Don’t Burnout on Cooking
By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor
While there are many positive benefits associated with
eating family meals at home including better nutrition,
quality time together and less money spent on food compared
to eating out, the pandemic made major changes on food
preparation and mealtime habits in the United State in 2020.
Most households have eaten many more meals at home compared
to recent years. The pandemic has limited many outside
opportunities at mealtime and, “What’s for dinner?” might
seem like the never answered question.
Can you relate to any of these situations? A survey
regarding meals during COVID-19 found:
40 percent of consumers say planning different meals every
day is among their biggest food challenges
55 percent of Americans surveyed said that cooking at home
has made them feel fatigued
69 percent wish they could make a healthy dinner more
Respondents ranked the following tasks as the most fatiguing
parts of serving a meal: (1) prep work, (2) clean up, (3)
planning meals for the week, (4) cooking and (5) collecting
ingredients. Here are some tips to make those steps easier.
Keep a list of easy to make meals for times when cooking
fatigue sets in. While each household has different
favorites, some examples are breakfast for dinner, soup and
sandwiches, and grain bowls (make your favorite grain like
rice or quinoa, add cooked meat, vegetables and a sauce). If
there are others in your house, ask them to come up with
different meal ideas. Ask family and friends outside of your
household for ideas about their favorite meals and recipes.
When choosing family favorites or looking for new recipes,
look for ones that have six ingredients or less. Keep a
grocery list of commonly used items to make sure they are in
stock in your pantry.
To pull together recipes quickly, use convenience items such
as frozen or canned vegetables. If you need to chop part of
an onion for a recipe, just chop the entire onion and freeze
the extra for the next time they are needed. When you are
making a more complicated recipe, double it and freeze half
to enjoy again at another time.
Use your kitchen appliances to make cooking easier. For
example, in the survey about mealtime preparation during the
pandemic, many people are using slow cookers and half of
them use pressure cookers. Make a meal with pre-packaged
favorites. Start with something simple like macaroni and
cheese and add vegetables and cooked meat.
Fill the sink with hot soapy water to easily wash some of
the dishes as the meal is being prepared. After the meal,
have everyone help with the clean-up. Even little ones can
help by collecting the used napkins or dirty silverware.
To benefit from meals at home, every dish does not have to
be made from scratch every day. Use short cuts such as those
listed above and add a side of frozen vegetables or canned
fruit. Support the locally owned restaurant with a take out
As food is obviously the theme of a meal, the people in the
household are just as important. Limit distractions such as
TV and other technology. Take steps to make mealtime
pleasant and not a challenge. Don’t use mealtime to bring up
problems. Try to keep it upbeat and stress free. Some days
that is easier said then done, but it is a good goal.
Expressing gratitude is one technique to work through
challenging times. This could be as simple as, “I’m thankful
for the food on my plate”. This looks different for
everyone. Some households
may choose to pray or give a blessing at the beginning of
the meal. Others may choose to just name one thing they are
thankful for that day.
In addition to cooking fatigue, there are other reasons some
may be feeling low or fatigued during this time of year.
Not only has the pandemic been a challenge, but Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD), is also a concern as a type of
depression related to seasonal changes. SAD is most often
associated with late fall and wintertime. Sometimes referred
to as the “winter blues”, if you suffer from SAD, please
talk with your doctor about the best steps to keep your mood
and motivation steady.
If you are interested in learning more about Beating the
Winter Blues, the Ohio State University Extension will be
offer a four-part, free webinar series in January 2021 on
Fridays from 11:00 – 11:30am. Topics will include beating
the winter blues by unplugging, exercising and using humor.
The webinar series is free but you must register at
Information from Live Healthy Live Well OSUE blog,
University of Arkansas, Kansas State and Retail Wire.