What can save you money and earn you bonus points on social media? Preparing homecooked meals so good they’re worthy of a “nofilter” hashtag. Even the clumsiest kitchen novice can learn to create culinary magic with a little practice. Dining at home doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five secrets to preparing meals so beautiful they’ll leave your friends unable to avoid leaving a like while secretly wishing they got an invitation.

The Right Tools

Never start any project until you have the right tools. You don’t want to break the bank on this, but you also don’t want to keep using that scratched Teflon you inherited from Grandma. Invest in quality cookware early on, and rest assured you are well equipped for whatever level of difficulty your next recipe may throw at you. Plus, quality pans will help you cut down on your oil usage. This can, in turn, cut down on calories, if you count that sort of thing. Many pots and pans make attractive features themselves and show up extremely well in the background of your pics. For a bit of variety, you can even shoot the dish while it’s still in the pot to keep your feed interesting.

Seasonings

Ok, I know most of the seasonings we eat won’t show up too well in a photo, no matter what filter you use, but the amount of taste they pack in is worth it. You can also sneak a few pretty spice jars into the back of your photo for a killer effect. Not sure which ones to choose as you stand confused and overwhelmed in the spice aisle of your local supermarket? Here is a handy list that will stock you up with the perfect beginner’s arsenal. Herbs are a healthy way of including major flavor without risking health problems related to excess salt, fat, and sugar. That’s not to say that herbs and spices can’t be decorative with a little imagination and ingenuity. Spices such as paprika, turmeric and the like have vibrant colors that show up beautifully in food photography. Some crisp, fresh herbs lovingly placed on the top of your dish as a garnish can also add a delicate, sumptuous feel to your food.

Eat Seasonally

Do you know what doesn’t make sense? Watermelon salsa on the Christmas dinner table. Not only is it expensive, but out of season fruits and vegetables short-change you on flavor and appeal. Embrace mother nature and use her candies when they are at their best. This will keep costs low, flavors bright, and your Insta-posts bold and likable. Even your herbs can be locally sourced (from as close to home as your own patio). If you’re unsure which fruits and vegetables are in season at a given point in time, the supermarket may not be your best friend. Your best bet is to hit up the local farmers markets in your area. Not only will the produce be the freshest possible, but you will also typically only find varieties that are growing at that specific time of year. After a while, you will get a sense for what is ripe when and you’ll be able to implement that new-found knowledge wherever you shop.

Find Easy, Tasty Shortcuts

Meal kits are full of shortcuts and promises of ease. Yes, they are convenient and much cheaper than eating out but when you compare the costs, home cooking still comes out on top. You can find plenty of tricks that make cooking at home easy and fun. Try processing foods like onions or tomatoes for the upcoming week in one afternoon (while blasting your favorite tunes). Simple tasks like these allow you to bank up the cash you save on prepackaged versions.

Keep it Fresh

No, I’m not talking about produce, although fresh always trumps canned or frozen alternatives. The freshness I’m suggesting involves consistently incorporating new recipes so you maintain your excitement for cooking. Not only will this please your palette in unique ways, but you will also learn new techniques you otherwise never would’ve tried. Your skills will continue to grow as much as your followers.

To join a community, find local cooking classes that appeal to your tastes. A great place to start is at your local library. Many libraries have cookbook clubs where everyone tries a dish from the cooking section to bring and sample. This gives you the chance to show off your skills, and also try other goodies you may not have ever thought to create.

Connected Cuisine

Another outstanding way to expand your repertoire and pick up cooking tips and ideas is to take advantage of the copious online resources that already exist. After all, that’s where you want your food to be seen, so it makes sense to immerse yourself in your target medium. The first step is to scour the web for bloggers and foodie websites that you love. These can be a wellspring of new ideas ranging from recipes to presentation tips, information on new ingredients to revitalise your regular dishes and more. No matter what genre of food you favor, you’ll find endless sites out there with delicious recipes and savvy guidance. Follow your favourites on your prefered social media channels and you’ll have mouthwatering content streaming into your feed in no time.

With such a wealth of information, keeping track can seem like a massive challenge. Where did you see that amazing recipe for vegan chocolate fudge brownies again? Say goodbye to endless searching with recipe apps such as Paprika. These amazing bits of software allow you to save, collect, organise and instantly retrieve all the recipes on your wish list and provide seamless user experience to help you recreate them at home.

Cooking at home for the beginner can seem daunting, but with these five secrets, you’ll be able to pull off success after success in the kitchen and on your journey to becoming a master chef.