: if you really don’t know what to make for dinner one night, pull out a piece of cookware you never use and ask yourself, what can I cook in this?
- Pair it with wine. Sometimes a decent bottle of wine is all it takes to brighten a meal. I’m talking $10 decent, not one-month’s-rent decent. Visit your local wine shop, tell the clerk what you’re thinking of having for dinner, and plunk down $10-15. Better yet, invite a friend over and share it.
- Cook the same ingredient four times. This may sound odd, but it makes sense. If you take the same ingredient and cook it four or five different ways, you’re being creative on some level, right? And you’ll most likely try something new, right? Sounds like un-boringness to me.
- Cook with a friend. Hello! No-brainer here! Invite someone over for dinner, or have a small dinner party with three or four friends (or family, if you’re of the socially anxious persuasion). Cooking with other people can liven up a blasé Wednesday night, especially if you task them with bringing part of the meal (read: alcohol). Or even better, invite someone over and show them how to cook something you make all the time. What’s old and bored to you might be really exciting for someone else.
The next time you’re staring into your fridge with literally no interest, consider trying at least one of these tips I’ve listed. I swear you’ll add a little color to your culinary lifestyle. Whether your gastronautical tendencies are meager or mighty, trying something new will always be rewarding. If it doesn’t work the way you expect, who cares! You tried something different and for that you’ve grown a little bit.
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.