Midlife can and should be the best years of our lives, but they can often fall short if we let life get in the way. To ensure they are the best, Readers.com asked topic experts to share special advice on everything from healthy living to planning for retirement. Our experts’ uplifting stories will inspire you to approach every situation with a Glass(es) Half Full mentality, so check back each month for more in this series and like us on Facebook for additional tips!

Today’s Glass(es) Half Full post is by Emmy nominated chef Nathan Lyon. Nathan is known for his simple approach to cooking, which he captures in his book, Great Food Starts Fresh. Learn more about Nathan, his cooking shows, and cookbook on his website (plus try out a free recipe)! But for now, check out five tips from Nathan on cooking for empty nesters, and learn how to get excited about your kitchen all over again! Read on below.

Nathan Lyon - Chef and Cooking Show Host

Its been quite a few years since you’ve had the household to yourself, and now it’s time to slow down, breathe, and reassess how the heart of the house (the kitchen) is going to best function to suit your needs! Here are five tips to get you started:

Reacquaint yourself with cooking

You can finally say farewell to the days of cranking out large quantities of food geared towards your kid’s culinary interests. Now is the perfect time to rediscover what you and your partner actually enjoy eating! Set aside time to cook together and embrace one of life’s greatest pleasures — eating delicious foods that you want to eat at the time and place of your choosing.

Reclaim your kitchen

It’s time to spring clean your kitchen and reorganize. Go through your fridge, pantry, all cupboards and drawers, and pull everything out. Take inventory of what you have and make a plan to downsize. Do you really need 19 pots and pans? Even the one with the melted plastic handle? Now is the time to donate cooking items or appliances you haven’t used in the last two years. That box of pancake mix your kid said they had to have years ago that’s just taking up space? Say goodbye … off to your local food bank! When it comes to a well-stocked kitchen with good flow, remember that less is usually more.

Plan your meals in advance

One thing is for sure: Structure will set you free, which is why I recommend sitting down and planning out your weekly meals in advance. In this way, your shopping is streamlined into one weekly trip to the grocery store and/or your local farmers market. Gone are the days of asking, “What’s for dinner?” at 5:00 p.m. while standing motionless in a packed grocery store! How lovely, right? 🙂

Love your leftovers

Making meals that can be repurposed is a great habit. Here’s an idea: Extra grilled vegetables can be pressed into a warm cheese sandwich, baked into a tasty vegetable tart, or folded into tomorrow morning’s omelet. Freezing extra portions can be a time-saving tool as well. Single or double portions can be frozen for a quick meal down the road and freezing into individual portions offers you complete control over portion sizes.

Shop smart

Do you still need to purchase an entire gallon of milk every week? Chances are, no. What about that package of 30 chicken breasts for just the two of you? Probably not. Take time to re-examine how you shop. When you purchase items in bulk (not pre-packaged) it allows you to buy only what you need. Purchasing less equates to less waste, saving money, and less clutter in your kitchen!

Thank you so much to Nathan for taking the time to share his expert tips with us! We’re inspired to get back in the kitchen. 🙂