In the early days of COVID-19 when we were spending more time than ever at home, cooking was like a new romantic relationship. Maybe you were excited to try new recipes and have a home-cooked meal on the table—and actually have the time to make it. You probably savored the meal, relished the time spent around the table with your family, and maybe you even got your picky eaters to try new foods. Although the pandemic has inspired us to cook, eat at home and share more family meals, now nearly a year in, and suffice to say, most of us are tired of cooking.
55% OF AMERICANS HAVE COOKING FATIGUE
The silver lining to the pandemic is that home cooking and family meals show no signs of slowing down.
According to a recent survey by HUNTER, a food and beverage public relations and marketing communications consultancy, 51% of Americans continue to cook more than they did the same time last year.
Plus, 71% of those that are cooking more say they’ll continue to do so when the pandemic ends.
This is all great news for the health of our families, but all this cooking takes time and energy— two things we lack even if we’re spending more time at home.
Also, with the same meals day after day, it can get really boring and that inspiration you had at the beginning of the pandemic can start to wane.
In fact, according to an August 2020 survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Sun Basket, 55% say they’ve experienced “cooking fatigue.”
Not only are we bored with the same meals, but we’re tired of cooking because we’re cooking so much. Everyone is at home and with kids, there’s an endless amount of meals, snacks, and clean-up.
HOW TO COPE WHEN YOU’RE TIRED OF COOKING
Since I became a mom, I’ve loved to cook and even wrote about how I was able to get dinner on the table most nights while working full-time.
Yet in this COVID-19 season, with kids learning at home, the constant threat of the virus, trying to balance everything, and so much uncertainty, I’m tired of cooking too—and burnt out—just like every other parent.
Fortunately, there are some ways to cope with cooking fatigue that have helped me and I hope they’ll help you too.
TRY A MEAL PLANNING SERVICE
Last year, I was getting bored with the same meals every week: salmon on Mondays, meatloaf on Tuesdays, and so on, and I knew my kids felt the same way.
Yet between work, the kids on distance learning, and simply trying to manage each day, I didn’t have the time or mental energy to look for new recipes.
I never thought I was one for meal planning but when I discovered The Dinner Daily and started making their meals, our dinners became so much more interesting and I didn’t have to spend time searching for healthy and delicious recipes.
The Dinner Daily is a one-of-a-kind service that provides personalized meal plans based on your food preferences and can help you save money and time.
Read about my experience here and my honest review.
MEAL PREP ON SUNDAY
I know it sounds counterintuitive but putting in some work ahead of time can help when you’re tired of cooking.
Doing some meal prep at the beginning of the week takes the guesswork out of dinner, allows you to get dinner on the table quicker, and have leftovers for other meals.
On the weekends, I’ll make a large batch of lentil soup which works for school lunches, and a quick dinner during the week.
I may also soak and cook beans, make a large batch of rice or quinoa, sauté some vegetables ahead of time, and put smoothie ingredients in individual bags for breakfast.
HAVE BREAKFAST FOR DINNER
Kids love breakfast for dinner and when you’re tired of cooking, it can be a more interesting—and quick—meal. Whether it’s individual egg “muffins” with a side salad, quiche or frittata, or a breakfast burrito, the breakfast for dinner options are endless.
SWAP RECIPES WITH FRIENDS
Other moms are in the thick of raising kids in this COVID-19 season too, and although they’re probably tired of cooking, I bet they all have their one, easy, go-to recipe. So whether you’re on a forum for moms or texting a friend, ask for their favorite recipes.
LET YOUR KIDS MAKE DINNER
Depending on your kids’ ages, they can have a hand in making dinner and help you cope with cooking fatigue.
Little ones can pick out new recipes from a cookbook, while older kids can help prepare or cook the meal.
Lately, my 7-year-old has, on her own accord, taken the lead on cooking dinner. She makes eggs, grilled cheese, or even huevos rancheros.
If you want to get your kids excited about cooking and have an activity you can do together from the safety of your home, I recommend the Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse—here’s my honest review.
Watch founder Katie Kimball’s video about the #KidsMealRevolution:
TRY NEW CUISINES
When you’re tired of cooking night after night, one of the best ways to break out of your rut and get re-inspired is to try new types of cuisines.
Whether it’s Thai, Mediterranean, or something else, you can introduce new types of vegetables, new herbs and spices, and new cooking methods, which is also a great way to add variety to your kid’s diet and nix picky eating.
HAVE A VIRTUAL DINNER
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we need human connection.
While you may not be able to gather in-person, you can connect over a meal and a Zoom call which can make cooking much more fun.
Need ideas? Grab The Family Dinner Project’s Pandemic 2020: Virtual Dinner Party Guide.
LET YOUR KITCHEN APPLIANCES DO THE WORK FOR YOU
If that InstantPot you got for Christmas is still sitting in the box, dust it off because when you’re tired of cooking, you need appliances that will make your life easier.
While I don’t use it nearly enough, I love my Crock-Pot because all I have to do is throw in the ingredients, set it, and forget it.
Related: 17 Kitchen Tools That Make Cooking At Home Easier
Another meal prep idea that helps combat cooking fatigue are freezer meals.
Try doubling a recipe and freezing half, or make easy dinner options your family can help themselves to any time.
Need ideas? Check out From Freezer to Cooker: Delicious Whole-Foods Meals for the Slow Cooker, Pressure Cooker, and Instant Pot: A Cookbook.
Related: 7 Best Cookbooks For Moms
STOCK UP ON EASY OPTIONS
When you’re tired of cooking, say screw it, and don’t cook.
Instead, order healthy take-out or keep healthy, ready-to-go options on hand like soup and frozen meals.
Of course, not all of these options are created equal so be sure to read labels and look for calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Add a side salad or a cooked vegetable and dinner is done.