It’s 6 p.m. Work clothes are off, couch mode is fully activated. The tell-tale rumble of an empty belly reminds you it’s been hours since sustenance. You: 

a)    Download the Pizza Pizza app on your iPhone. Rollin’ with garlic dipping sauce in 40 minutes or less (and with minimal human interaction).
b)    Treat yourself to a can of Zoodles and a margarine sandwich.
c)    Take three shots of NyQuil and pretend it never happened.

If you answered yes to any of the above, for shame! Food is fuel for your bodies, people, and you wouldn’t put sugar in a gas tank would you? Granted, stepping into the kitchen for the first time can be a little daunting, and while there are a million and one reasons not to, learning basic cooking skills is an integral part of an adult life. Before you go spouting off the same old excuses as to why you should stay true to take-out and frozen food staples, like “But I’m a terrible cook”  (Have you tried trying?); “But it’s just so hard cooking for one!”  (It’s called a freezer, rookie); “My kitchen is infested with raccoons and I’m afraid to go in there.”  (You need to address that ASAP); take a look at all the perks of learning your way around a kitchen.

Start small and dedicate a week to eating at home and in no time you’ll find yourself:

1. Happier

 

We all have to start somewhere.

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Just like with anything, practice makes perfect. If it’s day one in the kitchen, we wouldn’t suggest trying to whip up some coq au vin or puff pastry but there are plenty of recipes for beginners that are so delicious and straightforward, you’ll wonder why you ever ordered Swiss Chalet in the first place. Even if your first forays into culinary excellence are not so much Giada at Home and more Kitchen Nightmares, learning to cook can be a hilarious and rewarding experience.

There’s a reason why the cliché about the way to the heart being through your stomach exists. Think about it. Being able to make a meal for somebody is proving that you’re able to provide one of their most basic needs. Aside from how impressed your friends will be when you coyly wink and say “Oh this? It was nothing”, the personal feeling of pride and accomplishment that accompanies putting together a beautiful meal for yourself is a real attitude changer. You could have that every day!

2. Healthier

Make the healthy choice.

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When you make the decision to put together your own meals as opposed to relying on take-out, delivery or pre-made meals, you’re taking charge of everything that goes into your body. It is much easier to keep track of what’s going in when you’re sourcing ingredients yourself, as opposed to making sense of nutritional labels or in the case of most restaurants, having no nutritional information at all. What do you think your body wants more: fresh food from your friendly neighbourhood grocer? Or a stranger showing up to your house with food that has passed through the hands of two or three other strangers before getting to you? And it’s not just your health on the line, preparing food on your own reduces the amount of packaging involved with take out and pre-packaged foods, and Mother Nature thanks you for that.

3. Wealthier

A day at the market is more fun than fast-food any day (and cheaper in the long run).

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Short term, hitting up the McD’s dollar menu might seem more wallet friendly than going to the grocery store but the trick is to keep a well stocked pantry of dry goods. Once you’ve got the basics (things like rice noodles, pasta, rice, herbs and spices – all stuff you can get on the cheap), you can supplement with fresh produce, tofu and meat for meals that cost under $5 . Places like Kensington Market, Chinatown, and St. Lawrence Market are a mecca for frugal foodies, or if you’re really ambitious, roll your sleeves up and start urban farming for unlimited fresh fruit and veg. If a day in the market or digging in the garden just isn’t your bag, sign up for organics delivery (like Organics Live) for delivery that won’t leave you with a wicked food hangover (but slightly lighter in the pocketbook). Some of our favourite blogs for getting started with cooking are: 1. Smitten Kitchen: some recipes are advanced, but there are some very good basics here with tons of helpful tips and tricks. Plus, these dishes always turn out.  2. Skinny Taste: Appealing food, pretty photos, lots of options for entrées and desserts, and most importantly, the recipes are healthy. 3. Food Network: This site, home to the popular chefs that you see on TV, has some great recipes and a ton of hints to get started if you’re a noob. Chef Michael Smith and Rachel Ray (seriously) are good ones to look to first.