Tiny New Habits for the New Year and Beyond

Instead of grand resolutions, try making some small changes.

broccoli, radishes, carrots, beets, and yams cut on cutting board with a knife

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Even though it's an open secret that New Year's resolutions are made to be broken, we still make them year after year. The turnover of the calendar proves too tempting; and besides, the start of a fresh new year is a good time to take stock and think about your goals.

Instead of making grand proclamations of what you'll do differently this year and then feeling like a failure when you don't quite achieve your lofty goals, consider taking a more achievable approach. Start small. In Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, author BJ Fogg, PhD explains how small shifts in behavior can lead to achieving big goals. Instead of overloading yourself with a target that feels out-of-reach, form little habits that lead you in the right direction.

Common new year's resolutions include losing weight, eating healthier, saving money, and spending more time with loved ones. The following eating, drinking, and cooking-related goals are frequently on people's to-do lists, and we're here to help with tips for making small changes that lead to real results.

Cook at Home More

Chicken Fajitas

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Whether it's learning more basic recipes, making a certain number of homemade meals a week, or taking on new cooking and baking projects, home cooking is a popular topic for new year promises. If you find yourself ordering take-out more often than you'd like, then think about spending more time in the kitchen.

If you rarely cook and want to pump up your skills, take it a step at a time. Start with some easy recipes that focus on different techniques and make a goal to try at least one new recipe a week. If a dish doesn't turn out quite how you'd hoped, evaluate what might have gone wrong and learn from your mistakes. Then shrug it off and move on. As you practice, you'll notice that your skills will improve and so will your cooking.

Learning the Basics:

Easy Recipes for Getting Started:

Be More Sustainable

Washed and peel potatoes, sliced into pieces

The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

The concept of sustainability can feel overwhelming, especially when you hear staggering statistics about how much food is wasted every year. But there are plenty of small things you can do to make your kitchen and eating more eco-friendly, and they all add up to something noticeably more sustainable.

Start by making a grocery list, shopping smart, and only buying what you'll need. Consider eating less meat—begin by reducing your meat intake by one meal a week and go from there. Store your fresh produce properly so they don't spoil before you use them, and start composting any scraps. Freeze excess for later, and keep track of what's in your fridge and freezer so nothing's forgotten.

Cleaning Projects

Gas grill heat deflectors scrubbed with soapy water and nylon brush

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Everyone likes to start the year with a clean slate and, if possible, a clean kitchen. While it feels great to have a sparkling clean oven, a tidy pantry, and crumb-free drawers, it's also a lot of work. Tackle your cleaning projects one at a time and reward yourself with each completed project.

Try making a list of all of the special cleaning projects you'd like to complete. Each week, add one to your to-do list that feels doable for that particular week. Before you know it, you'll have the kitchen cleaned from top to bottom.

Get Organized

How to Organize Pantry Items

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

If your kitchen feels chaotic, it can be hard to complete tasks and feel productive. But taming chaos can feel like an impossible task. Choose to focus on one specific area that you can organize, then do it. For example, choose to wrangle the door of your fridge by organizing your condiments, putting things in containers, and making sure items are easy to find and access. The sense of accomplishment will power you through to project after project until the entire kitchen is an organized cook's dream.

Save Money

Older woman reading grocery list in supermarket

Robert Nicholas / Getty Images

Saving money is, year after year, a top New Year's resolution. Building a nest egg can be a struggle, but one area where many people successfully carve out savings is in their food budget. Start by tracking your spending for a month, noticing what food and drink you spend the most money on. Do you eat out a lot? Do you buy coffee every day? Do you make a lot of impulse buys at the supermarket? Your credit card bill will help build a complete picture of your spending habits.

If building your own budget feels overwhelming, try using a budgeting app. And try starting with little habits, like buying your most-used pantry items in bulk and storing them properly to make sure nothing goes to waste.

Drink Less Alcohol

Cinderella: A Fruity Mocktail Everyone Will Love

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

After the indulgence of the holidays, many people aim to drink less in the new year. Some even participate in Dry January, going alcohol-free for the entire month. If you'd like to cut down on your drinking, one tactic is to replace your usual cocktail, beer, or wine with an equally delicious drink, like a homemade soda, mocktail, or juice.

Eat Better

Swiss Chard and Tofu Stir-Fry

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Eating better means different things to different people. There's nothing like endless cookies and eggnog to make you rethink or eating habits. There's no need to plunge head-first into a rigid diet. Small changes are more likely to stick, and they can add up to lasting results.

Eat More Plants

Along with Dry January, a new trend has arrived for the start of the new year: Veganuary. If you're already thinking of going vegan, then go for it. Excluding eggs, dairy, and meat from the diet is good for the environment and many people find veganism to be a no-brainer. If this sounds too extreme for you, take small steps towards a plant-based diet.

Try swapping one of your meats a week with a vegetarian alternative, or try eating one completely vegan meal a day. Mark Bittman endorses eating vegan for breakfast and lunch and focusing on fruits and vegetables, then eating whatever you like (within reason) for dinner. Or grab a good vegetarian cookbook and test out a new recipe every week. Whatever works for your schedule and eating habits is more likely to stick.

Whole 30

The Whole 30 diet is popular in the new year when everyone is looking to get their eating habits under control. The month-long eating plan excludes alcohol, sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, and packaged foods. Vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, fruits, and nuts are all allowed. The goal is to exclude common irritants and "reset your body."

Keto Diet

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Another popular new year trend is the keto diet, which excludes carbs and swaps them for high-fat foods to encourage your body to go into ketosis, burning stored fat. Note that it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before making drastic changes like this to your diet.

Intermittent Fasting

While some fasting is an ordinary part of many cultures, intermittent fasting has also become a mainstream diet trend. The practice involves eating normally for periods of time followed by fasting for shorter periods of time. It's important to make sure you are getting all of the necessary nutrients and calories, so talk to a doctor or certified nutritionist before fasting.