If you live on your own, you probably already know that there are lots of benefits that come with cooking meals for yourself. Cooking at home grants you total control over what's on the menu, saves a ton of money, is definitely better for your health than nightly takeout, and gets you one step closer to hosting extravagant dinner parties at your Hamptons home.  Unfortunately, a large majority of students with access to kitchens don't cook as often as they feel they should because it seems like another chore, or they don't know what they are doing. But ~worry not~, because if you want to know how to actually enjoy cooking for yourself there happen to be some very easy ways to make it into something that you can and want to do.

Try some of these tips which are 100% endorsed by the Barefoot Contessa and you might find that you have a new hobby!

Start Small

One of the biggest obstacles that keep people from cooking is that it can seem intimidating (the recipes! the shopping trips! the possibility of setting your hand on fire!)*. 

Th key is starting out with really simple dishes - think pasta with garlic and olive oil, or baked chicken breasts -  and understanding that there's no shame in not getting it right at the beginning. Learning any skill is about having a curious, experimental mindset, and cooking is no different. Don't be afraid to try something just to see how it turns out, and remember to celebrate the successes you do have. Practice makes perfect here; nobody comes out of the womb as the Barefoot Contessa. Well, except for the Barefoot Contessa, but you get the point.

*Yeah I've actually done that.

Be Prepared

Every week it's a good idea to have a rough plan of what you want to make and shop accordingly. A little foresight and prep can have you feeling confident and ready to make food for the busy days ahead. Some people like to go shopping on Sunday and meal prep in bulk so that they don't have to worry about cooking the rest of the week, others like to plan a menu for each day, and others just buy ingredients they know they can use and wing it - do what works for you! As far a shopping goes, focus on quality over quantity. You don't have to ball out, but buying higher quality ingredients can make a real difference in flavor. That's right, people, we're talking about Good Vanilla.

Learn to Cook without Recipes

Another problem people encounter with cooking happens when they try and follow recipes that are overly complicated, or have an overwhelming number of ingredients. But if you can get in the habit of cooking without recipes, you won't have to worry about stressful shopping trips or paying attention to minute details. Cooking without recipes comes with a bit of practice, but the main idea is knowing what makes any food taste good (usually a combination of salt + a fat + an acid + heat), and applying it to a meal template. Some easy favorites are stir fry, grain bowls, pastas, and one pan dinners, in which you can combine whatever grain, protein, and veggies you have on hand and flavor them to your liking. When in doubt, sauteing onions and garlic in butter with a little lemon juice will make anything taste good.

Make it Fun

Some people view cooking as a chore, but Ina and I know that it doesn't have to be! Like with most things, your mindset towards preparing food will influence how you feel about it and how much you do it. Instead of thinking about cooking like something you should do, think about it as something you want to do. Make sure you are cooking foods you are excited to eat - nobody likes cooking when they don't think the finished product will taste good. And have fun with it! Play some music, put on a podcast. Treat cooking like a creative project and try coming up with new recipes. Or, turn it into a social thing, invite some friends over, and have a cooking party!

Don't Stress

Just because you are making an effort to cook more doesn't mean you have to be perfect and make home cooked meals all the time. Everybody likes to order the occasional pizza, and sometimes work or school has you ready to curl up into a ball and the only thing that will keep you going is some takeout thai curry. Every extra weekly meal you can prepare yourself is money saved and probably kinder to your digestive system, so don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and remember not to worry too much. As Ina says, "You can teach people about cheese, but you can't teach them to be happy."

Now that you know how to actually cook for yourself, go make Ina proud and get cooking!