I love to eat, but I am not such a good cook. Having lived a life of a fabulous single girl in the city for over a decade before I settled down, I ate out a lot. I also often lived in tiny apartments without much of a kitchen to speak of. The only reason I knew how to cook any particular dish is because 1) My grandpa taught me, 2) I loved to eat it, and 3) there isn’t an easy way to eat it without me cooking it first. Even after I got married, when it was just the two of us without children, I didn’t have that much more motivation to cook regularly. My husband and I would switch cooking duties. If one of us cooked, the other cleaned.

After I had my firstborn, I became a working mom. I started learning some quick under 30-minute and slow-cooker recipes.

Now that I am a homemaker and have two little ones, it is as if I am thrown into the fire. I now have to put food on the table every day and I do all the cleaning. It is do or die.

Get motivated.

What is your motivation? My motivation is I want to give my family what I had growing up. I enjoyed dinner time and having my grandfather make my favorite meals. Home cooking made me feel loved, and I want my family to have the same from me. Home cooked real food is also healthier, and gives you more control of what goes into your loved ones’ bellies. Home cooked meals are also less expensive than eating out.

Get inspired through books, blogs, websites, and apps.

My favorites include:

  • Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything ($4.99) on the iPhone. I got this on the iPhone so I can easily read this anywhere and having with me as I cook.
  • AllRecipes.com on the iPhone, Free or Pro ($2.99). I use AllRecipes.com a lot; I love the crowd-reviewed recipes. I pick out the most popular and well-reviewed recipes to try out for myself. People review the recipes and comment on how they modify it as well. I started out as a Free member but it was so useful to me that I paid $23 for 2 years membership. The membership also gives you a great Menu Planner app, which is available on the website. I also like the fact that the iPhone app works with the website seamlessly. I enjoy using the recipe box to store my recipes.
  • Cook’s Illustrated (Free). I love the Cook’s Illustrated website. They have great how-to information, great primers and great for beginners. I received a gift membership for this through a friend and then got addicted to the show America’s Test Kitchen as well (there are shows and videos on the website). The two websites (by the same publisher) have a wonderful scientific approach to cooking that I find very appealing. I have memberships to them as well and have learned a lot from them. They also have reviews on kitchen tools and equipment.
  • Food On The Table is both a free iPhone app and website, and wonderful meal planning tool. I have only started testing out their menu planning capabilities recently but so far am impressed with what I see.
  • Recipefy.com. This is a great new social network for cooks that I recently discovered.
  • StillTasty is both an iPhone app ($1.99) and website that tells you the shelf life of any food or beverage and how best to store it.

 Start small, simple, and practice often.

There are a lot of recipes out there but start out easy. Choose recipes with simple ingredients so you can easily create different meals with few ingredients. Realize also that you will need to practice a recipes a few times before you get it in your head. You won’t get to the point of creating the dish with ease (like those Food Network chefs who speed along their instructions) unless you have prepared it at least 3-5 times. Start with a recipe that you are particularly motivated to create for yourself, like a favorite dish that you like to eat or know will become a family favorite. This way, once you mastered a recipe you can recreate it and personalize it without always having to refer to the book.

Be prepared for a bad day.

Life happens. Your kid might get sick and cranky. You might get ill and exhausted. Try freezing a few meal when you are cooking. You might not be able to pull off a great 3-course meal everyday, but you will be able to put on a home-made meal on the the table.